Fake groups usually come from record label executives eager to make money by marketing an "ideal" band they put together from scratch. Famous examples include the Monkees and Milli Vanilli. Thinkman was such a group, but the idea came from bandleader/songwriter/producer Rupert Hine and consisted of a plot to get his solo career back on tracks without the music press knowing it.
Although his 1981 LP Immunity had received critical acclaim, Hine's next two albums (Waving Not Drowning and The Wildest Wish to Fly) garnered cold reviews. In the meantime, he had become a high-profile record producer, scoring hits with the Fixx, Tina Turner, Howard Jones, and Chris DeBurgh. Putting the reaction of the press over his solo work on the count of his success behind the mixing desk (which could very well have been true), Hine presented to Island Records an album and movie project titled Thinkman. He planted the first seed while producing the soundtrack for the movie Better Off Dead, which was to include some of his songs, by crediting the track "Come to Your Rescue" to Thinkman, a fictive group including him, Matthew Harte, Cellophane, and Leo Hurll (all characters in the developing script).
The movie part of the project was quickly abandoned due to a lack of financing, but the concept was salvaged. Hine hired actors to portray the bandmembers and rumors were sparked about a group of people known has Thinkman infiltrating the media to reveal the "real truth" to the world about media manipulation. The Formula, the group's first album, came out in 1986. Greg Crutwell (playing drummer Joe McArthur), Andy Baker (bassist Andy Paris), and Julian Clary (keyboardist Leo Hurll) flanked Hine in the videos for the title track and "Best Adventures," along with a host of TV appearances. The new romantic look of the band fitted Hine's intelligent pop tunes. The true nature of the album and project remained concealed. Hine performed all instruments on the records, except for the occasional guests (including Fixx guitarist James West-Oram, who appeared on all three)
The album did well in the U.K. and Island requested two more before the end of the decade. Life Is a Full Time Occupation (1988) and Hard Hat Zone (1990) gradually moved away from the media subject as it was wearing thin. For the last album, Hine revamped the cast (with Karl Hyde, Rick Smith, Tommy Morrison, and Michael Witzel) even though the official lineup remained the same. The group's last appearance was for a two-hour East German "live" television special in 1990 during which various personalities discussed environmental topics (the subject of Hard Hat Zone) with the band.