A Return To The Spooky World Of Shakespear’s Sister.

Don’t talk of revolution as a thing of the pasts11

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. 

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Where it all began… an advert for the first-ever Bananarama single “Aie A Mwana”, released way back in September 1981

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. vlcsnap-00037

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”. 

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Videos for “Break My Heart”, “Heroine”, “You’re History” and “Run Silent”, all singles from the first album “Sacred Heart”

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Videos for “Goodbye Cruel World”, “Stay”, “I Don’t Care” and “Hello (Turn Your Radio On)”, all singles from the second album “Hormonally Yours”

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Siobhan appears on the cover of Smash Hits in October 1989. Fame at last!

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. vlcsnap-00001

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Siobhan and Marcella at the height of their fame (probably??!)

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. ss9

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”. 

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Really?

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Yes, really!

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. brix4

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. vlcsnap-00129

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. ss2

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. ss7

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. ss2

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. ss8

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. ss6

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…

More TV Memories – In At The Deep End.

In At The Deep End (BBC1, 1982-1987)

I thought that I would try and get another blog piece out of Bananarama… you might remember a while ago I did a piece about what they meant to me where I discovered something rather remarkable about them, it’s really great. So I thought that I would take a look back at one of the more unusual moments in their career that was first shown on BBC1 on 10 February 1987.

In At The Deep End was a documentary series where Paul Heiney or Chris Serle who alternated as hosts (and were also on the panel of That’s Life! around the same time) had to learn a new skill. In one edition Heiney was challenged to direct a music video for a major pop act, even though he had no experience in that area (and he wasn’t exactly familiar with all the big names in pop music at the time either). There was also an article promoting the show in that week’s Radio Timesvlcsnap-01031

Paul began by talking to various people in the business for advice including Top Of The Pops executive producer Michael Hurll (and we also had a brief behind the scenes look at TOTP which was good) and film director Ken Russell. All he needs to do now is find a record label with a pop group that will agree to take part and put their trust in a total novice, knowing it could be a case of “nice song, shame about the video”… now who’s that going to be? vlcsnap-01032

Bananarama were a big deal around this time, they recently had a Number One single in America with “Venus”, and many people were looking forward to their next move. Paul was on board to direct the video for their new single “A Trick Of The Night” (on the “True Confessions” album, and this 50-minute documentary is featured as an extra on the DVD of the deluxe edition). banana5

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Bananarama appear in Radio Times in February 1987

In his role as director, Paul also has to assemble a crew to make sure that everything is to his liking, and learn the words to the song. It clearly looks like there might be more to this than he first thought. When Paul shows The ‘Rams (as they were called in Smash Hits) his storyboard for the video their response to his ideas is rather a lot of indifference (oh to have been there when Siobhan saw the storyboard for the “Stay” video for the first time, that would’ve been something). vlcsnap-00039

They don’t seem to be too excited about it, but will Paul be able to get the job done in time behind the camera and make them look and sound good as required? He takes his seat in the director’s chair and tries to get things going. Paul informs us that two hours on the shoot have already been lost while the ladies decide on the colour of their makeup, even though the video’s going to be in black and white. Not a good sign. vlcsnap-00040

And well, if you thought they were indifferent to start with, the ladies were practically horrified by the end product (“I’m not sure it’ll hold people’s attention from start to finish” said Siobhan, who definitely wouldn’t be having that problem with her music videos five years later). This edition of In At The Deep End was shown as a one-off to coincide with the release of “A Trick Of The Night” in February 1987. Hurll and Russell thought that he didn’t do too badly for a first attempt, but how did it all turn out? vlcsnap-01033

The single reached No. 32, the ladies were reported to have not enjoyed the experience at all, they promptly went off and made another video with a tried-and-trusted director, and this is now considered to be the official video. This version wasn’t even included on the DVD of their best-of compilation released in 2012. Oh dear. Thank goodness it didn’t finish off their career. vlcsnap-01028

Game Show Memories – Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special.

Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special (BBC1, 2018)

Now I know that this is from only last month so it’s not very nostalgic, and another Christmas has now come and gone, but it was such a terrific TV moment that I just had to do a piece on it. It’s yet another celebrity edition of game show Pointless, hosted by Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman, where you are rewarded for your knowledge that would be useless to you in just about any other situation, and they’ve put up the tree specially. vlcsnap-00962

The four celebrity teams taking part are Dave Hill and Rob Davis, Roger McGough and Sally Lindsay, Jamelia and Sonia, and the reason that I am doing this piece, Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward of Bananarama fame, making their first appearance on the show since November 2013 when they made the final but missed out on the jackpot by just one point, something that clearly still haunts them all these years later. Can they go one better this time? vlcsnap-00964

I should also point out that Brix Smith who featured in a piece that I did a while back when I found a picture of her in a pub very close to where I live in Bethnal Green alongside none other than Miss Siobhan Fahey that got me very excited appeared on Pointless Celebrities in April 2016 as part of a fashion-themed edition, but she got knocked out in the second round and didn’t win, oh dear. Today’s jackpot is £2,500. vlcsnap-00963

The first round is about cities in the show, can you identify these places at wintertime. Sara and Keren go through with a score of 88, the lowest in the round, and Dave and Rob are knocked out. Next is festive music, synonyms of Christmas carols to be precise. After a couple of good answers Sara and Keren progress with a score of 40 (again the lowest score in the round), and Roger and Sally are knocked out. vlcsnap-00965

The next round is Sara and Keren v Jamelia and Sonia (something of a surprise considering how useless Jamelia was on ITV’s Tipping Point: Lucky Stars recently). First up, pictures of famous people with Father Christmas. Sara and Keren win this 41-65. Second is members of Monty Python, and as Sara and Keren win this 22-96, they don’t even need to go to the third question and they are into the final again and maintain their unbeaten record! vlcsnap-00966

For making the final, they win a Pointless trophy! I presume they would already have one from last time, maybe they could give this one to a friend or just throw it in the bin. They choose the category Things Inbetween. They make their choices on countries alphabetically between the Marshall Islands and the Solomon Islands, and go for Rwanda, Papua New Guinea and Samoa. They could be in with a chance here! vlcsnap-00968

Rwanda scores four points, and Papua New Guinea scores one. This is their last chance with Samoa. And this time, well look at that, they go all the way and get their Pointless answer and they have won £2,500 for charity, congratulations! That really is terrific. And just when you thought that it couldn’t get any more exciting, the show closes with a song from Alexander. vlcsnap-00967

It seems that Sara and Keren really do know their stuff, and just when I thought that they couldn’t be any more terrific they start winning game shows. And they must enjoy it as they have appeared on another one since in January 2019, this time on BBC2’s Celebrity Antiques Road Trip where again they were very entertaining. Maybe it could be a new career for them if their next album flops.

Game Show Memories – Pointless Celebrities.

Pointless Celebrities (BBC1, 2011-present)

One of my favourite game shows from the past decade has been Pointless, and it eventually became popular enough with viewers for there to be an inevitable spin-off celebrity series hosted by Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman. There have now been so many editions of this series it seems that just about everyone from every field of fame has had a go at facing the questions, but I wanted to focus on one particular edition.

If you are a regular visitor to this blog you might remember my story about when I went mildly giddy about the reformation of Bananarama. And having enjoyed a lot of 80s pop music and game shows, I wondered if the two things could be combined. I don’t mean Never Mind The Buzzcocks because that’s more of a comedy panel game, I mean a show where they were being asked proper quiz questions and playing for prizes. vlcsnap-00001

So I was very pleased when I remembered that Sara and Keren from Bananarama appeared as a team on a music-themed edition of Pointless Celebrities in November 2013 (which is before the reunion was announced). Their opponents were Ali Campbell and Mike Rutherford, Sandie Shaw and Sheila Ferguson, and Ritchie Neville and Scott Robinson from Five. How would they get on? vlcsnap-00002

The first round was about films that have a colon in their title. Sara and Keren both give correct answers that score 27 points and they progress through to the next round. Alexander did acknowledge that they had known one another since they were four years old and indeed they seem to be so close that they even gave answers that scored the same amount of points. Ali and Mike were eliminated. vlcsnap-00003

The second round was about female athletes who won a medal for Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics. Again Sara and Keren both give correct answers to progress to the next round with a score of 55, but then there’s an odd moment which I think has only happened about three or four times in the entire run of Pointless. The opposing teams give so many incorrect answers that they actually have to abandon the question and they are asked about something different for the tiebreaker. Well Richard didn’t know where to look! Sandie and Sheila are eventually eliminated. vlcsnap-00004

We are now into the third round where it’s Sara and Keren against Ritchie and Scott in the best-of-three. The first question is about David Bowie singles and the ladies win this one by a comfortable margin of 4-70. Question two is about Dr Suess books, but they give a wrong answer here so it’s now one each. The third and deciding question is on Strictly Come Dancing which they win 3-73 so they are into the final! vlcsnap-00005

And of course as Sara and Keren have made the final they win the almost coveted Pointless trophy! Who needs a Brit Award when you’ve got this! Now they have won something for themselves, they’ll be playing for the star prize of £2,500 for charity. There are a choice of four categories and they choose France. Can they get the pointless answer at the crucial time? They decide to choose some African countries that have French as an official language. Will it go all the way? Their best-performing answer scores only one point, oh they were so close! Despite this disappointment it was still great seeing them take part. vlcsnap-00006

A story about pop music – one year on.

About a year ago, I told the story on here of when I was thinking about the 25th anniversary of “Stay” by Shakespear’s Sister being top of the UK singles chart for a record-breaking amount of time. It made me wonder whatever happened to the women in the group, and I discovered by a remarkable coincidence that Siobhan had been living in the same part of London as me and it was here where she became friends again with Keren and Sara which led to her rejoining Bananarama after almost 30 years. 

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How it once was…

I have said before that I am not really interested in the celebrity culture, and I have never had any desire to meet anyone famous, but to think that I most probably could have bumped into Siobhan in the local supermarket after admiring her music for many years was really special. There was another twist to the story when I noticed that a lot of pictures on Siobhan’s Instagram page also featured Brix Smith of The Fall/The Adult Net fame, and then I discovered a picture of them together in a pub which is a short walk from where I live which I thought was great too. There couldn’t be a further twist in this story, could there?

Bananarama’s reunion tour turned out to be very successful and received great reviews. I noticed that they are playing some more dates throughout the summer, and we should be grateful that we got this far really, because of the other possible reunions, Keren and Sara have no plans to work with Jacquie again, and Siobhan has no plans to work with Marcella again, but as the saying doesn’t go, one out of three ain’t bad.

It seems that Siobhan patching things up with Keren and Sara is one thing, but patching things up with Marcella is entirely another. As I discovered, after the huge success of “Stay”, Marcella started to receive a lot of the credit for their success, with many people saying “Marcella is the talented one”, comments which were said to have deeply hurt Siobhan, who felt that she had lost creative control of the group and convinced herself that Marcella had totally stolen her glory away.

By the time of their final performance together in 1992 (which just happened to be on live TV), it was rumoured that the animosity between the two women had reached levels that would have made Morrissey and Marr shocked. So in 1993 as people started to anticipate their third album, Siobhan threw Marcella out the group, and they hadn’t seen one another since, a situation which all these years on both women were reported to be satisfied with. Sometimes I suppose you just have to accept that some things are better left in the past. 

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Marcella and Siobhan in 1992, just before their very bitter split.

But wait…

Because recently a picture appeared on Instagram of Siobhan and Marcella together in what must be the first time that they have seen one another for 25 years. I honestly could not believe my eyes. I don’t know where it was taken, and whether it was in America or in the pub up the road doesn’t matter this time because it really is rather remarkable, I never thought that I would see the day, and it’s proof that what goes around comes around.

Now I’m not so naive as to think that they’re now going to do a new album together, or announce that they’re doing a gig at the O2, but the fact that this happened at all and Siobhan said that it was “good” to see Marcella again must have taken a lot of courage, and it was rather an emotional moment for me and a lot of other people. I’m surprised that there hasn’t been much more fuss made about it, it really is the showbiz story of the year, an incredibly unlikely reunion. 

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Please excuse me, I seem to have got something in my eye.

I’m almost 35 now and I’m very grateful to the wide variety of pop stars who have entertained me throughout the years with their music and personality, with Siobhan and Marcella being among the most intriguing. Even if they don’t work together again, it would be good to think that they have made their peace, are proud of what they have achieved together, and this gives the Shakespear’s Sister story a much more happy ending.

The YouTube Files – The Bananarama Story Part 3.

Here’s the third and final part of the Bananarama story… banana7

In November 1988 their cover of “Nathan Jones” was released which reached no. 15. They appeared on various shows including CBBC’s Going Live!The Satellite Show, BBC1’s The Royal Variety Performance, Wogan, and Top Of The PopsThey also performed this live on BBC1 at the Smash Hits Poll Winners’ Party at the Royal Albert Hall. My sister went to this one so she has seen them live! Also around this time they appeared on the cover of Lookin and NME for the third and final time. vlcsnap-00049

In February 1989 their cover of “Help!” was released which reached no. 3, and it was also their tenth and final UK Top Ten hit. In December 1988 French And Saunders along with Kathy Burke did a parody of Bananarama in their comedy show as Lananeeneenoonoo. They then teamed up with the real ladies for this single for Comic Relief, and also performed it on the live BBC1 show, and both trios appeared on the cover of Number One. In March 1989 Bananarama began their World Tour, playing their hits to big crowds in various countries. vlcsnap-00050

In June 1989 “Cruel Summer ’89” was released which was a remixed version of their 1983 hit which reached no. 19. There was no new video as such, just a compilation of old ones. In December 1989 they contributed to Band Aid II for the second version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” which again topped the chart, and Keren and Sara were the only people to perform on the first and second versions. vlcsnap-00077

In July 1990 “Only Your Love” was released which reached no. 27. This one is rather funky and is among my favourite singles of theirs. I don’t know how many of their videos where shown exclusively on The ITV Chart Show but this one was! They performed this on BBC1’s Wogan, they were interviewed on CITV’s Ghost Train, and they also appeared on the cover of Sounds and Smash Hits for the third and final time. vlcsnap-00001

In January 1991 “Preacher Man” was released which reached no. 20. This led to their 20th Top Of The Pops appearance, and they also performed this on CITV’s Motormouth, The Disney Club, ITV’s This Morning, and The Ronn Lucas Show. Oh now I remember watching Ronn Lucas’s show on ITV in the early-90s, he was a ventriloquist, whatever happened to him? vlcsnap-00062

In April 1991 their cover of “Long Train Running” was released which reached no. 30. They performed this on BBC1’s Little And Large, Going Live, and they were also interviewed by Michael Aspel on ITV’s Aspel And Company. In May 1991 their fifth album “Pop Life” was released which reached no. 42. vlcsnap-00038

In August 1991 “Tripping On Your Love” was released which reached no. 76, making it their first single to miss the Top 75 in the UK since their debut “Aie A Mwana” almost a decade earlier. Also around this time, Jacquie announced her departure from Bananarama after just over three years. She went off to form a new group but she had no further hits, and it seems that she has now long since left the music business. vlcsnap-00004

Keren and Sara decided to carry on as a duo and in August 1992 “Movin’ On” was released which reached no. 24. They performed this on the first edition of CITV’s What’s Up Doc?, and they also made their 21st Top Of The Pops appearance, their last one until 2005. vlcsnap-00008

In November 1992 “Last Thing On My Mind” was released which reached a rather disappointing no. 71. However, it had a second lease of life when it was covered by Steps to finally become a Top Ten hit in 1998. They performed this on BBC1’s Pebble Mill and Children In NeedTo give some kind of an idea of the different musical directions that they had gone in, also in this month Siobhan’s post-Bananarama project Shakespear’s Sister released the downbeat “Hello (Turn Your Radio On)”, it’s somewhat unlikely that Steps will be releasing a disco cover of that one soon. vlcsnap-00010

In March 1993 their cover of the disco classic “More More More” was released which reached no. 24. They wouldn’t have another hit single in the UK for 12 years. They appeared again on The Disney Club and they were also interviewed live on GMTV. In April 1993 their sixth album “Please Yourself” was released which reached no. 46. vlcsnap-00024

The story doesn’t really end here of course, so to briefly go over what happened post-1993. Keren and Sara have continued to work together, and in 2005 “Move In My Direction” became their first UK Top 20 hit single since 1991 and got them back on Top Of The Pops for the first time since 1992. They have also released four more albums, 1995’s “Exotica”, 2001’s “Ultra Violet”, 2005’s “Drama”, and 2009’s “Viva”, along with more best-of compilations, and when they aren’t having a party near where I live they have continued to tour and appear on TV around the world, and over 35 years on from their first hit single they remain very popular.

The YouTube Files – The Bananarama Story Part 2.

Let’s continue the Bananarama story. In December 1984 the ladies were invited to take part in the charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” as part of the Band Aid project, and it was a huge success, being a Number One for many weeks and going on to become the biggest-selling single of the decade. They were three of only four women to take part, the other one was Jody Watley. banana4

In August 1985 “Do Not Disturb” was released which reached no. 31. This one is among my favourites, although it seems that the ladies themselves don’t seem to be too fond of it. They performed this on CBBC’s The Saturday Picture Show, CITV’s Hold Tight and Kelly’s Eye, an ITV comedy show starring Matthew Kelly. 1985 was a fairly quiet year by their standards. However 1986 would go on to be their most successful yet… vlcsnap-00036

In May 1986 their cover of “Venus”, a collaboration with the Stock Aitken Waterman production team, was released, which reached no. 8. However, this song did reach Number One in several countries including America! Barely five years on from their debut single they had gone from unknowns to succeeding in the world’s most difficult singles market, this is still the song that they’re most famous for, and the classic video was frequently shown on MTV. They appeared on CBBC’s Lift OffTop Of The Pops and the cover of No. 1 in June. In July 1986 their third album “True Confessions” was released which reached no. 46. This is also their highest-charting album in America where it reached no. 15. vlcsnap-00037

Now they were at their commercial peak, it is something of a surprise to realise that the follow-up to “Venus” didn’t make the Top 40. In August 1986 “More Than Physical” was released which reached no. 41 (and only no. 73 in America). Even an energetic performance on BBC1’s Wogan couldn’t get people excited. They also had another Lookin cover. It was noticed though that their image was beginning to change, no more dungarees for them. It was also around this time that each video was steamier than the last. vlcsnap-00043

In February 1987 “Trick Of The Night” was released which reached no. 32. There is an interesting story behind this one. In 1987 there was a BBC1 documentary series called In At The Deep End, where a presenter is challenged to learn a skill that they previously had no experience in. Paul Heiney was asked to direct a music video for a pop group, and Bananarama agreed to take part. There was also an article in Radio Times, and the show has been released on DVD. It seems that they didn’t enjoy the experience though and were very disappointed with the end result, so they promptly went off and made a second video with a tried-and-trusted director that they were much more satisfied with. 

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Bananarama along with Paul Heiney appear in Radio Times in February 1987

In April 1987 Bananarama contributed to the charity single “Let It Be” for Ferry Aid which was another chart-topper. In July 1987 “I Heard A Rumour” was released which reached no. 14, and it was also their third and final Top Ten hit in America, reaching no. 4. They performed this on Top Of The Pops, BBC1’s Seaside Special, ITV’s The Roxy, and also on Hold Tight, where they had a really good time. You can all join in with the dance routine! They also had another No. 1 cover and appeared in TV Times. In September 1987 their fourth album “Wow!” was released which reached no. 26. vlcsnap-00051

In October 1987 “Love In The First Degree” was released which reached no. 3 and was a double A-side with “Mr Sleaze”. This is their biggest-selling single in the UK. Also in this month they had their second Smash Hits cover. 

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Where’s my free badge?

In January 1988 “I Can’t Help It” was released which reached no. 20, and would you believe it, this was to be Bananarama’s 16th and final UK hit single featuring Siobhan. After a memorable final performance together at the Brit Awards, Siobhan was off to work on a new project. Of course, I have already told the remarkable story of what she did next, little did she know that she would star in one of the biggest hit singles of the early-90s… vlcsnap-00047

Siobhan was replaced by Jacquie O’Sullivan (born in London in 1960). She had been a friend of Sara and Keren’s for many years, so after Siobhan’s departure she was the ideal choice to maintain Bananarama as a trio. In April 1988 the new line-up’s first single “I Want You Back” was released which reached no. 5. They performed this on Going Live, Top Of The Pops twice, CBBC’s Roland Rat Show, and ITV’s The Roxy. They also appeared on the covers of Just Seventeen and Number Onevlcsnap-00054

In September 1988 “Love, Truth And Honesty” was released which reached no. 23, and they were on Top Of The Pops for the 18th time! This is also their final single to make the Top 100 in America. In October 1988 their first best-of “The Greatest Hits Collection” was released which reached no. 3, which is their highest-charting album in the UK. There was also another VHS released containing the videos for all their hits. Also around this time was their third and final NME cover, along with more Record Mirror and Number One covers. vlcsnap-00055

The 90s are not far off now and there were still plenty more hits to come for the ladies, as we’ll discover in the third part…

The YouTube Files – The Bananarama Story Part 1.

I’ve written a lot about Bananarama on here recently, so I’ve decided that it’s finally time to take a look back at their hit singles. In 1979 Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward (both born in Bristol in 1961) who have been friends since the age of four met Siobhan Fahey (born in Dublin in 1958) at the London College Of Fashion, they realised that they had similar tastes in music and they decided to form a group. This will be a look back at their singles and TV appearances that I have tracked down on YouTube from 1981-1993 and it will be in three parts. Bananarama were very popular during this time and made a large amount of TV appearances, so it’s not really possible to put together a comprehensive list, so instead I’ve decided to pick out some highlights. banana3

In September 1981 Bananarama’s very first single “Aie A Mwana” was released, which reached a rather lowly no. 92. It was something of an unusual debut, as it was a cover of a 70s disco song that was sung in Swahili, and it seems that there was no video made for it. Despite this modest start Smash Hits remained confident that they would be the next big thing. At this point these ladies really did have no idea of just how much success they would go on to have around the world over the next decade or so… 

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The first article about Bananarama to appear in Smash Hits way back in October 1981

In February 1982 Bananarama had the first of their ten UK Top Ten singles when their cover of “It Ain’t What You Do It’s The Way That You Do It” reached no. 4. This was a collaboration with Fun Boy Three after their frontman Terry Hall was impressed by their debut single and wanted to work with them. They performed this on the first and second of their 21 appearances on BBC1’s Top Of The Pops throughout the 80s and 90s, and also on ITV’s Jangles (which I reviewed recently) and OTT (much to the delight of Lenny Henry). They also appeared on the cover of Melody Maker. The song or video doesn’t feature on any of the compilations that I have unfortunately as it seems to have got stuck in some rights hell. 
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In April 1982 they worked with Fun Boy Three again on their cover of “Really Saying Something” which reached no. 5. They performed this on Top Of The Pops and CBBC’s Cheggers Plays Pop (which is their earliest entry on the BBC Genome). Also in this month they had the first of their three Smash Hits covers. vlcsnap-00009

In July 1982 “Shy Boy” became their first hit single by themselves which reached no. 4. This was also their first single to make the Top 100 in America. They performed this twice on Top Of The Pops and also Cheggers Plays Pop and BBC2’s 6:55 Special, and they were parodied by Tracey Ullman on BBC2’s Three Of A Kind. Also in this month they had the first of their three NME covers. vlcsnap-00012

In December 1982 “Cheers Then” was released which ended their great year with a little disappointment when it only reached no. 45. Around this time they appeared on Channel 4’s The Tube. Also in this month they performed “It Ain’t What You Do It’s The Way That You Do It” on the Top Of The Pops Christmas special, and appeared on the cover of Record Mirrorvlcsnap-00014

In February 1983 “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” was released which reached no. 5. This was another cover and they performed this twice on Top Of The Pops, and they also appeared on The Tube, CBBC’s Saturday SuperStore and Kenny Everett’s BBC1 show. Also around this time they appeared on more magazine covers including Jackie and Melody MakerIn March 1983 their first album “Deep Sea Skiving” was released which reached no. 8 and is their only album of original songs to make the Top Ten. vlcsnap-00015

In July 1983 “Cruel Summer” was released which reached no. 8, and it was also the first of their three Top Ten hit singles in America, reaching no. 9. I have to say that this one is among my favourite singles of theirs. Again they performed this twice on Top Of The Pops, and they also appeared on the cover of Lookin. Also around this time all four members of Bananarama (including the one that we’ll meet in part two) appeared in the video for “Who’s That Girl?” by the Eurythmics. vlcsnap-00023

In March 1984 “Robert De Niro’s Waiting” was released which reached no. 3, their equal-highest chart position in the UK. They were very lucky to meet the man himself and he was thrilled by their success. They also appeared on Saturday SuperStoreTop Of The Pops, BBC1’s Pebble Mill, and the cover of magazines No. 1 and NMEIn April 1984 their second album “Bananarama” was released which reached no. 16. vlcsnap-00025

In May 1984 “Rough Justice” was released which made no. 23. This led to yet more appearances on Top Of The Pops and Cheggers Plays Pop, along with Channel 4’s Ear Say. The video featured a guest appearance by the veteran news presenter Peter Woods. By this point they had done a lot of interviews on TV, but the first question that they always seemed to be asked was “where did you get your name?” vlcsnap-00027

In November 1984 “Hotline To Heaven” was released which reached only no. 58. Again they appeared on various shows including CITV’s Hold Tight and Ear Say, and they also had another Record Mirror cover. Also around this time a VHS was released called And That’s Not All…, containing all the videos that they had made so far. In December 1984 they performed “Robert De Niro’s Waiting” on the Top Of The Pops Christmas special. vlcsnap-00061

Things will pick up for the ladies though when we join them again in part two at the end of 1984 as they are about to contribute to the biggest-selling single of the decade…

The YouTube Files – Jangles.

Jangles (ITV, 1982)

I am always on the lookout for unusual TV shows on YouTube that I may or may not remember watching first time round that I can review on this blog, and this is a great example of coming across a show that I previously knew almost nothing about and finding it interesting enough to share on here, so firstly here’s the story of how I discovered this one.

I like to look at a website called Transdiffusion which chronicles the history of British TV and radio over the past 60 years or so. Every Wednesday they have an article featuring a look back at an old TV schedule from an issue of Radio Times or TV Times. Recently they reviewed an ITV schedule from March 1984, which included a show called Jangles. I wasn’t familiar with this show, but I was intrigued by its description as it said that it featured Hazel O’Connor.

About a year ago when I started to review the careers of some quirky female pop stars from the 80s and 90s that I like on here, I got a reply from someone who said that they had enjoyed reading the pieces and asked if I was going to feature anyone else in the future, suggesting that I could take a look back at the hit singles of Hazel O’Connor. I must admit though, although she had three UK Top Ten hit singles in the early-80s, I’m not really familiar with too many of her songs.

I decided to ask my mum if she knew any of Hazel’s singles and she said that she liked “the one with the saxophone” (presumably referring to “Will You” which reached no. 8 in 1981), so I said as you seem to know more about her career than I do maybe you should write the article about her on here instead, ha! It did keep Hazel’s name in my mind though, so after I saw that she had appeared in this TV show called Jangles, I hoped that I could discover more.

So I did the usual “that’ll never be on YouTube, will it?” routine, and I was pleased to discover that all seven episodes are on there in full so I had an opportunity to see it. Jangles (an HTV West production for ITV no less) was originally shown in 1982 (there was a repeat run on Children’s ITV in 1984) and is a mixture of music and drama, coming across as a mildly surreal cross between Top Of The Pops and EastEnders, and Hazel did some singing as well as some acting (she also starred in a film called Breaking Glass in 1980, and appeared on the cover of Radio Times in 1986). vlcsnap-00561

Hazel played the main character in the show, a singer called Joanne who performed at a downtrodden nightclub called Jangles, and she was hoping to leave school and dreamed of getting a record deal. Her boyfriend Steve (played by Jesse Birdsall fully a decade before he starred in flop BBC1 soap Eldorado) was having some trouble holding on to a job. As well as the story, most of the scenes featured the young nightclub crowd having a boogie to some the hits of the time including “To Cut A Long Story Short” by Spandau Ballet. vlcsnap-00566

Making this show all a little more unusual was a character called Herald who would occasionally turn up to explain what was happening in the story, and he seemed to have a robotic voice and was accompanied by some fancy visual effects that looked rather good for the time. Every episode would also conclude with Joanne performing a synthpop-style song on stage. vlcsnap-00565

Episodes of Jangles would also feature groups from various musical genres who performed live on the nightclub’s stage, and well would you believe it, the sixth episode only has Fun Boy Three performing their hit single “It Ain’t What You Do It’s The Way That You Do It” alongside none other than Bananarama in what must have been one of their earliest TV appearances! vlcsnap-00564

There isn’t much information about Jangles online. It doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry, and there has been no DVD release (presumably because of the large amount of musical content, or more likely because no-one’s really that bothered), but I found it to be a very interesting show from the early-80s. All these years later Hazel is still around and performing, and I’ll definitely investigate more of her music.

Another story about pop music!

I was planning to finally begin putting together my piece looking back at the hit singles of pop group Bananarama in the 1980s and 90s, when I got somewhat distracted after I discovered a further twist in the remarkable “Bananarama decided to reform after they met up at Siobhan’s house in Bethnal Green which is where I live in London” story, it seems that they aren’t the only 80s pop stars round here! b8

In recent years the area where I live in London seems to have become one of those places that is suddenly trendy and all those hipster types like to hang around, and my mum often says “when I was out earlier there was some bloke walking along the street who looked as if he might be in a band”. I don’t know how many there really are, but here is another example of one.

I am not a member of the website Instagram, but you might remember when I looked at Siobhan from Bananarama’s page and noticed that she was putting pictures of herself on there in places not too far from where I live. I also noticed that there was another woman who was appearing in a lot of these pictures with her called Brix Smith. Now she was someone who I didn’t know much about so I decided to discover more. brix2

American born-Brix found fame in the 1980s when she became a member of indie band The Fall, and in July 1983 she married their frontman Mark E Smith (who actually died while I was putting this piece together), and around the same time she was in another band called The Adult Net who had a few minor hit singles. She also appeared on the cover of a lot of music magazines in the mid/late-80s including NME, Record Mirror and Sounds. A couple of years ago she published a book about her career. brix1

When I was putting together my piece on The Roxy and was looking for videos of performances from that show on YouTube, I found The Fall’s “Hit The North” from 1987 which features Brix on stage, and it seems that a lot of people thought that it was rather unusual for them to appear on primetime ITV. Then when I was channel hopping one night around the same time there was a documentary on Channel 5 about classic Christmas films which Brix contributed to where she was credited as a “TV presenter”. I thought it was weird that she was suddenly turning up a lot. vlcsnap-00225

As well as her music career, it seems that Brix has also had success in the world of fashion and for a while she owned a clothes shop with her second husband Philip Start in Shoreditch, which again is very close to where I live. So I decided to do a search for “Brix Shoreditch” and sure enough I found a few articles with interviews where she spoke about her career which stated “Brix lives in Shoreditch”. So she didn’t just have the shop there, she actually lived there. This is starting to get interesting… brix6

So I thought I might as well take this to its natural conclusion and searched for “Brix Bethnal Green”. Has she been anywhere that I would know? The results were rather surprising. I found a post from September 2017 saying that Brix was going to perform a gig at a place called The Sun Tavern in Bethnal Green. Now I do actually know where this is and it’s only a couple of minutes walk from where I live. So how did it all go? Did anyone turn up to this? brix3

And well, ooh yes, there’s only a picture of Brix alongside Siobhan at the gig at The Sun Tavern (where she describes Siobhan as “my dear friend”). Well again, I couldn’t believe it. You should know by now that I am into Shakespear’s Sister and I remember their epic run at the top of the singles chart in 1992 with “Stay”, so to think that one of the women who sang on that classic song is often here really has shocked me. It’s something that’s so strange that it reminds me of what Alan Partridge once said: “it’s like The X Files… but a pleasant X Files“. I wonder how they met and how long they have known one another? brix4

Not long after, Siobhan joined Brix onstage during a gig to perform the old The Fall song “Totally Wired” with her, at a venue called Oslo in Hackney, which again isn’t too far away. So if you saw the Bananarama tour recently, as much as I’m sure Siobhan enjoyed performing such classics as “Cruel Summer” and “Venus” across the UK, it seems that she’d sooner be down the pub performing The Fall songs round the corner from me. Sorry everyone! brix5

I have said before that I have no real interest in the cult of celebrity, but I wondered if Brix and Siobhan (or indeed any other pop stars) have ever been to other local trendy hotspots including the Working Men’s Club (which hit the headlines recently when Liam Gallagher performed a surprise gig there) or The Star Of Bethnal Green, which really is just about literally across the road from me. It does make me wonder just how many more 80s pop stars could be round here. Is Kim Wilde always in the local supermarket? Does Siouxsie Sioux live next door? Well in the future, if I see a woman walking along the street dressed like this, I’ll know who it is… b9