The news that Jerome Flynn has joined the cast of the Yellowstone prequel 1923 should excite anyone who was a fan of Game of Thrones… or ’90s-era English cover bands.
Yes, long before Flynn started playing sellsword Bronn on Thrones, he was selling records as one half of the pop duo Robson & Jerome. And the other half was Robson Green, now famous for his starring role as Detective Inspector Geordie Keating on Grantchester.
In their native United Kingdom, Robson & Jerome became one of the bestselling musical acts of 1995 — though music critics weren’t exactly sold on their talent.
These two TV stars’ surprising detour into pop music came by way of the ITV drama Soldier Soldier, on which Green played Dave Tucker, a fusilier in the British Army, and Flynn played Paddy Garvey, a sergeant. In a 1994 episode of the show, Dave and Paddy step in as last-minute wedding singers, performing a cover of The Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” (under the moniker “The Unrighteous Brothers”).
After that episode aired, record stores were inundated with customers wanting to buy the duo’s CD, according to BBC News. The only problem was, such a CD didn’t exist — yet.
Enter Simon Cowell. The future Syco Entertainment founder and American Idol judge offered Green and Flynn a recording contract. In fact, he hounded them.
“It took me seven months to persuade these two to sign a recording contract with me,” Cowell recalled in a 2011 episode of Oprah’s Master Class, per Daily Mail. “I drove them so mad that I actually got a solicitor’s letter from one of them saying I had to stop harassing his client. But the reason I kept doing it was that a) I knew I could persuade them to do it and b) I knew it would be successful.”
The duo finally signed on the dotted line and recorded a studio version of “Unchained Melody.” Released alongside a cover of “White Cliffs of Dover” in 1995, the single became a No. 1 single and stayed in the top spot for seven weeks. According to the Official U.K. Charts Company, that same record was the second best-selling single of the 1990s.
Two other Robson & Jerome singles hit No. 1: 1995’s “I Believe/Up on the Roof,” which spent four weeks atop the chart, and 1996’s “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted,” which topped the ranking for two weeks. Thanks to those songs and other covers — including versions of “Daydream Believer,” “Oh, Pretty Woman,” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’” — the duo’s two studio albums, their 1995 self-titled debut and 1996’s Take Two, also reached No. 1.
In fact, Robson & Jerome ranked as the fastest album to reach 2 million sales for two decades, until Adele released 25 in 2015.
The masses may have loved the duo’s music, but critics did not. “Such grand success made [Robson & Jerome] the target of derision for much of the music press, who criticized the duo’s manufactured, polished covers of pop and rock classics as nostalgia mongering,” Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote for AllMusic. “And, to a certain extent, they were right…”
Worse yet were the suspicions that Green and Flynn didn’t do all of their own singing, suspicions that producer Mike Stock confirmed to the Daily Mail in 2008.
“[Session singer] Des Dyer was brought in to assist with the Jerome part — because his voice and Jerome’s were similar,” Stock revealed. “The Robson part was done by a totally different singer and the high note was a totally different guy. … In all sorts of recording contexts, you have to look at the vocal and if it’s not quite right, you have to put it right. In this case, we employed some backing singers to help repair some aspects of the vocal.”
Criticisms aside, the Robson & Jerome’s commercial appeal was undeniable, and Cowell offered the duo £3 million for a third album. But Green and Flynn turned him down and returned to their acting careers. For Green, that meant playing Dr. Tony Hill in the ITV crime drama Wire in the Blood and Geordie in the ongoing ITV/PBS mystery series Grantchester. Flynn, meanwhile, nabbed steady roles both on Thrones and on the BBC mystery series Ripper Street, playing Det. Sgt. Bennet Drake in the latter.
The pair’s pop days are behind them, but a screen reunion may be forthcoming. “There may be something … in the air with me and Jerome coming soon,” Green told the Daily Mirror last March. “A TV show. We had a meeting and it went well.”
Until that collaboration comes to fruition, Robson & Jerome fans will keep that “Unchained Melody” on repeat.