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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Bananarama up, down and sideways

*links refreshed and changed
Childhood friends Karen Woodward and Sarah Dallin formed Bananarama with another friend Siobhan Fahey in 1981.  They first charted with Aie A Mwana but really made it big with their second single Really Saying Something recorded along with Fun Boy Three who had been in The Specials and a prominent part of the two tone, ska scene.  Really shot up to #5 in the U.K. and got a lot of alternative play in the states.

The next single Shy Boy was even bigger making it all the way up to #4 and continuing to cement their reputation in the new wave dance scene where it became their 2nd U.S. top 20 dance hit.  

Never ones to shy away from a remake Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye became yet another top 5 for them in the U.K. But it was 1983's Cruel Summer though only just breaking the Top 10 in the U.S. and the U.K. really helped cement them to become ever present and MTV darlings.  

I was on an abroad program that year in Rome living with Dan Mathews, now of PETA fame and for some reason we though it was hysterical to replace summer with VAGINA.  So we would belt out It's a cruel, cruel vagina, leaving me here all alone with my vagina, it's a cruel cruel vagina now you've gone....  Yeah I know you had to be there, but sometimes when a memory strikes you just have to go with it.  The brilliant production work of Tony Swain and Steve Jolley who had had so much success with Imagination really helped the girls to get their own sound.

Robert De Niro's waiting was huge in Europe peaking at #3 in the U.K. but again in the U.S. was only an alternative dance hit.  I remember I had a colored vinyl twelve inch which I got from St. Marks Sounds for a quarter.  It came in different colored vinyl with a different members photo on each one.  

Kudos to the girls and Jolley & Swain for coming up with such a brilliant kitsch lyric Robert De Niro's waiting
Talking Italian
Robert De Niro's waiting
Talking Italian
Robert De Niro's waiting
Talking Italian

The next couple years were dry for the band as all their singles seemed to flop.  Apparently they were no strangers to drink and were often quite messy at live performances.  They did a ton of p.a.'s in gay clubs helping to reinforce their image as gay favorites.

 But then they went back for another dip in the remake pot and came up with their massive all time biggest hit.  Their cover of Frijid Pink's 1970 classic Venus which brought them their first #1 hit in the U.S. and started a solid collaboration with Stock, Aitken & Waterman who they would then be associated with for the next several year period of their careers.  

In 1988, the trio were named by the Guinness Book of Records as the most successful female group in pop history, beating  The Supremes.  They celebrated by releasing a SAW-produced version of Nathan Jones.  Which didn't do much in the U.S. considering how well I heard a Rumor had done there in 1987 (a #4 hit).  At this point Siobhan Fahey made the gutsy move to leave the group and form Shakespeare's Sister. 

Shakespeare's Sister had a few hits but were never anywhere near as huge as Bananarama though Siobahn married Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics which helped her gain a creative edge and move out of that commercial sounding girl group groove.  Banana substituted her with Jacquie O'Sullivan  and in 1989 they had another huge remake hit in the U.K. with the Beatles Help!  A comic relief single featuring the brilliant French and Saunders  from their greatest hits.

The next few years were not very kind to the band on the charts but they did manage to hit #30 in the U.K. with the Doobie Brothers remake of Long Train Runnin'.  Their careers in the U.S. were over by 1991 with their last appearance on the dance chart Tripping on Your Love which peaked at #14.  In the early 90's I visited London often and one of my favorite Banana songs was the camp classic Movin' On from 1992.

In 1993 they did a solid remake of Andrea True Connection More, More, More and in 2005 a reinterpretation of the italo disco classic Hypnotic Tango, Look on the Floor which was their last Top 30 hit in the U.K.  Not to say they haven't released some great songs, in 2010 Love Don't Live Here came out and flopped but it was great, one of their career bests.  It really didn't deserve to be so overlooked.  Around this time the girls dropped down to 2 members.

 Most recently they appeared on the Band Aid 2 single as they had on the first in the 80's.  Even though the hits have dried up the group have a special place in a lot of people's hearts and have come up with some amazing harmonies and solid pop dance hits.  Lots of the songs mentioned herein are in my zip especially in special remix forms.  If you really love Bananarama support them.  Buy one of the many greatest hits packages.

I suggest you support the gals by purchasing their 30th anniversary greatest hits collection that came out on Rhino in 2012.  It's quite the package for a completist.

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