Damage, Damage, Damage. Lest we forget one of the most talented boy bands that ever graced the UK charts. One look at these boys would stir up lust in the most pious of young women.
They were famous for their sultry looks, sexy moves and of course, those angelic voices that graced banging tunes like Ghetto Romance. So their sudden disappearance from our TV sets and radios upset thousands of girls across the country, across the world and most of all… me.
So where have Jade Jones, Andrez Harriott, Coree Richards, Rahsaan J Bromfield and Noel Simpson put away their seductive talents? Ex-lead singer Coree Richards and current band member Andrez Harriot each give their own take on how Damage reached the heights of fame and where they have been hiding ever since they vanished.
Click the tabs below to find out more.
Little Boys Big Dreams
Damage started when the lads were just boys. Coree was just 14 and attended the Burlington Dames Academy when he got wind of a boy band being put together at the Barbara Speake Stage School where Jade, 12, Noel, 16 and Rahsaan aka Ras, who was 15, attended.
Andrez, 13, was at Sylvia Young Stage School and in the stage production of Carmen Jones at the Old Vic Theatre in Waterloo (where he met Jade). The guys sang for each other and decided to form a band.
Thinking of a name for themselves was not an easy task. Coree said:
We had several names before Damage, one being “Too Bad To Be Good”. One day we were travelling home from school, and Rahsaan suggested it.
Andrez disagrees with that view somewhat and stated that the name Too Bad To Be Good was linked to another musical project.
After being put together, they managed to get into a big Manchester show. But the showcase was only for people who were native Mancunians. Coree said:
It was crazy we had to put on fake accents and everything.
They were adored by the crowd for their singing but clearly their attempts at Manchester accents failed as they were soon found out by the show’s organisers and subsequently disqualified.
However, they were so impressed by the boys that they allowed them to perform again for them at a later stage. As luck would have it, on one of these days they performed, Steve Marshall’s car broke down just outside the venue and he went inside to wait for recovery. Marshall was the A&R guru from Big Life Records. He heard the boys perform and was impressed. Coree said:
He came backstage and told us he loved our sound and gave us his card. It was what we had been waiting for.
After the chance meeting, Steve Marshall got them signed to Jamiroquai’s management label. Famous lead singer, JK, even paid for their first demo, a cover of the Jackson 5’s Stop The Love You Save, that lead to them signing a seven-album deal with Big Life Records. Coree said:
We were so young that we couldn’t sign the contracts ourselves. We had to get our parents to sign on behalf of us.
Within nine months the boys were on the road and released one of their early singles Anytime, which charted at number 68.
Being young, we were just so excited that we were on the journey, and it gave us the drive to continue and try to get better results, at no point were we disheartened by the result.
But the band’s next song, 1996’s Love II Love, charted at number 12, improving a whopping 56 places from their debut chart position. Andrez said:
I remember the Sunday we were listening to the countdown of the chart that week. We gathered at our manager’s house with parents and members of our family. The owner of the label was there and he brought round little bottles of Moët for each of us. ‘Til this day, many of us still have that bottle, around 20 years old.
To get to number 12 was a major moment for us because it was rare for groups of colour to achieve that. It was significant.
Upon being asked about racism in the industry, Andrez, declined to comment. However he did mention a monumental achievement in 1997.
We were the first band of colour on the front cover of Smash Hits. Ever.
They went on to release their debut album Forever.
At the beginning of most artists’ careers, they seldom have creative control over their music, image and music videos. Damage was no different. Coree said:
I used to put forward songs that I had written but lots of them got rejected. It was really irritating.
However, Andrez disagrees with that and believes that they had a lot of creative input. In fact, he would judge the balance between the label and the band as 60 to 40 in favour of the label.
We had enough creative control to be respected, cool and current. You never saw Damage do anything that you thought was whack.
With every boy band comes the groupies and the on-off girlfriends. Well, as we all know, Jade met Baby spice, Emma Bunton, in 2001 and the pair have since had two children. Last year Emma announced their engagement (about time – 10 year relationship!) by tweeting this photo:
Yahooooo I'm Engaged! Love you Jade! I'm a very happy lady!! http://twitpic.com/3sr8k0
— Emma Bunton (@EmmaBunton) January 23, 2011
But did you know they met through Coree because he was dating Danielle Brown (fellow Spice Girl Mel B’s sister)? No! We didn’t either!
The relationship ended because of work, distance and other things. I was just really busy I guess.
Another group member who was dating someone in the public eye was Noel who was in a relationship with Mis-Teeq’s rapper, Alesha Dixon. (Ahh! No wonder they remixed the song Rumour with her!) Coree said:
Alesha was a good friend of ours. We even advised her to join Mis-Teeq. Many mornings when we going somewhere as a group and we’d pick up Noel from home she’d always be there just leaving and say hello to us on the way out.
But Noel and Alesha’s relationship went particularly sour after SHE left him for MC Harvey from So Solid. Coree said:
We didn’t end up speaking to her after they broke up. But look now, karma’s a bitch.
Indeed it is!
But it seems the boys (minus Coree) are still on good terms with Alesha after this recent banter on Twitter.
@OfficialDamage hahaahaha!!!! You know it! I'm coming for you guys soon too!!!!!
— Alesha Dixon (@AleshaOfficial) June 8, 2012
Alesha’s collaboration with the lads on the B-side remix of Rumours, part of their second album Since You’ve Been Gone, had a music video that was shot in a record shop. Coree said:
That video shoot was fun. I didn’t get to pick my own video girl, I was a bit pissed about that (laughs) but other than that it was a good day.
On being asked about recording with Alesha Dixon, Andrez said:
She was amazing. Absolutely on point. She would write her own lyrics and they would be fire. She could deliver.
When we were recording, Alesha was very professional. She was a one-take wonder. Unlike Emma Bunton who took days to record something and she wanted everyone out of the room when she did.
Aside from dating Jade, Emma also recorded an album track with the boys called I Don’t Know on their second and final album Since You’ve Been Gone.
Ras used to date media queen Jasmine Dotiwala who was head of MTV Base at the time. From then the boys would began to get more airplay on the channel. Coree said:
Being seen on MTV brought us a lot more recognition, and widened our fan base and resulted in having to sign more autographs.
She was very supportive, very supportive. There wasn’t many people who had that much power in the media to play our music but she was one of them.
One of their biggest songs and arguably the one they’re best known for, Ghetto Romance, reached number seven. But Coree revealed something about the hit that may shock some fans!
Ghetto Romance was written by the American singer Joe and producers Tim&Bob (Grammy award-winning producers of Sisqo’s Thong Song). We had to go and record it in LA but there was a budget. So only Jade and I got to record the song. We’re the only two voices on that track. Naturally, the rest of the boys were really hurt by it.
However, Andrez completely disagrees with this and said:
That is not true. We sang live on all of our music.
Who knows?! Shocking if true though!
Highs and Lows
Celebrities know how to shut down places wherever they go. So when there are five of them you bet this would be a case. Musing over times when Damage was at the peak of their fame, Coree said:
There were times we would arrive in airports abroad like in Australia and the whole airport would be shut down. Or there were times fans would be rummaging through our rubbish just to get to a half eaten apple one of us had thrown out or something.
The weirdest time was when I arrived home from a concert in Germany. Before I had actually got back to my house, my dad had opened the door to two female fans who were at the concert I was just coming from! They told him they were my friends and so he let them wait in my room. They were there just sitting on my bed! I was so tired, I told them to get out! I was just really pissed off because I was knackered (laughs).
However, no matter how big celebs get it doesn’t take away from the fact that they’re still humans and experience the same emotions and experiences that ordinary people do. While on tour in Germany, the boys were celebrating the success of their tour but their joy was cut short by tragedy when one of the members was told a close family member had passed away.
Andrez said his high point was when the band were flown out to Asia to perform for the Sultan of Brunei’s daughter.
Imagine a place as big as Wembley Stadium but there was just her and fifty of her mates watching us perform.
Sultan of Brunei?! They MUST have got a hugeeee amount for that!
It was enough to get us flown out there, let’s just leave it at that.
A low point for Andrez was when the band disbanded.
Beginning of the End
Their last single, rather fittingly, was a cover of Earth Wind & Fire’s After The Love Has Gone, and charted outside the Top 40 at number 42. At this point, they had been with major record label EMI for two years. Coree said,
We hoped for better but we understood it would have been a risk due to the tempo of the track and the appeal at that point in time. But overall we were happy with our performance of the song.
As their careers progressed the band began to have a say in their creative output, but some of the band members wanted more control, as Coree continued,
In everything we did or had to make a decision on, we took a vote on it. The boys wanted to leave EMI records and go to a smaller one who had less money but we could make the kind of music we wanted. I knew this would be the worst mistake we could make if we did that. I definitely did not want to leave EMI. I don’t think Jade was too keen on the idea either. But majority ruled and we left. It was the demise of us.
Upon the group leaving EMI, Coree left the group altogether and spent a year in Thailand soul-searching and plotting his next move.
I just had to get away where there would be no music. Funnily enough the day I landed I went to a beach bar and our tune Love II Love was playing. I did kite surfing and I even stopped smoking. It was great.
However, Andrez remembers it a little differently. He said the end came when a decision was made for the band to explore themselves as individuals:
We needed to explore the world, explore our lives. It was a group decision.
These days you’ll find the lads continuing with their own professional careers and as family men.
Do they still get royalties after all their hard work? Especially as Big Life Records has since gone into liquidation. Well, even that is up for debate. Coree said,
It used to be like lump sums we would get but now we don’t get anything.
Andrez disagreed and said, “of course.”
But fear not, good news! The boys are joining forces one more time in a one-off concert. But guess who won’t be there?… Coree.
I don’t want to rejoin the band, even if I got asked. It’s never going to happen. I’m in a really good place now. I’ve got my own music now and I just want to focus on that. No-one can sing my songs better than me.
Initially, Coree was part of the band when they regrouped in 2011. Andrez said,
His (Coree’s) agenda was not in line with ours. Let’s leave it at that.
On asking Coree if there was any animosity between him and the other four band members he said he’s only got love for them but he doesn’t think it’s the same vice versa.
They’ve blocked me on Twitter and Facebook. It’s crazy.
Upon asking Andrez about the others’ relationship with Coree these days he said:
It’s ok, it’s there. We don’t speak as often.
So why did they decide to get back together? Andrez explained:
Michael Jackson’s death. I’m a man of faith and faith comes first in everything I do. I was watching his funeral and thought to myself, I don’t want to leave this earth without the five of us speaking.
They decided to meet up for dinner and the rest, as they say, is history…
So what has life been like for the boys individually since they broke up almost 10 years ago.
Coree in 2012
Coree has been a busy bee since leaving Damage. He now owns his own record label called Black Swan Entertainment. He released a single with Iceberg Slim which covered Dazz Band’s song Starship. He said,
It was so easy to work with Iceberg Slim. I would love to work with Ice in the future.
Other collabos are said to be in the pipeline but he kept tight-lipped as to who it might be. The only clue he would give us was that it is a “dancehall king”.
A new single is out now with a video called Your Love. Coree has also recorded a solo album named Damaged But Not Broken which explores his life experiences, such as having 18-month-old son Dylan in the song A Father’s Word.
I would love for a label to get involved but if things don’t happen they don’t and if they do they do. I just want to make good music for the fans. Music is in my blood.
Andrez in 2012
For the last seven years Andrez has been working in the Youth Justice field. He completed a degree in Criminology and Sociology at London South Bank University and finished with a first class honours!
Andrez said after travelling the world and living the first class lifestyle, he came back to London and saw the issues people were dealing with:
I work with high-risk young people in prison and in the community. I support families and individuals fleeing from serious violence. I love this work and feel truly passionate about supporting people who are ready to make changes! I want to give back
But he’s not left the music behind. Andrez who is a born-again Christian, set up a band named Cherry Blackstone with wife ReDD. He’s also a father to a young daughter.
He also had a spell at DJing for two years after Damage in a variety of locations all over the globe.
Ras in 2012
My little girls and my partner are my world, joy and laughter. I hope that as my musical journey continues, I can make them proud and be a great role model/partner to them!
He also works with young people and is a mentor. Ras works with the Prince’s Trust as a Prince’s Trust Team Leader where he guides young people through a self-development programme. He continued,
Our young people are who matters, so I hope the little knowledge I have will show them the potential they have in their life.
Jade in 2012
Jade has also joined the Daddy Damage club. His two sons with former Spice Girl Emma Bunton are called Beau and Tate.
He has been pursuing his love of food since doing an apprenticeship in a pub in Primrose Hill, London. Jade has also had a spell on television cooking on Gordon Ramsey’s The F word and the Lorraine show on weekday mornings.
He has also appeared on ITV’s celebrity couple show Mr & Mrs with Emma.
Noel in 2012
Noel also works with young people in Early Intervention. He manages youth clubs with young people with difficult backgrounds, particularly those who are NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training).
Noel is a very loveable and playful character so compare that with the problems these young people are facing, he’s a perfect person to help them forget their issues.
Three band members working with young people! Is this a coincidence or what? Andrez said he believes that it comes from the fact that the African-Caribbean community is a very caring one but in short it is complete coincidence.
Noel is also father to one son of whose mother is his partner.
Although it’s just the four of them, Damage are performing in an already sold-out gig at the Jazz Cafe on 21 July.
We have a new appreciation for Damage now.
But look what missing member Coree said on Twitter:
Woop Wooop got out tickest for @OfficialDamage. Cafe gig ☺… Can't wait to hear all the classic's with the Wife in arm ☺.
— Coree Richards (@Coree_DAMAGE) July 4, 2012
All’s well that ends well?