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July 1998

Author :
Aditi Mukherjee

The Dream

Mark Walton , Shane's best friend from when they were young kids , was the person who started Boyzone. Mark was a football player who broke his ankel during a match and that was when he came up when he came up with the idea if Ireland's first boy band. He asked his best pal Shane if he wanted to be a part of it and Shane said , 'Yeah why not ? I'll give it a go '.There was a major problem facing Shane and Mark was that they lacked a hardened professional who could make their dream come true. The they heared of Louis Walsh. Mark fixed up an appointment and was thrilled by the response he got. Louis was really enthusiastic about it and told mark to get some one else and come back. Mark took Shane and they sang and danced for Louis. He said , 'Great , you two can be the first members of the group.' and that was how Boyzone started.

The Formation

Auditions were organised for all the untapped talent in Ireland to try their luck at getting into the group. Ronan and Stephen saw this as their big break. Mikey doubted his chances but his dad coaxed him into applying as well. Keith spotted Shane's picture in the papers and fancied his chances. He waited till he saw Shane at the gym one night and asked him to put in a good word for him. More than 300 applications poured in and it took Louis , Mark and Shane several weeks to go through all the applications and decide on a format for the auditions. They chose the Ormond Center in Dublin as the venue and planned to ask each of the boys to sing 'Careless Whisper'. All of them would be videoed and judged on every aspect of their performance. The auditions were held in November 1993.

Out of the 300 , 50 were shortlisted for the second audition. Louis spotted Ronan and Stephen's natural talent and put them near the top of the list. He was also impressed by Richie Rock , son of a well known Irish singer Dickie Rock. Richie could play the piano and had inherited a strong singing voice from his father.Shane and Mark were allowed to sit through the early auditions. Keith didn't attend the first audition and would never have had been in the band if Louis had not spotted him dancing like mad at a POD nightclub. Louis interviewd him that night and asked him to come for the second audition.

For the second audition , the lads had to sing two songs to a backing tape and they could choose one of the songs. Mikey selected 'Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad' by Meat Loaf ; Keith chose 'I'm too sexy' . Ronan decided to sing 'Father and Son' and Richie song Elton John's 'Your Song'. Louis picked the best 10 all - rounders who were called for the third audition. This time Shane and Mark also had to audition to prove that they could perform as well as the others. Finally Louis decided to make the band a six piece. He selected Ronan , Stephen , Keith , Richie, Shane and Mark. Mikey was one of the four who were rejected.

The boys were ecstatic about it but there was a long way to go and a lot of problems to face before they would emerge as one of the best boy bands in the world. Ronan for one , faced a lot of opposition from his parents and teachers. He was looking forward to going to New York to study in college on a sports scholarship and pursue his dream to win an Olympic medal for athletics. After taking his sister's advice and more or less without his mother's approval , Ronan decided to give up his education and go along with Boyzone. Keith's parents too were against their son's throwing away a solid and promising career and joining the band. All the parents finally accepted their son's decisions, and then Louis made sure all the boys took proper legal advice before advicing their contract with him. Once all the paper work was settled, it was time for the lads to go to work and start learning to become pop stars.

The Beginning

They boyz then went through vocal training and Louis instructed them to prepare short and slick gigs which they could perform at local clubs and provincial theaters. They did not have any professional guidance and relied on their own instincts. Louis' main priority was to get them a deal with a good record company. He went armed with a photo of his group and a short demo tape , but soon the rejection letters started pileing up. But other problems were yet to come. Shane almost got himself and Keith killed while driving his balck Golf GTi like a maniac.(He was doing 110 mph and slowed down to 90mph at a bend and he could'nt break hard without skidding. A wheel hit the kerb and the car flipped into the air and began somersaulting down the road and finally stopped on its roof. Shane and Keith were dangling from their seatbelts.) It was a miracle that both of them walked away from that car alive and without any serious injuries. Louis was appalled and was aware that the lads were no angels and now that they were involved in a serious buisness , he expected them to behave more maturely. He gave all the lads a stern talk and drew up more legally binding contracts that resctricted their activities.

The first few months of 1994 tested the spirits of the boys. Also , Louis had not been able to secure a deal from a record company as yet and was running out of money.He approached his good friend John Reynolds, the wealthy owner of POD clubs in Dublin , and convinced him to become the band's co-manager.Louis and John set up thee WAR which would manage the group. Louis would be responsible for running of the group and John would focus on the buisness side. Meanwhile Ronan (at Korky's shoe shop) and Stephen (at Makullas clothes shop) worked part-time in shops in Dublin to keep their families content and earn their own pocket money. Shane earned money by working at his father's garage. But it was Richie and Mark who were having real problems. The pressure of fame was too much for Mark . He and Shane had a large number of fans even before they released their first single and he would get embarased and could not deal with all the girls who would call and visit. He was going through a rough time and was scared that he would end up nowhere without an education. One night, he decided to leave the band .(Mark went back to school and graduated with honors and had another go at the music buisness with 'Only Us').Richie was impatient with the group's lack of progress and started skipping rehersals and the early gigs to work as a DJ in night clubs to earn extra money. Richie became unreliable and Louis started to loose his patience with him. Richie was finally left out of the band after he failed to turn up for a crucial gig. Louis lost his temper when Richie showed up after the gig was over and yelled and screamed at him and told him that he was no longer in the band.

The band now needed a replacement for Richie, luckily Louis had several reserves from the final audition who would complete the fivesome. Mikey Graham was on top of the list. Mikey was working as a mechanic then and was delighted to get that phone call from Louis. Mikey is a level headed young man , he was ready to work and do as he was told. He was reliable, industrious and got on well with the others. Since he was older than the others and had a serious side which would keep Boyzone steady.

Take Off

Soon after this , Louis managed to get a deal with Polygram Ireland. The contract was for three singles with an option to release an album should the singles do well. The speed of Boyzone's launch, and subsequent take off into superstardom, was breathtaking even by the crazy standards of the music world. Within a month , they released their first single 'Working my way back to you' and even shot the promotional video. Stephen and Mikey shared the lead vocals and Ronan sang 'Father and Son' on the B-side. Within a few weeks 'Working my way back to you' went No.3 in the Irish Charts. Boyzone had finally arived. They were famous overnight and everything hapened instantly for them and they never had the chance to look back. They all had to leave their jobs as they were caught up in a whirl of publicity and promotion that took them all over Ireland. Once the promotion work in Ireland was finished, the band flew to London for a series of public appearences and short gigs. While in London, they recorded their second single 'Love me for a reason'. It went straight to No.1 in Ireland and No.2 in UK in December. In just over twelve months the boyz had risen from everyday jobs and anonymity among the masses of Dublin's Northside, to be pop stars with two hit records and thousands of fans screaming for them.

It was also a time for worry because some sections of the music media were still criticising their success. Their ascent was shrugged off as lucky and and won on the back of skilled marketing and other artists' songs. The only way to silence their critics and win their respect was to write their own material. Ronan , Stephen and Mikey had been writing original songs since the earliest days and were eager to prove their song-writing talent. But they were horiffied when their record company bosses said they wanted them to release another cover to guarantee another hit to build Boyzone's success on. The boyz , however , had been appaled by the criticism and were determined to prove they were capable of omposing a hit. One of the songs the boys faoured was 'Key To My Life', which Ronan , Mikey and Stephen had written the previous summer. The record company bosses were impressed and decided to release it in favour of another cover. 'It's a risk brining out an original, but it's a good song and the fans will love it,' predicted Mikey confidently . And he was right. 'Key to my life' went to No.1 in Ireland and No.3 in UK when it was released in April. The success of 'Key to my life' brought the boyz their first financial rewards.

Boyzone worked continuously throughout the summer of 1995. They recorded their first album 'Said and Done' which featured six cover versions and seven of their own songs. After that we all know what happened .J

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