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”. 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. 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 Timevlcsnap-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 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), “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing”, (no. 24, a duet with Elton John), and “I’m No Angel” (no. 33). In July 1994 she 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. 

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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, I might review those in a third part one day, along with taking a look back at Bananarama’s hits too. 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 Danielle Dax, Fuzzbox 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, and there’s more to come. I hope that Siobhan along with Keren and Sara have a great time on their reunion tour.

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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 YouTube Files – The Cathy Dennis Story.

Time for a look back at another pop star’s career. Cathy Dennis was born in Norwich in March 1969, she made a lot of great dance-pop records (most of which she wrote herself) and she also had a distinctive bright red hairstyle. Unlike others that I have reviewed on here recently, Cathy never had a look or sound that was particularly “weird”, but as far as mainstream pop stars go she is one of my favourites, I remember enjoying a lot of her singles from first time round in the early-90s and she was one of the earliest singers that I became a fan of, and my memories of seeing her on TV and in magazines now go back over 25 years so I wanted to share her story. Although Cathy was never really an A-list pop star in this country, she was popular and had success around the world, particularly in America. This will be a piece looking back at her 13 hit singles in the UK from 1989-1997 and her various TV appearances and music videos on YouTube. cathyIn October 1989 Cathy had her first hit single with the dance act D-Mob (of “We Call It Acieed” and “It Is Time To Get Funky” fame) as the lead vocalist on their single “C’Mon And Get My Love” which reached no. 15, and she made her first of ten appearances on BBC1’s Top Of The Pops. This was also Cathy’s first of four Top Ten hits in the US, I was surprised to discover that she had more Top Ten singles in the US than she did in the UK. In December 1989 Cathy’s first solo single “Just Another Dream” was first released which reached no. 93. vlcsnap-00123

In April 1990 Cathy’s second single with D-Mob “That’s The Way Of The World” was released, but this was less successful, reaching no. 48. In November 1990 “Just Another Dream” was released for a second time, this time reaching no. 95. vlcsnap-00311

1991 would turn out to be Cathy’s most successful year. In May 1991 “Touch Me (All Night Long)” was released. This was a cover version of the 1984 disco classic by Fonda Rae (with some rewritten lyrics). I am a real fan of both versions and I would have to say that this is my favourite single by Cathy and the one that really got me into her. Cathy put a lot of hard work into promoting her songs and “Touch Me” became her most successful single, reaching no. 5 to become her only Top Ten hit single in the UK. It was also her second Top Ten hit in the US and her biggest, spending two weeks at no. 2. Cathy also performed this song on Top Of The Pops and CITV’s Ghost Train! Also in May 1991 Cathy appeared on the cover of Smash Hits, everything was going right for her. vlcsnap-00086

In July 1991 it was third time lucky for “Just Another Dream” when it finally became a hit single, reaching no. 15 in the UK, and it was Cathy’s third Top Ten single in the US. It was accompanied by a new video and appearances on CBBC’s The 8:15 From Manchester and Top Of The Pops. In August 1991 Cathy’s first album “Move To This” was released in the UK which reached no. 3. vlcsnap-00242

In October 1991 the next single “Too Many Walls” was released which reached no. 17 in the UK and was her fourth and final Top Ten hit in the US. She also performed this song on BBC1’s Wogan and Top Of The Pops, and the video was featured on the “Now 20” VHS compilation. One notable thing about the TOTP performance was that it was just after the relaunch of the long-running show where a rule was introduced that performers had to sing live, and she definitely impressed and showed off her voice. Also in October 1991 she appeared on the cover of Number One magazine. vlcsnap-00256

I know I am bringing it back to Bid TV again but I remember watching Andy Hodgson one day about a decade ago when he said that when he was working at a local radio station he once met Cathy around the time she was promoting “Too Many Walls”. It was just nice to hear someone talking about her on the TV again and it was good to discover that he was a fan too. Also in October 1991 Cathy performed at the Smash Hits Poll Winners’ Party live on BBC1 from the London Arena. I’m fairly sure that my sister went to this one, so she has seen Cathy perform live on stage and I haven’t? Pah! vlcsnap-00239

In December 1991 the final single off the first album “Everybody Move” was released which reached no. 25, and it was accompanied by an amusing video. She performed this song on Des O’Connor’s ITV show, along with yet another Top Of The Pops appearance. Also in December 1991 Cathy appeared on the cover of Time Out magazine. vlcsnap-00219

In August 1992 the first single off Cathy’s second album “You Lied To Me” was released which reached no. 34. Also around this time Cathy appeared on the CBBC shows The O Zone and one of my favourites Parallel 9Also in 1992 there was a big sign that she had made her mark on the pop scene when she was done on ITV’s Stars In Their Eyesvlcsnap-00300

In November 1992 the next single “Irresistible” was released which reached no. 24 and there was another Top Of The Pops appearance for Cathy. In the early-90s my sister set the video for a lot of music shows that were shown late-night on ITV. One of them was The Beat which was hosted by Gary Crowley. On one edition that she recorded there was a feature where the latest singles were reviewed, “Irresistible” was one of them, and I remember that Gary said he didn’t like it. I do though! vlcsnap-00236

In January 1993 Cathy’s second album “Into The Skyline” was released which reached no. 8, and in February 1993 the next single “Falling” was released which reached no. 32. This was accompanied by what has to be Cathy’s strangest video which is rather different to her other ones, it was great. Also in 1993 she appeared in an episode of the US drama series Beverly Hills 90210vlcsnap-00226

It was also around this time that one of the more unusual moments in Cathy’s career happened. The computer games magazine Sega Power ran an article in issue 35 about how much they liked her, this led to her being interviewed in issue 38, and issue 40 (dated March 1993) included a free gift of a cassette which featured some of Cathy’s songs including “Falling” plus some messages specially recorded for the magazine of her reading some tips and cheats for various Sega games. This might be something of an in-joke as Cathy does sound a little bemused, presumably this was organised to satisfy the writers who seemingly had a fantasy of her talking about Sonic The Hedgehog while tracks from her new album played in the background. So if you’re a gamer and you’d ever wanted to hear Cathy say things like “press the up button” it was your lucky day. However, it seems that Cathy actually might be into her games because also in 1993 she appeared on Channel 4’s GamesMaster where she tried to complete a computer game challenge by playing Global Gladiators, but she failed and caused the end of the world (in the game at least) which was rather disappointing, much to the amusement of host Dominik Diamond. vlcsnap-00001

In February 1994 Cathy’s third and final single with D-Mob (and the final single off the second album) “Why” was released which reached no. 27. Along with Top Of The Pops, Cathy also performed this song on CBBC’s Live & Kicking and CITV’s What’s Up Doc. I watched a lot of Saturday Morning children’s TV in the 90s and it was always great seeing Cathy turn up on these shows. vlcsnap-00290

After releasing no singles in 1995, Cathy returned in August 1996 with the first single from her third album “West End Pad”, which reached no. 25. Cathy also moved away from the dance-pop sound of her early singles. I remember watching the video on The Chart Show, it was great seeing her back on the scene after a couple of years away. Also around this time she appeared on ITV’s This Morning, Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast and CBBC’s Fully Booked and The O Zone where she spoke about her enthusiasm for rally driving (women rally drivers? Insert Alan Partridge/The Day Today reference). In November 1996 Cathy appeared as a panellist on the first series of BBC2’s comedy music show Never Mind The Buzzcocksvlcsnap-00286In March 1997 the next single “Waterloo Sunset” was released which became her second-biggest hit in the UK, reaching no. 11. This was a cover of the classic 1967 song by The Kinks which was endorsed by the writer of the song Ray Davies who also appeared in the video. Cathy performed this on Top Of The Pops and BBC1’s The National Lottery Live when it had high ratings which helped give the song a boost. Also in March 1997 her third and final album “Am I The Kinda Girl” was released, but it reached a very disappointing no. 78. After performing on several editions, Cathy hosted an edition of Top Of The Pops in May 1997, introducing the likes of Robbie Williams, Kenickie, D:Ream and Republica. vlcsnap-00270In June 1997 Cathy had what turned out to be her final hit single in the UK with “When Dreams Turn To Dust”, which reached no. 43. I remember her appearing on lots of shows around this time to promote this song. One of them was 5’s Company, a live daytime entertainment show in the very early days of Channel 5 where she was interviewed by various hosts including Steve Allen and John Barrowman. vlcsnap-00332

After leaving her pop star career behind, Cathy went on to become a hugely successful songwriter, writing many hits for a wide variety of singers, and she has contributed to eight UK Number One singles. They are “Never Had A Dream Come True” by S Club 7 (2000), “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” by Kylie Minogue (2001, widely regarded as one of the best chart-toppers of its era), “Have You Ever” by S Club 7 (2001), “Anything Is Possible” by Will Young (2002), “Toxic” by Britney Spears (2004), “About You Now” by Sugababes (2007), “I Kissed A Girl” by Katy Perry (2008, a transatlantic chart-topper), and “Once” by Diana Vickers” (2010). Cathy has also won several awards including Grammys and Ivor Novellos and her songwriting work has been hugely acclaimed.

The YouTube Files – The Exuberant World Of Fuzzbox.

After looking back at the careers of Danielle Dax and Strawberry Switchblade, I thought to myself are there any more women with strange-coloured hair who made terrifically quirky records in the 1980s… and there are! (We’ve Got A) Fuzzbox (And We’re Gonna Use It) formed in Birmingham in 1985 and originally consisted of frontwoman Vickie “Vix” Perks, along with Jo Dunne (1968-2012), Maggie Dunne and Tina O’Neill. They didn’t have any Top Ten hit singles but they made lots of great songs which brightened up pop music in the mid/late-80s. This is a piece telling their story through their various TV appearances and music videos on YouTube (plus some magazine covers) from 1986-1990. fuzzbox0

In April 1986 they had their first hit single, an EP featuring “Rules And Regulations”, “XX Sex”, “Do I Want To?”, and “She” which reached no. 41. They made one of their earliest TV appearances on a show in Belgium. This consisted of an interview where they were sat on the floor, followed by oddly-framed performances of “She” and “XX Sex” where one of them was up a ladder and another one was down a hole. vlcsnap-00174

Before I started putting this piece together, I would never have had any idea that they appeared on TV in Belgium, never mind it being as odd as this, YouTube really is the gift that keeps on giving. And also, if my maths is correct it seems that most of them including Vickie would only have been 17 years old at the time of this performance, and I didn’t realise that they started out as young as that. vlcsnap-00177

Also around this time the video for “Rules And Regulations” was played on the first-ever Indie Chart on Channel 4’s The Chart Show, and they were also interviewed on CITV’s Splash and CBBC’s Lift Off, as we’ll discover they seemed to be very fond of appearing on children’s TV shows. Also around this time they appeared on BBC2’s Whistle Test where they were described by Radio Times as “exuberant” and performed a couple of songs including their cover of “Spirit In The Sky”. vlcsnap-00264

In May 1986 they appeared on the cover of music magazines Record Mirror and Melody Maker. Fame at last!  fuzzbox1

In July 1986 they took part in the single “Rockin’ With Rita (Head To Toe)” as part of the Vindaloo Summer Special, a supergroup consisting of various acts on that record label which reached no. 56. They performed this on CITV’s Razzmatazz, part of the 1980s Tyne Tees music show trilogy along with The Tube and The Roxy, and afterwards they were interviewed by David Jensen. Also around this time they played at the Glastonbury festival. vlcsnap-00211

In November 1986 their next single was released which became their first Top 40 hit, another EP featuring “Love Is The Slug”, “Console Me”, “Spirit In The Sky”, and “Justine”. It reached no. 31 and earned them their first mention on Top Of The Popsvlcsnap-00312

They also performed “Love Is The Slug” on TV-am’s Wide Awake Club, where they were then interviewed by Tommy Boyd as Garfield looked on. In December 1986 their first album “Bostin’ Steve Austin” was released but this wasn’t a hit. Also in this month they performed a lively concert at the Astoria Theatre in London which has turned up on YouTube. vlcsnap-00188

In February 1987 the final single off the album “What’s The Point” was released which reached no. 51. They also performed this song when they appeared on German TV and American TV’s The Late Show where they were interviewed during the brief time that their frontwoman was Christina Aguilera (well not really of course but Vickie really does look like her there don’t you think?). They never really made the breakthrough in America though. vlcsnap-00274

They also performed this song on CITV’s No. 73 and none other than Neil Buchanan could be seen clapping along in the crowd to their performance, you only see things like that happen on children’s TV. “What’s The Point” had a great video too. vlcsnap-00234

After a break in 1988, Fuzzbox returned in 1989 for what would turn out to be their most successful year. They also had a new look, no more pink hair for these ladies, and frontwoman Vickie had become something of a flame-haired sex symbol. In February 1989 the first single off their second album was released, the Thunderbirds-influenced “International Rescue” which featured Adrian Edmondson in the video and became their biggest hit, reaching no. 11, and this earned them their first Top Of The Pops appearance. vlcsnap-00261

Also around this time they were interviewed on CITV’s Motormouth. Most excitingly though, in April 1989 they appeared on the cover of Lookin magazine for the first time alongside the likes of Kylie Minogue and Scally the dog! fuzzbox2

In May 1989 their next single “Pink Sunshine” was released which reached no. 14, and although it’s a tough decision I would have to say that this is my favourite single of theirs. I remember watching the video to this on the “Hits 10” VHS compilation, and I also enjoyed their Top Of The Pops performance. vlcsnap-00208

They also performed this song on ITV’s My Secret Desire and live on CITV’s Ghost Train which featured something of a mishap when the backing tape began to rewind that revealed that they were miming and they laughed for about the final two minutes of the performance. Also around this time they were interviewed on BBC Midlands Today in a report about the Birmingham music scene, and they also appeared on CBBC’s On The Waterfront and met Andrew O’Connor! vlcsnap-00254

In August 1989 the next single “Self!” was released which earned them another Top Of The Pops appearance and reached no. 24. Also in this month the second album “Big Bang!” was released which made the Top Five. They also appeared on CBBC’s The O Zone where they were interviewed by Andi Peters at a fairground, and we found out some great facts about them including “Jo thinks that Tom Jones is the best-dressed man in pop!”, “Maggie’s favourite book is Simon And Schuster’s Guide To Cats“, and that they are big fans of the Reynolds Girls, but then who wasn’t at the time? vlcsnap-00002

Also around this time they appeared on lots more magazine covers including NMEJackieLookin and Record Mirror again, and Smash Hits for the first and only time. fuzzbox3

In November 1989 the final single released from the second album was a cover of “Walking On Thin Ice” which reached a very disappointing no. 76. They performed this on TV-am’s WAC ’90 (and again they were interviewed by Tommy Boyd), plus CBBC’s The Satellite Show and CITV’s The Disney Club. The video was also featured on the “Monster Hits” VHS compilation (essentially “Hits 11”) although it wasn’t a monster hit. Indeed, it wasn’t a hit at all. vlcsnap-00310

In June 1990 what was planned to be the first single from the third album “Your Loss My Gain” was released. They performed this on ITV’s The James Whale Show and Cannon And Ball’s Casino, along with appearances on CBBC’s The 8:15 From Manchester and CITV’s Ghost Train where they met Nobby the sheep. However, it reached a miserable no. 100, and after this disappointment work on the third album (which was to be called “Out Of This World”) was abandoned and Fuzzbox split, and they didn’t perform together again for 20 years, although in 2004 a best-of album was released called “Look At The Hits On That” which featured all their big ones.

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

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The “mysterious” Danielle Dax appears in Radio Times in October 1983 (image courtesy of @woodg31 on Twitter)

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.

Musical Memories – A Story About Pop Music.

Here’s a story about when I was watching an old music video which led me to discovering something that I couldn’t believe. Often late at night I like to watch old videos on YouTube of Top Of The Pops and The Chart Show, it brings back memories of pop music throughout the 80s and 90s and reminds me of the time when in the days before social media if you wanted to find out what your favourite bands were up to you had to wait for the latest issue of Smash Hits to come out every fortnight or join a fan club or mailing list, and if you wanted to see them on TV you had to hope that they would appear on one of the few channels available. Not so long ago when I wanted to watch some videos of The Chart Show online, I picked out a Top Ten from May 1992 (when I was eight years old), and one of the videos that was played was “I Don’t Care” by Shakespear’s Sister. I can’t really remember the last time that I saw this video, and my thoughts while watching went from “I can’t believe that this song is 25 years old now”, to “this video is really weird” to “that was actually rather great”. I hadn’t thought about the group for such a long time, but because their music still clearly stirred feelings in me I wanted to have a reappraisal of their work and I decided because I was curious to take a look at their discography and biography, and I was satisfied to have learned a little more about them, and I then started to think to myself “those women who were in the group, they were really great and had personality, I wonder where they are now?”. I must admit that I am now at the age where current pop stars don’t really interest me any more, the last wave of singers that I really got into was around the late-2000s when the likes of Paloma Faith, Jessie J and Florence Welch came on to the scene, and I have always enjoyed a quirky pop star. 

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Ooh, now I remember this one!

The story of Shakespear’s Sister is rather interesting, so here it is. Bananarama are a pop group that formed in 1979 consisting of Sara “the blonde one” Dallin, Keren “the brunette one” Woodward and Siobhan Fahey who had their first Top Ten hit single in 1982. They quickly became popular and appeared on the cover of various pop magazines including Smash Hits and Number One, and even the more rock-oriented NME and Melody Maker, and they were always good value in interviews. Although they never had a Number One single in the UK (excluding their contributions to charity records), they were consistently successful for a decade and even managed to crack America when their version of the Shocking Blue song “Venus” was a chart-topper in 1986 (this was even referenced in an episode of American Dad, now there’s a legacy). They worked on this song with Stock-Aitken-Waterman, the production team who were really in demand at that point, their work seemed to be all over the singles chart in the late-80s, they produced a huge amount of hits, and they collaborated with everyone from Sonia to Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Shortly after a performance at the 1988 Brit Awards Siobhan was reported to be unhappy with the increasing SAW-isation of their sound, and realising that she wouldn’t be able to achieve her plans for a different musical direction within the group, she decided to quit, and they didn’t appear on TV together again until an edition of TFI Friday in 1998. I’m fairly sure that my sister saw Bananarama live on stage at the 1988 Smash Hits Poll Winners Party at the Royal Albert Hall, by which point Sara and Keren were on their second line-up alongside newcomer Jacquie O’Sullivan. 

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Keren, Sara and Siobhan do their impression of the Thames ident

It was a gamble that would definitely pay off though. Siobhan’s new project was called Shakespear’s Sister, named after a song by The Smiths, and after a slow start, she teamed up with the American singer-songwriter Marcella Detroit who had previously worked with the likes of Eric Clapton and had a vocal ability that was little short of operatic, which contrasted with Siobhan’s low singing voice, creating a unique sound. In the summer of 1989 they had their first Top Ten hit single with the great “You’re History”, and Siobhan was soon back on Top Of The Pops and the cover of Smash Hits. Something that was also noticed about Siobhan was her new look, in the space of just a few years she had transformed from a short blonde-haired dungaree-wearing tomboy into a stunningly seductive black-haired goth goddess, looking totally unrecognisable from her girl group days in what has to be one of the most amazing image changes in pop music history. Then followed a quiet couple of years (although they did win the highly prestigious honour of The ITV Chart Show‘s Best Video Of The Year award in 1991 for “Goodbye Cruel World”), and at the start of 1992 they suddenly hit the big time. 

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Shakespear’s Sister make their debut on the UK Top 40 singles chart in 1989

Their epic song “Stay” went on to spend eight consecutive weeks at Number One, making it the longest-running chart-topping single by an all-female group in UK chart history, even the Spice Girls at the peak of their popularity in the mid-90s didn’t spend longer at the top with any of their hits. Part of the success of “Stay” is down to the famous (and much parodied) video, featuring Marcella’s memorably emotional performance alongside Siobhan’s rather crazed delivery of her lines, which created a huge buzz around the song and got the public talking. They became the band of the moment and I still honestly can’t believe that it’s the same woman who just five years earlier was making songs like “I Heard A Rumour” and “Love In The First Degree”. The fact that a song and video as out there as “Stay” was able to touch a mainstream audience on such a scale really was remarkable, it went platinum and was one of the UK’s biggest-selling singles of the year. (“Stay” also spent six weeks at Number One in Ireland and reached the Top Five in America and Canada). “Stay” won over a new generation after it was performed on The X Factor in 2010 and looking back 25 years on I’m still so pleased that they reached the top. They then had some more success including their third and final Top Ten hit single “I Don’t Care” (they even appeared on Parallel 9 and everything), and they rounded off their incredible year with one final rousing performance of “Stay” live on BBC1 at the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party which took place at the Olympia Arena, but it was clear that things were beginning to go wrong, and barely a year after “Stay” was released, their moment had passed. 

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Marcy gives it her all on live TV

Shortly after winning at the 1993 Brit Awards for which only Marcella turned up it was all over, and unfortunately the lyric from “Goodbye Cruel World” “you’re never gonna see my face again” became all too appropriate. There was a clear clash of personalities between the two and one rumour is that Siobhan and Marcella had a huge falling out, Marcella was receiving most of the plaudits for their success, and wanting to regain sole control over her own project, Siobhan threw Marcella out the group. Marcella was never informed directly about this, only discovering the news through a statement that was released, she never really forgave Siobhan for the way she was let go, they haven’t spoken to one another since, and they are never ever getting back together. After this, Marcella had success with a solo album in 1994, Siobhan returned in 1996 with Shakespear’s Sister now a solo project again, and more singles and albums have been released under the name since in various musical styles, whereas regarding Bananarama, Jacquie left in 1991, and Sara and Keren decided to carry on as a duo, having more hits and touring the world.

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Sara and Keren perform “Movin’ On” on CITV’s What’s Up Doc in 1992, their first hit single as a duo

The reason I am telling you all this is because there was then a rather odd coincidence. In April 2017 there was the surprise announcement that Siobhan had decided to rejoin Bananarama after 29 years and they were going to go on tour across the UK. After wondering what she was up to now, it was great suddenly seeing Siobhan and indeed all three of them back in the spotlight appearing on various TV shows and the news of the reunion seemed to make a lot of people very happy. I do like lots of Bananarama singles of course including “Cruel Summer”, but Shakespear’s Sister were more to my style really. I should also point out that I never thought to try and track any of them down on social media or fansites or anything like that because I hadn’t thought about them for such a long time. 

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They’re back!

Then it began to get rather weird. In one of the many articles that have appeared in newspapers and magazines looking back at their careers since the announcement, it was mentioned that the first step towards their reformation was when they met one another for the first time in goodness knows how many years in Bethnal Green. Now this is the part of London that I live in, and I was rather amused to think they are familiar with this area and have been here, and this was where they built their bridges, started to look at one another and began to think about doing it all over again. It made me feel a part of it a little more to think that one of the most successful pop groups that there has ever been who paved the way for the likes of the Sugababes and Girls Aloud know all about here. Then, doing a little more research, I managed to find a picture that had been posted on Twitter featuring the ladies looking somewhat emotional and clearly having a good time reminiscing about the old days, and Sara stated that they were all having a dance and a barbecue round Siobhan’s house in Bethnal Green. I thought to myself “wow, so one of them had been living here, that’s really great, I never would’ve expected that, I…” waitasec. 

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At the what and where was I?!

Siobhan lived in Bethnal Green? The woman who was in Bananarama and Shakespear’s Sister actually lived in Bethnal Green?? I thought she was great and wondered where she was now and it turned out that she was almost literally living across the road from me all along??? It just had to be her out of the three didn’t it! She had a number one single in America for goodness sake!! To say that I couldn’t believe it is something of an understatement, I was totally shocked and blown away by this news. I first went online about two decades ago now, and I honestly think that this is just about the most extraordinary thing that I have ever discovered in all that time. I still can’t believe it, she lived in the same part of London as me, the woman who sang on “Stay”, she was there… yes, really… just… how? What an incredible coincidence, this pop music eh, who would’ve thought? It does make an impact on your life and it really can sometimes do great things. 

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What more can I say?

More TV Memories – The Chart Show.

The Chart Show (Channel 4, 1986-1989, ITV, 1989-1998)

The Chart Show was a pioneering music show with a difference. Unlike Top Of The Pops, it only featured music videos when there weren’t many other places they could be seen when the show started in 1986 and there was no host at all, everything was linked by computer graphics that looked very impressive for the time. The show started on Friday evenings on Channel 4 in 1986, and at the start of 1989 it moved to ITV in a Saturday daytime slot. vlcsnap-01045

There would be a lot of videos shown exclusively on the show, and a lot of bands revived early exposure which helped their careers to take off. Obviously there were also a lot of charts on the show, settling down into alternating between the rock, indie and dance genres. Memorably, the videos that would be played were selected as if it was a video recorder, with a lot of fast forwarding and rewinding to get to the right place. Some of the acts featured in these charts were really obscure, goodness knows how they were calculated, but I’m sure that they all enjoyed having their five seconds of fame on TV, if they had made a video at all that is. vlcsnap-00615

There were also a few other features over the years including the Vintage Video where a classic video from the archive was shown. Another memorable part of the show was when some fact boxes appeared on the screen to reveal some information and news about the band and video being shown and these were generated on an Amiga computer. The Chart Show was also one of the earliest shows to have a sponsor and they would always be going on about how they were “twinned with Twix”. vlcsnap-00616

At the end there would be an oh-so exciting look at the ten biggest-selling singles of the week in “the fastest chart on television”. However, unlike Top Of The Pops, the chart that was used was unofficial so the numbers were all over the place and a lot of singles that were credited as chart-toppers often were never really number ones at all. vlcsnap-00618

In 1996 there were some major changes to the format. Brief interviews with acts who were in the chart were featured and there were also phone-in competitions. And there would always be a special edition at the end of the year revealing the best (and worst) videos. The Chart Show was made by a production company called Video Visuals and the only other show I can ever remember seeing by them was Channel 4’s Star Testvlcsnap-00617

I always enjoyed watching The Chart Show and It was a shame to see it go in 1998 but why did it end? It seems that there were a few reasons. First of all, ratings were starting to fall. Also, the format was beginning to become a little tired although it had been on TV almost every single week for 12 years. It seems that with the increase of accessibility to music channels there were now lots of other places that videos could be seen. Finally, there was a lack of live studio performances, something which was a major part of the show’s replacement CDUKchart0001