A Return To The Spooky World Of Shakespear’s Sister – Bonus Special!

This is a piece that will start with me going on about Shakespear’s Sister yet again, before it will turn into something else, and that will be the main thing to feature. Since I got into Shakespear’s Sister again (and you should remember why by now), I wanted to discover as much as I could about them, and I tried to put as much together as I could from old interviews, online articles, and so on.

I found an article where people were reminiscing about the chart-topping “Stay”, and someone said about the famous video “Fahey’s acting style really is like someone stepping out of a black-and-white German Expressionist film from the mid-20s”. Now I thought this was an interesting comment. Firstly, I couldn’t imagine many other pop groups from recent years who would’ve been influenced by such a thing, and also because this was a genre that I knew nothing about, so I wanted to find out about it.

I knew that their videos were influenced by the films Cat-Women Of The Moon, Sunset Boulevard, and Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, but I don’t know if they were interested in silent films. I knew a little about some famous actresses from that era, including Louise Brooks and her terrific hair (OMD paid tribute to her career with their 1991 Top Ten hit “Pandora’s Box”), and Clara Bow, “The It Girl”. So I decided to do a search online for silent film actresses, and see if there was anyone else interesting would could’ve been an influence, and someone jumped right out at me.

After finding out more about her, once again words like “mysterious” and “spooky” kept being used, and I was fascinated, so I thought I’d tell the story. Theodosia Goodman was born in July 1885. There had been various stories about her childhood, but it turned out that she was not as exotic as it first seemed, and was born in Cincinnati. By the time her film career launched, her name had changed to Theda Bara.

Her first film in 1914 was in a minor role, but in 1915 her second film A Fool There Was transformed her right away into one of the biggest stars on the scene. She soon became known as “The Vamp”. Theda went on to star in many other films, and as they were silent, she really worked hard on her facial expressions. Her most famous is arguably Cleopatra in 1917. This was a very expensive film for the time, and some of the costumes are remarkable, but this one no longer exists. Some of her performances shocked people, although things that were once innovative now seem more tame.

Theda continued to star in films, and tried to play various roles, but she felt that she had become typecast as a vamp-type character, and she practically left the business in 1919, just five years after her breakthrough. To think that the pinnacle of her career is over a century ago now really is remarkable. Theda did appear in two more films in the 1920s, and tried to get into theatre work, but her moment had passed. She never went on to star in a talkie film, surprisingly few silent stars made the transition, a lot of careers were scuppered by actors thinking that their voices wouldn’t be suitable to filmgoers.

Only two audio clips of her speaking are known to exist, she was surprisingly well-spoken, and in magazine interviews she always came across as a very charismatic and determined woman. Theda married a director of some of her films, lived her later years almost forgotten by film enthusiasts, and died in April 1955. She made 42 films, but only six are now known to exist in full, and many feel that these don’t feature the best examples of her abilities.

This means that a lot of her work has been lost in the mists of time, and the chances of more being recovered is very small. Lots of pictures of her exist though, they’re the only proof that most of this happened now. I was really drawn to her remarkable eyes, and I don’t know if she really was an influence, but with her heavy make-up and long black hair, there was a time when she did look very similar to Siobhan, I’d be surprised if it was a coincidence.

It’s also interesting to read that Theda has been described as “America’s First Goth”, almost six decades before such a movement existed. She is still startling today, and although there have been biographies written about her career, she deserves something of a reappraisal, her image mustn’t fade. Theda has turned up in a few places in more recent years though, including a TV Times cover in January 1980, an advert for a song in Number One in 1986, and on the cover of The Lumineers’ chart-topping album “Cleopatra” in 2017.

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…

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.

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

The YouTube Files – The Spooky World Of Shakespear’s Sister Part 3.

I wondered what Siobhan and Marcella had been up to in the years after “I Can Drive”, so here is the third part of the story of Shakespear’s Sister taking us from 1997 up to the present day. Both ladies are still in the music business and have separately released a lot more albums, although they have had a much lower profile, and it seems that most of Siobhan’s TV appearances in the past 20 years have been contributions to nostalgic documentaries looking back at 1980s pop music, although she has done a lot of other interesting things including songwriting, acting, DJing, even some modelling, and there is plenty more to discover, so let’s find out what happened next. s11

1997: After bringing the Shakespear’s Sister project to an end for the first time, Siobhan went off to do something a little different, by doing some straight acting in the short low-budget film Pinned, where she looked remarkably plain and subdued compared to her famous goth image from five years earlier. I’ve only seen a trail myself, unfortunately it seems that it didn’t get many positive reviews. vlcsnap-00051

Also in this year Marcella released “Flower”, the final single from the album “Feeler”.

1998: Siobhan reunited with Keren and Sara for the first time since 1988, and it seems that it was also the first time that they had seen one another since the split a decade earlier. They took part in Channel 4’s “A Song For Eurotrash“, a compilation album where various singers performed cover versions of songs made famous by the Eurovision Song Contest, and they contributed their version of Abba’s 1974 winner “Waterloo”. They were also interviewed by Chris Evans on TFI Fridayvlcsnap-00029

Marcella has done some acting too, including appearing in the 1978 Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band film, and in this year she appeared in a film called This Town.

1999: Siobhan was interviewed alongside Keren and Sara for BBC2’s Young Guns Go For It, a series that looked back at 1980s pop music, to tell the story of Bananarama. vlcsnap-00105

2001: Marcella released her fourth solo album “Dancing Madly Sideways”. Bananarama were featured on Channel 4’s Top Ten, looking back at successful girl groups, which didn’t feature a contribution from Siobhan, but did from Marcella, who told the story of why the video to “Stay” was banned in Germany. They were also featured in BBC2’s I Love 1982, the year they had their first hit single. Shakespear’s Sister featured in an edition of BBC2’s TOTP2. vlcsnap-00002

2002: Bananarama were featured in yet another pop nostalgia series, ITV1’s Smash!, where Siobhan spoke again about her 80s days. Siobhan also joined Keren and Sara on stage at a London nightclub to perform “Venus” in celebration of the 20th anniversary of their first hit single. It seems that this is the only time they performed live together in the period between the split in 1988 and the reunion in 2017, and it was intended to be a one-off. vlcsnap-00104Siobhan released the single “Bitter Pill” under her own name which just missed the Top 100, and Marcella was the guest vocalist on Aurora’s “The Day It Rained Forever” which reached no. 29. Shakespear’s Sister were featured in BBC1’s It Takes Two, a documentary looking back at pop duos. 

2003: Siobhan appeared as a panellist on BBC2’s Never Mind The Buzzcocks, and also contributed to a documentary about the 25th anniversary of Smash Hits magazineShakespear’s Sister were featured on TOTP2 again

2004: Siobhan obtained the rights to her rejected third album “#3”, meaning it was finally available to buy eight years after it was made. Also in this year a best-of was released featuring a CD containing all the hits and some extras, plus a DVD of all the great videos and the Russian film. Siobhan appeared on Never Mind The Buzzcocks again, this time on the Christmas special. bestof0001

Bananarama were featured in a BBC2 documentary looking back at the 20th anniversary of Band Aid. Siobhan also did of a cover version of the Joy Division song “She’s Lost Control”, the video is a little risque to say the least.

2005: A second best-of was released called “Long Live The Queens!”, featuring some B-sides and remixes, along with “The MGA Sessions” album. Siobhan also released the singles “Bad Blood” and “Pulsatron”, which reached no. 95, and the video featured a brief appearance from her old mate Jacquie O’Sullivan. vlcsnap-00008

“Stay” was also included in Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Pop Videos, and Siobhan rerecorded “Venus” which was her chart-topping single in America.

2006: Siobhan rerecorded “Stay” where she performed all the vocals herself. Bananarama were featured in BBC1’s Be My Baby, a documentary about girl groups. By this point Marcella had formed a new band and released the album “The Upside Of Being Down”. Shakespear’s Sister were once again featured on TOTP2.

2009: The Shakespear’s Sister project was revived, with the fourth album “Songs From The Red Room” being released. Siobhan promoted this by being interviewed on ITV1’s Loose Women. She also performed her first gig under the Shakespear’s Sister name for almost 15 years in trendy Hoxton! vlcsnap-00086

2010: Marcella appeared as a contestant on ITV1’s musical contest Popstar To Operastar, where pop singers were challenged to sing in an operatic style. She was knocked out in the penultimate edition, finishing third overall. She also appeared on various shows talking about her career including BBC1’s BreakfastITV1’s Loose Women and The Alan Titchmarch Showand Channel 5’s Live From Studio Fivevlcsnap-00062

Siobhan made a video for the single “It’s A Trip”, again she had a distinctive look and it was great seeing her wear the old makeup again, she’s still got it. This is also my favourite song of hers from this era, I get something of a Goldfrapp/Moloko vibe from it. A limited-edition DVD was released of the videos from this era. Siobhan also went on tour, including a performance at the Isle Of Wight Festival. vlcsnap-00064

In November of this year, “Stay” entered the singles chart again for the first time since 1992 after a new generation was own over by this classic following a memorable performance by Cher Lloyd on ITV1’s The X Factor, it reached no. 12.

2011: The fifth Shakespear’s Sister album “Cosmic Dancer” was released, and a video was made for “Someone Else’s Girl”, which features the lyric “uh-oh, I’m in trouble“, which is a lovely tribute to Shampoo. Siobhan rerecorded “Really Saying Something” to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of Bananarama’s first single, and an album of a live concert from 1992 was released, along with “The Red Room Sessions”. She also appeared in the short film What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor.

2012: Two more best-ofs were released called “Rarities” and “Remixes”. Siobhan featured in yet another pop music documentary, BBC2’s I Was In A Girl Band Once. There are a few other videos on YouTube from around this time of Siobhan being interviewed for various websites talking about her careervlcsnap-00023

2013: Two more best-ofs were released both called “The Other Side”. The Shakespear’s Sister project came to an end for a second time, and all the online presence seemed to be removed, including the official website, along with the social media pages. Marcella’s fifth solo album “The Vehicle” was released which included a solo version of “Stay” and she was interviewed on Loose Women again. Later in the year she released a special Christmas album called “For The Holidays”. vlcsnap-00046

2014: Siobhan performed as a guest vocalist with Dexys Midnight Runners at the Glastonbury Festival (nice piece of trivia: Siobhan’s sister Maire played Eileen in the video for Dexys’ transatlantic chart-topper “Come On Eileen”). Shakespear’s Sister were also featured in BBC4’s Goth At The BBC compilation. vlcsnap-00012

In July of this year, Sara from Bananarama tweeted a picture of herself and Keren having a party with Siobhan, and it seems that this meetup was the first step towards their reunion, and Sara stated that her and Keren were round Siobhan’s house in Bethnal Green. Now this is where I live in London, and to say that I was surprised to discover Siobhan almost literally lived down the road from me is an understatement. This is even more odd considering I had read that Siobhan now lived in Los Angeles. Why she swapped LA for the ever-so-slightly less glamorous Bethnal Green I have no idea.

2015: Marcella released her sixth solo album “Grey Matterz”. Also around this time Shakespear’s Sister were featured in a picture clue round on BBC1’s game show Pointless, now there’s a legacy! pointless

2016: When looking for videos on YouTube, I found one that features an extravagantly dressed Siobhan live on stage during a special Halloween concert at a nightclub in Los Angeles. I don’t know if she is into all of this kind of thing, and maybe she does like to do some moonlighting performing burlesque down the pub whilst wearing a basque and fishnet stockings, but either way it was rather surprising. One YouTube comment said that she looked like “Lady Gaga’s grandmother”. vlcsnap-00110

2017: Siobhan announced that she would rejoin Bananarama for a UK tour, the first that they had ever done with the original lineup. They appeared on lots of TV shows to promote this, including BBC1’s The One Show and Breakfast, ITV’s This Morning, and featured in lots of magazines. They also performed “Venus” and “Cruel Summer” on various shows. We better make the most of it, because in one interview that I read, when Siobhan was asked if she would reunite with Marcella, she simply said “it’s certainly not on my agenda at the moment”. It still seems to be very cold between the two ladies 25 years after the split and it’s hugely unlikely that they’ll ever work together again. vlcsnap-00030

The tour has been very well received, it has got many positive reviews from critics and fans have loved it. And it seems that they did perform a special version of “Stay” which was a very emotional moment for everyone. I’ve also been looking at Siobhan’s Instagram page and she’s been putting pictures of herself on there in places that are within walking distance from where I live and she does seem to be fond of the Cockney culture, unbelievable. vlcsnap-00129

2018: Well this hasn’t happened yet of course but the plan is that Bananarama will perform the next stage of the reunion tour in Canada and America where they had a number one single with “Venus” in 1986, and it is rather remarkable to think that Siobhan will have her 60th birthday in this year. After that, who knows…? Thanks to Siobhan and Marcella for lots of great musical memories over the years.

The YouTube Files – The Spooky World Of Shakespear’s Sister Part 2.

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Here’s a question for you. Who holds the record for having the longest-running Number One single by an all-female group in UK chart history? Little Mix? All Saints maybe? It’s got to be the Spice Girls hasn’t it? Well actually it’s none of those, it’s Shakespear’s Sister. Everyone who enters the music business must hope that they can write that once in a lifetime song that will bring them fame and fortune, and it appears that they had done it with “Stay”, so it became the second single to be released off the second album. vlcsnap-01271

There was little indication of what was to come when “Stay” entered the singles chart at a modest no. 27 in January 1992, actually one place lower than “You’re History” did in 1989. One of their earliest performances of the song was on Jonathan Ross’s Channel 4 show. But what really gave the song a boost was when the video started to be shown on TV. People were stunned by Marcella’s emotion and Siobhan’s rather crazed performance as they battled it out somewhere in space. “I Heard A Rumour” it ain’t. It is remarkable to think that Siobhan successfully left her girl group days behind and became a terrific goth rocker, what a transformation! vlcsnap-00987

What would the public’s response to all this be? They wouldn’t go anywhere near all this strangeness, wouldn’t they? Well incredibly… they loved it. “Stay” spent eight consecutive weeks at Number One and ended up as the fourth biggest-selling single of 1992 in the UK, behind “I Will Always Love You”, “Rhythm Is A Dancer”, and “Would I Lie To You”, and it was the fourth longest-running UK Number One single of the 1990s decade, behind “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)”, “Love Is All Around”, and “I Will Always Love You”. “Stay” also made the Top Five in the US and was featured on “Now 21”. “Stay” was also one of two 1990s UK Number One singles co-written by Siobhan, the other one was 1993’s “Young At Heart” by The Bluebells. It still stirs feelings in me 25 years later and to think that all of this actually happened and it wasn’t all a dream I had really is terrific. vlcsnap-00989

In February 1992 the second album “Hormonally Yours” was released which reached no. 3 and spent over a year on the chart. They were now one of the biggest bands around. But how do you follow “Stay”? In May 1992 the next single “I Don’t Care” was released which reached no. 7, becoming their third and final Top Ten hit single. This was another terrific song accompanied by a classic video, the highlight being the moment when Siobhan’s head appears on a theatre stage to recite a nonsense poem from the 19th century. They don’t make them like that any more. vlcsnap-00013

It’s very difficult to pick my favourite single by them, but “I Don’t Care” is definitely up there with the best. They also performed this on Top Of The Pops, American TV’s The Late Show With David Letterman, and best of all, BBC1’s Bruce’s Guest Night, an entertainment show hosted by Bruce Forsyth. I’m sure that he was a big fan. In June 1992 they performed in front of a huge crowd on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury festival. vlcsnap-00088

In July 1992 “Goodbye Cruel World” was given a second chance, and this time it did make the Top 40, reaching no. 32. Around this time Siobhan was interviewed live on TV-am by Lorraine Kelly. They were also interviewed on CBBC’s The O Zone and performed on Parallel 9. It seems that they didn’t make many children’s TV appearances, but to discover that they appeared on the first series of Parallel 9 which is one of my favourite Saturday Morning shows is something of a dream double. Also around this time they appeared on the cover of The Face magazine. vlcsnap-00171

In November 1992 the next single “Hello (Turn Your Radio On)” was released, which reached no. 14. This is a song that’s so downbeat as to make “Stay” seem a right old knees-up by comparison. Once again, it had an eye-catching video and they really were making songs that sounded like no-one else on the scene at the time. Around this time they appeared on BBC2’s Later With Jools Holland and they were also scheduled to play at the Royal Albert Hall which would have been their most high-profile concert to date, but Siobhan pulled out and it was cancelled. Also in 1992 a VHS was released containing the videos for the singles from “Hormonally Yours”. vlcsnap-00158

In December 1992 they performed at the Smash Hits Poll Winners’ Party live on BBC1 at the Olympia Arena. Siobhan looked rather exhausted and unhappy, performing “Stay” for what must have felt like the 500th time, it had been a relentless year for them, they had successfully toured around the world and crowds always enjoyed them, and they were hardly ever off MTV, but there were rumours growing around this time that Siobhan and Marcella no longer enjoyed working with one another. Indeed, this would turn out to be their final performance together. vlcsnap-00199

In February 1993 the final single off the album which had been milked somewhat by that point was an EP featuring “My 16th Apology”, “Catwoman”, their cover of T-Rex’s “Hot Love”, and a live version of “Dirty Mind” which reached no. 61. There were no new videos as such. The video for “My 16th Apology” was compiled from highlights and outtakes from the other second album videos, and the “Catwoman” video was a compilation of some live performances. They also performed “Hot Love” alongside Tom Jones on his ITV music show The Right Time. Also around this time was the memorable parody by French And Saunders. vlcsnap-01263

Also in February 1993, they won the Brit Award for Best Video for “Stay”, could any other video have won it? Marcella accepted the award at the ceremony shown on ITV, but Siobhan was absent. In May 1993, they won an Ivor Novello award for their songwriting work on “Hormonally Yours”. Again, Marcella made an acceptance speech. An announcement was then made on Siobhan’s behalf (who was absent again) that Marcella was leaving the band. This was the first that she had heard of it, essentially meaning that she was sacked live on stage. Marcella was reported to be unhappy with how her departure was handled, and went off to resume her solo career. Siobhan and Marcella haven’t seen or spoken to one another since. vlcsnap-00166

In April 1993 Siobhan contributed a guest vocal to “Walk Into The Wind”, a song by Vegas, a duo consisting of her husband Dave Stewart and her old Fun Boy Three mate Terry Hall, it reached no. 65. A video was made and they also performed this live on Channel 4’s Saturday Zoo. And at the end of 1993 the video for “Stay” was parodied by the Christmas Number One by Mr Blobby! vlcsnap-00009

In March 1994 Marcella’s second solo album “Jewel” was released which reached no. 15. Also in 1994 she had hit singles with “I Believe” (no. 11, which she also performed on BBC1’s Pebble Mill and Top Of The Pops), “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing”, (no. 24, a duet with Elton John), and “I’m No Angel” (no. 33). In June 1994 Shakespear’s Sister were imitated on ITV’s Stars In Their Eyesvlcsnap-00013

In 1994 Siobhan contributed “Prehistoric Daze” to the soundtrack of the first film of The Flintstones, so if you’ve ever wanted to hear her say “yabba-dabba-doo” then it was good news for you. She also appeared on a short musical film called Jiggery Pokery which was directed by Sophie Muller and was shown on BBC2 a couple of years later in a post-midnight slot. vlcsnap-00128

In July 1994 Marcella appeared as a panellist on BBC1’s Pop Quiz alongside Jarvis Cocker and Chesney Hawkes. She also appeared on CITV’s Saturday Morning show Gimme 5 to promote “I’m No Angel” where she got more than she was expecting. First of all she spoke to our old friend Nobby The Sheep, and then played Tweak The Beak. I do remember this game, but I didn’t realise that she had played it. She failed to get the answers right and the end result was that she was gunged. I suppose it was good that she was game but she looked so embarrassed. That’s the perils of live children’s TV, you go on the show to promote your single and you end up being interviewed by a puppet sheep and having green stuff thrown over you. She probably sacked her management afterwards. vlcsnap-00147

In June 1996, with Shakespear’s Sister now a solo project again, Siobhan finally returned with what was planned to be the first single from the third album “I Can Drive”, which reached no. 30. She performed this song on various shows including Top Of The Pops, Channel 4’s TFI Friday, and Richard And Judy’s prime-time show on ITV. I also remember watching the video on The Chart Show and it really was great seeing Siobhan back on the scene doing her thing again. Unfortunately the label weren’t too impressed with the content of the third album “#3” and refused to realise it. At this point a somewhat disillusioned Siobhan decided to bring the project to an end. vlcsnap-00174

Marcella released some more singles in the mid-90s which made a minor impact on the chart, “Perfect World” (1995, no. 100), “I Hate You Now…” (1996, no. 96), and “Boy” (1996, no. 83), followed in September 1996 by her third solo album “Feeler” which didn’t chart. In November 1996 Marcella appeared as a panellist on BBC2’s comedy music show Never Mind The Buzzcocks, and in December 1996 she appeared in two episodes of BBC1 sitcom Absolutely Fabulousvlcsnap-01080

Siobhan and Marcella have gone to release many more interesting singles and albums separately in the 20+ years after 1996. Of course I have already told the story of when I discovered that Siobhan lived in the same part of London as me and invited Keren and Sara round her house here one night a few years ago for a party which led to their reunion, I almost fainted when I found out. One thing’s for sure though, Siobhan won’t be inviting Marcella round for a cup of coffee any time soon. Reading that story reminded me how much I enjoyed Shakespear’s Sister and it made me want to discover more extrovert women who made quirky records in the 80s and 90s, leading me to do the pieces about Alisha’s Attic, Danielle Dax, Fuzzbox, Shampoo and Strawberry Switchblade that I really enjoyed putting together, their stories are worth telling and they all deserve more acclaim for their contribution to pop music over the years.

The YouTube Files – The Spooky World Of Shakespear’s Sister Part 1.

After writing about Shakespear’s Sister a lot on here, I have decided to do a piece looking back at their career. Not only did they make some great records, but their rise to fame was an incredible story. It’s similar to what happened to Strawberry Switchblade who I wrote about on here recently, they were also a female duo with a distinctive look who suddenly found success which caused tension between the pair of them, but this all happened to Shakespear’s Sister on a much larger scale.

In 1988 Siobhan Fahey (born in Dublin in 1958) left the successful pop group Bananarama to work on a new solo project. After a while she was joined by the American singer/songwriter Marcy Levy (born in Detroit in 1952) and they made an intriguing double act. Marcella had already been in the music business for a long time, working alongside the likes of Eric Clapton in the 1970s, having a US hit single in a duet with Robin Gibb in 1980, and releasing her first solo album “Marcella” in 1982, although this wasn’t a success. This will be a look back at some of their various TV appearances and music videos on YouTube from 1988-1996 and it will be in two parts. s1

It all started so quietly. In October 1988 the first single the double A-side “Break My Heart (You Really)”/”Heroine” was released, but it wasn’t a hit. All of the videos from this era (with the exception of “Dirty Mind”) were directed by the award-winning Sophie Muller, and they were all marvellous, with a lot of hard work put in to make sure that their image was as striking as their sound. At this point it seemed highly unlikely that Siobhan would transform into someone trying to beat Siouxsie Sioux at her own game but that’s how it turned out. One of Siobhan’s earliest TV appearances talking about her new project was on ITV’s Night Network where she was interviewed by Pat Sharp’s mate Mick Brown. vlcsnap-00170

Also around the end of 1988 a 15-minute film was made of their visit to the USSR which featured some bizarre behind the scenes action along with performances live on stage in Leningrad of “Dirty Mind” and “Heroine” (where Siobhan looked uncannily like Jessie J oddly). vlcsnap-01241

In July 1989 the big breakthrough came when “You’re History” became their first Top Ten hit single, reaching no. 7, and leading to their first appearances on Top Of The Pops and The Chart Show. This was the first video to feature Marcella who was now a full-time member and by this point she had changed her surname to the city of her birth. What was noted by many people was the contrast between Siobhan’s low voice (her vocal style was once described by Q magazine as “honking from the bowels of Hades”) and Marcella’s high voice. vlcsnap-00210

Also in July 1989 Siobhan appeared as a guest on Channel 4’s Star Test. This was a great  show so it’s very good to know that Siobhan once sat in the chair to be interviewed by the disembodied voice. She revealed some interesting things about herself including the first single that she ever bought was “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Michael Jackson, she does believe in ghosts, and she is totally fascinated by world events. When asked to promote “You’re History”, she said that making the video was “a scream to do”, and concluded “it’s fabulous actually, I just love it”. vlcsnap-00198

In September 1989 the first album “Sacred Heart” was released which reached no. 9. In October 1989 the next single “Run Silent” was released which reached no. 54, and the video was shown on The ITV Chart Show. It was also around this time that Siobhan appeared on the cover of music magazines Record Mirror and Smash Hits, where we were given a chance to enter her spooky world. A VHS containing the videos of the singles from “Sacred Heart” (plus the Russian film) was released in 1989. vlcsnap-00211

In March 1990 the final single from the first album “Dirty Mind” was released, but it reached a rather disappointing no. 71. This was a remixed version which was totally different to what was on the album and it featured a rap from Marcella! Also in 1990 they were nominated for a Brit Award in the Best British Newcomer category, but they didn’t win. vlcsnap-00213

When work began on the second album “Hormonally Yours”, they must have decided although they had done well they wanted to take their success to the next level. Some of the album’s songs and videos were influenced by the unintentionally bad low-budget 1953 science-fiction film Cat-Women Of The Moon. There was a song that was beginning to stand out and look like it had the best chance to finally take them into the upper end of the chart. Siobhan didn’t want this song to be released as a single though, saying that she felt that it wasn’t representative of the band’s sound as a whole (and possibly because it the only song where Marcella took the lead vocal). So instead, the first single off the second album was chosen to be “Goodbye Cruel World”. vlcsnap-00249

In October 1991 “Goodbye Cruel World” was released and it was accompanied by another great video that was influenced by such classic films as Sunset Boulevard and Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? and featured some marvellous acting by Siobhan. It was also 1991’s Best Video Of The Year on The ITV Chart Show. However, it didn’t get the second album off to the high-profile start that they wanted and it only reached no. 59. vlcsnap-00011

After this setback, it was at this point that the decision was made that they would now have to release this song with potential as the second single off the album, they were practically sat on a Number One single and it was felt that people would enjoy it and it would finally bring them huge success, but Siobhan was still rather reluctant. Would this song revive their faltering career? Well as we’ll discover in part two, at the beginning of 1992, a phenomenon was born…

The Comedy Vault – special bonus edition!

When I was watching the sitcom The Mighty Boosh again recently, I remembered that there was a reference to Bethnal Green in an episode. Now this is the part of London that I live in, and I always find it surprising to hear a reference on the TV. I started to think about how many other comedy shows feature a reference. I don’t know why it seems to turn up so frequently, clearly it must be a big cultural reference point. I thought of six comedy shows that reference Bethnal Green, so here they are, although if anyone out there does know of any others, you are welcome to tell me.

Big Train. This was the odd BBC2 sketch show from the makers of Father Ted. There is a sketch in the second series that is a parody of detective drama shows, where Mark Heap’s character says “Bethnal Green”. Well to hear one of my favourite comic actors say that right in front of everyone, I was very pleased. Fame at last! vlcsnap-01181

The Mighty Boosh. There is a reference to Bethnal Green in this sitcom when Vince (played by Noel Fielding) is trying to track down where someone is by using his Celeb Radar. Also around this time, when the show was popular on TV, there were suddenly a lot of people walking around here who seemingly wanted to be Noel, how great. vlcsnap-01150

Goodnight Sweetheart. I’m fairly sure that there is at least one reference to Bethnal Green in this sitcom, and that’s because the area where Gary Sparrow time travels to is supposed to be around here, you even see him walk past a branded bin in the first episode. One person pointed out recently that Gary was supposed to live in Cricklewood, and the only reason he ever came here was when he was a TV repair man trying to find an address. So to continue his double life he would have to travel from Cricklewood to here every time to access the portal, which is rather a journey in itself, but you’re not supposed to notice that… vlcsnap-01183

Saturday Live. This pioneering 80s comedy show featured some of the earliest TV appearances by Harry Enfield, and his kebab shop owner character Stavros, who would become very popular with viewers, was always talking about “the Bethnal Green Road”, which is good innit. vlcsnap-01185

Only Fools And Horses. This sitcom needs no introduction, and in the 1989 episode “Chain Gang” none other than Del Boy says “Bethnal Green” near the end of the episode. Isn’t that lovely jubbly. And that isn’t the only sitcom created by John Sullivan to feature a reference… vlcsnap-01186

Sitting Pretty. This was a sitcom that launched on BBC1 in 1992 which was written by John Sullivan. Because his other sitcoms had been so popular with viewers, this show was simply sold as “this can’t fail!”. The main character in the show was Annie, a woman who had been successful in the 60s who had now fallen on hard times, and her character was described by Radio Times as “the Jackie Onassis of Bethnal Green”. Within the first few minutes of the first episode, Annie does say “Bethnal Green”, and also her catchphrase “phenomenal”, which they really thought would catch on, but didn’t. Although Sitting Pretty ran for two series, it wasn’t a big hit with viewers, there has been no DVD release, and it is now considered the low point of Sullivan’s career. Also, because of the Bethnal Green connections, I remember seeing Diane Bull (who played Annie) once when she was chosen to turn on the Christmas lights here one year (I don’t remember what year, either 1992 or 1993 as they were the only years that the show was on BBC1), now that really was phenomenal. vlcsnap-01180

BONUS! Now to go on to pop music. I am aware of at least two pop stars who were born in Bethnal Green who have had UK Number One hit singles, who are Helen Shapiro and Cheryl Baker of Bucks Fizz fame. Also, I’m not aware of any UK hit singles featuring Bethnal Green in the lyrics, but again if you know better, you can let me know. And I know I keep going on about this, but I just want to emphasise this again because I still find it unbelievable.

Now imagine that there is a famous pop group who’ve had a Number One single, say for example, Bananarama, and say that they all visited Bethnal Green one day, and the reason that they would do that was because one member of the group had a house here, say Siobhan, who was also in the awesome Shakespear’s Sister, and here was where they became friends again and decided to reform, that would be a great story, but that’s never going to happen is it… oh wait… b10

Now the fact that Sara from Bananarama said “Bethnal Green” in an interview will probably mean nothing to about 99.8% of the readership of Classic Pop magazine where this article appeared, but when I read this I was practically on the floor. But the fact that she said that her and Keren were here because they were round “Siobhan’s house in Bethnal Green“, you remember Siobhan, the woman whose Shakespear’s Sister song “Stay” was at Number One in the UK for almost two months in 1992, the crazy goth woman who appears in the incredible video that I’m sure any early-90s pop music fan has never forgotten even 25 years on, you know, that woman… b9

…well, I was now in a right old state. Discovering that in more recent years she had probably been walking round here (although presumably not dressed like that), and she had a party in her kitchen with her old pop star friends practically around the corner from me simply blew my mind (there’s even a picture of them all together on Twitter and everything), I just can’t believe it really happened. I told you all the cool people live round here didn’t I, aren’t I lucky.

The YouTube Files – A classic Stars In Their Eyes moment.

Stars In Their Eyes (ITV, 1994)

Recently I wrote a blog piece about when I discovered something about the pop group Bananarama that really blew my mind, if you haven’t read it yet, you should! Whilst putting the piece together I was reminiscing about Siobhan Fahey’s other group, top goth-rockers Shakespear’s Sister, and when trying to track down some more information, I had an odd thought: “were they ever done on Stars In Their Eyes?”. As far as I know, people could only take part individually, performing as solo artists or the frontman or woman from groups, I’m not aware of duos being able to appear, so I thought it was rather unlikely, oh well, it would’ve been good but it was just a thought, it doesn’t matter. vlcsnap-01020

I’ve already written about Stars In Their Eyes on here and I’m sure you remember how it all works, the main elements being Matthew Kelly and his waistcoats, people coming on stage to perform as their pop idol for five minutes of fame, an entertaining Saturday night show on ITV throughout the 90s. When I was fiddling about on Google recently, I noticed an image of a YouTube video thumbnail of what appeared to be Matthew welcoming two women to the stage. I thought that duos didn’t take part. Then I thought, well, two young women, performing as a duo, how many successful female pop duos were there in the early-90s… wait a moment, they’re not going to be… are they? You are kidding me. vlcsnap-01018

So I tracked down the video to watch on YouTube (in fuzzy YouTube-o-Vision, but it’s better than nothing for now), and Emma and Julie who both work in a pub in Oswestry, Shropshire (who can also do a great impression of Zig and Zag) went through those famous doors, and well shut my face, they only did come back out as Siobhan and Marcella didn’t they? I know that Stars In Their Eyes liked to feature a wide variety of pop acts, from 50s crooners to 90s indie blokes, but I never expected this, the show was about to get a little weird. And of course they go on to perform the 1992 chart-topping blockbuster “Stay”. The performance is also rather faithful to the famous award-winning video, there’s even a dead man (well probably) wheeled on to the stage to crank up the emotion. (I should also point out that this edition is from 1994 by which point Siobhan and Marcella had gone their separate ways.) vlcsnap-01050

How did they do? Well they definitely didn’t do too badly at imitating them, as if there could ever be another, and then at the end Matthew kindly congratulated the ladies on their performance, the experience really had been a dream come true for them. They didn’t win though however, they were beaten by Jim Reeves who went into the final. I am so thrilled to discover that it actually happened though, two ladies wanting to do that on ITV prime-time in what must be the most bizarre moment in the 16-year history of Stars In Their Eyes, I can only wonder what viewers made of it. I’ll try and stop going on about Shakespear’s Sister now, I really should buy their album one day… 

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EXTRA! They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so along with Stars In Their Eyes, here are three other occasions that I’m aware of where people donned the old make-up to imitate Shakespear’s Sister in various TV shows in the early-90s. First, the most famous one is by French and Saunders (with Dawn French as Siobhan and Jennifer Saunders as Marcella), who memorably parodied their videos “Goodbye Cruel World”, “Stay”, and “I Don’t Care”. (In 1989 French and Saunders did a parody of Bananarama for Comic Relief as Lananeeneenoonoo, With Dawn French as Keren, Jennifer Saunders as Sara and Kathy Burke as Jacquie. Also, Marcella Detroit appeared in two episodes of Jennifer Saunders’s sitcom Absolutely Fabulous). Second, in the sketch show The Mary Whitehouse Experience, there was a parody by Robert Newman (as Marcella) and David Baddiel (as Siobhan), who were introduced as “that equally talented vocal partnership”, the joke being that Siobhan literally honked her way through the songs and was outshone by Marcella. Best of all, proof that they had become a cultural reference was when the video for the 1993 Christmas Number One by Noel Edmonds’s mate Mr Blobby also featured a parody of the “Stay” video. Now there’s a legacy to be proud of! vlcsnap-01057