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Liberty X (originally called Liberty) was a pop vocal group formed from five contestants from the 2001 ITV show Popstars. The group consists of Tony Lundon, Kevin Simm, Michelle Heaton, Kelli Young and Jessica Taylor. They are perhaps best known for their UK number one single 'Just A Little', which was also their biggest hit worldwide. The band went on to achieve 10 consecutive UK Top 20 singles. Their 11th and final UK single 'X' failed to reach the UK Top 40, stalling at number 47. Few of their singles made much of an impact on international charts.
Whilst the five winning contestants of Popstars formed Hear'Say, the five runners up (who would have been the "backup" had there been a problem with any members in Hear'Say) formed the group Liberty. The name Liberty was chosen to reflect the freedom they enjoyed from not being under the rigid enforcements of the television company and record label that was put upon Hear'Say. Their runner-up status led to them being cruelly dubbed "Flopstars" by some commentators. However, this tag was dropped when they signed a multi-million pound record contract with Richard Branson's independent record label, V2 records and they soon became seen as a "cool" alternative to Hear'Say.
Shortly after forming, Liberty received a legal challenge in the UK High Court from a funky R&B band called Liberty who had success in the 1990s, won Capital Radio Band Of The Year, played Wembley Arena, toured Europe and released albums in the USA, Europe & UK. The original Liberty claimed that the new Liberty were taking advantage of the goodwill that they had created in the name Liberty (which in English law is the tort of passing off). The judge agreed with the original Liberty and so the new group asked readers of UK tabloid newspaper, "The Sun" to pick them a new name. The winning name was in fact, not 'Liberty X' and was actually X Liberty and Michelle cleverly placed the X at the end of the name to give the group name a whole new meaning and sharpness... although Liberty X was also the name of another musical group, the band was forced to sell rights to the name Liberty X after being harassed by the new Liberty's label and management.
Early Chart Success:
The group's first two singles "Thinking It Over" and "Doin' It" launched them to fame, both released whilst the group were known as Liberty. "Thinking It Over" shot to number 5 in the UK Top 40 singles chart, and the single featured remixes by the Wideboys and Boy George. The follow up single "Doin' It", released December 2001, didn't do quite as well and charted and peaked at number 14. Despite the low charting, it is said that if the single was released 2 weeks earlier, it would have been number 1. There was a gap of 5 months between "Doin' It" and the follow up "Just A Little" due to the band being involved in a court case. The track indeed took the band straight to the top of the UK charts and became the 9th best selling single of 2002. 'Just A Little' was also a hit worldwide, reaching the Top 5 and Top 10 music charts in several countries. It is the single they are best known for inside and outside the United Kingdom. One good thing that came out of the whole name change court case is that in the 5 month break between releases, the band recorded "Just A Little" and the next single "Got To Have Your Love", and the original intended 3rd single "Wanting Me Tonight" was cancelled. This release was proceeded by their debut album, Thinking It Over (originally due to be called To Those Who Wait). The album was a huge success, peaking at number 3 in the UK, selling over 1 million copies worldwide. Two further top 5 singles were released from the album - "Got To Have Your Love" produced by UK Producer Rod Gammons (Mark Morrison, Beverley Knight), a cover of the 1990 track by electro funk group Mantronix (Mantronix's founding member, Kurtis Mantronik, also remixed the Liberty X version for the single release), which peaked at number 2 in the United Kingdom, however, midweek sales, during its first week of release, indicated that it was to debut at number 1. This would have been the band's second consecutive number 1, and possibly third, had 'Doin' It' been released 2 weeks earlier. The final single to be taken from the album, was 'Holding On for You', released in December 2002. The single debuted and peaked at number 5 before falling to number 14 the following week. 'Holding On For You' remains a radio favourite in the UK.
Following a short break, the group released "Being Nobody", a mash-up of Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody" and Human League's "Being Boiled". The single was produced by Richard X and released under the name of Richard X vs Liberty X. The track followed the momentum caused by Richard X's other mainstream production, Freak Like Me for the Sugababes, which topped the charts the previous year. Both tracks featured on Richard X's album Richard X Presents His X-Factor Vol. 1. Despite the bands love for "Freak Like Me" the guys never thought of finding the mastermind behind the track but they were approached by Richard X who asked if they wanted to collaborate. The band had just finished a sell-out tour when the single was to be released. "Being Nobody" reached number three in the UK singles chart. Proceeding their second album, Being Somebody, the group released "Jumpin", which only managed to peak at number 6 and spent just 4 weeks on the UK Top 40 chart. 'Jumpin' was co-written by UK singer-songwriter, Lucie Silvas. 'Being Somebody' was released on 3rd November 2003, debuting at number 12 on the UK album chart, but fell to number 27 the following week. The album sold around 200,000 copies, significantly lower then sales of their debut. The album received a lot of criticism from fans for containing too many emotional ballads, distancing themselves from their initial R&B sound. The group released the albums final single 'Everybody Cries' in January 2004. The music video saw the band walking along disused railway lines, which they were criticised for by safety organisations. The single missed the UK Top 10, reaching a disappointing number 13, and spent just 3 weeks on the UK Top 40. The group took a hiatus following record label issues and each member decided to work on different individual projects. Kevin Simm appeared on Channel 4's The Games, competing in a series of sporting events (in which he placed second overall, behind Philip Oliver). Michelle Heaton appeared on ITV's ill-fated "Celebrity Wrestling". Jessica Taylor appeared on the BBC's "Come Ice Skating." Tony Lundon and Kelli Young took the time to work on new tracks for the band's third album, whilst both contributing on other artists album in both producing and writing. Tony featured on D-Side's debut album, writing and featuring on a song entitled "Fix You" and Kelli collaborated with Billy Crawford on a track on his album "Big City" called Go, Go. This track has now gone on to be sampled by Jamelia for a song that was not used for her latest album Walk With Me. During this period, The Sun newspaper reported that the group were to re-release 'Being Somebody', and was to feature a cover of the 1990 hit 'Back To Life', however this failed to materialise. They also released a cover version of 'Fresh' which was released in a selection of European countries, but not the United Kingdom. It peaked at number 35 on the French music charts.
In mid-2005 it was announced that Liberty X had left V2 records, and had signed to independent label Unique Corp records. Their third album was announced as being titled, X to be released in October 2005. Not owning the rights to certain songs (including collaborations with Richard X), the band had to write new material. The first single, "Song 4 Lovers" however, had been recorded when they were signed to V2 Records back in 2004. It was finally released in September 2005 and it features Rev Run of Run DMC, who also co-wrote the track. The single was well received, achieving a large amount of airplay on British music channels, as well as radio. During its first week of release, midweek figures showed that the single was to debut at either number 2 or 3, but finished the week at number 5, their first Top 10 hit in nearly two years in the United Kingdom. It spent 4 consecutive weeks inside the Top 10.
Their third album 'X' was released in October 2005, but to a lukewarm reception, despite the top 5 success of the single which preceded the album. It peaked at number 27, leaving the top 40 after just one week. People were unimpressed with the content of the album as it contained four previous singles (Just A Little, Got To Have Your Love, Being Nobody, Holding On For You), plus the current single (Song 4 Lovers), and a track ("Yo DJ") which was used as a b-side to Song 4 Lovers. 'X' went on to sell an extremely poor 10,000 copies in the UK, and saw a strictly limited release around the world.
In late October, following the top 5 success of their single, the group announced they had been asked to record the official 2005 Children in Need single, so they teamed up with producer Rod Gammons again to record "A Night to Remember, a cover of the Shalamar classic, backed with another disco/soul classic, "Everybody Dance." The group performed both singles live on the night, 18 November 2005. The double a-side single entered and peaked at number 6 in the official British singles chart, it also peaked at number 16 in France, their biggest hit there since 'Just a Little'.
After an hiatus, the band returned in June 2006 with a slightly remixed new single "X". The song was a fan favourite, but due to a lack of promotion and lack of airplay and video play (the video itself was attacked for being considerably low-budget), the song failed to hit the Top 40, peaking at a low number 47. The re-release of the album, which contained the new version of X and A Night To Remember which was planned, still went ahead, unknown to the public. 'X' also peaked at number 89 in France, their lowest chart placing there, just ahead of 'Holding On For You' which reached number 109.
Despite rumours of the band splitting, members leaving and being dropped by their label, the band announced that they were still together but each doing separate things. Michelle, not long back posted on the band's official site stating the band were still together and would be releasing a new single in the new year (January 2007) with a song from a forthcoming film. However, this failed to materialise. Michelle Heaton since then has married her lover of four years, Andy Scott-Lee who is best known for making the final seven in the second series of Pop Idol. Jessica Taylor got engaged to cricket star, Kevin Pietersen, Kevin Simm has appeared on Channel 4's The Games: Champion of Champions, competing for his team, and Tony Lundon was busy writing tracks for what would have been the band's fourth album.
On May 20, 2007, the band posted a message on their website, saying that they won't be recording together anymore. They said "We want to let the fans know that Liberty X won't be doing any more recording together".
" All of us have separate projects we're working on and are excited about. We're still the best of friends and we'll still be doing all the dates on the current club tour. Also, we still intend to come together sometimes as Liberty X, for one-off events." "
Rumours on the internet suggest that a 'Greatest Hits' album is to be released featuring all their 12 single releases and 3 unreleased album tracks.
The group performed their last gig on 2 September 2007 alongside Liz McClarnon, Lisa Scott Lee and Stonefoxx at the Wiltshire Crime Stoppers charity event held in the grounds of Bowood House near Chippenham in Wiltshire. The Wiltshire Times newspaper was granted the last ever on-camera interview with the five band members before they took to the stage. Footage of their performance and the interview is featured on its website.