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“For two years, I made myself sick. To the point I’d be throwing up blood.” Adam Rickitt
“It lasted three or four months, and it was fun. She (Katie Price) was a lovely, lovely girl.” Gareth Gates
“Within a year, I’d lost my house, I lost my Dad. And I went to rehab.” Kavana
“I was really low money wise. If I’m honest, my dad paid my mortgage.” Dane Bowers
“Aged 15, we’d signed a half a million pound record deal. We were number one on Sunday, and I was back in school on Monday.” Kenzie
The Big Reunion 2014 features exclusive and explosive accounts from former pop heroes, with revelations about drugs, fisticuffs, rows, eating disorders, shattered dreams and how the music industry can leave even apparently successful stars penniless.
Each band has just two weeks of intense rehearsals before they step back onto the stage to perform once again in front of thousands of fans.
Episode three features Big Reunion super-group 5th Story, revealing the highs and lows of pop stardom for Gareth Gates, Dane Bowers, Adam Rickitt, Kavana, and Kenzie.
In the 90s and 00s, the members of 5th Story clocked up 27 top ten hits and six number ones. Now, the lads are back to tell their stories as they create a brand new group.
The members of 5th Story have gone through everything from homelessness, bulimia and bankruptcy to glamour girl trysts, rape accusations and drug and alcohol dependency. Now, they must put all that behind them as they form a brand new group and perform their solo hits together.
Croydon lad Dane Bowers shot to fame as part of boy band Another Level.
Dane says: “We were number one on every R&B chart. Everyone thought we were a black American group.”
The band’s second single Freak Me secured them a number one. Dane recalls: “When Freak Me came out and went to number one, we were on Top of the Pops and to have someone say ‘This week, Top of the Pops are Another Level’ – I lost my mind.”
In the band’s first two years together they secured seven top ten hits and they were personally invited to support Janet Jackson on tour. Dane says: “The Janet Jackson tour, for us, was amazing. What a tour to do. We were personally asked to be the only support act.“
Dane became renowned as a ladies man who liked a good time. He says: “I did have fun with the odd glamour girl here and there. The women and the drink is definitely something I have to hold my hands up to. I could drink for England.”
As part of Another Level, Dane admits he wasn’t always a team player, saying: “Sometimes I did feel like the group revolved around me, which was wrong. I was a bit of an idiot back then.“
The break up of the band came as a surprise to Dane, he explains: “We split up in our solicitors office without even knowing about it. I didn’t want Another Level to end, we weren’t big yet. We were good, but we weren’t there yet.”
Dane went solo and had a hit single Out of My Mind featuring Victoria Beckham. Dane remembers: “We went to Magaluf, and I had Victoria on the middle of the dance floor in a furry bra, MCing while I was DJing.”
After this initial success, Dane’s career began to struggle. He says: “I was depressed, I felt like I got it lost in it all really. I was really low money wise. If I’m honest, my dad paid my mortgage.”
Dane has since found himself in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. He says: “When people Google me now it says ‘aggravated assault’, ‘conspiracy to commit rape’, which people read as ‘rape’. Every single one of those was dropped, the press wouldn’t write the story that I’m innocent.”
Now, as part of a brand new group, 5th Story, Dane comments: “Put those tracks together (from the other members) and you’ve got one messed up group.”
Manchester born Kavana was working in a fast-food restaurant when he got his big break at 16 (years old). He says: “I was working in McDonald’s at the time. I wanted to be a pop star. I found out the manager of Take That was in Manchester, so I made this demo tape, went down to the office, and in that second he happened to walk through. He took it off me.”
Kavana continues: “Because I was also a writer, I got a record deal and a publishing deal. I got an advance, so there was £300,000 there straightaway in my account, from nothing.”
“The first thing I did was buy a house for me and my parents. It was so nice to be able to do that, after twelve years on a council estate to be in a nice area with this little house.”
Kavana had his first taste of excess at the BRIT Awards, he explains: “This guy just came up to me and he went ‘here you are, take this’, and he gave me this little pink pill. He went ‘try it, it’ll make you feel good’. And I did. It was ecstasy. That was the first time I’d experienced that drug. The next morning I had to film a video, I woke up at 7am and I was still off my head.”
The memory of splitting with his manager is something Kavana will have to deal with head on as part of 5th Story. He explains: “I just felt he was not interested in me. And then he took on this guy from Coronation Street, Adam Rickitt. I was like ‘focus on me’. You know what, I was jealous.”
When the hits dried up, Kavana split with his record company. Kavana says: “I took the money, and went to America with it.” He continues:
“I rented a house on Hollywood Boulevard that was Clark Gable’s house. I was the life and soul. I was this Brit kid hanging out at a lot of parties. And with that territory, came drugs. The more you do, the more you need. I was running out of money fast.”
Kavana returned to the UK penniless, he says: “I had to come back to England and tell my parents that they had to move; I couldn’t afford their house anymore. That’s when I started to get really depressed. Slowly but surely I lost everything. I felt like a complete and utter failure. I’d wake up in the morning and go ‘what next?’. That’s when I turned to drink, just to cope. It was a vicious circle.”
“Within a year, I’d lost my house, I lost my Dad, my mom ended up in a wheelchair. And I went to rehab.”
Kavana’s fall from grace was dramatic - he’s now homeless, broke, and working in a Manchester café. He says: “Man in a suitcase I am.”
Kenzie was just 15 years old when he joined nine other schoolmates to record a demo and formed Blazin’ Squad. Kenzie recalls: “Within two weeks, we’d signed a half a million pound record deal, at 15.”
The band soon had a hit with number one single Crossroads. Kenzie says: “We didn’t even want to do Crossroads. It wasn’t our music. We were in the situation of ‘you can either do that, or go back to school’.” He continues: ”We were number one on Sunday, and I was back in school on Monday.”
A teenage Kenzie juggled the pop star lifestyle with school life, saying: “I remember we finished school and there were three blacked out Mercs waiting for us. We were in our school uniforms and got in the cars. It was weird.”
With a number one hit on their hands, the group’s lives changed overnight. Blazin’ Squad soon earned a name for themselves, however, as bad boys when they smashed up a hotel room.
Kenzie recalls: “We smashed the place to pieces. Not in an aggressive way. The label told us to calm down.” He continues: “A bunch of 16/17-year-olds, we’re not going to go to dinner then go to bed are we?”
In 2003, with 6 top ten singles under their belt, the boys were dropped by their label. Kenzie says: “We ended on a top ten arena tour, that’s a good way to end. I remember going back stage and crying, because it was sad, it was the end of an era. We toured the country, we toured the world. We did a lot in three years. No one can take that away from us.”
As Coronation Street’s Nick Tilsley, Adam Rickitt’s life changed overnight as he became the focus of adoration for thousands of teenage girls. Adam remembers:
“It should have been every boys dream, getting two thousand fan letters a day, pictures of naked women in the post. I knew, and I knew that everybody else knew, that I was on there purely to bring in the girl ratings. I literally became a piece of play-dough.”
He continues: “No matter how much this inner part of me said ‘oh my god, you look like a cock’, I would do it because I wanted to please them, and it didn’t matter because it wasn’t the real me.”
As his profile rocketed, Adam signed a record deal worth £2 million pounds and got his big moment in the pop spotlight with hit single Breathe Again.
Adam says: “I had one single that was a big success, and I hated every moment of it.”
Adam recalls putting himself under immense pressure, which resulted in an eating disorder. He says: “For two years, I made myself sick. From one time a day up to 15 times a day, to the point I’d be throwing up blood. But I didn’t’ care, because it was a way of not having to think for a day.”
He continues: “Honest to god, if one day I hadn’t woken up and I’d have died, I wouldn’t have cared. Sometimes I even wished I was gonna die. The one thing that always made me stop thinking that was ‘How would my mum feel?’.
Ex choirboy Gareth Gates was a shy teenager with a speech impediment when he auditioned for Pop Idol in 2002. Gareth recalls: “Entering Pop Idol was a scary daunting prospect. The thought of having to speak on television was more scary than anything else.” He continues: “When they asked my name I as like ‘Oh, here we go’.”
The nation took him to their hearts and he became a hot favourite to win the show, making it to the top two in a final watched by over 12 million people. Gareth then became the youngest male to go straight into the charts at number one with Unchained Melody.
Gareth even got himself a model girlfriend, Katie Price, on the quiet. He recalls: “It lasted three or four months, and it was fun. She was a lovely, lovely girl.”
His relationship with glamour-girl Katie Price impacted on his career when he publicly denied it. Gareth says: “I was very young I was in this situation, I was seeing her for like four months and it all started to get really heavy. I was only 17 (years old), so I had to say ‘right I’m only young I don’t want to have a long-term relationship’. She then sold the story so I just go, ‘Oh no its all lies’, which was the worst thing to do.”
He continues: “The only thing I thought in my head to do was say ‘This never happened’. I simply didn’t want my family to know about my sex life. I wasn’t honest with anybody; my family, my friends, my management, so they all backed me. Then it just got worse.”
“I’ve certainly had to warm people back to me. Not being honest with people, I certainly lost a few fans then.”
The programme follows the band members as the meet together for the first time. Getting to know each other over a drink, Kavana has something to get off his chest with Adam. Kavana tells him: “One of the reasons I left was because my manager took you on. That’s why I didn’t speak to you in the office.”
Adam replies: “I know it sounds silly to say, but I’ve felt guilty about that for 15 years. I don’t know if guilt is the right word, but I always wondered if it was my fault that you left.”
Dane and Gareth also briefly discuss their mutual ex, Katie Price. Dane says to Gareth: “I did get asked in my interview obviously about an ex that we’re linked with.” He continues: “I felt sorry for you on that one, just from what you read.”
In just a few weeks time the singers will need to work together in the rehearsal room before they’re on stage performing for the first time ever as 5th Story.
The Big Reunion is an ITV Studios production for ITV2. Executive producers are Michael Kelpie and Phil Mount, ITV Studios; Series producer is Kevin Lane, ITV Studios.
Notes to editors:
• 3T (Taj Jackson, Taryll Jackson, TJ Jackson)
• 5th Story (Adam Rickitt, Dane Bowers, Gareth Gates, Kavana, Kenzie)
• A1 (Ben Adams, Christian Ingebrigtsen, Mark Read)
• Damage (Jade Jones, Andrez Harriott, Rahsaan J Bromfield, Noel Simpson)
• Eternal (Easther Bennett, Vernie Bennett, Kelle Bryan)
• Girl Thing (Jodi Albert, Anika Bostelaar, Michelle Barber, Linzi Nartin, Nikki Harrington)