'Fad Gadget' was the stage name of Frank Tovey, who was born in September 1956
. In the mid-70s he studied art at St Martin's
college (one-time home of Gilbert & George
) before completing a degree in Fine Arts
from Leeds Polytechnic
('The University of Leeds
' as it is now). Possessed of a drum machine
, a tortured voice, some lyrics, and an electronic piano, Tovey began making music, and eventually came to the attenion of Daniel Miller
of The Normal
, who at the time was setting up a new record label, Mute
. Gadget was the very first signing to Mute Records
, later home of Depeche Mode
, and released Mute's first single, 'Back to Nature
' in 1979.
With the name Fad Gadget, Tovey recorded four albums, all of which are still available nowadays - "Fireside Favourites" (1980), "Incontinent" (1981), "Under The Flag" (1982, often cited as his best work), and "Gag" (1984). The sound was early-80s electronic / cold wave / industrial / electro, similar to that of Cabaret Voltaire and for that matter Depeche Mode themselves during this period but darker and bleaker. Gadget never made the charts, and remained very obscure to the wider world, although his gained a passionate fanbase who kept him afloat over the subsequent years. Furthermore, he became an exciting live draw, his stage shows usually involving Tovey, stripped to the waist, attacking himself with a microphone before jumping the audience. He drew blood, and indeed broke both his ankles after diving off a stage in Amsterdam.
After 1984 Tovey stopped using the Fad Gadget pseudonym and started recording under his own name. Always prolific, six albums of original material, each one moving further away from electro towards blues, funk and folk - "Easy Listening for the Hard of Hearing" (1984), "Snakes and Ladders" (1986), "Civilian" (1988), "Tyranny and The Hired Hand" (1989), "Grand Union" (1991), "Worried Man in Second Hand Suits" (1993).
After 1993 he sat back and relaxed, save for the occasional one-off live show. A two-CD 'Best Of' was released in late 2001, whilst Tovey supported Depeche Mode at some of the concerts on their Exciter tour. On April 2, 2002, he performed at the Sama festival in Gothenburg. On April 3, 2002, he died of heart failure in his home in London; he had suffered from heart problems from an early age.
The last news message on his website, fadgadget.co.uk, dated April 2nd, ends with:
"The short European tour was a gas and we were pleased to see so many of our fans. I read all the messages in the guest book. Its good to see what real people think. The music biz is so full of bullshitters. The guestbook keeps me in touch so don't stop writing.
As you may know I'm currently writing new material. Be patient my little rodents, I know you crave blood but these things take time. You may not see me again for a few months while I check my circuits, reprogram my nerve system and regenerate some new flesh for you to devour. I hope that there will be something for you to consume by the end of the year but, in the meantime we will be playing some festivals in the summer (dates to be announced when gigs are confirmed).
And for our Amercan fans (North & Latin) and Japanese fans we hope to visit you as soon as we find suitable agents in your territories. Keep the letters coming in We will see you soon
Love Fad Gadget x"