When Ian Fleming Publications announced in early 2004 that Charlie Higson would be writing Young James Bond novels, fans and the media examined the unlikely choice and often brought up his work on the Fast Show, and his most famous character Swiss Toni.
Some biographical pieces mentioned that Higson had been a band, named, peculiarly enough, The Higsons. The 6-member group was formed in 1980, with Higson playing piano, harmonica, and singing the lead vocals.
Over the course of 6 years the Higsons produced 3 albums and 9 singles, but the band was given an unflattering characterization that Charlie Higson revealed was accurate: “We were often accused of trying to be the English Talking Heads, which we always strenuously denied, but let’s face it, that’s what we were trying to be.”
While the band did not dominate the charts, it was successful enough to tour America, as the CBn East Coast crew found out during Higson’s Silverfin book tour stop in Virginia in 2005.
In 1988, Higson joined the show “Friday Night Live” as a writer, with partners Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse. The Channel 4 show and its predecessor “Saturday Live” were Britain’s answer to America’s “Saturday Night Live” format of comedy sketches and pop music in front of a live audience. While the show lasted a scant 10 episodes, its cultural impact was significant – especially due to two characters that the trio developed.
The first was character that caught on was Stavros, a Greek immigrant restaurant owner whose mangled English and misunderstanding of customs became an obvious template that Sasha Baron Cowen would use for Borat, and the 2nd wildly popular character was Loadsamoney, an obnoxious plasterer who constantly flaunted his newfound wealth.
Both characters were performed by Enfield, but written by the trio, with Loadsamoney’s origins traced back to the fact that Whitehouse was a plasterer and Higson a decorator.
Loadsamoney transcended the one-joke lifespan that these sorts of characters usually have, spawning not only a catch phrase and book (Wad and Peeps, written by the trio, published by Penguin and presumably Higson’s first appearance in print), but also a single (which peaked at #4 on the UK pop charts) and sold out tour.
The character and his obsession with cash seemed to personify the greed so prevalent in the Thatcherite 1980s, even reaching members of Parliament who decried the “Loadsamoney society” in a 1989 speech in the House of Commons. As Loadsamoney’s popularity soared, the phenomenon devolved into self-parody. Performer Harry Enfield was horrified that people thought that the braggart’s ways were worthy of emulation rather than ridicule, so he killed off the character in a 1990 sketch involving a giant check for 10p.
The trio of Enfield, Higson, and Whitehouse would work individually and collaboratively on comedy projects over the ensuing years with varying degrees of success. And although the character was killed off, the catch phrase is still in use in Britain today, two decades after Loadsamoney first demanded that geezers shut their mouth and look at his wad.