Friday, 21 October 2011

A Goddess on a mountain top was burning like a silver flame The summit of beauty and love and Venus was her name

Songs Everybody Should Know

“Venus” by Bananarama (1986)

Girl groups lost popularity for a while after the 50’s where they proliferated the music scene. In the sixties Diana Ross and the Supremes stood their ground as did staples like the Marvellettes and the Vandellas. In the seventies girl groups waned – but they were missed in the time of male-dominated rock.

Finally in the eighties the Go-Go’s, Bangles and the U.K.’s Bananarama took flight.

Since 1988 Bananarama comprised of friends Siobhan Fahey, Keren Woodward, and Sara surprisingly has been the all-female group with the most charted songs.   

In the late seventies they were follower of punk and then post-punk music they sometimes performed or did backup singing for acts like The Jam or Iggy Pop. By the early '80's they quit their day jobs and decided to launch their vocal group full time. Who needs to play an instrument anyway?

The band may have been very different - Malcolm McLaren who managed such acts as the Sex Pistols and Adam and the Ants wanted to manage them and have them perform his more sexual suggestive material then their tomboyish sentiment would allow them. They refused. Their vocal arrangements were not based on harmonies, but more in singing in unison. Their voices blended together like silk twine and they spun dance and pop yarns – with a sort of amateuristic and authentic appeal, fired by unlimited enthusiasm.

Their debut album in 1983 contained their first hit in the U.K. with “He Was Really Sayin' Somethin'" (UK #5). Other songs on the album “Deep Sea Skiving” included “Shy Boy” and their version of “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye”.

In 1984 their second album was targeted more at the U.S. market. The album “Bananarama” contained the hit “Cruel Summer” which was also on the Karate Kid soundtrack. It is my favourite Bananarama song for sure. (Sweden’s ‘Ace of Base’ did a decent cover of it much later). The album also included “Robert De Niro’s Waiting” which I always thought was a peculiar song with a bizarre fascination for U.S. movies and all things American that the Australians seem to share.

By 1986 the band was going strong. With a cover of ‘Shocking Blues’ hit from 1970 in “Venus” they leapt up the charts and became very well known – at least for a while. They use this song on razor commercials now which really belies how big it was at the time - the dance-oriented smash went number 1 internationally.

If you turned on the TV that year and flipped to MTV all you saw was the video for “Venus”. This was a shift in their image, away from the Tomboy and more glamorous and adventurous. A devil, vampire and Greek goddess were all costumes of the now big name stars. They had all gone to London’s College of Fashion. Interestingly one of the lines of the song is: “black as the dark night she was” – referring to Venus. Not sure of my lore, but I thought Roman goddesses were Caucasian.

1987’s album “Wow” saw them on the charts again with “I Heard A Rumour”. “Love in the First Degree” and “I Can’t Help it”, also did well in the U.K.

By the time the third single from ‘Wow’ hit the charts in 1988, Fahey left the group to marry the Eurhythmic’s’ Dave Stewart and it was downhill from there for Bananarama. The person brought in for the job of replacing Fehey was Jacqui O’Sullivan from the band the Shillelagh Sisters.

The band continued to record, albeit not nearly successfully as in their hey-day. Recently they performed in Japan at Retrolicious 2011, with The Human League and Belinda Carlisle.

The recent Marc Almonds “Hi Nrg Showgirls Mix” of Venus is pretty cool too if you want to check that out.

No comments: