* 200 articles. Two years. Whelk. The best of Upsideclown. Might be reprinted.

Ritchie Neville is dead

30 July 2001
Jamie mourns as 5ive become 4our.

Today, the world of pop sheds a tear for one of its favourite sons. 'Ritchie from 5ive', as he was known to each and every tabloid gossip columnist, passed away in the most tragic of circumstances last night, just as he and his band of brothers were preparing for another assault on the popular music charts. So, in Ritchie's honour, we take time out today to mourn his passing and celebrate his brief but glorious career.

Little is known by the general public of Ritchie's background; never one to court the cameras at the best of times, he remained fiercely guarded when questioned about his upbringing. But since his passing, the sieve of public interest has shaken the lumps out of his story. What we give you now is Ritchie: the man we thought we knew but never did.

Ritch would tell anyone who cared to listen that he came from Birmingham and was proud of his West Midlands roots. But in pop, it's never that simple. The self-proclaimed Brummie was in fact born Richard Justin Neville several miles down the A45 from his supposed home, in Styvechale, just outside Coventry. And so we come to the first incredible fact that suggests a guardian angel was guiding Ritchie's career: had he been born 40 years earlier, or had Hitler postponed his bombing of Coventry for a similar period, it is possible that Neville would have perished in the raids along with the old cathedral! A sobering thought indeed, and perhaps the inspiration for the title of his band's best-loved album - Invincible?

After this early near-brush with death, the next few years of Ritchie's life were unremarkable. Then came school, and with it the first instance of Ritchie starting to use music as a defence mechanism against the bullies. When taunted for his resemblance to a terrified girl with too much lipstick, he found the only way to survive was through the use of song and dance to express his 'bad' attitude despite his effeminate form. Soon he gained the respec' of his peers, and was widely tipped as the 'next big thing' to come out of Bromsgrove, now his home. Superstardom beckoned at the tender age of eight and a half.

Then, with the immaculate timing we have come to expect of tragic irony, disaster struck. The double blow of tonsillitis and athlete's foot would have been a death knell for most youngsters' pop dreams; even for one with the inner strength of Ritch, it was a setback that slammed the brakes of reality on his career aspirations. It is a tribute to his modesty that he never spoke of his struggle with the diseases, never tried to win the sympathy of the public with tales of his brave fight. And now, we respect him all the more for it.

The years following the debilitation are recognised as the barren years of Ritchie's creative career. A sulky, listless teenager, he experimented with cider and tobacco, jeopardising the co-ordination and larynx that would make him a star. But this wilderness proved the inspiration for one of his group's best-loved songs, 'If ya gettin' down'; with Neville, every cloud really did have a silver lining.

And the lining came in the form of four fellow dreamers - Sean, Scott, Abs and J. The next section of their communal career is already well documented in unauthorised biographies such as 'Five bad boys' and '5ive Alive'; the initial comparisons with Boyzone and Westlife, soon superseded by a growing respect from all comers for these bad boys made good. Even the setbacks made for comedy; imagine the shock when a children's TV producer, after telling one of his aides to get 'a 5ive star' to appear on the show, came face to face with 80s sensations Five Star in the corridor!

Inamongst all this action, of course, came the first true love of Ritchie's life (after music, naturally): jailbait pop sensation Billie (now Billie Piper-Evans). He voiced his intense frustration at not being able to attend her 16th birthday party, but they were soon together and proclaiming undying love. And dismissed the jibes labelling them a cut-price Britney 'n' Justin N*Sync by forgoing all the religious nonsense and actually having sex. And Billie stood by her man at all times, quashing rumours that he had blue contact lenses and wore make-up. And couldn't sing or dance.

This is generally seen as the happiest time of Ritchie's short but eventful life, providing the inspiration for such classic tracks as 'You make me a better man' and 'Battlestar'. But the rigorous schedules of two international pop stars, and the envious mewlings of nubile 5ive fans the world over, thrust a divisive wedge between the lovers, ending their relationship just in time for Billie's comeback single (Ritchie, ever the gentleman, falsely let it be known that he chucked her to gain her sympathy record sales).

But Ritch treated heartbreak with the same disdain he had shown fungal and viral infections, shrugging off the pain and channelling all his passion into choreography and quasi-rap vocals. And he was still riding the crest of a musical wave when, last Friday, his career was tragically cut short by a picnic table thrown from a roof in East London by a gang of immature drunkards. In his honour, the News of the World yesterday announced a petition of MPs and the public to introduce 'Ritchie's law', forcing all landlords to chain picnic tables to their terraces or risk being exposed in a 'name and shame' campaign. We can only pray that the publicity surrounding Ritchie's death can prevent further such painful occurrences up and down the country.

But this is not a time to mourn. We should celebrate the life we were privileged to witness, and the musical legacy that remains. 5ive's new single, Let's Dance, is out next month, and will surely top the charts in his memory. And, we hope, Ritchie will watch proudly from on high, where Freddie Mercury congratulates him on We Will Rock You. Maybe they'll share a joke about Brian May's hair. That would be nice.

Goodbye, Ritchie Neville. Keep On Movin'. We love you.


This is the fucking archive

Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
13 October 2003. Jamie writes: The Persistence of Memory
22 September 2003. Jamie writes: The Email Eunuch
1 September 2003. Jamie writes: Credo
11 August 2003. Jamie writes: Brad and Jennifer and Me
21 July 2003. Jamie writes: Interruption
30 June 2003. Jamie writes: Do you remember the first time?
12 June 2003. Jamie writes: Forthcoming Attractions
19 May 2003. Jamie writes: Stupid Mistake
28 April 2003. Jamie writes: Hoping and Praying
7 April 2003. Jamie writes: Strangers on a Plane
17 March 2003. Jamie writes: Q&A
24 February 2003. Jamie writes: Altered States
3 February 2003. Jamie writes: How to say goodbye
13 January 2003. Jamie writes: In A League Of Their Own
23 December 2002. Jamie writes: What's in a name?
2 December 2002. Jamie writes: Lies, Damned Lies and Spastics
11 November 2002. Jamie writes: Memoirs of a Gaysian: A Preface
21 October 2002. Jamie writes: Love is blindness
30 September 2002. Jamie writes: Time for bed
9 September 2002. Jamie writes: Angry Exchanges Can Be Puzzling [10]
19 August 2002. Jamie writes: High Speed
29 July 2002. Jamie writes: Firkin Hell
8 July 2002. Jamie writes: Do you, er... haiku?
13 June 2002. Jamie writes: Unnatural Porn Thrillers
20 May 2002. Jamie writes: The Triumphant Return of the Septic Fiveskins
25 April 2002. Jamie writes: Meeting People is Easy
4 April 2002. Jamie writes: I Want I Want I Want
7 March 2002. Jamie writes: The Player of Games
11 February 2002. Jamie writes: Fat Man Walking
17 January 2002. Jamie writes: Passive/Aggressive
3 January 2002. Jamie writes: Love (classified)
29 November 2001. Jamie writes: A Lil' Nite Muzak
5 November 2001. Jamie writes: Natural born liar
11 October 2001. Jamie writes: All I need
17 September 2001. Jamie writes: Postcards From The Edge (of the pool)
23 August 2001. Jamie writes: Class act
30 July 2001. Jamie writes: Ritchie Neville is dead
5 July 2001. Jamie writes: A Letter from God
11 June 2001. Jamie writes: "If it's in French, it must be deep"
17 May 2001. Jamie writes: Reportage
23 April 2001. Jamie writes: Show me the Logos
29 March 2001. Jamie writes: Sobering Thoughts
8 March 2001. Jamie writes: Stupid, Stupid, Stupid
8 February 2001. Jamie writes: Spent
15 January 2001. Jamie writes: Full to the brim
21 December 2000. Jamie writes: fuck xmas
27 November 2000. Jamie writes: Eye Candy
2 November 2000. Jamie writes: World-wide-web?
9 October 2000. Jamie writes: Kids' stuff
14 September 2000. Jamie writes: Scatological Warfare
21 August 2000. Jamie writes: I can't stand up (for falling clowns)
10 July 2000. Jamie writes: The Etymology of Greatness

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