L-R: Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward
|Genres||Dance-pop, new wave|
A & G productions
Bananarama are an English female pop music vocal group formed in London in 1981 by friends Sara Dallin, Siobhan Fahey and Keren Woodward. Their success on both pop and dance charts has earned them a listing in the Guinness World Records as the all-female group with the most chart entries in the world. Between 1982 and 2009, they had 32 singles reach the Top 50 of the UK Singles Chart.
The group's 10 UK Top 10 hits include "It Ain't What You Do..." (1982), "Really Saying Something" (1982), "Shy Boy" (1982), "Cruel Summer" (1983), "Robert De Niro's Waiting..." (1984), "Venus" (1986) and "Love in the First Degree" (1987). In 1986, they had a U.S. number one with another of their UK Top 10 hits, a cover of "Venus". In total, they had 11 singles reach the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 (1983-88), including two more in the Top 10, with "Cruel Summer" (1984) and "I Heard a Rumour" (1987). They are associated with the MTV-driven Second British Invasion of the US, and featured on the 1984 Band Aid single, "Do They Know It's Christmas?". They topped the Australian ARIA albums chart in June 1988 with Wow! (1987), and earned Brit Award nominations for Best British Single for "Love in the First Degree", and Best Music Video for their 1988 hit cover of The Supremes single "Nathan Jones".
Fahey left the group in 1988 and formed Shakespears Sister, best known for the UK number one "Stay" (1992). She was replaced by Jacquie O'Sullivan. This line-up had UK top five hits with "I Want You Back" (1988) and The Beatles track "Help!" (1989), recorded with comedy duo French and Saunders for the charity Comic Relief. In 1989 they embarked on their first world tour.
After O'Sullivan's 1991 departure, Dallin and Woodward continued Bananarama as a duo, with hits including "Movin' On" (1992), "More, More, More" (1993) and "Move in My Direction" (2005). Fahey rejoined Bananarama in 2017 and they toured the UK in November/December 2017 and North America in February 2018. They performed their final dates as a trio in August 2018.
Bananarama formed in London September 1981 when teenagers and childhood friends Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward met Siobhan Fahey. Dallin and Fahey were studying journalism at The London College of Fashion (University of Arts) and Woodward was working at the BBC in Portland Place. Dallin and Woodward were living at the YWCA and were about to be made homeless until Paul Cook (ex Sex Pistols), who they had become fast friends with after meeting at a club, offered them a place to live above the Sex Pistols rehearsal room in the legendary Denmark St, Charing Cross.
The trio were ardent followers of the punk rock and post-punk music scene at school and during the early 1980's. They often performed impromptu sets or backing vocals at gigs for such bands as The Monochrome Set, Iggy Pop, and The Jam. Bananarama recorded their first demo 'Aie a Mwana' (UK #92), a cover of a song by Black Blood, sung in Swahili. The demo was heard at Demon Records, who consequently offered Bananarama their first deal. The song was an underground hit and Bananarama were signed by Decca (later London Records) and remained on the label until 1993. UK fashion magazine The Face featured an article on Bananarama after the release of their first single. This caught the attention of ex-Specials member Terry Hall, who invited them to collaborate with his new vocal group Fun Boy Three on their album and the single 'It Ain't What You Do It's The Way That You Do It'. In 1982, the song hit the Top 5 in the UK and gave Bananarama their first significant mainstream success. Fun Boy Three then starred on Bananarama's single, 'Really Saying Something', later that year.
Bananarama experienced their greatest success during the period 1982 to 1989, with their first three albums primarily produced and co-written with Jolley & Swain. Their debut album, Deep Sea Skiving (UK #7, US #63) (1983) contained several hit singles -- "Really Saying Something" (UK #5) and "Shy Boy" (UK #4) -- and included a cover version of "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" (UK #5). The band recorded a version of the Sex Pistols' song "No Feelings" in late 1982 for the soundtrack of the British teen-comedy film, Party Party.
During 1982 and 1983, Bananarama did several promotional US press tours and TV appearances on American Bandstand and Solid Gold. Success in the United States came in 1984 with a Top Ten hit "Cruel Summer".
Their second album, Bananarama (UK #16, US #30) (1984) was a more socially conscious effort. The group wanted to be taken more seriously, so wrote songs that focused on heavier topics: "Hotline To Heaven" (UK#58) is a stand against the drugs-are-cool culture; and "Rough Justice" (UK#23) deals with social apathy. The album contained the hit singles, "Robert De Niro's Waiting...," (UK#3) and their first US Top 10 hit, "Cruel Summer" (UK#8, US#9) (1983), which was included in the film The Karate Kid. The trio also recorded the single, "The Wild Life" (US#70) for a 1984 American film of the same name.
Bananarama featured on the Band Aid single, "Do They Know It's Christmas?," and were the only artists to appear on both the original 1984 Band Aid and the 1989 Band Aid II versions (though Fahey only appeared on the 1984 version).
1985 would be a quiet transitional year for Bananarama. London Records' release of "Do Not Disturb" (UK #31) would keep the girls' public profile alive.
1986 saw the release of their third album, True Confessions (UK #46, US #15) on which some production duties were taken up by Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman known as Stock Aitken Waterman (SAW). The move resulted in the international number one hit, "Venus", (a remake of Shocking Blue's song from 1969, which had been a number 1 hit in 1970). The dance-oriented beats on the song typified the SAW approach to pop production. Bananarama had tracked the producers down after hearing "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" by Dead or Alive. Also in 1986, Dallin and Woodward were featured as backing vocalists on two songs on Family Album, produced by John Lydon.
An excerpt from Bananarama's 1986 version of "Venus"
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The music video for "Venus" received heavy airplay on MTV in the United States. It featured the group in various costumes including a devil, a French temptress, a vampire and a Greek goddess. The video marked a pivotal shift towards a more glamorous and sexual image, which contrasted with the tomboyish style of their earlier work.
Follow-up singles "More Than Physical" (UK #41) and "A Trick of the Night" (UK #32) were less successful, possibly due to having less promotion. Woodward was pregnant with her son Thomas and unable to tour or physically promote the parent album or its subsequent singles.
During a press tour in New York City, the group also recorded a song "Riskin' a Romance" featured in the film The Secret of My Success (1987). The track was notable because it featured Fahey taking lead vocals, and Daryl Hall was the producer. At some point during this trip, the group also re-recorded the vocals for their next UK release "More Than Physical" and "A Trick of the Night".
In the wake of the success of "Venus," Bananarama began work on the platinum selling album Wow!. The group's sound graduated towards dance-orientated Europop. Wow! topped the Australian ARIA album charts for one week in June 1988.
"I Heard a Rumour" (UK #14, US #4) was their strongest performing international hit from this album. "Love in the First Degree" (UK #3) was one of their biggest UK hits, and "I Can't Help It" (which boasted a semi-controversial video featuring the group in a milk bath filled with fruit and half-naked men) was also a hit (UK #20), as was the album's fourth single, "I Want You Back" (UK #5) (1988).
After the third single from Wow! was released in early 1988, Fahey -- who had married Eurythmics' Dave Stewart -- left the group as she had become disillusioned with the direction the band was taking. Her last performance as a member of the group was at the Brit Awards in February 1988, performing "Love in the First Degree". She would later resurface in the BRIT Award-winning pop duo Shakespears Sister with Marcella Detroit.
After Fahey's exit, Jacquie O'Sullivan (formerly of the Shillelagh Sisters) joined the group in March 1988. The single "I Want You Back" (UK #5) was re-recorded with O'Sullivan, as was The Supremes cover "Nathan Jones" (UK #15). "Love, Truth and Honesty" (UK #23) was released as a single from their 1988 retrospective compilation, Greatest Hits Collection (UK #3). At the same time, Bananarama entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the all-female group who have the most UK chart entries in history, a record they still hold.
As a fundraising charity single for Comic Relief in 1989, Bananarama recorded a cover of The Beatles' song "Help!" with Lananeeneenoonoo (UK #3), a mock girl-group created by British female comedy duo French and Saunders, with fellow comedian Kathy Burke. 1989 also saw the band's first world tour, which hit North America, East Asia and the UK.
Bananarama's 1991 album, Pop Life saw Dallin and Woodward's songwriting collaboration with their friend youth. They worked with a variety of producers including Youth, Shep Pettibone, and Steve Jolley, of Jolley & Swain. They also incorporated a wider range of musical genres including reggae, flamenco guitar, and acid house and received some of the strongest and most positive reviews of their career. Singles "Only Your Love" (UK #27), "Preacher Man" (UK #20) and the Doobie Brothers' cover of "Long Train Running" (UK #30) were the final release with O'Sullivan.
In 1992, Dallin and Woodward returned as a duo and had a UK top 30 hit with "Movin' On" (UK #24), which was the first single from the 1993 album Please Yourself and 'More More More' which reached #24. It was to be their last album on London Records.
Their next offering was 1995's Ultra Violet (titled I Found Love in Japan) on a new label. The album and its three singles "I Found Love", "Every Shade of Blue" and "Take Me to Your Heart" were only released in some European countries, North America, Japan and Australia, but not in Britain.
In 1998, Dallin and Woodward asked Fahey to join them to record the track "Waterloo" (a cover of the classic ABBA song) for the Eurovision celebration A Song for Eurotrash on Channel 4. However, Fahey made it clear that this was a one-off and that she was not formally rejoining the group. In 1999, Dallin, Woodward and Fahey were interviewed together for an episode of the BBC music documentary series Young Guns Go For It dedicated to the group. Jacquie O'Sullivan also took part in the programme.
In 2001, Dallin and Woodward, who had been working a lot in France, had recorded the album Exotica with the French label M6. The album also included Latin and R&B influenced dance songs, as well as reinterpreted versions of their earlier hits.
By 2002, Bananarama had sold 40 million records worldwide. That year, they released another greatest hits album, The Very Best of Bananarama, in the UK. They also recorded the song "Love Him, Leave Him, Forget Him" for Sky TV's show Is Harry on the Boat? as well as the song "U R My Baby" for a German disco project. With Siobhan Fahey returning as a special guest for a performance of "Venus", the group celebrated the 20th anniversary of their first hit with a gig at G-A-Y at the London Astoria, in front of an audience of 3000 people.
With 1980s retro in vogue, Bananarama made a comeback in the British dance charts in 2005. Solasso remixed their early hit "Really Saying Something" and it was a huge hit with clubbers. A video was filmed with models from Britain's Next Top Model TV show.
In 2005, Dallin and Woodward collaborated with Swedish hit makers Murlyn, writing and recording in Sweden for 6 months to produce the album 'Drama'. The first single 'Move In My Direction' reached #14 and 2nd single 'Look On The Floor reached #24 in the UK chart. It was also re-released as a second single in the UK and reached #2 in the US Billboard Dance chart.
Summer 2006 saw the Warner Bros. Records release of The Twelve Inches of Bananarama, a compilation of twelve remixes on CD for the first time. The collection features the rare George Michael remix of "Tripping on Your Love", among others.
On 19 March 2007, Bananarama's first six studio albums were reissued by Rhino Records on CD with bonus material, including alternative versions, remixes and B-sides. On 7 May 2007, another best-of collection titled Greatest Hits and More More More was released by Warner Bros. Records.
In February 2007, Bananarama's official website announced that they were back in the studio recording new material. A cover version of "Voyage Voyage" was performed at a concert in France. Bananarama also confirmed they were contributing vocals as guest artists on the song "Ultra Violet" (not to be confused with Bananarama's seventh album Ultra Violet) by new dance act Block Rocker, a teaming up of producers/remixers Digital Dog and Ashiva. However, the song never surfaced.
In October 2007, Bananarama announced that they would be appearing on 2008's Here and Now Tour with other 1980s artists such as Belinda Carlisle, Paul Young, ABC and Rick Astley. They also announced plans to record a new album of disco cover versions and new songs.
In August 2008, it was announced that Bananarama was back in the studio recording a track with Rev Run from Run-D.M.C. who had a new album in the pipeline. He wanted to sample "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" for his track but then decided to ask Dallin and Woodward to sing it instead. The title of the track was not confirmed but was to be credited as be "Run-D.M.C. featuring Bananarama". The song, 'Invincible', credited as Rev Run featuring Bananarama, did not surface until late 2014 on Rev Run's solo album Red Rhythm Rewind.
In June 2009, Bananarama performed at the Isle of Wight Festival. In August 2009, they performed at the 80s Rewind Festival in Henley-on-Thames alongside other 80s acts which included Rick Astley, Belinda Carlisle and Kim Wilde. The duo also performed at The Manchester Gay Pride Festival over the August Bank Holiday weekend.
Bananarama released a new single entitled "Love Comes" (UK #44), and a new album Viva (UK #87) in September 2009. The album was produced entirely by Ian Masterson, and released through Fascination Records. A second single was released from the album in April 2010, a new remix of the song "Love Don't Live Here" (UK #114) backed by Ian Masterson's 2010 reworking of the 1995 single "Every Shade of Blue" and "The Runner" (originally recorded by The Three Degrees), remixed by Buzz Junkies. Other covers recorded during this period included Bryan Adams' "Run To You", Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound Of Silence" and Roxy Music's "Tokyo Joe". These were included as B Sides to the released singles and as bonus digital tracks to the parent album.
In September 2010, Bananarama were back in the studio with producer Ian Masterson, and recorded a Christmas song titled "Baby It's Christmas" (UK #199). The track was written by Sara Dallin and Ian Masterson and was released on 13 December in the UK and Europe as a digital EP. The track was also included on a US Christmas compilation CD entitled Super Dance Christmas Party, Volume 3. "Baby It's Christmas" reached #19 in the UK Indie Singles chart and #199 in the main UK Singles Chart.
Dallin and Woodward have continued to play live since 2002, with highlights including headlining the festival of the hand over of Hong Kong, The Isle of Wight Festival and the Singapore Grand Prix. In 2012, they embarked upon a 10 date USA tour for the Pinktober Hard Rock charity and released and EP 'Now or Never'.
In 2016, they played a sell out tour of Australia and some dates in Japan.
On 9 July 2012, Warner Music imprint Rhino Records released a greatest hits CD and DVD Collection 30 Years of Bananarama (UK #61) to celebrate the band's 30th anniversary. The album charted at 62 on the UK Albums Chart. On 9 August 2012, the band performed at the men's final of the beach volleyball at the London Olympics. They performed a medley of "Cruel Summer", "Love in the First Degree" and "Venus".
On 28 October 2013, Bananarama's first six albums Deep Sea Skiving, Bananarama, True Confessions, Wow!, Pop Life and Please Yourself were reissued by Edsel Records, each of them consisting of Deluxe 2CDs plus DVD. Bananarama are also confirmed to perform in 2014 at Let's Rock Bristol! (7 June), Let's Rock Leeds! (21 June) and Let's Rock Southampton! (12 July). On 9 November 2013, Bananarama revealed on the BBC show Pointless Celebrities that they were recording a new album in Nashville and that it would be influenced by country and pop. In March 2015, Edsel Records released Megarama, a 3 CD collection of remixes that was followed in August with a 33CD singles collection box set entitled In A Bunch, which contains all single releases from "Aie a Mwana" right through to "More, More, More". In 2016, Bananarama toured Australia in February and showcased their new song "Got to Get Away". On 9 March 2016, Sara confirmed on her Twitter page that Bananarama have signed a new deal with BMG. In November 2016, an excerpt of a song that bears the working title "Looking For Someone" was posted on the official Twitter page of the band.
In was announced on 23 April that Fahey had rejoined Bananarama. The Original Line-up Tour saw them perform 23 sell-out dates across the UK in November and December 2017. It saw them perform many of their classic hits such as "Venus", "Robert De Niro's Waiting...", "Really Saying Something", "Cruel Summer", "I Heard A Rumour", "Nathan Jones", "Love in the First Degree" as well as the Shakespears Sister hit "Stay". In February 2018, they performed four dates in North America; Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York in the United States and Toronto in Canada. Their performances at London's Eventim Apollo Hammersmith Theatre and Newcastle City Hall will be released on CD, DVD and Blu-Ray through PledgeMusic in July 2018. Their final dates as a trio were in August 2018.