For millennials like me, S Club 7 and Paul Cattermole soundtracked childhood

It’s incredibly sad to see RIP Paul trending on Twitter this morning, a day after it was announced that Paul Cattermole had died suddenly and unexpectedly aged 46. 

To any millennial pop fan like myself, Cattermole needed no surname – he was always just ‘Paul from S Club’, one seventh of a pop group that soundtracked our childhoods.

S Club 7’s last single came out nearly 20 years ago in May 2003, but the group’s nostalgic pull remains potent.

In February, they announced a UK and Ireland reunion tour – their first in eight years – and had to add extra dates to meet demand.

I was delighted the tour was such a draw that they even booked a special matinee show in London. After getting tickets, I felt excited to see my favourite S Club songs Natural and Love Ain’t Gonna Wait for You (hopefully) played live.

The group is currently scheduled to play 15 huge arena shows this October, but Paul’s death obviously throws these plans into question. ‘Paul’s family, friends and fellow members of S Club request privacy at this time,’ the band said in a statement yesterday.

In my capacity as a music journalist, I attended the group’s press conference for the reunion tour, which took place at a London hotel in mid-February. I wasn’t sure what to expect on the day, but came away feeling strangely comforted. 

Not every pop comeback is done right – some are done with clenched jaws and nothing but a pay cheque in mind – but the warmth in the room was palpable.

The seven members – Paul, Tina Barrett, Jon Lee, Bradley McIntosh, Jo O’Meara, Hannah Spearritt and Rachel Stevens – had an easy camaraderie. 

Everyone was given an equal opportunity to speak. In their heyday, S Club 7 were a gang that fans like me wanted to be a part of, and even 20 years later, their love for each other was clear and I still wanted to volunteer to be an extra member. 

I also remember being impressed when Paul said that Flo, the UK’s hottest new girl-group, would be an ‘amazing’ support act for the tour. Clearly he had his finger on the pulse and was still interested in discovering brilliant new pop music.

In their late 90s and early 00s imperial phase, S Club 7 made plenty of that, but they were TV stars as well as pop stars. Put together by the Spice Girls’ former manager Simon Fuller, the group was precision-tooled for pin-up status. 

By the time they released their debut single Bring It All Back in June 1999, Paul and his bandmates were already a huge deal thanks to Miami 7, a frothy sitcom in which they played fictionalised versions of themselves.

The show followed the group as they worked in a somewhat ropey Florida hotel while trying to make it big in the States, but the plot wasn’t really the point. Every week, they’d perform a new song. 

As soon as it debuted on CBBC in April 1999, Miami 7 became appointment viewing when you got home from school on Thursday afternoon because it was fun seeing the band members bounce off one another and perform their bright, buoyant pop songs.

For me, those early S Club singles will always bring back memories of seeing my sister and her best friend standing in front of the TV, trying to imitate the group’s dance moves. 

S Club Party, which they sang in the second episode and later released as a single, cleverly introduced each member in its lyrics: ‘Tina’s doin’ her dance, Jon’s lookin’ for romance, Paul’s gettin’ down on the floor, while Hannah’s screamin’ out for more. Wanna see Bradley swing? Wanna see Rachel do her thing? Then we got Jo, she’s got the flow…’

OK, it’s not poetry, but I guarantee that every British pop fan of a certain age – late twenties to early forties – can still quote it today.

My sister also happened to be called Jo, which only added to our excitement when watching along as kids, though as an 11-year-old, she maybe had a little less flow than her S Club namesake.

Like most groups of their era, S Club 7 didn’t really have a long lifespan. They packed a lot – four studio albums, 11 singles, further TV series including L.A. 7 and Hollywood 7 – into a four-year run that ended in 2003. 

A year earlier, Paul had shocked fans by quitting the group to focus on his nu-metal band, Skua. When Paul explained that he wanted ‘to change musically’, it was disappointing but relatable. Even dyed in the wool pop fans like myself tend to have a brief rock phase.

Life after pop stardom can be incredibly tough, though we perhaps didn’t realise this in the early 00s when S Club 7 first bowed out. In recent years, Paul was remarkably candid about his financial difficulties. 

In 2018, he made headlines by selling a Brit Award he won with the group on eBay; at the time, he said that ‘just less than half [of the £66,000 proceeds] would go on paying the bills’.

I remember feeling a little sad at the time, but also thinking ‘good on you, Paul’ for being so honest and taking ownership of the situation.

The reunion tour would have given him and the group an opportunity to add to their legacy. Their place in pop history is definitely already secure, though. 

It’s there every time you hear Reach on a night out, Don’t Stop Movin’ at a wedding, or Never Had a Dream Come True at karaoke – someone is always brave enough to take it on. 

So RIP Paul, and thank you for the memories.

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