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Published on November 12th, 2004 | by Gerry Galipault


Cracking America

They’re huge in Britain, so huge they were named British Breakthrough Artist at the BRIT Awards and beat out Christina Aguilera, Black Eyed Peas and Justin Timberlake for Best Pop Act.

Up until now, America has gotten only a slight taste of Busted. The self-titled Universal album from Charlie Simpson, Matt Willis and James Bourne was released on Oct. 12; the first single, “What I Go to School For” (Hear here via iTunes), is making the rounds on MTV, and the guys – all in their early 20s – have done promotional tours.

Now comes the real deal: They’re getting their own reality show. “America or Busted,” a six-episode series, debuts at 9 p.m. EDT Nov. 19 on MTV2. Cameras will capture their everyday lives and, as a press release says, “determine if Charlie, Matt and James can survive their extended stay away from home.”

“We want to make sure to get in front of people’s faces,” Willis said recently. “It’s really important to spend time here and let people know who we are, so we delayed our album here for a little while. Now we’re completely ready.

“We’re going to be kicking some ass. We’ll kick America’s bottom.”

That’s not British bravado talking; it’s puckish confidence from having done so well back home. They have sold more than 1.5 million albums in Britain and have had three No. 1 singles. And those awards would boost anyone’s ego.

Their first two albums, “Busted” (2002) and “A Present for Everyone” (2003), are brimming with catchy, creative pop-punk. Tracks from those albums make up the U.S. version of “Busted.”

“Really, it’s the ‘best of Busted.’ All hits,” Bourne said.

About five years ago, Willis and Bourne joined forces to form a band; they put an ad in NME announcing an audition for a third member. Among the 60 people who showed up was Simpson, a singer-guitarist. The three connected instantly and have been good friends ever since.

Willis has no problem introducing to the American audience songs they wrote two and three years ago.

“Have you seen the video?” he asks. “We don’t look anything like that anymore. Charlie and James look like they’re 15; I think I look pretty much the same, maybe my hair was a little longer. James and Charlie have aged so much in the past year.

“In England, you see these bands and you see them in the paper, that they’re breaking huge in America and they they come back and say ‘Uh, we really didn’t do anything,’ with their tails between their legs, and they say ‘Can you please take us back?’ We’re going to be coming back here, back there, back here, back there, because England is very important. It’s where we’re from, where we started, they’re the first fans we ever had. But also, breaking it in America is important to us.”

They want it so bad, they “want to start another British invasion,” Simpson said. “We want to connect the two markets again. In the ’60s, British bands have full access to the American market, now it’s like 2 percent or something silly like that.”

Three singers, each a songwriter – sounds like a recipe for side projects and solo careers. Busted says no way. They’re in it for the long haul.

“We still have a great time every single day,” Willis said. “We still wake up every morning and like what we do. When we stop doing that, then we’re finished. We’re all still great buddies. The day we smack each other in the face is the day we break up. Sometimes we get tired, but we never really argue.”

“We made these two albums ridiculously quick, and already people think it’s time to wind down now, but we’ve only just begun,” Simpson said. “There’s a serious, serious impact still to be made. We can potentially do so much off this platform, so if anyone says ‘Is it curtains yet?’ it’s just a ridiculous thing to say. We just won best newcomer at the BRIT Awards; it’s not a life achievement award, now is it?

“To go solo would be a very lonely journey. When you go around the world, it can be lonely being in a band; just imagine how lonely when you’re a solo guy. Imagine being in another country, in the hotel bar having a drink by yourself and nobody else speaks English. At least when you’re in a band and you’re with your best mates, that’s a much better option, I think.”

They’re edgy, energetic, witty and very personable. Could Hollywood be far behind?

“There’s been a lot of bands who’ve made some very bad movies. The Spice Girls, for one,” Willis said. “I’m not sure we want to go down that road. Look at Mariah Carey, with ‘Glitter,’ and Britney Spears’ ‘Crossroads.’ They got completely slogged for it. Only Eminem got critical acclaim, for ‘8 Miles.’ Why do a movie and open yourself up to such criticism when you can do an album?”

In the meantime, fans can look forward to Busted’s contribution to the 20th anniversary re-recording of the charity-aid classic “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” On Sunday (Nov. 14), they will be among a host of artists to gather at Air Studios in London under the collective name Band Aid 20. Other confirmed performers include Coldplay, Travis, Keane, Snow Patrol, Franz Ferdinand, The Darkness. The track is a sure bet to be the coveted No. 1 song in Britain on Christmas Day.

The band is on a soldout arena tour of the U.K. through the end of the year. They will return to states in March to perform for one lucky school as part of the Cingular Wireless/360 Youth Promotion.


BWF (before we forget): Following the departure of Charlie Simpson, Busted announced on Jan. 14, 2005, that it was splitting up.

The Busted album discography – “Busted” U.K. version (Universal, 2002); “A Present to Everyone” (2003); “Busted” U.S. version (Universal, 2004).

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About the Author

Gerry Galipault debuted Pause & Play online in October 1997. Since then, it has become the definitive place for CD-release dates — with a worldwide audience.

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