Words of Wisdom from Danielle and Sharon

X Factor Shenanigans

Sharon works in a call centre. The company she works for replaces things for people when they make an insurance claim. We’re not talking about windows and doors or roof tiles or even garages and sheds. We’re talking about televisions, laptops, phones: things like that. They also replace bikes.

Sharon works in the bike team. She replaces bikes for people. She replaces stolen bikes and damaged bikes but she never replaces lost bikes. It’s a bit difficult to lose a bike, after all: they are a bit too big for that sort of thing. The bike team consists of Sharon and five others: all male and all young enough to be her sons: Ray, Joe, Mark, Andy and Alex.

Now there’s a talent show on TV called X Factor. Sharon doesn’t watch X Factor. She thinks it’s boring and the noise the contestants make hurts her ears. Her colleagues do watch X Factor and think it’s great and recently they decided they wanted to appear on the show, so they formed a boy band, Brake That.

Brake That, from L to R: Ray, Joe, Alex and Andy. Unfortunately Mark was not at the photo shoot because he was pulling some sick tricks on his BMX.

Now Sharon’s boys (as she likes to call them) aren’t stupid and knew they were going to have to have plenty of practise singing together to have any chance of making it through the auditions. They therefore started rehearsals on 14th June 2011. By the audition on 15th June, they had chosen a song, “Relight My Fire”, and felt they had got it up to the required standard. They set off in Andy’s trusty Ford Escort for Manchester, full of excitement and confidence.

When their turn came, they filed out in front of the judges. “Hi,” said Ray, full of confidence, “We’re Brake That and we have the X Factor”. The judges grimaced and Tulisa enquired with perceptible trepidation, “What are you going to sing for us?”  Andy stepped forward and said “Tonight, Chorizo, we are going to sing “Relight My Fire” by Take That.”

At that, Britain’s soon to be Boy Band sensation launched into Take That’s classic, “Relight My Fire” and a hush fell over Old Trafford as the audience fell into a rapt silence and the judges fell asleep. The band had already decided that Joe was going to sing Lulu’s part and he managed a creditable falsetto and even a reasonable Scottish accent. During the performance, Ray did some amazingly athletic breakdancing while the other members of Brake That stood round clapping in time. By the end of the song, everybody in the audience was on their feet, clapping in time to the music, cheering and generally showing their approval. Louis, Tulisa and Kelly were snoring and Gary had his head in his hands and was looking decidedly shell-shocked.

Brake That at the audition at Old Trafford. Unfortunately, Mark could not be there because he was pulling some sick tricks on his BMX.

As the song finished, Louis, Kelly and Tulisa woke up with a start: Gary’s sobbing had awoken them. Embarrassed that they had fallen asleep, they put Brake That through to bootcamp. So the boys returned to Preston on a high, feeling like the world was their oyster or, if not their oyster, then at least their winkle. They decided they needed a manager and who better to manage them than the Bike Team ‘Mum’, Sharon, so they buttered her up with three packets of Gingernuts and asked her. Sharon was happy to rise to the challenge, especially as she thought there may be some money or at least some more gingernuts in it for her.

The first problem she had to deal with, however, was Alex, who left the band immediately after the audition to pursue a career in journalism at Reuters. She quickly found a replacement, Suhail, who had a natural singing talent and fitted into the band (and the bike team) very well indeed. Sharon also thought that the boys should have distinct personalities – a bit like the Beatles. Joe was very sensitive, so he would be the sensitive one, Suhail would be the prankster, Andy would be the ladies’ man, Mark was really into his bikes, so he would be the bikey one and Ray was a natural dancer, so he would be the dancy one. Now Brake That was ready for Boot Camp.

However, the judges had a nasty surprise for the contesstants but, before the nasty surprise, they had a nice one. They were all bussed down to London where the judges threw them a party. There was drink, food, lots of music and dancing and even a hot tub. Ray showed off his breakdancing skills on the dance floor while Joe sat quietly in a corner listening to the woes of some of the contestants. Suhail was setting off stink bombs, while Andy was leaping into the hot tub fully-clothed with all the bikini-clad young lady contestants. Mark was pulling some sick tricks on his BMX. They partied late into the night and only fell into their beds at seven in the morning.

Andy with a bevy of beauties in the hot tub.

At 7.15, they were all assembled on the lawn, where the judges, who had reviewed the audition tapes, had the nasty surprise waiting for them: a cull of some of the hopefuls. It was an uneasy time for Brake That, as it turned out they were in the final group to be told they had made it through. As the tear-stained cullees left to pack their bags and return home, Sharon and her “boys” all heaved a huge sigh of relief. They were now moving on to the Wembley Arena part of the show.

Wembley went well for them. They were teamed up with three of the soloists on the first day to sing “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Sir Elton John and Dame Kiki Dee and, to be frank, they showed the other singers in the group up for the rank amateurs they were and so, on the following evening, they found themselves singing “Blame It on the Boogie”, to an audience of 5000. They were completely unfazed by the experience and their rendition of the Jackson 5 classic was rapturously received by audience and judges alike, even Gary Barlow. Their progression to the next stage of the competition seemed to be assured.

There was, however, a minor hurdle for them to overcome. The judges put them through to the next stage, complimenting them on their showmanship and ability, but they needed to take time off work to enable them to go to Greece with Tulisa and, as they were 83% of the bike team, they were highly unlikely to get the time off together. Fortunately, Sharon had a word with the resource planner, who was leaving the company in a couple of weeks anyway and, having nothing to lose, she put the leave through so the boys were able to go. For this, they were eternally grateful to Sharon, who not only made sure they could live their dream but also was going to deal with all the bike claims, singlehandedly, for the next few weeks.

Sharon coping very well with her increased workload

So Brake That headed off to Mykonos with the other group hopefuls, full of anticipation and confidence. The “judges’ house” stage was to be eventful, as their mentor, Tulisa, was forced to throw some of the hopefuls off the show for breaking her very strict house rules. Fortunately, the boys had foreseen a potential pitfall and tied Andy to his bed during the night to prevent him escaping to cavort with some of his fellow female contestants. It was an uncomfortable night for Andy, as Suhail had put itching powder in his bed. However, they all put an incredible amount of hard work into honing their act, apart from Mark, who had found an awesome skate park on the island and spent most of his time honing his biking skills and pulling some sick tricks on his BMX.

At the end of this, they auditioned again for the judges and were put through to the live shows. This was, in part, due to the fact that Tulisa had already thrown four of the other groups off the show for being caught in compromising situations and, in part, due to their astonishing talent. Now they were going to be judged by the great British public and they knew they were going to have to raise their game.

The theme for the first live show was Punk. This was to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Punk Rock. The boys were frantic, as they had no knowledge of this genre of music and turned for advice to their manager, Sharon, who, fortunately for them, is an old punk. She suggested they sing “Oh Bondage Up Yours” by X-Ray Spex. Joe decided to take the lead vocals, as he felt he would be able to reach the higher notes. The other members of the group happily agreed to this, although that meant they would play a minor part at best in the performance.

A youthful Sharon in 1976

Brake That stormed the show and achieved the highest audience poll ever. They were through to the next show. This was to set the tone for most of the remaining live shows, as they topped the audience poll in the Bob Dylan, Trance, Jackson Five, Epic Doom Metal and Gareth Gates theme shows. They had a scare on the Opera show, when Joe’s usually reliable falsetto cracked as he sang Violetta’s part in the group’s rendition of “Libiamo” from Verdi’s “La Traviata” and they ended up in the bottom three, facing the sing-off and the judges’ decision. Fortunately, they made it through to the next and final show.

Joe, Ray and Andy of Brake That performing "Libiamo" from Verdi's "La Traviata". Mark was not at the show because he was pulling sick tricks on his BMX. Suhail is just out of shot.

In the final show the boys pulled arguably their best performance out of the hat when they sang “Mistletoe and Wine” by Sir Cliff Richard. Joe took the part of the nauseating school children and wore a cassock and surplice, while the other members of the band wore thick pullovers and corduroy trousers. The audience went into a frenzy of applause as Ray performed his now signature breakdancing routine and spun 720 degrees on his baseball cap.

It was a foregone conclusion and, for the first time, a group won X Factor. The boys got their £1m recording deal and became one of the most successful acts in the UK. They kept their feet firmly on the ground, though, and returned to work on the bike team, much to Sharon’s relief, as she had been singlehandedly dealing with the work of six for several months now.

Sharon coping very well indeed with her increased workload.

They felt they owed a debt of gratitude to Sharon, not least for her holding the fort for them, so they bought her a lovely house in Lytham with a swimming pool, which they filled with gingernuts. Sharon was overwhelmed by this gesture and burst into tears when she saw the gingernut filled swimming pool. They had intended to continue working on the bike team but, unfortunately, when they tried to book time off for their first world tour, the new resource planner would not let them have the leave, so they reluctantly had to hand in their resignation.

Sharon is still dealing with the bike claims.