“Don’t talk of revolution as a thing of the past“
Well, this is something that is rather remarkable. Two years ago I wrote what I think will always be my favourite blog piece, and I never thought that there would be so many twists and turns since. It all centred around the pop group Bananarama. They consisted of Sara Dallin, Keren Woodward and Siobhan Fahey, who released their first single in 1981, but it was a flop.
But their career soon took off with many Top Ten hits in the UK, they contributed to the first Band Aid, pushed the boundaries for women in music long before the likes of Lady Gaga come along, and for about a week in 1986 they were the biggest pop group in the world (now that may seem sarcastic, but they did have a Number One single in America with “Venus”, the toughest music market to break). Despite this success, Siobhan was unhappy with the change in musical direction, and left shortly after marrying Dave Stewart in 1987.
In 1988 Siobhan went on to form Shakespear’s Sister, and she was joined by Marcella Detroit. They made many great singles that played on their contrasting vocal styles and personalities that were accompanied by some excellent award-winning videos and memorable TV appearances. Siobhan’s transformation into a Siouxsie Sioux-esque goth goddess was rather startling too. In 1992 they unexpectedly had the longest-running Number One single by an all-female group in UK chart history with the stunningly successful “Stay”.
This increased level of fame created tension between them leading to a rather bitter falling out, and in 1993 Siobhan waved her hands. Like a magic man. And Marcella disappeared. I concluded “they are never ever getting back together”. I thought it was a shame but that’s just how it was, sometimes it’s better to leave things in the past and not reopen old wounds. It was such a disappointment that something they had worked so hard for to be achieved had to be almost instantly dismantled.
But their image was striking and popular enough to become much imitated, including by French and Saunders in 1993 and on Stars In Their Eyes in 1994. When I reviewed that performance, I said that the imitators are all we’ve got left now as we’ll never see the original duo together again. Siobhan continued Shakespear’s Sister alone, but in 1996 her record label refused to release her new album, and although she continued to make music she had a rather low profile for the next two decades. In more recent years I presume that she was happy with where she was in her career but I did feel that a woman of her stature in pop music should be achieving more than performing in small-time pubs and clubs.
The original Bananarama lineup didn’t reform and go on tour until 2017. In some interviews to promote the tour they said that the first step towards reconciling with one-another was in 2014 when Sara and Keren went to Siobhan’s house in Bethnal Green. Now this is where I live in London. I was so thrilled, especially as I thought she had long since gone to live in America, but clearly she hadn’t and would rather live near me, how flattering. Around this time, when Siobhan was asked if she would also work with Marcella again, she simply said “it’s certainly not on my agenda at the moment”.
I then wrote a piece on when I found a picture of Siobhan on Instagram in a pub in Bethnal Green that I am familiar with alongside Brix Smith (of The Fall and The Adult Net fame). Indeed, it’s a very short distance from my home and I have been in it myself. I wasn’t there at the time though, if I had been and I saw her walk in I can assure you because I am overawed by celebrities it would’ve taken a rather long time for me to pick my jaw back off the floor.
The reunion tour in 2017 and 2018 was very well received, and somehow Siobhan was persuaded to perform “Stay” along with lots of other classic Bananarama hits which was a rather emotional moment for a lot of people (it is surprising how many pop stars don’t seem to be fond of playing their biggest hit, but it was worth it). I didn’t go myself but I bought the CD and DVD that was released of the tour as I thought that it would be the best offer we were going to get and no other reunions were going to happen.
Then about a year ago a picture of Siobhan and Marcella together appeared online, by all accounts the first time that they had seen one-another for 25 years. It was a meeting that was planned, Siobhan was finally convinced to reconcile. I said that this was terrific and I hoped that they had made their peace, but I felt there was no chance of them doing new songs and tours together, we’re lucky to have got this far. Well, it seems that I was wrong about that, and I am pleased to be wrong.
Not so long ago Shakespear’s Sister reactivated all their online presence, and started to upload pictures of Siobhan and Marcella together from the old days. Wait, there’s an official Shakespear’s Sister account actually acknowledging the existence of Marcella? Now this is intriguing. Then there was a big announcement that confirmed that Siobhan and Marcella had indeed got back together, and it was finally revealed that they had made some new songs as part of a best-of to be released in July 2019, and were also going to tour the UK in October and November 2019, including a gig at the London Palladium. I mean it’s not as prestigious a venue as The Sun Tavern of course but it’ll do.
I was so shocked by all this I was trembling and sweating (although I am usually like that anyway), and the joy from fans around the world really was something. Who thought that we all would’ve lived so long? I was thrilled to bits, I honestly felt like all my Christmases had come at once, there was zero chance of this happening even a year ago, I wonder what made Siobhan change her mind? Maybe she accepted Marcella’s 16th apology.
Both women are in their 60s now so maybe it was a case of sooner rather than later, but I never honestly thought I would see the day. I feel it really is something worthy of being described as unbelievable. But to be a little more serious, I know that I shouldn’t really expect “Stay II” and lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice, their commercial peak was almost three decades ago. What caused a stir then will probably mean nothing to today’s generation of young music buyers. Well, it’s their loss.
The Bananarama reunion tour was great, but this really is something else. I hope you’ll appreciate just how much this means to me. The only thing that could top this now was if Siobhan did a duet with Danielle Dax! Maybe in preparation for the tour Siobhan will show Marcella all the sights of Bethnal Green (which shouldn’t take long), and then they’ll go for a pint down the pub together. If they want to rehearse for the tour in my kitchen they’re welcome.
To think that this is an active project again is a dream come true, and whatever happens next, I do wish them well, I hope they’re aware of the pleasure they’ve brought people over the years. I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait. Their last TV appearance together was live on BBC1 at the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party in December 1992, but that’s no longer the case. If you had told me back in 1992 when I was nine years old that they wouldn’t perform on TV together again until May 2019, I probably would’ve said “2019? We’ll all be living on the moon by then”. Ah yes, the moon, that’s where the catwomen come from…