It’s common knowledge that before he became Britain’s biggest comedy export, Ricky Gervais was the frontman for short-lived 80s new wave group Seona Dancing.
Gervais formed the band with friend Bill Macrae in 1982 while studying at University College London, and the pair released two singles through London Records, More To Lose and Bitter Heart.
Neither cracked the top 40 and Seona Dancing disbanded in 1984. Macrae launched a brief solo career and now works in IT for Amnesty International.
Gervais stayed in the music industry, managing Suede and DJ’ing on Xfm before hitting it big as The Office’s boss from hell David Brent. Quizzed by Jimmy Kimmel about Macrae in 2014, Gervais quipped: “I hope he got fat, too.”
Seona Dancing might be a curious footnote in Gervais’ showbiz career, but in one corner of the world the band are legendary. A year after Seona Dancing split, DWRT-FM in Manila, Philippines, began playing a track called Fade by Medium.
It was, in fact, Seona Dancing’s More To Lose – DWRT, suspecting they had stumbled onto something, disguised the name and put a station ID in the middle of it to stop their rivals stealing it.
In the Philippines, More To Lose apparently became the kind of teen anthem that flooded club dance floors and soundtracked house parties. Gervais and Macrae’s angst-ridden lyrics – We thought we’d nothing more to lose / We’d tear our hearts with jagged truths / And everything we’d hung to for so long / Just slipped away – clearly struck a chord and gave the song a second life in Southeast Asia.
According to AllMusic’s Michael Sutton, it was an 80s anthem “as ubiquitous as Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes, but with the eternal hipster cool of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart”. In some parallel reality, Say Anything has John Cusack hoisting a boombox into the air and serenading Ione Skye with More To Lose.
On the day we got in touch with Senen T Mangalile, deputy chief of mission and consul general, he admitted he’d been listening to More To Lose that very morning.
“I’m not winding you up, it’s in the 80s new wave playlist I play on YouTube almost everyday,” he says. “It was huge in the Philippines.”
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Mangalile says DWRT played More To Lose “every hour on the hour” at the height of its popularity in 1985.
“[I did] what many teens would do at that time, my fingers were poised on the cassette player’s record button to record it.”
Mangalile confirms that More To Lose was very much a teen anthem. “It’s one that would empty the chairs at a party as everyone would get up to the dance floor and dance to it,” he notes.
“I’m not winding you, it’s in the 80s new wave playlist I play on YouTube almost everyday.”
“But it was also some sort of an anthem for teens experiencing heartbreak, unrequited love, or some other angst for the first time. They would listen to it and sing along over and over until their parents complained.”
More To Lose still has life in it in the Philippines to this day. Mangalile says retro stations have it on heavy playlist rotation and no high school reunion is complete without it.
For Mangalile, there’s something about the song’s keyboard riffs and “poignant lyrics” that he thinks resonated with a generation.
Gervais has always half-jokingly referred to himself as a failed popstar. His film and TV work to-date – be it The Office’s Free Love Freeway, his Extras duet with David Bowie or dancing with Muppets – has always incorporated music. It’s no surprise to see Life On The Road’s plot revolving around David Brent making a last-ditch attempt to be a rockstar.
Gervais can take solace in the fact that 6,800 miles from home his pop star dreams have became a reality.