Bananarama are an English female pop band who have had success on the pop and dance charts since 1982. Rather than relying on harmony, the band generally sings in unison, as do their background vocalists. Although there have been line-up changes, the group enjoyed most success as a trio made up of lifelong friends Siobhan Fahey, Keren Woodwardand Sara Dallin. In the 1980s, Bananarama were listed in the Guinness World Records as the all female group with the most chart entries in the world, a record which they still hold. Since 1992, Woodward and Dallin have continued Bananarama as a duo.
Bananarama were founded in London in 1979 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. The pair became a trio when Dallin met Fahey while studying fashion journalism in London. 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" (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. Bananarama's only previous experience in a recording studio at the time was as background vocalists on the Department S b-side, "Solid Gold Easy Action," a T.Rex cover in early 1981.
During this early period Bananarama were approached by Malcolm McLaren, who offered to manage the group. McLaren, manager of the Sex Pistols, Adam and the Ants 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 Threeon the track "T'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.
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 No. 7, US No. 63) (1983) contained several hit singles — "He Was Really Sayin' Somethin'" (UK No. 5) and "Shy Boy" (UK No. 4) — and included a cover version of "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" (UK No. 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.
In December 1983, the trio made inarguably their most famous British TV appearance on the BBC's popular entertainment magazine program, Show Business, in which they screamed in unison at the camera that they "loved" and "wanted" cult London pirate radio comedian Mark Gould for Christmas.
The next album, Bananarama (UK No. 16, US No. 30) (1984) was a more socially conscious effort. The group wanted to be taken more seriously, so wrote songs that tackled heavier topics: "Hot Line to Heaven" is a stand against the drugs-are-cool culture; and "Rough Justice" deals with social apathy. The album contained the hit singles, "Robert De Niro's Waiting...," and their first U.S. Top 10 hit, "Cruel Summer" (1983), which was included in the movie The Karate Kid. The trio also recorded the single, "The Wild Life" for a 1984 American film of the same name.
Bananarama was one of the few female groups 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, with Siobhan Fahey only featured on the 1984 version. They did not, however, participate in 2004's Band Aid 20 twentieth anniversary version.
1986 saw the release of their third album, True Confessions (UK No. 46, US No. 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 number one hit from 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.
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.
In the wake of the success of "Venus," all production and co-writing responsibilities for their fourth album, 1987's Wow!, (UK No. 26, US No. 44) were transferred from Jolley & Swain to SAW, under whom the group's sound graduated towards dance-oriented Europop.
"I Heard a Rumour" was their strongest performing international hit from this album. In the U.S., the song was featured in the motion picture, Disorderlies, starring The Fat Boys and Ralph Bellamy. "Love in the First Degree" 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 a minor hit.
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 whom, she says, were 'no longer inviting her out with them'. She would later resurface in the BRIT Award-winning pop duo Shakespears Sisterwith Marcella Detroit.
In Fahey's absence, Jacquie O'Sullivan (formerly of the Shillelagh Sisters) joined the ranks. The single "I Want You Back" was re-recorded with O'Sullivan, as was The Supremes cover "Nathan Jones." "Love, Truth & Honesty" was released as a single from their 1988 retrospective compilation, Greatest Hits Collection. At the same time, Bananarama entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the all-female group who have the most chart entries in history, a record they still hold.
As a fund-raising charity single for Comic Relief in 1989, Bananarama recorded a cover of the Beatles' song "Help!" with Lananeeneenoonoo, a mock girl-group created by British female comedy duo French & Saunders, with fellow comediènne 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 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. After the release of the fourth and final single from the album, however, O'Sullivan left the band to form the short-lived Slippery Feet.
In 1993, Dallin and Woodward returned as a duo with a new album called Please Yourself, which also 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 Eurodisco sound as illustrated by their cover of Andrea True Connection's "More, More, More". 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 two singles "Every Shade of Blue" and "Take Me to Your Heart" were only released in some European countries, North America, Japan and Australia, and not in Britain.
In 1998, Dallin and Woodward recorded the track "Waterloo" (a cover of the classic ABBA song) together with Fahey for the Eurovision celebration A Song for Eurotrash on Channel 4. In 2001, they released the 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 Wham!'s ballad "Careless Whisper" (which was co-written by Woodward's partner Andrew Ridgeley).
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, Leave, Forget" for Sky TV's show Is Harry on the Boat? as well as the song "U R My Baby" for a German disco project. That same year, Bananarama (with Siobhan Fahey as special guest) celebrated their 20th anniversary at the London Astoria in London, with 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 charts at No. 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 No. 26 which was followed by the Drama album which peaked at No. 169.
Drama was released in the U.S. on May 16 and after a fourteen-year absence, Bananarama was back on Billboard's Hot Dance Club Play and the Hot Dance Airplay charts with an import version of "Look on the Floor (Hypnotic Tango)". "Look on the Floor" became their first U.S. hit since 1992, when they scored with "Tripping on Your Love". "Move in My Direction" was released as a second single in the U.S.
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 the band was 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 7th album Ultra Violet) by new dance act Block Rocker, a teaming up of producers/remixers Digital Dog and Ashiva. 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 DMC 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.Again the song failed to surface.
In June 2009, Bananarama performed at the Isle of Wight Festival.
In August 2009, Bananarama 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", and a new album Viva in September 2009. The album was produced entirely by Ian Masterson, and marketed through successful record label Fascination Records. A second single was released from the album in April 2010, a new remix of the song "Love Don't Live Here" backed by Ian Masterson's 2010 reworking of the 1995 single "Every Shade of Blue" and "The Runner" remixed by Buzz Junkies.
In September 2010, Bananarama were back in the studio with producer Ian Masterson, and recorded a Christmas song titled "Baby It's Christmas". The track was written by Sara Dallin and Ian Masterson and was released on December 13 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 the No. 19 in the UK Indie Singles chart and No. 199 in the main UK Singles Chart.
On 9 July 2012, Warner Music imprint Rhino Records released a greatest hits CD and DVD Collection 30 Years of Bananarama 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 band on 21 September 2012 to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the group and the launch of their Hard Rock Cafe "Pinktober" US tour.
It has been posted by Sara on Twitter on the 1st of March 2013 that she and Keren are writing new tracks.
- 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)
They are huge fans of netball and field hockey in which Sara and Keren did play in the past.