Francis Dunnery (aka Frank) is a rock musician from Egremont, Cumbria in the North West of England. In the late 1980s he was singer and guitarist with 'It Bites' one of the best and under-rated progressive rock bands in the chequered history of that genre. Their debut album 'The Big Lad in the Windmill' drew them to the public's attention, especially the single 'Calling All The Heroes' which became a hit in the British pop charts.
Frank, keyboardist John Beck, drummer Bob Dalton and bassist Dick Nolan seemed destined for success but, sadly, It Bites record company, Virgin, got the wrong idea following all the heady chart heroics... Maybe they expected 'It Bites' to become a 'chart act' but 'Heroes' was pretty much always expected to be a 'one-off'! The 2nd album 'It Bites' produced, 'Once Around the World', still stands today as one of the best albums ever produced. It would easily hit my top 5 CDs .
'OATW' contains 'Midnight', 'Kiss Like Judas' (one of the best set-openers I've ever heard), 'Yellow Christian' and the title track, a 20 minute extravaganza through a day in the life! It was not as great a success as it deserved...of course! The public were too busy listening to 'Kylie Minogue' and 'New Kids on the Block'! By the time of the third album, 'Eat Me In St Louis', Virgin had just about given up on the band (recognising the one song with hit potential they released it three times in succession in attempts to create a hit).
Added to that, rock music (and especially prog-rock) were desperately out of fashion again, tensions had formed within the band (not helped by increasing dependence on alcohol and other chemicals) and the end seemed inevitable. I stood in the 2000 capacity Portsmouth Guildhall and saw It Bites play their hearts out to 33 people!
The fourth album was written but never recorded and the band went their separate ways, 2 to form 'Navajo Kiss' , more heavy metal than prog, all to session work (Frank appears on a 'Yes' album!) and Francis, ultimately, to start a new life in America, where he still lives today.
Frank kicked off his solo career with the songs intended for 'It Bites' 4th album, 'Welcome to the Wild Country' but it never received a proper worldwide release and it was nearly a decade later before I even knew it had existed! By which time it was completely unavailable except at ridiculously vast prices on eBay!
'Fearless' followed (with its autobiographical songs 'American Life in the Summertime' about his disastrous marriage to a Jewish heiress and 'Feel Like Kissing You Again' about his feelings around the death of his father). The songs on this album still form a large core of Francis's live repertoire and overall, 'Fearless' is an excellent album. Next came 'Tall Blonde Helicopter' which spawned a fairly successful single 'Too Much Saturn'.
This title showed a new direction for Frank, who was becoming ever more deeply interested in astrology. He now does professional readings and charts and has also moved into psychology, which he is currently studying for a masters degree. As a practising Christian I, personally, have a bit of a problem with the astrology angle being, as it is, entirely at odds with Christianity. I have to live with that if I am to enjoy Frank's music - and I will always enjoy Frank's music. (I don't agree with Mozart's Freemasonry or Wagner's anti-Semitism but I still enjoy their music).
Two more studio albums and also a couple of live ones complete Frank's output - the highlight being for me, undoubtedly 'Man' from 2001. This exceptional album is literally packed with songs of the very highest quality, performed with a minimum of instruments (no drums at all!) and exquisite backing vocals from Frank and Erin Moran. Another MUST hear album - though my kids say they hate it as I played it so much in the car!!! A highlight amongst the excellence is 'Yonder Mountain' showing all aspiring songwriters how simplicity and originality coupled with a grasp of melody are essential for success.
The last new Double-CD Francis has issued was Gully Flats Boys - the title a homage to the downtrodden area of Egremont where Frank grew up (the albums artwork including pics of the 'Gully Flats Boys' themselves - Frank's old friends). The Cd is almost completely acoustic and features a mix of new songs and reworkings of old ones, often with the added presence of David Sancious. Highlights include 'Through My Father's Eyes' and the best version ever of my personal solo FD song 'Good Life'.
As always, Francis continues to tour England and the USA promoting his own solo work and that of the other artists he 'manages' through his 'Aquarian Nation' record label. A tour in 2002 with ex-Squeeze man Chris Difford was particularly successful (right) as Chris promoted his excellent debut album 'I Didn't Get Where I Am'.
Recent shows have featured the excellent voice of Dorrie Jackson whose debut album is eagerly anticipated shortly while Francis has also recently played concerts with ex-Bruce Springsteen sideman David Sancious.
In 2003, following the release of 2 new 'It Bites' items via a new website (a live CD and a DVD concert) 'It Bites' decided to reform!!!! Rehearsals and writing took place including Frank...but heck...these are busy men! The initial aim for a tour was Summer 2004 this failed to materialize and, eventually, Frank decided he was unable to be part of the It Bites reunion. John Mitchell (Kino, Frost*, Arena etc.) stepped in and a series of successful concerts in late 2006 re-launched this great band !
Earlier in 2006, though, Frank hit upon a bizarre but wonderful idea...concerts in fans' front rooms! What a tremendous experience those were. Francis was so close to me he was almost treading on my toes - no need for a mike...he was literally singing in my ear! Wow! Being able to sing along and put in some of the backing vocals...just an amazing, unique evening I'll treasure for the rest of my life. Thanks, Frank!
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