The year so far.

It’s time for a look at what I’ve achieved on this blog so far in 2019. I thought for a change that I would do this at the halfway point of the year, because I have found out more information about some of the pieces that I have done, and I felt that I couldn’t sit on it for the next six months. And well, there’s no doubt for me about what has been the highlight of the year so far. 2019

This was the news of the reunion of the chart-topping duo Shakespear’s Sister. I thought that they would never get back together, but last year it was announced that they had reconciled after 25 years apart which was unlikely enough, and then this year they caused a surprise by revealing that they had made some new songs and were going to tour the UK. Well, to put it mildly, I couldn’t believe it. ss1

In May Siobhan and Marcella performed together on TV for the first time since December 1992. It’s fair to say that the response from viewers was mixed, but I’m sure that they will rehearse, gain in confidence, and the tour will be a great experience for everyone, I’ll always stand by them. But it’s not just seeing a new music video which is remarkable, it’s also seeing them interviewed in magazines, seeming to be comfortable in each other’s company again, and hugging on TV, I never thought that I would see the day. It really is the feelgood story of the year. ss2

I recently reviewed the The Kid, shown on CBBC from 1987-1988. I decided to review this because I thought that there should be more about it online and it had a very short run on TV. Although I enjoyed it I didn’t know anything about the cast, but I presumed that they were proper actors who must have come from somewhere, so I did some research on them, and the results were rather interesting. vlcsnap-01292

Firstly, I looked for some information about Steve Fairnie who played the lead role in The Kid, and it seems that he had a rather fascinating career, he doesn’t come across as the first person who would star in a zany children’s TV show. This is because he was primarily a musician, he released his first album in 1975, he was in various New Wave/Synthpop bands, including Writz (who made some TV appearances around 1979/1980), and he was also an artist. vlcsnap-01293

Steve was also in Techno Twins, along with his wife Bev Sage, and in 1982 they had a minor hit single with their version of “Falling In Love Again”. He also had a rather striking look that could best be described as a New Romantic Charlie Chaplin. And there is a video online of Steve talking about The Kid and his career to Mick Robertson (best known for co-hosting CITV’s Magpie) on The Children’s Channel. vlcsnap-01296

From what I’ve read about Steve he comes across as a entertainingly extrovert and multi-talented man, and no less a figure than Simon Mayo called him “one cool dude”. Steve Fairnie died suddenly in February 1993, he was 42 years old. It was really odd to discover that he died so long ago, I was only nine at the time. I would hope that over 25 years on from his death Steve would be pleased that I discovered his TV show (along with some of his music) and very much enjoyed it, he really was a one-off. 

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Steve Fairnie: 1951-1993.

Also appearing the The Kid was Debbie Linden. Again, I didn’t know anything about her career, and I discovered that she was also a rather unlikely children’s TV personality. She was a glamour model, she also appeared in various TV shows in the early-80s including Are You Being Served? and 3-2-1, and it seems that she usually played the stereotypical “dumb blonde” role. Her story doesn’t have a happy ending, I read that she was rather troubled in her later years, and had a rather grim demise. Debbie died in October 1997, age 36. Realising that half the cast of The Kid are long gone definitely put a different perspective on watching the show again, but its “comic come to life” style reminded me of the more successful CITV show Zzzap!, and it definitely deserves to be better known. 

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Debbie Linden: 1961-1997.

A while ago I was having a look at some editions of TV Times that I have from the 80s, wondering if there were any shows that were before my time but I knew enough about them to be worthy of a review. One of these was Hold Tight, a CITV show that was originally hosted by Bob Carolgees, and one of the later series was co-hosted by Peter Simon (now I know that nowadays he seems to be making a fool of himself on increasingly small-time shopping channels, but I am still fond of a lot of his TV work). vlcsnap-01297

The final series of Hold Tight was hosted by Barbie Wilde. Now again, this was someone that I didn’t really know anything about, but I discovered she has had an interesting career too. I found her website which features lots of pictures of her with some of the pop stars she interviewed on the show including The B-52s and Cliff Richard, and as well as being a children’s TV presenter in the 80s, she was appearing in horror films, and was also a host on ITV’s Night Networkvlcsnap-00002

Now I enjoyed discovering all of this, and she seemed to be an interesting personality. So I decided to raise the stakes a little. If this really is someone who I would be a fan of, I thought wouldn’t it be great if she made a synthpop single in the 80s where she had blue hair in the video, because it seems that I am really fond of that type of thing, I don’t demand much, do I. And well… I wasn’t disappointed. vlcsnap-01298

Although it wasn’t a hit, I did enjoy “Phantom Lady”, and that’s when I realised this was definitely someone I should find out more about, and I tracked her down on Twitter and followed her. I discovered that Barbie was also in a music/dance group called Shock that included Tik And Tok, they made a few songs and appeared on CITV’s Razzmatazz in 1982. I also looked for more on YouTube, and I found a video that Barbie appears in alongside… Bev Sage, wife of the aforementioned Steve Fairnie. How about that! vlcsnap-01300

My most viewed blog piece of the year so far is something of a surprise. It’s my second look back at the career of Danielle Dax, someone who really pushed the musical boundaries in the 80s. It has already surpassed the record for the most number of a views a piece has had in a year with six months remaining. I always thought that this would be one of my more niche pieces, so I am very pleased that it has done so well. I don’t intend the piece to be the definitive word on her, but I did enjoy putting it together as it’s a story worth telling, it seems that there are more fans of hers out there than I ever realised which is terrific. I also found a podcast from about a year ago where Danielle is interviewed for over an hour about her career. She’s still out there somewhere… dd111

Other things I have enjoyed reviewing this year include the children’s TV shows Captain Zep Space Detective, Chockablock, How Dare You! (Carrie Grant is another one who I didn’t realise appeared on CITV in the 80s), The Telebugs, Teletubbies, and Tricks And Tracks (it was a pleasure to be reacquainted with Albie The Robot). Comedies I have reviewed include Faith In The Future, Girls On Top, the recently rediscovered Hardwicke House, Home To Roost, Out Of This World, and Six Pairs Of Pants. I have also enjoyed reviewing more game shows, soaps, and adverts. vlcsnap-01304

The plan is simply to continue with more pieces. Lots more reviews of game shows, sitcoms, and so on are planned to come. And as I come toward my fifth anniversary of doing this, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank people for your interest, wherever you are, especially those who have liked, commented, and spread the word. It’s good to know you enjoy my nostalgic memories.

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…