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Musical pioneer and Greenbelt favourite Steve Fairnie dies aged 42.
A PIONEERING figure in the Christian music world of the 70s and 80s mainstream music, Steve Fairnie, died suddenly in Devon, aged 42. On the Sunday before he died, 'Fairnie' - resplendent in 'Happy Days' style slicked hair and Fonz leather - celebrated his 42nd birthday in an American-style diner in Bristol. The next day he left with a group of art students for a week in Brixham, Devon. He died on Tuesday, 23rd February 1993 of an asthma attack.
Fairnie trained in the visual arts, studying both painting and sculpture at the prestigious Royal College of Art in London and at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris. Soon after, tired of the po-faced art world, he moved into the world of entertainment, initially playing the Christian rock-circuit with Steve Rowles as folk-duo Fish Co. Mixing astute lyrics with live jokes and audience interaction, Fish Co recorded two records (both now highly collectable) - the first 'Can't Be Bad' as a duo with friends, acquaintances and session musicians, the second, 'Beneath The Laughter', as a band, a band who had abandoned church halls for pubs and clubs, and included Bev Sage, otherwise known as Mrs Fairnie. By the time the second LP arrived, Fish Co had become Writz, a high-energy new wave art band, who achieved critical acclaim, sold out venues like Camden's Music Machine with ease, recorded one classic LP, appeared in a Dennis Potter TV play and were a positive, and amazingly visual, counter to the three chord punk of the day.
Reinventing themselves had become a habit. Writz became Famous Names, a band who never quite got on top of managers and record companies. A whole album of classic pop, produced by the then hip Godley & Creme, disappeared as Elektra Records folded. It was time to change again. The Technos - Bev and Steve playing glam electro-rock, predated much of today's dance music. As a band, and as a duo, they recorded LPs and singles, achieving chart success with a revival of Deitrich's "Falling In Love Again". But the Techno Twins/Technos were also drawn to the avant garde, and an occasional tangential band, Casualtease, surfaced at venues around the country - including one Greenbelt Festival - to astound and shock people with mummified figures, gauze-bedecked beds, loop tapes and synthesizer wizardry. In between musical projects Fairnie learnt to hypnotize chickens and created Hype, the first board game for Virgin Games.
It couldn't last, and it didn't. The Technos last LP for a small American Christian label was the only one Fairnie disowned and after a period of unease and self-searching, the eighties Fairnie emerged: - still stylish, still a performer, but now a father of two, a college lecturer of art and a painter and designer of rare talent. In 1992 Fairnie accompanied me to America to exhibit art and lecture on his, and others', work. At the time of his death Steve was working on a portfolio of work for the Cologne Art Fair later this year.
Fairnie was a catalyst, a streak of nervous energy, in fact, if you
looked hard, much of it covering a shyness, a foil to all that is
stuffy and dull in the world of Christian arts. He was no muso, but he
was the perfect frontman for his bands, a ball of energy that could
whip a crowd into excitement at some improbable event about to occur,
or make even an audience of punks sing along to a revamped thirties
song! Fairnie has been an important part of Greenbelt, Harry and the
ACG, as well as his local church in Bristol. He had certainly
mellowed, partly due to "learning" (his word) to be a father to Jake
and Faimie, and was content to teach and to paint in his newly
converted cellar. He was also a firm friend of hundreds of people,
many throughout the art and music business. He, and his music, his
painting, his laughter, simply his presence, will be sorely missed.