The bruised brothers – rise and fall of Bros
After The Screaming Stops, a new documentary about an 1980s pop phenomenon, is a masterpiece of storytelling
25 October, 2018 — By Dan Carrier
Matt and Luke Goss – two-thirds of Bros
FOR people of a certain age, the Goss brothers occupy a special place in our shared memory of life in the 1980s.
The twins were two thirds of a smash-hit band, Bros – a pop phenomenon who followed a line of manufactured acts from the 1960s and 70s when music industry executives were more than aware of the spending power of the teenager.
Last week, Camden Town-based film company Fulwell 73 released a documentary that charts Bros’s rise, fall, and then what happened next – and have created a masterpiece of storytelling that goes way beyond a study of a life in the cut-throat world of pop.
As well as their music, their image caught a wave of faux-1950s nostalgia of the decade. Think of Nick Kamen’s 501 jeans adverts, films like Stand By Me and Back To The Future, and the fact a re-issue of Jackie Wilson’s Reet Petite could fly high in the charts. Bros were all about flat-top haircuts, distressed Levis and biker jackets – a look epitomised by the second-hand shop, Flip, in Covent Garden’s Long Acre, close to Bros’s offices in Neal Street.
Their first big record in 1988 led to them taking on 19 sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium, flogging tens of millions of albums and inspiring such fan hysteria that the police closed Oxford Street for six hours when 130,000 Brosettes descended on HMV’s store when they arrived to sign albums.
But as the film explains, brightly as they blazed across the cultural landscape for 15 minutes, it all, inevitably, came crashing down.
Fulwell 73 are well placed to take the Bros story and make it into something with more depth, thought and intelligence than a simple pop tale-by-numbers. Co-directors Joe Pearlman and David Soutar have worked on a host of Fulwell’s award-winning documentaries featuring some of the biggest stars on the planet, ranging from One Direction to JLS, to Manchester United, and Usain Bolt.
But for After The Screaming Stops, it was as much about brotherhood as it is about fame.
“How do you work on a pressured project with your brother, who you’ve had a turbulent and fraught relationship with over the years?” asks David.
“Most siblings have issues that hit nerves more than other relationships – and these two have more than most. They don’t try to hide it. They wear their hearts on their sleeves.”
The genesis of turning their cameras towards a band who had not performed together for 30 years – Matt is a Las Vegas lounge singer, while Luke earns a living as an actor – came when the brothers announced they were reforming for a gig at the giant London O2 Arena, which would sell out in seven seconds.
Joe immediately knew it should be committed to film.
“I knew their back story of huge fame at a young age, being turned on by the press, being laughed out of the country and not speaking for a number of years,” he recalls.
“We went to tell that story, but no one knew what excellent documentary characters we had until we started filming. You start digging a little bit… it becomes about twins that have struggled to reconnect. It was quickly evident it would cause really interesting friction but also would be, as Luke would say, somewhat cathartic for them.”
The film-makers made sure Matt and Luke were aware what the end product would be.
“We embed in people’s lives, become essentially friends, counsellors, absolutely everything to them, and certainly, of all the films we’ve done, this one became that and more,” says Joe.
It also shines a light on the world of the music industry.
“We were surprised how badly they were treated,” he adds.
“The stories they have are shocking – how much tragedy they had been through, while being forced to continue to perform like puppets by their management.”
And David says how they dealt with their experience is the reason they hit the big time in the first place.
“They are complicated, interesting, strong-minded, creative people that have fought for their place in the industries they love for a number decades,” he says.
An ongoing mania for Bros shows they have a special place in the pop/cultural landscape of the late 20th century.
“When it comes to fan dedication, nothing surprises me any more,” says David.
“After working with 1D, JLS, Take That and others we have experienced fanatics to the nth degree – and these fans didn’t disappoint. They’ve been lying in wait for nearly three decades.
“When the film was selected by the BFI London Film Festival their fans crashed the website trying to sign up for tickets to the premiere. They have a unique relationship and closeness with their fans. Their passion and dedication is of the highest level.”
• See https://www.brosthefilm.com/ for screening details.