Bananarama is a British 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 have earned them a listing in the Guinness World Records as the all-female group with the most chart entries in the world. In addition to their chart success, they are also known for their vocal style, generally singing in unison rather than in harmony like most vocal groups.
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) 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. Their fourth album Wow! (1987), topped the Australian ARIA albums chart in June 1988. They also 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".
Following Fahey's departure from the group in 1988, Jacquie O'Sullivan joined the group for three years and they had UK Top 10 hits with "I Want You Back" (1988) and "Help!" (1989). After O'Sullivan's 1991 departure, Dallin and Woodward continued Bananarama as a duo, with hits including "Movin' On" (1992) and "More, More, More" (1993), before returning to the UK Top 40 for the first time in 12 years with the single "Move in My Direction" (2005). Between 1982 and 2009, they had 28 singles reach the Top 50 of the UK Singles Chart. It was announced in April 2017 that Fahey had rejoined Bananarama and that they would be touring the UK from November 2017 and North America in 2018.
1979–1982: Early years
Bananarama were founded in London in 1981 by Fahey, Woodward and Dallin, the latter two having been childhood friends in Bristol since the age of four, and attending St. George's School for Girls together. Dallin and Fahey met in 1979 while studying fashion journalism at the London College of Fashion. They became friends because they both dressed more radically than the other students. The trio were ardent followers of the punk rock and post-punk music scene during the late 1970s and early 1980s and often performed impromptu sets or backing vocals at gigs for such bands as The Monochrome Set, Iggy Pop, The Jam, Department S and The Nipple Erectors.
In 1981, Bananarama's members were living above the rehearsal room that was used by former Sex Pistols members Steve Jones and Paul Cook. With their help, 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.
During this early period Bananarama were approached by Malcolm McLaren, who offered to manage the group. McLaren, manager of the Sex Pistols and Bow Wow Wow, and notorious for generating scandal, proposed some new material that was sexually suggestive, and did not fit with what at the time was the band's tomboyish and straightforward image. Bananarama passed on both the material and McLaren as their manager.
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 the track "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 guest starred on Bananarama's single, "Really Saying Something", later that year.
1982–1985: Deep Sea Skiving and Bananarama
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 film, Party Party.
Although the group was now a success in their native UK, their earliest success in America was on an underground basis due to college radio and early MTV exposure. 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 eluded the group until the release of their first top 10 hit "Cruel Summer" in mid-1984.
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.
1986–1987: True Confessions and international success
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 became a number 1 hit in 1970). The dance-oriented beats on the song typified the SAW approach to pop production. Bananarama were said to have been put in contact with SAW after hearing and expressing a fondness for "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" by Dead or Alive. After its worldwide success, "Venus" has become the group's signature song. Also in 1986, Dallin and Woodward were featured as backing vocalists on two songs on Family Album, produced by John Lydon.
Venus – Bananarama
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. It was also the start of their use of toy-boys as backup dancers, which would become a hallmark of their videos.
Follow-up singles "More Than Physical" (UK #41) and "A Trick of the Night" (UK #32) were less successful due to minimal promotions. 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".
1987–1988: Wow! and Fahey's departure
In the wake of the success of "Venus," all production and co-writing responsibilities for their fourth album, 1987's Wow!, (UK #26, US #44) were transferred from Jolley & Swain to SAW, under whom the group's sound graduated towards dance-oriented Europop. Wow! topped the Australian ARIA albums 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 the disco-oriented "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).
By the time 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. She was also feeling socially excluded by the other two members, who had "been best friends a lot longer", and who, she says, were "no longer inviting her out with them". 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.
1988–1991: Second line-up, Greatest Hits, Pop Life and world tour
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 (UK #42) saw the group working 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. Despite receiving some of the strongest and most positive reviews of their career, London Records limited promotions and minimal radio airplay resulted in the singles "Only Your Love" (UK #27), "Preacher Man" (UK #20) and the Doobie Brothers' cover of "Long Train Running" (UK #30) failing to emulate their previous Top 10 successes. After the release of the fourth and final single from the album, "Tripping on Your Love" (UK #75), band manager Hillary Shaw resigned to manage Kim Appleby's career, and O'Sullivan left the band to form the short-lived Slippery Feet.
1992–2001: Duo re-launch, Please Yourself, Ultra Violet and Exotica
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 album Please Yourself. Released in 1993, the album marked the return of production duties back to the remaining members of SAW, Stock and Waterman. Ironically, though the lead single was titled "Movin' On", the album was a regression to their previous Euro disco sound as illustrated by their cover of Andrea True Connection's "More, More, More" (UK #24). Bananarama was losing momentum as subsequent single "Last Thing on My Mind" (UK #71) struggled to chart. 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, Woodward and Fahey regrouped for the first time in ten years and recorded 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 released a new Bananarama album, Exotica. Collaborators included Pascal Caubet and Dallin's boyfriend Bassey Walker. The album also included Latin and R&B influenced dance songs, as well as reinterpreted versions of their earlier hits. Only two promotional singles would be released from the album, one of which was a cover of George Michael's ballad "Careless Whisper" (which was co-written by Woodward's partner Andrew Ridgeley). The other release "If" received positive reviews but failed to chart.
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 but the record was shelved despite topping the dance charts. A new single, "Move in My Direction", was released in July and hit the UK charts at #14 following playlist support from Radio 2 and many local stations, making this song the group's 24th UK Top 40 hit, and their first Top 20 hit since their 1991 single "Preacher Man". Follow-up single "Look on the Floor (Hypnotic Tango)", however, was less successful peaking at #26 which was followed by the Drama album which peaked at #169.
Drama was released in the U.S. on 16 May and after a fourteen-year absence, Bananarama was back on Billboard's Hot Dance Club Songs and the Hot Dance Airplay charts with an import version of "Look on the Floor (Hypnotic Tango)" (US#2). "Look on the Floor" became their first U.S. hit since 1992, when they scored with "Tripping on Your Love" (US#14). "Move in My Direction" (US#14) was released as a second single in the U.S.
2006–2011: Remasters and Viva
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.
Dallin and Woodward performed a set along with other 1980s acts at Retro Fest on 1 September 2007 at Culzean Castle in Ayrshire, Scotland.
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.
In April 2011, Bananarama appeared on ITV's Benidorm and performed "Love in the First Degree", "Robert De Niro's Waiting..." and "Movin' On".
2012–2016: 30 Years of Bananarama and Now or Never
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".
A four-track digital-only EP Now or Never was released independently by the group on 21 September 2012 to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the group and the launch of their Hard Rock Cafe "Pinktober" US tour. Apart from two versions of the song "Now or Never" the EP contains two new songs — one entitled "La La Love", the other one being a cover version of Maroon 5/Christina Aguilera's "Moves Like Jagger". Via iTunes, "Movin' On 2012" was available for a limited time as a bonus track.
In March 2013, Dallin posted on Twitter that she and Woodward were writing new tracks together. On 11 April, she announced that four tracks were completed and that there were "six to go". Since then, Bananarama have performed at different events in Poland (23 April), Germany (4 May – Kult am Kalkberg) and the UK (18 May – Let's Rock The Moor!; 25 May – Birmingham Pride).
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 December 2016, Billboard magazine ranked them the 94th most successful dance artist of all time.
2017–present: Fahey rejoins the band and The Original Line-Up Tour
It was announced on 23 April 2017 that Fahey had rejoined Bananarama for a UK tour in November and December 2017. On 29 April, they reviewed their career via the unusual questions they were asked by pop music magazines in the 1980s in a BBC interview. In May 2017, the trio appeared on ITV's Tonight at the London Palladium performing "Venus". The show was recorded on 25 April and marked Fahey's first performance with the group since the 2002 G.A.Y performance. In various interviews about their career, Bananarama confirmed that they were working on a new single. In June 2017, Bananarama received the Glamour Icons Award and a few days later revealed that they were in the studio recording their new, yet untitled single. Rehearsals for the upcoming The Original Line-Up Tour, which would take them to different venues across Great Britain and be extended to North America for four dates in February 2018, were confirmed to start at the beginning of October 2017. The tour 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".
- Former members
- Jacquie O'Sullivan (1988–1991)
- Deep Sea Skiving (1983)
- Bananarama (1984)
- True Confessions (1986)
- Wow! (1987)
- Pop Life (1991)
- Please Yourself (1993)
- Ultra Violet (1995)
- Exotica (2001)
- Drama (2005)
- Viva (2009)
- Lovekids Tour (1988)
- Bananarama World Tour (1989)
- Ultra Violet/Dance Mix 95 Tour (1995–1996)
- Bananarama Australian Tour (1997)
- Bananarama & Culture Club UK Tour (1999)
- Drama Tour (2005–2006)
- Here and Now Tour (2007–2009)
- Viva Tour (2009–2010)
- The Bananarama USA Tour (2012)
- Europe Tour (2014–2015)
- Australia Tour (2016)
- The Original Line Up UK Tour (2017)
- The Original Line Up North America Tour (2018)
List of all record labels
- London Records (UK, USA, and Canada, 1981–1993)
- ZYX Records (Germany, 1994–1996)
- avex trax (Japan, 1995 / Taiwan, 2006)
- Quality Records (Canada, 1995)
- Mega Records (Denmark, 1995)
- DigIt International (Italy, 1995)
- Festival Records (Australia, 1995)
- Popular Records (Canada 1996)
- Curb Records (USA,1996)
- M6 Interactions (France, 2000)
- A&G Productions (UK, 2004–2006)
- The Lab (USA, 2006)
- True North Records (Canada, 2006)
- Edel Company (Germany, 2006)
- EQ Music (Singapore and Malaysia, 2005)
- Phantom Imports (Hong Kong, 2006)
- Central Station (Australia, 2005)
- Pony Canyon (Japan, 2006)
- Universal Records (Philippines, 2005)
- Blanco y Negro Records (Spain,1995–2006)
- Megaliner Records (Russia, 2005)
- Nice Records (France, 2007)
- Fascination Records (UK, 2009–2010)
- BMG (UK, 2016–)
- Girl group
- List of best-selling girl groups
- List of Billboard number-one singles
- List of artists who reached number one in the United States
- List of number-one dance hits (United States)
- List of artists who reached number one on the U.S. dance chart
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- Savage, Mark (29 April 2017). "'Did you enjoy being pregnant?' – Bananarama revisit old Smash Hits questions". BBC.
- Bananarama official website
- Bananarama Community