More TV Memories – Top Of The Pops (part 2).

Let’s carry on the story shall we…

1991-1995. Of course, everyone has their own view on the day that Top Of The Pops went rubbish, but it seems that most people would choose the one in October 1991 when there was possibly the biggest relaunch yet, as the show was finally brought into the 90s with a Year Zero approach. New theme music (“Now Get Out Of That”), new studio, new presenters, new songs, new everything. totp1

There was a wave of presenters new to TV who weren’t also on BBC Radio 1, but not many of them hosted more than a few editions, with only Tony Dortie and Mark Franklin enduring. The flashing neon lights were now gone, with most performances now in front of a drab curtain, it suddenly felt like the show was coming from a cheesy nightclub, way-hey! The Top Ten countdown was reintroduced though. totp2

There was also a rule introduced that acts had to sing live (although the policy on this seemed to change every six months). As this was the time when there was rather a lot of rave music on the scene, a lot of these songs were rather hard to replicate in the studio, as they featured a lot of samples and were usually put together by anonymous dance producers. So it seemed that every act independently of one another thought that it would be really funny to just have some bloke who made the tea at the record label on stage shouting the lyrics as viewers really wouldn’t have known one from the other. totp10

By 1994 it was decided that it was time to bring back the Radio 1 presenters, but most of them who hosted up to 1991 had been “Bannistered” by this point, so the likes of Simon Bates and Gary Davies had long gone, but Nicky Campbell, Mark Goodier and Simon Mayo returned, and there were also a few guest hosts. In 1994 a companion show launched on BBC2 called TOTP2, which featured the biggest hits of the week along with some classic performances from the archive, and an out-of-vision presenter, which would run for many years. totp11

1995-1998. It was time for another new look and theme (“Red Hot Pop”) as Top Of The Pops entered the Britpop era. In the summer of 1996, the show was moved from Thursdays to Fridays for coverage of the Atlanta Olympics, and it was never moved back, this was one of the many reasons that caused the alarming slump in the ratings. Also, a few editions were shown on BBC2. totp6

In 1995, a monthly magazine was launched (which is still going!) featuring all the usual interviews and features with the hottest bands around plus loads of free gifts. A few long-serving presenters including Simon Mayo were finally dropped from the lineup by this point and some younger Radio 1 faces were brought in to host the show. There was also an increasing amount of unlikely guest hosts who had their turn with the golden microphone. totp9

1998-2003. Another year, another relaunch, including a new dance version of the “Whole Lotta Love” theme that was originally used in the 70s, and a title sequence that was modified after a few years (by which point The Chart Show had ended). Presenters now included Jamie Theakston and Jayne Middlemiss from The O Zone, Margherita Taylor and Sarah Cawood from ITV’s Videotech, plus Zoe Ball, Jo Whiley, and others. totp7

Now this is rather interesting. Most people say that their favourite era of pop music is when they are in their teens, so even though I had watched the show for about 15 years by this point, this was the time when I was most interested in what was happening in the chart, including the rise of UK Garage, and when there were 43 Number One singles in 2000 and it was hard to keep up with the turnover. totp4

I remember being particularly excited when the Sugababes appeared to perform one of their Number One singles as they were among my favourites at the time, and hopefully it was still considered an honour to appear on the show. To expand the show’s reach even more, during this era there were some compilation CDs released, along with the ongoing magazine and TOTP2. And even more spin-off shows were launched including Top Of The Pops Saturdaytotp3

Another thing that is noticeable about this era is that there were very few music videos shown during this time, the emphasis was back on live performances, and the Top 20 was announced at the end, but now usually by a Radio 1 presenter out of vision. The show kept on going though and in 2002 the 2,000th edition was celebrated… oh, and leave the useless Liquid News-style features to Liquid News itself! totp8

2003-2006. Maybe it was time for another relaunch. Andi Peters, who had produced various music shows in the 90s including The O Zone and The Noise was now in charge, and he pretty much killed off the show altogether. Again, just like in 1991, there were wholesale changes to the format, including reintroducing “Now Get Out Of That” as the theme, causing flashbacks to that era. totp12

Also, “All-New” as added to the title (always a clear sign that a show is on its last legs), another wave of little-known presenters including Tim Kash came and went, and the show was extended to an hour, being padded out with things like a phone-in competition (although famously the first time they did this all three possible answers to the question were incorrect).

And there seemed to be something of an emphasis on pre-chart exclusives, with most editions not even covering what was in the Top 40, more like what would be in it in about three weeks’ time. And only the Top Ten was announced at the end by some disembodied voice, making it seem like if your song wasn’t in the Top Ten, then it didn’t matter. This wasn’t attracting new viewers though, most people who watched by this time simply did because they had every week since they were children and were now out of the target audience, and I suppose I could include myself in that group by this point. Could the show survive in the era of dedicated music channels?

One major change in 2005 was when the show was moved to Sundays, so the new Number One single could now be announced straight away, rather than almost a week after the latest chart was revealed. One of the regular hosts by now was Fearne Cotton, who was usually joined by someone rather unlikely, such as Jeremy Clarkson, Phill Jupitus and Jeremy Bowen (it honestly couldn’t have been any worse by this point if they had got Jim Bowen in).

By 2006 though the format had become so tired though after being on TV every week for almost 42 years, the decision was made to bring the show to an end, concluding with one last look back at some classic moments, although I felt that it went out with something of a whimper. It’s still number one? Not any more it isn’t. However, TOTP2 and the Christmas specials do continue to this day.

More TV Memories – Top Of The Pops (part 1).

Top Of The Pops (BBC1/BBC2, 1964-2006)

Originally I wasn’t going to do a blog piece reviewing Top Of The Pops because its story is well known, but as I am a long-time fan of the show, I planned to have a look back at various episodes instead, but I only got as far as reviewing one from 1989. After a few requests, I thought that I might as well do a full review, it will be in two parts, and I’ll share a few facts along with some of my own memories along the way. Although Top Of The Pops launched in January 1964, I’ll begin the story in the early-80s…

1981-1986. This era is actually before my time, but I have now seen plenty of editions thanks to repeat runs. One thing that constantly seems to be said by music magazines including Classic Pop is that the peak era for British pop music was the early-80s, roughly 1981-1984, when we were spoilt with great songs from distinctive bands, and as a consequence many people feel that this was the best era of the show. totp2

And I must admit that I can see why people feel that way. There was a party atmosphere introduced to the studio, with balloons everywhere and so on, and people really did seem to behaving a good time in the company of these pop stars. “Yellow Pearl” was the new theme, but the symbol that had been around since 1973 remained, it’s probably the best of the lot, and the flashing pink and blue neon Top Of The Pops sign is one of my favourite things about the show. totp10

In 1983 the 1,000th edition was celebrated. It was also around this time that the dance troupes such as Legs And Co. and Zoo were phased out as music videos became more commonplace. People always seem to suggest that the 1984 Christmas special was the best edition of them all, and I very much doubt that music went bad overnight when the calendar turned over to 1985, but the show had to adapt to the constantly changing music scene, and such was the rapid evolution you definitely couldn’t confuse a song from the early-80s with a song from the late-80s! totp8

Top Of The Pops at this time was usually shown on Thursday evenings. As for the presenters, Pat Sharp was briefly on the lineup in some of his earliest TV appearances, and from the comments that I have seen online, the best-received presenting double act from this era was that of David Jensen and John Peel who entertainingly moved the show along with their witty comments. totp7

1986-1988. In April 1986 there was a new look introduced, coincidentally the same month that The Chart Show launched on Channel 4. It included the first computer-generated opening sequence with exploding saxophones, cassettes flying everywhere, and Top Of The Pops in barely decipherable letters. There was another new theme, “The Wizard”, which is my favourite out of all of them. totp3

This is also the first era of the show that I can remember. This is because my sister is nine years older than me, and by this time she was in her early-teens and really into all the big pop groups of the time, so even though I was very young I was familiar with such names as A-Ha, Bros, Curiosity Killed The Cat and so on. What great times. I used to swing my pants to these! totp6

It might not have felt so much of a party any more, but there were still plenty of flashing neon lights, pop stars, and music videos. I also remember around this time the hour-long Christmas specials that would usually be shown at 2pm. Presenters in this era included Simon Mayo and the young, free and single Gary Davies. In 1987 an American version was launched (that I reviewed a while back), but it ended in 1988. totp4

1989-1991. In January 1989 there was another new look in time for the 25th anniversary (again coincidentally in the same month that The Chart Show relaunched when it moved from Channel 4 to ITV). “The Wizard” was retained as the theme, and Top Of The Pops was spelled out in even more unintelligible lettering, as if such a thing was possible. A few children’s TV presenters were added to the lineup including Andy Crane and Anthea Turner. totp1

Changes began to be made in this era. By 1991 the Top 40 countdown was reduced to only featuring new entries and songs that went up, before being dropped altogether. I did like the silly graphics that floated around the screen though. The neon lights were still around, but everything started to feel like it was in a timewarp, as if the show was stuck in the 80s. More change was to come. totp9

TO BE CONTINUED…

The YouTube Files – The Crazy World Of Haysi Fantayzee.

I have enjoyed looking back at the careers of some quirky 80s pop stars on this blog, and this is another enjoyable group that I think fit into that category and have a story worth telling. They are slightly different from what I usually review because they are actually a male/female duo, but they are still definitely worth featuring here.

Haysi Fantayzee were a group that consisted of Jeremy Healy (born in London in January 1962) and Kate Garner (born in Wigan in July 1954). They had a very distinctive look which included oversized headgear, dreadlocks, and excessive make-up (and that was just Jeremy etc etc), and they were described as looking like a cross between a New Romantic and a Dickensian urchin. hf1

They also made some great songs with rather bizarre lyrics, and although they were only in the spotlight from 1982-1983 and had a brief but eventful run of success, it happened to be right in the middle of what has now been determined to be the golden era of British pop music which runs roughly from 1981-1984, so how could they possibly fail! With their look and songs they were pushing the boundaries over 35 years ago before most of today’s pop stars were born. This is a look back at some of their TV appearances that are on YouTube, along with a few magazine covers. hf5

In July 1982 their first single “John Wayne Is Big Leggy” was released which reached no. 11. It’s their biggest hit in the UK and it remains their most famous. It was accompanied by an outrageous dance routine on their Top Of The Pops appearances that left BBC1 viewers rather shocked! Also in this month they had the first of their three Record Mirror covers (I’m fairly sure this was the only UK music magazine that they appeared on the cover of). vlcsnap-00049

In November 1982 “Holy Joe” was released which reached no. 51. I’ve only been able to find the video for this online. Also in this month they appeared on the cover of Record Mirror for a second time and were also interviewed in Smash Hitsvlcsnap-00056

In January 1983 “Shiny Shiny” was released which reached no. 16. This led to their final Top Of The Pops appearances. I would have to say that this is my favourite of their singles, so I pleased to find more performances of this one online than any of their other hits, including various TV shows across Europe, one memorable performance is where Kate is wearing a corset so small it’s a surprise she can breathe never mind sing. There was also a great video. vlcsnap-00029

They also performed “Shiny Shiny” on TV in Australia which was accompanied by some great visual effects, and they were interviewed too. In February 1983 their first and only album “Battle Hymns For Children Singing” was released which reached no. 53. vlcsnap-00026

In June 1983 “Sister Friction” was released which reached no. 62. This turned out to be their fourth and final hit single. Again I can only find the video for this one online. vlcsnap-00047

Also in June 1983 they had their third and final Record Mirror cover (where’s Jeremy gone?), and they also featured in some of the earliest issues of the newly-launched weekly music magazine Number Onehf2

But the story doesn’t end there… In 1983 Kate appeared in the video for “Who’s That Girl” by the Eurythmics which also features Bananarama and Hazel O’Connor! And after their final single, Kate had a brief solo career, and in November 1983 released “Love Me Like A Rocket” which wasn’t a hit. Although it seems that there was a video made for this I can’t find it online. Also in this month Kate spoke about her career as a fashion photographer for various magazines on BBC2’s Riverside, and she has had much success in this area. hf3

Jeremy would later become a “superstar DJ” as they now have to be known thanks to that Chemical Brothers song, and he has had at least one more hit single as a producer under an alias, and he was also the fourth (or thereabouts) husband of Patsy Kensit. In 2007 the “Battle Hymns For Children Singing” album was re-released on CD with extra tracks, and this year it was re-released again on vinyl with even more extras, and it’s still a remarkable listen.

The YouTube Files – The Hazel O’Connor Story.

A while ago I did a series on here where I told the stories of some of my favourite quirky 80s pop stars. There was some good feedback, including one comment asking if I would look back at the career of Hazel O’Connor. I must admit that I wasn’t really familiar with her work, so I decided I would have a look online to find out more about her, and I was won over. Hazel was born in Coventry in 1955 and she has had success as both an actress and singer. This will be a look back at Hazel’s hit singles and some of her TV appearances throughout the 80s on YouTube, including how she (sort of) had a Number One single. After entering the music business in the mid-70s, Hazel had her breakthrough in 1980… hazel2

In March 1980 the album “Sons And Lovers” was released which wasn’t a hit. In August 1980 “Eighth Day” was released which reached no. 5, and was Hazel’s first Top Ten hit single. It featured in the film Breaking Glass where she starred as a singer called Kate which made her name and earned her a Bafta nomination. Also among the cast were Phil Daniels, Mark Wingett (who would later go on to further success in The Bill), and Mark “Zaphod Beeblebrox” Wing-Davey). It seems that Hazel also unintentionally invented Tron during the film. vlcsnap-00019

Hazel also appeared on BBC1’s Film ’80, and performed “Eighth Day” in the first of her four appearances on BBC1’s Top Of The Pops, and she also made the first of her three Record Mirror cover appearances. Well done Hazel that looks like! Also in August 1980 the Breaking Glass soundtrack album was released which reached no. 5. It has also been released on DVD and it really is a fascinating watch. vlcsnap-00023

In October 1980 “Give Me An Inch” was released which reached no. 41, another single from the Breaking Glass soundtrack. Also around this time Hazel appeared on BBC2’s The Old Grey Whistle Test. In March 1981 “D-Days” was released which reached no. 10. This led to a rather energetic performance on Top Of The Pops. In April 1981 Hazel appeared on the cover of Record Mirror again and Smash Hits for the first and only time. vlcsnap-00015

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Hazel appears on the cover of Smash Hits in April 1981

In May 1981 “Will You” was released which reached no. 8, and it was Hazel’s third and final UK Top Ten hit single. It would also turn out to be her final Top 40 single too, leading to her final Top Of The Pops appearance, along with BBC2’s Six Fifty-Five Special. Although it wasn’t Hazel’s biggest hit, it seems to be the one that has endured the most, and it is the most likely to be played on the radio nowadays, mostly because of its famous saxophone solo. June 1981 saw her third and final Record Mirror cover. vlcsnap-00020

In August 1981 “(Cover Plus) We’re All Grown Up” was released which reached no. 41. I’ve found a couple of performances of this song online that I thought were rather enjoyable. And as ever, it’s tough to choose a favourite single, but this one is definitely among them. Also in this month Hazel also appeared on BBC1’s Get Set For Summer and made the first of three appearances as a panellist on BBC1’s Pop Quiz. In September 1981 the album “Cover Plus” was released which reached no. 32, and it was Hazel’s final UK hit album. vlcsnap-00007

In October 1981 “Hanging Around” was released which reached no. 45. This was a cover of a song by The Stranglers. In January 1982 “Calls The Tune” was released which reached no. 60, and this turned out to be Hazel’s final UK hit single. Also around this time Hazel appeared on the CITV shows No. 73 and Razzmatazz. Although Hazel would have no more hits, she would continue to have some success in the 80s with her acting career and contributions to charity records. vlcsnap-00010

In 1982 Hazel starred in ITV’s Jangles (which I reviewed on here recently) where she played a schoolgirl called Joanne (even though she was about 26 at the time) who dreamed of being a pop star. Sue “Audrey off Coronation Street” Nicholls played her mum. I thought it was great and the character of Herald is my new favourite thing. During the series she performed some of her own songs including “(Cover Plus) We’re All Grown Up”, along with covers of “School’s Out” and “Anything Goes”. vlcsnap-00028

In 1983 Hazel appeared in the video for “Who’s That Girl” by the Eurythmics and was on Pop Quiz again. In February 1984 “Don’t Touch Me” was released which reached a disappointing no. 81. George Michael appears in the video for this one. The album “Smile” also failed to chart. Also around this time Hazel was interviewed on Channel 4’s The Tube. In June 1984 Hazel made her third and final Pop Quiz appearance. In September 1984 Hazel contributed to the Channel 4 series Ladybirds and was interviewed in TV Timesvlcsnap-00026

In August 1986 Hazel starred in a BBC1 drama series called Fighting Back where she played a struggling mother called Viv which earned her a Radio Times cover. And yes, she also performed the theme music which was released as a single. Also in 1986, Hazel appeared in BBC2’s Alas Smith And Jones, Channel 4’s Prospects, and the film Car Trouble which starred Julie Walters. vlcsnap-00002

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Hazel appears in Radio Times in August 1986

In April 1987 Hazel was one of the many contributors to “Let It Be”, a cover of the Beatles song for the charity Ferry Aid, which reached no. 1. Also in this month Breaking Glass was shown on Channel 4 and Hazel was interviewed in TV Times again. In November 1987 Hazel contributed to “Wishing Well”, another charity single this time as a part of the group GOSH which reached no. 22. In more recent years, Hazel has released many more albums and continues to tour the country and perform all her famous hits. hazel0002

UPDATE! Shortly after completing this piece, the woman herself retweeted the link to it, and she also replied to me, saying that she thought it was “lovely”. I was so thrilled, I never expected a response from any of the pop stars that I have written about on here so a big thank you to Hazel for doing that.

The YouTube Files – The Bananarama Story Part 3.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The YouTube Files – The Bananarama Story Part 2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Where’s my free badge?

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

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

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

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

The YouTube Files – The Bananarama Story Part 1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The YouTube Files – The Delicious World Of Shampoo.

Here’s yet another 90s pop group that I remember. Shampoo were a female pop duo who consisted of Jacqueline Blake (born in November 1974 in Woolwich) and Caroline Askew (born in May 1977 in Plumstead) who met at school in London and described themselves as “inseparable”. There was a lot of debate about them at the time. Were they two moody teenagers with attitude, or just a pair of airhead blondes? Well one thing’s for sure, they weren’t one-hit wonders and they had girl power for real. They didn’t have any Top Ten hits in the UK but they definitely made an impact on pop music around the world in the mid-90s, although their fame came and went rather quickly. This piece will take a look back at their music videos and TV appearances from 1993-1996 on YouTube. shampoo

After getting their big break by appearing in the video for “Little Baby Nothing” by Manic Street Preachers, Jacqui and Carrie released two singles in 1993 that weren’t hits. The first was “Blisters And Bruises”, and the second was “Bouffant Headbutt” for which a video was made. This was the song that brought them to the attention of the music magazines, winning various “single of the week” awards and tipping them to be huge, and they were often compared to Fuzzbox. vlcsnap-00327.jpg

In July 1994 they made the breakthrough when “Trouble” was released to become their first hit single, reaching no. 11, their highest chart position and also their most memorable song. One of the things that I like about this song is that there is a rhyme that is so obvious they don’t even say it: “we’d get the night bus but the night bus never came/we’re eight miles from home and it started to… (thunderclap sound effect)“. They also performed this song in the first and second of their four Top Of The Pops appearances, one of them being on that bizarre edition that experimented with a filmised look that was hosted by Malcolm McLaren. vlcsnap-00373

In October 1994 the next single “Viva La Megababes” was released which reached no. 27. Around this time they appeared on CBBC’s Live & Kicking to tell John Barrowman how much they loved Barbie dolls (they were also big fans of East 17 and Take That), they were interviewed on BBC2’s The O Zone and ITV’s late-night music show The Beat at their old school in Plumstead, and they also appeared on the cover of Melody Makershampoo1

They also performed “Viva La Megababes” on CITV’s What’s Up Doc? as the hosts including Andy Crane and Pat Sharp threw some shapes and boogied on down in the background. In November 1994 their first album “We Are Shampoo” was released, but this only reached no. 45. There was a big buzz about them around this time though, and suddenly they were appearing in all the trendy magazines including The Face, NMESmash Hits, and Select, and in December 1994 they performed at the Smash Hits Poll Winners’ Party shown live on BBC1 from the Docklands Arena in London. vlcsnap-00364

In February 1995 the next single “Delicious” was released which reached no. 21. They performed this on Channel 4’s late-night show The Word and they were interviewed on The O Zone again, this time at home. I remember reading an interview with Jamie Theakston where he said that Shampoo were among his least favourite interviewees from his time hosting The O Zone, describing them as “the monosyllabic queens”, and concluding “they’re not the sharpest tools in the box, let’s face it”. vlcsnap-00334

In August 1995 their biggest hit “Trouble” was re-issued, this time it reached no. 36. This was an attempt to break them in America by including the song on the soundtrack to the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers film and making a new video, but it wasn’t that successful. However, it seems that for a brief period they were hugely popular in Japan to the point that they were little short of megastars in that part of the world, and they sold a lot of albums there. Indeed such was their success in Asia there was a rumour around this time that they were among the richest women in Britain. vlcsnap-00369

Also in 1995 they appeared on CBBC’s Fully Booked, and I can only imagine what Morag The Cow made of them. Meanwhile, they released two more singles in Japan only, 1995’s “Warpaint” (for which a video was made), and 1996’s “Yeh Yeh Yeh (Tell Me Baby)”. vlcsnap-00381

In July 1996 their next single “Girl Power” was released which made no. 25. Now this is an interesting coincidence because they would often talk about “girl power” and how they were trying to send out a positive message to women, and a week after this song entered the chart another female pop group came on to the scene who had “girl power” as their motto who had massive success. They also performed this song on their third and fourth Top Of The Pops appearances. However, the second album also called “Girl Power” that was released in the same month didn’t chart. vlcsnap-00344

In September 1996 their next single which was a cover of The Waitresses song “I Know What Boys Like” was released which reached no. 42, missing the Top 40. And this turned out to be their final hit single. After this setback, they were practically never heard of again, although it seems that they did make a third album called “Absolute Shampoo” and they didn’t actually split until 2000. vlcsnap-00350

It is rather weird to think that Jacqui and Carrie are now both in their 40s and their first single was released almost 25 years ago, and I honestly have no idea what they are up to now or if they are still in contact with one another. If they now have children I wonder if they have ever told them about the time they became millionaires before they turned 20 years old. It must have been rather odd for them to have found fame at such a young age, but I hope that they enjoyed the experience of being an international pop star in their teens.

The YouTube Files – The Alisha’s Attic Story.

It’s time to remember another pop group who were great in the 90s. Alisha’s Attic were a duo who consisted of the sisters Karen (born in January 1971 in Chadwell Heath) and Shellie Poole (born in March 1972 in Barking), and they were the daughters of Brian Poole who with the Tremeloes had a UK Number One single in 1963 with “Do You Love Me”. They didn’t have any Top Ten hits (most of their singles seemed to peak at no. 12), but they wrote their songs and did have nine hit singles between 1996-2001, and this piece will take a look back at their various music videos and TV appearances on YouTube. As much as I like 90s pop music, it’s a shame that they didn’t make any songs in the 80s… attic

…but wait a moment. Because when I started to put this piece together I was very surprised to discover that Alisha’s Attic actually did bring out a single in the 1980s. In November 1988 they released the single “Sugar Daddy” (credited as “Keren & Chelle”), and they could only have been about 16 or 17 years old at the time. It couldn’t be more removed from the look and sound that they would become known for years later, with the song sounding like a sub-Stock Aitken Waterman energetic dance-pop record that Sinitta rejected. There was even a really cringeworthy video made for it, and it seems that it reached a mighty no. 167. I imagine that they are probably hugely embarrassed by it and have long since completely disowned it, but to think that this happened at all is just so bizarre I can’t really believe it. vlcsnap-00321

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Peter “Hithouse” Slaghuis of “Jack To The Sound Of The Underground” fame reviews “Sugar Daddy” in Number One magazine in November 1988

Fast forward to the 90s… they were still struggling to break into the music business when they sent a demo tape of some songs to Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics, and he was so impressed by them he produced their first album. In August 1996 they finally had their first hit single with “I Am I Feel” which reached no. 14. This led to the first of their six appearances on Top Of The Pops, and I do remember the video catching my eye on ITV’s The Chart Show. They also performed this on Channel 4’s late-night music show The White Roomvlcsnap-00279

As ever it’s a tough decision, but I would have to say that this is my favourite single by them, and it really is a “girl power” anthem. “I Am I Feel” was also used as the theme to the ITV 1997-1999 sitcom My Wonderful Life, which gives me another opportunity to ask why isn’t this show out on DVD yet? It still hasn’t been released! Please bring it out! It was great! vlcsnap-00313

They were finally famous, and after Strawberry Switchblade and Shakespear’s Sister, it was great seeing another feisty female duo on the pop music scene. In November 1996 their next single “Alisha Rules The World” was released which reached no. 12, and they performed this on Top Of The Pops and also on TV in Australia. Also in November 1996, their first album, also called “Alisha Rules The World” (who is “Alisha”? It’s the name of Shellie’s imaginary childhood friend) was released, which reached no. 14. vlcsnap-00280

In March 1997 the next single “Indestructible” was released which again reached no. 12. This one really does have a terrific video. Also around this time they appeared on CBBC’s Live & Kicking and took part in a comedy sketch with Trevor And Simon, and as you should know by now I am always pleased to see pop stars who are up for being mildly embarrassed on live children’s TV shows. Also in 1997 they appeared on BBC2’s The O Zone and were nominated for a Brit Award in the Best British Newcomer category but they didn’t win. vlcsnap-00300

In July 1997 the final single off the first album “Air We Breathe” was released which was their third consecutive hit to reach no. 12. They performed this on Top Of The Pops and ITV’s Turner Round The World which also included a brief interview. In October 1997 Shellie appeared as a panellist on BBC2’s comedy music panel game Never Mind The Buzzcocksvlcsnap-00277

In September 1998 the first single from the second album “The Incidentals” was released which reached no. 13. They appeared on Top Of The Pops and Live & Kicking again, and also ITV’s CD:UK (some of their videos are a pain to find online, and rather oddly their CD:UK performance of this song is now credited as the official video on YouTube). In October 1998 the second album “Illumina” was released which reached no. 15, but it only spent a few weeks on the chart. vlcsnap-00296

In January 1999 the next single “I Wish I Were You” was released which reached no. 29. This led to another Top Of The Pops appearance and again although a video was made their CD:UK performance is credited as the official video on YouTube. In February 1999 Karen followed her sister by appearing on Never Mind The Buzzcocks. Also around this time they appeared on BBC2’s Electric Circus and CBBC’s L & K Friday which was like Live & Kicking… but on a Friday. vlcsnap-00310

In April 1999 the third and final single from the second album “Barbarella” was released which reached no. 34. They didn’t release any singles in 2000. vlcsnap-00293

They returned in March 2001 with the first single from the third album “Push It All Aside” which reached no. 24. They even hired none other than the award-winning Sophie Muller to direct the videos for the singles from this album and unsurprisingly they were terrific. They also performed this in what was their sixth and final appearance on Top Of The Popsvlcsnap-00278

In July 2001 the next single “Pretender Got My Heart” was released, but this only reached no. 43, becoming their first single not to make the Top 40, and five years on from “I Am I Feel”, this turned out to be their final hit. In August 2001 the third album “The House We Built” was released which received positive reviews but reached a rather disappointing no. 55. In 2003 a best-of called “The Collection” was released featuring all the hit singles plus a few extras, and it was also around this time that Alisha’s Attic split. vlcsnap-00302

Shellie did have one more hit single by herself in August 2006 as the guest vocalist on Michael Gray’s “Borderline”, and this also reached no. 12! After going their separate ways, Karen and Shelly have had more success behind the scenes and now work in the music business as songwriters, and have also performed with various groups, although I’m not aware of them working together in the past decade. Karen has done particularly well with her songwriting work, contributing to some great Top Ten hit singles including “Song 4 Mutya” for Groove Armada, plus “Red Blooded Woman” and “Chocolate” for Kylie Minogue.

The YouTube Files – Grrr! It’s Betty Boo!

Here’s a look at one of my favourite pop stars who briefly found fame in the early-90s. Betty Boo (not to be confused with the cartoon character Betty Boop) was born Alison Clarkson in London in March 1970, and she was more than your average pop star. As well as being a singer and rapper, she was also a songwriter and producer, and made a large contribution to her songs, and I think the story of her career is worth sharing on here. This piece will be a look back at her music videos and TV appearances from 1989-1993 on YouTube, she only had seven hit singles during this period but they were great. betty2

Betty began her music career in a group called the She Rockers, and in August 1989, she had her first hit single “Hey DJ – I Can’t Dance (To That Music You’re Playing)” which reached no. 7 and was a collaboration with dance act the Beatmasters, which led to the first of her seven appearances on Top Of The Pops. I recently discovered that Betty also performed a remixed version of this song on her own and another video was made for this which is really great. vlcsnap-00297

1990 would turn out to be Betty’s most successful year. In May 1990 her first solo single “Doin’ The Do” was released which reached no. 7, this was also her only hit single in America, and again she appeared on Top Of The Pops. And there’s nothing I can do. Betty was just about the very first pop star I remember becoming a fan of, and I always think of her as my favourite singer of 1990, just like I think that Cathy Dennis was the star of 1991. In June 1990 Betty appeared on the cover of Smash Hits for the first time, she was thrilled. vlcsnap-00330

In August 1990 the next single “Where Are You Baby” was released with reached no. 3 to become Betty’s biggest hit. However, it also turned out to be her third and final Top Ten hit single. As ever it’s a tough choice but I have to say that this is my favourite single of hers and the video is great too. Also in this month, Betty appeared on the cover of Smash Hits for a second time and she performed this song twice on Top Of The Pops. In September 1990 Betty’s first album “Boomania” was released which reached no. 4. vlcsnap-00344

Also in 1990, although not a single as such, Betty performed “The Number One No Smoking Rap” on a 7″ flexidisc that was given away as a free gift with magazine Number One that warned youngsters about the perils of smoking to the tune of “Where Are You Baby”. So if you’ve ever wanted to hear Betty sing about lung cancer it was good news for you. Also around this time Betty appeared on CBBC’s The 8:15 From Manchester, and again it was good to discover that she made a lot of children’s TV show appearances over the years. And in November 1990, Betty appeared on the cover of NMEbetty1

In December 1990 the final single from the first album “24 Hours” was released which made no. 25. She performed this song at the Smash Hits Poll Winners’ Party live on BBC1, and also on CBBC’s Going Live and Top Of The Pops. Also around this time a VHS called The Boomin’ Vids was released featuring all the videos for the first album singles, plus an exclusive interview, and Betty ended the year with an appearance on the cover of Record Mirror‘s Christmas issue alongside Vic Reeves. vlcsnap-00326

In January 1991 Betty took to the chair on Channel 4’s Star Test, which by this point had been moved from a prime-time slot to Sunday mornings. For this series, there was a phone-poll element so viewers could phone in to say if they thought the interviewee was telling the truth with their answers or not. Thankfully in Betty’s case the majority voted “yes”, so we were treated to her video for “24 Hours”. vlcsnap-00116

In February 1991 Betty won the Brit Award for Best British Newcomer at the ceremony that was shown on BBC1. I hope the award takes pride of place in her cupboard to this day. vlcsnap-00114

In August 1992 the first single from the second album “Let Me Take You There” was released which reached no. 12, and we were treated to another couple of memorable performances on Top Of The Pops. She also appeared on CBBC’s The O Zone, Parallel 9 and Going Live to promote this song. Also in this month, Betty made her third and final Smash Hits cover appearance, and it was looking at this point like a lot of people were anticipating her forthcoming second album, and Betty was very flattered to discover that Madonna was a fan of her work. vlcsnap-00325

In October 1992 the next single “I’m On My Way” was released, but it only made no. 44, missing the Top 40. Also in this month the second album “Grrr! It’s Betty Boo!” was released, but this reached a very disappointing no. 62 and spent only one week on the chart. In 2016 her two albums were re-released as special editions featuring an extra CD containing remixes and previously unreleased tracks which are a great listen. vlcsnap-00284

In April 1993 Betty’s final single from the second album “Hangover” was released which made no. 50. Even though Betty performed this song on various CITV shows including What’s Up Doc and The Disney Club along with BBC1’s Pebble Mill, again she failed to make the Top 40. And by this point, Betty had become somewhat disillusioned with the music scene, and unfortunately this was the last that we heard of her for a while. vlcsnap-00277

This wasn’t the end though. Betty did appear on TV a few more times in the 90s, including Channel 4’s The Music Game in 1993, BBC1’s Pop Quiz in 1994, and Channel 4’s TFI Friday in 1996. She then went on to become a songwriter for other acts, and appeared on Channel 4’s Top Ten in 2000 looking back at her success a decade earlier. Betty suddenly hit the headlines again in 2001 when “Pure And Simple”, a song that she had co-written a few years earlier was recycled as the debut single for pop group Hear’Say who were put together on ITV1’s Popstars series which went on to become one of the biggest Number Ones of its era, and also won an Ivor Novello award, although Betty did say that she wasn’t a fan of manufactured pop groups. vlcsnap-00306

Also, a contestant performed “Where Are You Baby” as Betty on ITV1’s Stars In Their Eyes in March 2002, well over a decade after it was a hit. After this, Betty did have a couple of minor hit singles in the late-2000s, including a project called WigWam which was a collaboration with Alex James from Blur. Betty still performs her hits on stage at various festivals around the world and it’s fantastic to know that nearly three decades on she’s still doin’ the do.