The YouTube Files – Home Front.

A while ago, I did a second piece taking a look back at the rather remarkable career of Danielle Dax, who did a lot of interesting things in the 80s and 90s, although she was never that successful. I decided to put a list together of all of her TV appearances and releases because I thought this was worth chronicling, and I have been rather surprised by how popular this has been. You might remember that I said one thing that I really wanted to see was when she appeared on BBC2’s Home Front in 1997. Well the good news is that this has finally turned up on YouTube, and I am very pleased about that. But before then, here’s a quick update with a few other things that I have discovered about her since my last piece…

The earliest a picture of Danielle appeared in a music magazine as far as I know was in Sounds when she was still in Lemon Kittens in 1980. Yes, as long ago as that. In 1981, Lemon Kittens had a namecheck in Smash Hits. Well, it was only in a wordsearch puzzle with animal-related band names, but it’s still more than I expected. In 1984 Danielle appeared in horror film The Company Of Wolves, which in recent years has been repeated on London Live and TalkingPictures TV. I was disappointed that she never appeared on the cover of a music weekly, but then I was looking at some old Time Out covers, and is that who I think it is???

I think I neglected to say that in 1985 her debut single was “Yummer Yummer Man”, although there was no video for this, and this was followed in 1986 by “Bad Miss ‘M'” which again had no video. In 1987 she made some appearances on Japanese TV. In 1988 she was interviewed on Channel 4 music show APB by the two women in Voice Of The Beehive. In 1989 her Star Test interview was repeated in a late-night slot. In 1990 she did appear on BBC2’s Juke Box Jury when her single was reviewed. In 1992 her Star Test was repeated yet again. In 1994 her concert (first shown on ITV in 1987 and also released on VHS and DVD) was repeated on Cue The Music. In 1996 “Flashback” (which did have a video) was used as the theme to BBC2’s coverage of Crufts. And in 1997, she appeared in the Evening Standard in an article at her home. I think that’s everything, now on to the main piece…

Home Front (BBC2, 1997)

In the late-90s there was a boom in home makeover shows, with lots filling the schedule, Home Front being one of them. I am particularly interested in the edition shown on 28 May 1997, which featured the final of the Home Front Amateur Decorator Of The Year competition (this was shown at the same time as the Champions League Final was live on ITV, I hope this didn’t affect the ratings). The three finalists were Dax from Aberdeen, Victoria from Bristol… and some woman called Danielle.

Their challenge was to decorate an empty front room in a house on an estate in Nottingham. They have 48 hours, a budget of £300, and four of their favourite items that they can decorate the room with. A panel of judges must determine the winner, including Kevin McCloud and Anne McKevitt, who said “I’ll be looking for someone who is courageous with bold and original designs and ideas”. Well I think I know someone who can do that.

As they all had a teammate to help them, they all wore colour-coded shirts with name badges, and they were all competing against the clock to win a prize, I suppose that this is the closest that we will get to Danielle appearing on a game show! Who will have what it takes? Everyone is also given a sofa that they have to customise. So what is Danielle’s look going to be exactly?

Well of course it’s going to be Gardeners’ World meets outer space. We also get a lot of close-ups of tins of paint of rather garish colours being opened accompanied by some smooth jazz. It’s time to get the sludge green-coloured paint and felt tips out. And you won’t believe what she can do with a tree trunk either. But will there be enough time? With one day gone, there is still a lot to do…

But things eventually take shape. Comments from the judges included “totally different, like nothing I have ever seen before”, “it’s like a mint Aero”, “it’s totally outrageous”, and “I am knocked out by it in many ways”. Who will the trophy? It is a very close decision, but the winner is… Danielle! They were hugely impressed by her originality. She must’ve won more awards for her design work than her music. Two questions, I wonder if she went professional after this, and I wonder if she won the phone vote, where viewers were invited to choose their favourites?

I believe that Danielle has appeared on a few other home makeover shows since. And in more recent years, she has done a few other things. She now seems to have hair like Marge Simpson, and she contributed to a podcast where she spoke about her career, the documentary And You Thought You Were Normal about strange musician Nash The Slash, and she even released her first music for over 25 years. The only radio station where you’d hear any of her songs now is BBC 6 Music. I also had to get the book featuring lots of pictures of her on stage in the 80s. Anybody who has any more information to share is welcome.

The YouTube Files – The Mysterious World Of Danielle Dax.

When I remembered that this year is the 25th anniversary of “Stay” by Shakespear’s Sister’s epic run at Number One on the singles chart in the UK, I decided that I wanted to do a blog piece sharing my memories of that song and give the group a reappraisal. Whilst putting the piece together I discovered something about Siobhan Fahey that I couldn’t believe and I ended up writing about that remarkable story instead. I then started to wonder if there were any other women with an extrovert personality who made similarly spooky or just plain weird records around the same time, and I was very pleased when I discovered someone who just about perfectly fitted the criteria of what I was looking for.

When I decided to review the Channel 4 interview show Star Test recently, I was very pleased when I discovered that Siobhan had appeared on the show as a guest. Whilst trying to find some other editions to watch on YouTube, I found one which featured a musician called Danielle Dax. I must admit that I knew nothing about her beyond remembering seeing a couple of her videos played on The Chart Show‘s Indie Chart in the late-80s on YouTube, but seeing her on this show finally made me curious to discover more about her, and I was very surprised by what I discovered. It seems that Danielle could be described as one of the best-kept secrets in British music in the 1980s.

Danielle Dax was born (in the same month as Siobhan in an almost interesting coincidence) in Essex and throughout the 1980s she made several creative albums. She was also in total control, writing her songs (which sometimes featured rather hard-hitting lyrics), playing a wide variety of rather unusual instruments, and she even organised her tours and interviews, not settling for any interference from record labels or anybody else on the direction of her career. In the articles that I found about her work online, words such as “unique”, “experimental” and “cult” turned up several times, and she was often compared to the likes of similarly out-there singers Kate Bush and Siouxsie Sioux. However, despite her obvious talent, pioneering work and interesting personality being acknowledged, she had precisely zero hit singles and albums in this country, before she dropped off the scene, and a lot of people still can’t believe that she was never a huge success. This piece will take a look back at the small amount of Danielle’s TV appearances and music videos that I have found on YouTube as I wondered why she never hit the big time… dax

1983: After leaving the Lemon Kittens, Danielle released her first solo album “Pop-Eyes” (which had a famously grotesque cover) and made one of her earliest TV appearances on the BBC2 music show Riverside shown on Halloween where she was simply described by Radio Times as “mysterious” and performed her song “Pariah”. I must admit that my jaw almost dropped the first time I saw this. Not only because it’s a very odd song featuring strange squeaking and buzzing noises with bizarre lyrics that showed off her remarkable vocal range (“walking sick sick they walking the town“), but I was also surprised by Danielle’s distinctive look with her massive red hair and heavy make-up which made her look like a long-lost cast member of post-apocalyptic drama The Tribe, or maybe pop group Strawberry Switchblade (ask your dad), which is a great thing of course. It was a fascinating performance and it was the moment that I realised what an intriguing talent she was. Who knows, maybe in a parallel universe somewhere “Pariah” spent eight weeks at Number One on the singles chart. vlcsnap-00010


The “mysterious” Danielle Dax appears in Radio Times in October 1983

1984: Danielle made a brief but memorable appearance in the horror film The Company Of Wolves. Although she only appears for a couple of minutes and has no dialogue, you certainly noticed her. She played a wolfgirl who is taken in by a priest (played by the old boy in early-90s sitcom Waiting For God, I’ll never look at that show in the same way again). She spent four hours in makeup! According to the IMDB this is Danielle’s only acting credit, I wondered if I would ever see it on TV, and then the film turned up recently late at night on the London Live channel, which was an odd coincidence. vlcsnap-00064

Also in this year, Danielle appeared on Channel 4’s music show The Tube where she was interviewed by Paula Yates and performed her song “Hammerheads”. The only article about Danielle in Smash Hits that I have been able to track down is a paragraph from a November 1984 issue about “Jesus Egg That Wept” including the fact that she likes to play the honkytonk piano. Described as “weird“, unsurprisingly. vlcsnap-00011

1985: Danielle performed a concert at The Camden Palace, which in 1986 was shown on LWT as part of their Live From London series (I haven’t been able to track down when exactly, but probably rather late at night and only in the LWT region). I was rather surprised to discover that this concert has been released on DVD, where she entertained the crowd by playing 15 songs including such bangers as “Here Come The Harvest Buns” and “Yummer Yummer Man”, and it was a great experience to see one of her shows and be in her company for an hour. vlcsnap-00052

1987: Danielle made a video for her single “Big Hollow Man”. She also performed this song on a German TV show. vlcsnap-00058

Also in this year Danielle also appeared as a guest on ITV’s late-night entertainment show Night Network, where she reviewed the latest singles alongside snooker champion Steve Davis which made for an unlikely pairing. And Danielle performed a concert in Tokyo which was shown on Japanese TV. I’m not sure how successful she was in other countries but it seems that she has fans all over the world. vlcsnap-000081988: Danielle’s single “Cathouse” which featured some fancy visual effects was played on The Chart Show‘s Indie Chart on Channel 4. Also around this time, Danielle was interviewed in various music magazines including NME and Melody Maker, although I’m fairly sure she never appeared on the cover of any of them. vlcsnap-00063

1989: Danielle appeared on The Chart Show‘s Indie Chart on ITV with her great single “White Knuckle Ride”. vlcsnap-00084

Also around this time, Danielle made what must be one of her most high-profile TV appearances when she was a guest on Channel 4’s prime-time interview show Star Test and she faced the computer’s probing questions. She introduced herself by saying “I write and record all my own music, I produce it, I paint, I design record covers, I make clothes”. She revealed some interesting things about herself, for example when asked “which is your best physical feature?”, she said “ooh, my hair!”. Also, when asked “what’s the one thing you don’t have in your life that you would really like?”, she said “a cat”. According to her website, Danielle now owns four cats, so I suppose it is sometimes possible to get what you want in life. vlcsnap-00062

1990: In what was seemingly a final attempt to push Danielle into the big time, she signed to a major record label and released the album “Blast The Human Flower”, which featured a psychedelic cover of the Beatles song “Tomorrow Never Knows” which was fairly mainstream by her standards. Her look in the video was somewhat toned down by this point, although she still had a rather large red beehive hairstyle. It seems that also around this time she appeared on BBC2’s Juke Box Jury but that doesn’t appear to be online. However, once again this wasn’t a success and Danielle missed out on fame. She was then dropped by her record label, and about a decade after her first album was released, she practically vanished off the music scene altogether, but it was also rumoured that around this time she became ill. Intriguingly, although there was a best-of album released in 1995 called “Comatose Non-Reaction: The Thwarted Career Of Danielle Dax”, there seems to be almost zero audio or visual evidence online of Danielle’s existence post-1991, which just adds to her mystique. Danielle is most certainly still with us though and the story doesn’t end here… vlcsnap-00080

After that..: In more recent years after leaving music behind Danielle’s career took an unlikely swerve and she has gone to have some success as an interior and garden designer, with her Brixton home which she designed herself featuring in several magazines. In May 1997 Danielle featured in BBC2’s interior design show Home Front when she was one of the three finalists nominated for the Radio Times/Home Front Amateur Decorator Of The Year award. dax0001

The finalists were challenged to decorate a room on an estate in Nottinghamshire. They had 48 hours, a limited budget, and four of their own items to decorate the room. The winner was determined by a judging panel of the show’s presenters, along with a phone vote that was open to viewers to choose their favourite. “I’ll be looking for someone who is courageous with bold and original designs and ideas” said judge and Home Front presenter Anne McKevitt. As it turned out, Danielle won the competition and appeared on the show a few times, and her work in this area has gone on to be much acclaimed.