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Bananarama

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Formed in London, England in 1980, this all-female pop trio originally comprised Keren Woodward (April 2, 1961, Bristol, Avon, England), Sarah Dallin (b. December 17, 1961, Bristol, Avon, England) and Siobhan Fahey (b. Siobhan Marie Fahey, September 10, 1958, Dublin, Eire). After singing impromptu at various parties and pubs in London, the trio was recorded by former Sex Pistols’ drummer Paul Cook on the Swahili Black Blood cover version, “Ai A Mwana”. The single caught the attention of Fun Boy Three vocalist Terry Hall, who invited the girls to back his trio on their revival of “It Ain’t What You Do, It’s The Way That You Do It”. In return, the Fun Boy Three backed Bananarama on their Velvelettes’ cover version, “Really Saying Something”, which reached the UK Top Five in 1982. From the outset, Bananarama had a strong visual image and an unselfconsciously amateur approach to choreography that was refreshing and appealing. Although they initially played down their talents, they retained considerable control over their careers, eschewing the usual overt sexism associated with the marketing of female troupes in pop. A tie-up with producers Tony Swain and Steve Jolley brought them UK Top Five hits with “Shy Boy” and the Steam cover version, “Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)”, and a UK/US Top Ten hit with “Cruel Summer”. Their high point during this phase was the clever and appealing “Robert De Niro’s Waiting”, which justly reached the Top Three in the UK. In an attempt to tackle more serious subject matter, they next released “Rough Justice”, a protest song on the political situation in Northern Ireland. The title prophetically summed up the disc’s chart fate.

A lean period followed before the girls teamed up with the Stock, Aitken andnd Waterman production team for a remake of Shocking Blue’s “Venus”, which brought them a US Number One in 1986. “I Heard A Rumor” maintained the quality of their recent output, with some excellent harmonies and a strong arrangement which helped the track reach the US Top Five. Their biggest UK hit followed with the exceptional “Love in The First Degree”, which reached Number Three and proved to be their finest pop moment. Further UK hits from the attendant album Wow! included “I Heard A Rumor”, “I Can’t Help It”, “I Want You Back” and “Nathan Jones”. In early 1988 Fahey left the group, married the Eurythmics’ David A. Stewart and subsequently formed Shakespear’s Sister. Her replacement was Jacquie O’Sullivan (b. August 7, 1960, London, England), an old friend whose image fitted in reasonably well. In early 1989, the trio made the UK Top Three with a cover version of the Beatles’ “Help”, recorded with comediennes Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders and Kathy Burke (tagged La Na Nee Nee Noo Noo) for the Comic Relief charity.

During the early ‘90s, UK hits such as “Only Your Love”, “Preacher Man” and “Long Train Running” maintained Bananarama’s status as the most consistent and successful British female group in pop history. This effective formula underwent yet another change in 1991 when Sullivan departed for a solo career, resulting in Dallin and Woodward continuing for the first time as a duo. “Movin’ On” and “More, More, More” made the UK charts and the duo recorded another album, the disappointing Please Yourself. This was to be Banarama’s final release for the London label. Their next album, I Found Love aka Ultraviolet, was not even given an UK release.

The original line-up of Bananarama re-formed in 1998 to record a cover version of Abba’s “Waterloo” for Channel 4’s Eurotrash Eurovision tribute. Dallin and Woodward went on to record a new album, Exotica, which was released in Europe in 2001. The following year they reunited with Fahey to celebrate their 20th anniversary at the London Astoria. Dallin and Woodward’s next comeback was launched in summer 2005 with the UK Top 20 hit, “Move in My Direction”.

Viva (2009) is an exciting, modern new album with both feet planted on the dance floor. The new self-penned material is, once again, the result of Sara and Keren identifying the right collaborators for the right point in their career something that they did so successfully in the ‘80s. In 2009, they’ve found a perfect foil in Ian Masterson, a producer whose credits range from Pet Shop Boys to Girls Aloud and whose instinctive grasp of the Bananarama spirit has resulted in some extraordinarily good music on this new album. Highlights include “Seventeen”, an undulating, low-slung electro number which pleads “kiss me like you do in my dreams, make me feel like I was seventeen”, the seductive, ice-cold “Extraordinary” and the single “Love Comes” - a dance floor belter with no strings attached!


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