Left to Right – Ed Sousa, Andrew Mann, Former Leaf goalie Curtis Joseph and his wife Stephanie, and Clive Farrington
Photo by Andrew Clowater
By Keith Sharp
You may not be familiar with the song title and I am sure you can’t identify the band who recorded that track but when you hear “The Promise” by Manchester England group, When In Rome I am sure you will say, “Hey, I remember that song!” especially if you are a fan of 80s British Electro-Pop music.
“The Promise” reached No. 11 in the U.S. Billboard charts in 1988 and in 2004, the song’s popularity was resurrected when it was featured in the hit movie “Napoleon Dynamite.” But by that point, group members Clive Farrington and Andrew Mann had long since split with keyboardist Michael Floreale (in 1990) who then moved to Dallas Texas to pursue a career writing music for films and television.
After EMI Publishing negotiated to insert that track into the “Napoleon Dynamite” soundtrack, the film was released to great critical praise in 2005, resulting in Floreale deciding to relaunch When In Rome as When In Rome II with new members; vocalist John Ceravolo and drummer Chris Willett.
Across the Atlantic, 5,000 miles away, the duo of Farrington And Mann had no idea what was going on with ‘The Promise’ or the movie. “The Sundance Film Festival (where Napoleon Dynamite was initially previewed) is not a big thing over here,” noted Farrington, who has since relocated to Anaheim California. “So Andrew and I had no idea what was going on over there. And then one night (actually early morning in the UK) I am watching the MTV Music Awards telecast and there is ‘Napoleon Dynamite, winning an award.”
To capitalize on the renewed interest of that track, Farrington And Mann decided to reform When In Rome only to find out Floreale had beaten them to the punch and had previously trademarked the name! A lengthy court battle ensued with the final result being that Floreale can tour the USA as When In Rome II, while Farrington And Mann can perform outside of the USA as When In Rome UK. However, if they want to play in North America they have to clumsily bill themselves as Clive Farrington and Andrew Mann – Original members of When In Rome.
As Farrington And Mann are preparing to release a new EP titled “Don’t Stare At The Sun” little of the above would be known to Canadian fans except that Ed Sousa, Public Relations Director for the Classic Bowl venue in Mississauga Ontario has made it a public crusade to introduce the duo to a Canadian audience.
A huge fan of 80s British techno-pop bands, Sousa stages an annual Rock N Bowl event that attracts more than 2,000 fans. His Rock N Bowl extravaganzas raise funds for Ronald McDonald House, and he only books bands that he personally likes. As such; Canadian bands like The Spoons, The Box, Images In Vogue, Honeymoon Suite and Saga are favourite draws but Sousa has also leaned on his personal preferences to bring over A Flock Of Seagulls, China Crisis and (two years ago) Farrington And Mann.
“I constantly say I have three favourite albums that I have literally worn out every track,” enthuses Sousa. “The first one is Simple Minds (New Gold Dream), the second one is A Flock Of Seagulls debut release and the third one is When In Rome’s debut release.”
“I have to pinch myself when I realize I am working with these bands and I will eventually work with Simple Minds, Jim Kerr doesn’t know it yet but that band is definitely on my radar,” Sousa laughs.
Farrington And Mann first debuted at one of Sousa’s intimate sessions in April 2019 where the duo performed an acoustic question and answer session before 100 select fans and then returned in May of that year for a full concert performance with Honeymoon Suite, The Box and A Flock Of Seagulls.
Mann, now based in London England, has nothing but praise for Sousa and his efforts to promote his band in Canada. “We owe Ed a lot for inviting us to Mississauga and promoting us,“ Mann enthused. “The people over there were so warm and friendly and Clive and I are looking forward to going back and promoting our new EP.”
Formed in 1987 in Manchester with Farrington and Floreale eventually hooking up with beat poet Mann, the trio was signed to Virgin UK on the strength of the first verse and chorus of “The Promise” written by Farrington. Released in 1988, the track enjoyed a reasonable reaction in the UK (reaching #58 on the charts) but took off in the States when a 12-inch dance version was delivered to San Francisco radio station Live 105 by Floreale’s cousin, eventually soaring to `1# on The Billboard Dance charts and #11 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Their self-titled debut album produced three other singles; “Heaven Knows”, “Everything” and “Sight Of Your Tears” but none could duplicate “The Promise” and after Farrington and Mann parted ways with Floreale, When In Rome disbanded in 1993.
Farrington notes that when “Napoleon Dynamite” kick-started interest in “The Promise” the logical thing would have been for him and Mann to re-unite with Floreale but such a move was not in the cards.
“Considering all the publicity the movie stirred up, the right thing would have been for Michael (Floreale) to say, ‘Right, let’s get back together again and let bygones be bygones,’” noted Farrington. “And even if he had said, ‘look I want to go out on my own,’ that would have been fine if he had told us in advance what his intentions were – he didn’t, but Andrew and I are not bitter about it.”
So what is so special about the name When In Rome that two rival groups would fight over it? Surely, considering the time lapse between their solitary solo album and forthcoming new EP, that Farrington And Mann can reform themselves under the moniker as mentioned above.
“It’s all about name recognition,” Mann responds. “People do recognize the name, especially in the United States and we want them to know it was Clive and me who sang that song. But despite that name we have to bill ourselves over there, people will know who we are when they come to see us.”
Considering Farrington resides in Anaheim and Mann now lives in London, the current pandemic has not disrupted their recording sessions as they have always worked apart before linking up for concert appearances. “Even when we recorded the first album, I was in Manchester and Andrew was in London,” Farrington remarked, “So we’d be sending stuff to each other. This pandemic has just allowed us to spend more time working on the new material.”
With a new track “To Fix Us” already receiving exposure on Sirius Radio, Farrington And Mann are hoping to win over a new audience while reminding their old fans that “The Promise” was more than a one-hit-wonder. The pair are planning to tour Canada as soon as the pandemic allows and don’t be surprised if they pop up during the next Rock N Bowl Event as soon as attendance allows.