Founding members Keren Woodward, Sarah Dallin, and Siobhan Fahey formed Bananarama in 1980, after friends suggested that they form a band. Initially, it was friends (including Mel O'Brien) fooling around on instruments in The Professionals (ex-Sex Pistols Paul Cook, and Steve Jones) rehearsal room under their squat in Denmark Street, London.
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Their first single was "Aie A Mwana" (Sept. 1981) which was released on Demon Records (independent) that they promoted through impromptu performances in nightclubs by miming to a backing tape. Such performances attracted the attention of the media and resulted in early articles in The Face and NME. The one page photo an blurb attracted the attention of Terry Hall (ex-Specials) of the Fun Boy Three who wanted a female backing vocal on his new single. Terry liked their scruffy and modern look, and asked Bananarama to contribute to the next Fun Boy Three single - "It Ain't What You Do" (Feb 1982) which received good media coverage and peaked at #4 in England.
The collaboration with the Fun Boy Three continued on Bananarama's follow up single "Really Saying Something" (April 1982) and peaked at UK#5. Bananarama's first solo single was the motown-esque "Shy Boy" which was accompanied by a jaunty video that helped the single reach #4 in the UK as well as Top 5 in many other countries. Two more singles were issued "Cheers Then" (Dec 1982, #45) and "Na Na Hey Hey" (Feb 1983, #5; US#83) prior to the release of their debut album - Deep Sea Skiving (Feb 1982).
A string of successful singles followed including the hits "Cruel Summer" (July 1983, UK#8), "Robert de Niro's Waiting" (March 1984, UK#3; US#95) and "Rough Justice" (May 1984, #23) from Bananarama's second and self-titled album. The Bananarama album saw a shift in emphasis away from the jaunty and nonchalant style of Deep Sea Skiving towards a more mature and political undertone to many of the tracks - which inevitably contributed to poorer sales, and the fourth single "Hot Line To Heaven" (Nov 1984, UK#58) failing to make the Top 40 (Overseas, "Hot Line To Heaven" was supplanted as the fourth single by "The Wild Life" - US#70). However, 1984 did end on a high note, when Bananarama were included for the cast of one of England's best selling singles "Do They Know Its Christmas?"
Bananarama were notorious for their partying and fun-loving image, now popularised by The Spice Girls, this often detracted critical appraise from the band whom were largely stereotyped as puppets. Behind the scenes, their success rested largely with their image, style and direction being driven largely by the band. After the drift in direction from their Bananarama album, there was only one single "Do Not Disturb" (Aug 1985, #31) that was issued in 1985. It was another nine months before the issue of the overwhelmingly successful "Venus" (UK#8, May 1986) which provided Bananarama with a #1 hit in the lucrative US market as well as six other countries, and top ten in most other countries. "Cruel Summer" was their first US Top 10 single when it was used heavily in the soundtrack for the Karate Kid movie, which pushed the single to #9 when issued in 1985 but success in the USA was always emphemeral, and prior to "Venus" they had no infrastucture to promote themselves.
Any plans for a tour to promote and consolidate the success of "Venus" in America were short lived due to Keren's pending pregnancy. This made promoting "Venus" and its follow-up single "More Than Physical" (Aug 1986, UK#41; US#73; Australia #14) much harder and often relied on accompanying videos. Part of the success of "Venus" has always been attributed to its imaginative and sensual video that was directed by Peter Care - which saw Bananarama throw off the shackles of their frumpy outfits and hairstyles and embrace an overt exhibitionism. Sales of their their third album True Confessions were also helped by the success in the singles charts resulting in a Gold disc for sales in the US, although the fourth single "Trick Of The Night" (US#76) sold disappointingly peaking at #32 in England (Feb 1987) irrespective of its use in the BBC documentary "In The Deep End".
1987 saw Bananarama return with renewed vigour with their first LP collaboration with producers Stock Aitken and Waterman, and the first single spawned from their Gold album Wow was "I Heard A Rumour" (UK#14, July 1986 - Silver Disc; US#4). Two more singles "Love In The First Degree" (UK#3 Sept 1987 - Gold Disc; US#48) and "I Can't Help It" (UK#20, Dec 1986; US#47) were issued prior to the announcement that founding member Siobhan Fahey was to leave the band - her farewell was a spectacular performance at 1988's Brits pop Awards that included fourteen well-oiled and scantily clad dancers. Siobhan's departure was not unexpected as her commitment to Bananarama had waned since her marriage to Dave Stewart (The Eurythmics) and the birth of her first son in Sam in November 1987, which had hampered her ability to promote their singles. Record company moguls and marketers alike insisted/persuaded Sara & Keren to employ a replacement for Siobhan in the band as Bananarama were perceived as a "trio". Mortified by the prospect of having to audition anyone for the part - which would in part break their ethos of three friends having a great time - they asked Jacquie O'Sullivan who was a friend of theirs right from their early days and who had previously been the lead singer in The Shillelagh Sisters. Jacquie's first single with the band was the penultimate Wow single "I Want You Back" which captured the moment and reached UK#5 when issued in March 1988.
Continuing the end of an "era" and coinciding with their inclusion in the Guiness Book of Records as the most successful british all girl band with 14 top 40 singles, Bananarama's Greatest Hits Package was released in October 1988 (#3 in UK - triple platinum). This coincided with a new single "Love Truth & Honesty" (UK #23, Sept 1988; US#89) which would turn out to be the only issued song co-written with Jacquie. December 1988 also saw the issue of "Nathan Jones" (an obscure Supremes song) derived from both Wow and The Greatest Hits Collection, which reached #15 in the UK.
English commediennes French & Saunders developed a skit mocking Bananarama for their Christmas 1988 show, which Bananarama loved. This lead to the duet for UK charity Comic Relief and the recording of the Beatles "Help". Supported by a clever video the single reached #3 when issued in England in February 1989. The only other single issued that year was a remixed re-issue of "Cruel Summer" '89 (July 1989, #19) which coincided with Bananarama's first ever live world tour. Meanwhile ex-Banana Siobhan was also having UK chart success with her new musical vehicle Shakespear's Sister and a UK#5 with her single "You're History".
After their world tour, Bananarama returned to Stock, Aitken and Waterman to produce their fifth album, but disgusted at their cavalier attitude and failure to have "moved on", Bananarama decided to work with new producers. They settled on old friend an indie producer Youth (Killing Joke) which spawned the (occassionally) critically appraised but less commerically successful album Pop Life. The first single spawned from this album was the wonderful "Only Your Love" (UK#27, Aug 1990), as well as three other singles: "Preacher Man" (UK#20, Jan 1991), "Long Train Running" (UK#30) and "Tripping on Your Love" (Aug 1990, DC). By the time of the release of "Tripping On Your Love" which had been intended for issue in late 1990, multiple variables conspired to stall its charting success: Sara was pregnant and unable to attend to promotional duties, Hillary Shaw their long-term manager had left, and more importantly - Jacquie O'Sullivan had decided to leave the band (probably much to the relief of Sara & Keren, who had felt she was not involved sufficiently in the business and writing aspects). During this time London Records forced/pushed/convinced Bananarama to reunite with producers Stock & Waterman for their next album Please Yourself which was recorded during Sara's pregnancy (late 1991). The release of their next single "Movin' On" was delayed until June 1992 (UK#24), and the album spawned two more singles "Last Thing On My Mind" (UK#71 Jan 1992) and "More More More" (UK#24, April 1992). By this stage Bananarama's contract with London Records had terminated, and these were their last releases in England to date.
In 1995 Bananarama re-emerged on independent labels throughout Europe, Asia, America and Oceania with the release of their Ultra Violet album which spawned two singles "Every Shade Of Blue" (Canada #35, Australia #91) and "Take Me To Your Heart". Promotion was in the form of club performances and their sets mostly included tracks from their Greatest Hits Collection. Most notable of these releases is that Bananarama chose not to issue the album in England, and have since preferred their anonymity of their home country which has lead most of the musical press to believe that they disbanded after Please Yourself.
Their most recent project (May 1998) was a brief reunion with Siobhan (who also was dropped by London Records in 1996 after the poor reception to her third and unreleased album titled Shakespear's Sister after the departure of American co-writer/singer Marcella Detroit, and "svengali-like" husband Dave Stewart) to record a cover of Abba's "Waterloo" for a Eurovision song tribute album: Song For Eurotrash. The compilation was promoted with a special on TV where viewers were given the opportunity to vote for their preferred cover. Suprisingly Bananarama won received 28% of the votes (enough to win), and speculation ensued that EMI would then issue "Waterloo" as a single: which failed to culminate in part to Bananarama stating that it did not musically represent where they were currently at. Currently the band are (still...) working on their next album which has included the distribution of a demo tape to selected record companies - this tape includes two new remixes of "Venus" and two new songs - "Whatcha Gonna Do" and "Boom" - the latter was used during their club gigs in August 1997 in Australia.
January 1999, Bananarama appeared on a four-part documentary "Young Guns Go For It" that covered the girls career and included inverviews with ex-members Siobhan and Keren, and mentioned Keren & Sara's continued collaboration as Bananarama. At present they are distributing a new six track demo tape to acquire a new record contract. "Waterloo" is also set to appear on a 25th Anniversary Abba tribute album, due out mid 1999.
Fans disagree as to what their best album is, most cite either Wow from 1987 produced by Stock Aitken and Waterman, or True Confessions from 1986 produced by Jolley and Swain. But for the most part, their finer pop moments are captured on The Greatest Hits Collection or a variety of third rate compilations that have since been issued by PolyGram - Bunch Of Hits and The Master Series.
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