I am stretching the rules a little for this piece, because this is a group whose biggest success didn’t actually make the Top 75, and indeed it barely made the Top 100 (and this is back in the days when the 76-100 positions weren’t considered to be “official” as such on the singles chart), but once again I found their story interesting enough to feature. You might remember a while ago now when I went mildly giddy whilst reminiscing about Shakespear’s Sister. Well they weren’t the only group that formed in the 80s to feature a member of Bananarama!
The Shillelagh Sisters were a group that formed in 1983, and they are notable for their singer and frontwoman being Jacquie O’Sullivan, whose connection to Bananarama at this point was appearing with the other members in the video to “Who’s That Girl” by Eurythmics. This was a group whose songs had something of a country/rockabilly sound, featuring the double bass and saxophone along with guitars.
They had a rather distinctive look that consisted of dungarees, big boots, and lumberjack shirts. Jacquie also had a rather striking hairstyle that featured waist-length plaits. They were grouped into a rather short-lived genre of female-fronted rockabilly-style groups that were around at the time, that also included The Boothill Foot Tappers and Yip Yip Coyote.
Their first single was a cover of “Give Me My Freedom” which was released in April 1984, and this received plenty of promotion. They did a session for John Peel on the radio, appeared on Channel 4’s The Tube, did some music magazine interviews including NME‘s “Portrait Of The Artist As A Consumer” column, and there was also a video made. You could even by the single on a shamrock-shaped picture disc.
But all of this didn’t get too many people that excited unfortunately, as “Give Me My Freedom” reached only No. 100. In August 1984, “Passion Fruit” was released as their second single, which was notable for the B-side being a cover of “These Boots Are Made For Walking”, but this fared even worse, not making the Top 100 at all, and not long after this, The Shillelagh Sisters went their separate ways.
We would be hearing from Jacquie again of course, when she joined Bananarama in 1988, and featured on some Top 10 hits, meaning that she did finally have some chart success. She then left in 1991, and after this worked on some other projects including rejoining The Shillelagh Sisters, and also forming a new group called Slippry Feet, which she must’ve hoped would give her more of a chance to express herself.
But instead of coming anywhere near Shakespear’s Sister’s chart-topping success, Jacquie (who has her 60th birthday soon!) would have no such luck with any of her post-Bananarama albums and singles, and she disappeared off the scene altogether not long afterwards, and has barely been heard of since, although she has had further success away from the music business.