The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
A Decade in the Life
of
Bananarama

In 1980 three young women who shared a flat in London's Tin Pan Alley decided to quit their day jobs and start performing together. Keren Woodward (b. April 2, 1961, Bristol, Avon, England), Sarah Dallin (b. December 17, 1961, Bristol, Avon, England) and Siobhan Fahey (b. September 10, 1958, Dublin, Ireland) didn't know their way around musical instruments, but their infectious enthusiasm and vocal compatibility took them far. In fact, Bananarama became the most successful British girl group in pop history. Their appeal was based largely on a lack of pretension; their amateur approach was appealing, and their refusal to use sex as a marketing tool was refreshing.

Woodward and Dallin were childhood friends, while Dallin had made Fahey's acquaintance at the London College of Fashion. They so impressed ex-Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook that he produced their first single, a cover of Swahili Black Blood's "Aie A Mwana." Their debut album, Deep Sea Skiving, produced and written by the talented team of Tony Swain and Steve Jolle (who had previously worked with Spandau Ballet) was panned by the critics (as were future albums), but met with commercial success thanks to a couple of hit singles, "Shy Boy" and "Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)." Their second album, Bananarama, brought them to the attention of American music lovers; "Cruel Summer" became their first transatlantic hit, while Robert de Niro so enjoyed the single "Robert de Niro's Waiting" that he arranged to meet the trio. But their greatest success came with the remake of "Venus," a Number One smash in the United States.

When Fahey married Eurythmic's Dave Stewart in 1987 and retired from the band, she was replaced by Jacqui O'Sullivan, an old friend of Woodward and Dallin who had been a member of the Shillelagh Sisters. She remained until 1991, and for a couple of years Woodward and Dallin continued as a duo. Meanwhile Fahey's collaboration with Marcella Detroit as the duo Shakespear's Sister met with considerable success in the early Nineties; their 1992 hit single "Stay" remained at the top spot on the UK charts for eight weeks and won the Best Video category at the 12th Annual BRIT Awards. Woodward and Dallin resurrected Bananarama in 1999 with a cover version of Abba's "Waterloo."


January 1981
Dallin, Woodward and Fahey begin performing as a vocal trio in London clubs.  They record demos and in June sign a deal with Demon Records that leads to the release of their first single, "Aie A Mwana." in September.
May 1982
Backed by Fun Boy Three, Bananarama records a cover of the Velvelette's "Really Sayin' Something," which reaches UK#5.
July 1982
Their first effort with producing team Tony Swain and Steve Jolley, "Shy Boy," climbs to UK#4.
March 1983
Bananarama's debut album, Deep Sea Skiving, achieves the #7 spot on the UK charts, thanks to the success of a remake of Steam's 1969 #1 hit, "Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)."
August 1983
"Cruel Summer" reaches UK#8. Nearly a year later the tune will be featured in the hit movie The Karate Kid, which will propel the single to US#9, the group's first American chart success.
April 1984
The trio's second album, Bananarama, produced by Swain and Jolley, makes it to #16 on the UK charts. A few months later the album will peak at US#30.
July 1986
The group's cover of the 1970 hit "Venus" (Shocking Blue) soars to UK#8, while their third album,True Confessions is on its way to UK#46. In September "Venus" will hit the top of the US singles chart, and the album will make it to US#15.
August 1987
Fahey is wed to Dave Stewart of Eurythmics at a chateau in Normandy, France. That same day "I Heard A Rumour" peaks at UK#14. A few months later the song will reach US#4.
February 1988
The group performs at the 7th Annual BRIT Awards in London's Royal Albert Hall -- Fahey's final appearance as a member of Bananarama. She will later team up with Marcella Detroit as the duo Shakespear's Sister. Jacqui Sullivan replaces her.
April 1988
While "Love In The First Degree" stalls at US#48, "I Want You Back" soars to UK#5.
December 1988
A cover of The Supremes' 1971 Top 20 hit "Nathan Jones" climbs to US#15.
January 1989
Greatest Hits Collection arrives at the #3 spot on the UK album chart.
March 1989
The trio backs their own parody group La Na Nee Nee Noo Noo, composed of comediennes Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders and Kathy Burke, in a remake of The Beatles' "Help!," which makes it to UK#3; all proceeds go to Comic Relief.
August 1989
The Fahey/Detroit duo, Shakespear's Sister, has a hit single with "You're History," which peaks at UK#7. Their debut album Sacred Heart will arrive at UK#9 the following month.


Deep Sea Skiving (London, 1983)
Shy Boy
Doctor Love
What A Shambles
Really Saying Something
Cheers Then
Aie A Mwana
Young At Heart
Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)
Hey Young London
Big Trouble
Wish You Were Here

"This can't work. Three young women who dance their way through London's hottest clubs and decide, hey, let's start a band; who insist on playing their own instruments even though they regard learning how to play those instruments with the enthusiasm that most of us have for ironing...and who sing soul covers and their own Motown-style compositions with a world-weariness that contravenes everything the genre stands for.  It can't.  But it does."
Christopher Connelly, Rolling Stone

Bananarama (London, 1984)
Cruel Summer
Rough Justice
King Of The Jungle
Dream Baby
Link
The Wild Life
Hot Line To Heaven
The State I'm In
Robert de Niro's Waiting
Through A Child's Eyes

"Over the lush, highly arranged backing, the ladies croon two wonderful singles -- the evocatively tropical 'Cruel Summer'...and 'Robert de Niro's Waiting.' Otherwise, the album deflects much of their engaging individuality and substitutes a vacuous sheen that's too functional and defeats their ingenuous image. Bananarama isn't bad -- the vocals are charming in any case -- but it is forgettable."
Ira Robbins, Trouser Press

True Confessions (London, 1986)
True Confessions
Ready Or Not
Trick Of The Night
Dance With A Stranger
Perfect World
Venus
Do Not Disturb
Cut Above The Rest
Promised Land
More Than Physical
Hooked On Love

"Overall...True Confessions is a limp outing that sculpts a refined, contemporary adult sound, evaporating the group's youthful vitality and charm in the process."
Ira Robbins, Trouser Press

Wow! (London, 1987)
I Can't Help It
I Heard A Rumour
Some Girls
Love In The First Degree
Once In A Lifetime
Strike It Rich
Bad For Me
Come Back
Nathan Jones
I Want You Back

"A perfect pop bon-bon, from hook-heavy dance tunes like 'I Heard A Rumour' and "I Can't Help It" to relatively low-key confections like 'Nathan Jones.' No wonder the Greatest Hits Collection -- track for track, the group's best album -- relies so heavily upon this period."
Rolling Stone Album Guide

Greatest Hits Collection (Polydor, 1988)
Venus
I Heard A Rumour
Love In The First Degree
I Can't Help It
I Want You Back
Love, Truth and Honesty
Nathan Jones
He Was Really Sayin' Somethin'
Shy Boy
Robert de Niro's Waiting
Cruel Summer
Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)
Trick Of The Night
Aie A Mwana


Marcella Detroit, who teamed up with Siobhan Fahey to form the duo Shakespear's Sister, had toured with Eric Clapton in the 1970s and co-wrote the hit "Lay Down Sally."

In addition to having the single "Cruel Summer" featured in the film The Karate Kid, Bananarama saw their Top Ten hit "I Heard A Rumour" used in the Fat Boys flick Disorderlies.

Bananarama racked up 26 charting singles and six charting albums. The name of the group was created by combining the title of a Sixties kid's show The Banana Splits with the title of the Roxy Music song "Pyjamarama."