Always the “art school” member of the band, Siobhan Fahey co-founded Bananarama with friends Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward in 1981, while still a student at the London College of Fashion. From recording their first demo, to working with the Fun Boy Three, and releasing their own top 5 single, took them less than 2 years.
Initially it was their street savvy, “just got out of bed, honestly” look, that won them admirers. Bananarama were easy to like, and were the sort of band that somehow appealed to both the budding post punkers as well as the more mainstream types. For the girls, who had just woken up to bands like Orange Juice, Altered Images and the B-52s, Bananarama became something of a fashion touchstone with their easy to copy ripped jeans, workers dungarees and cropped jackets. In 1982, their original look quickly became the go to for “alternative” teenage girls. While Toyah became the media’s acceptable face of post punk, Bananarama brewed up their own version of Punk’s influence, and fed it back into the future. The hair was much longer but still backcombed, the clothes were still vintage, ripped and surprisingly tough looking, and the footwear, yup, it was still black and chunky.
“Being an old punk, I believe in your right to look like an individual and express yourself in the way you look. I don’t spend a fortune on clothes – I’m not into the whole idea of wearing labels…” – Siobhan Fahey
As if being in Bananarama, releasing hit singles with the Fun Boy Three, becoming an essential part of the Stock, Aitkin Waterman hit factory, and being sufficiently recognisable to get lampooned by both French & Saunders and Tracey Ullman wasn’t quite enough of the ultimate 1980s lifestyle, Siobhan then topped it all off by marrying actual Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics.
Before Dave, Fahey was how they say…romantically involved with both with Jim Reilly the drummer from SLF, and Robert “Bobby” Hodgens of The Bluebells, a relationship that if nothing else, spawned the song “Young at Heart”, which Siobhan co-wrote with Bobby and that gave the Bluebells a UK No. 1 hit record, as well as appearing as a track on the first Bananarama album “Deep Sea Skiving”.
And all of these things might just make Siobhan Fahey the most 1980s person ever.
However, by the end of the decade Fahey also rejected much of what she’d become part of. Talking about her quitting the band in 1988, Siobhan has more recently opened up about some of the reasons behind her departure, she told Attitude in December 2017,
“I found the sexism of Stock Aitken Waterman very difficult to handle. I couldn’t be in the studio at the same time as Pete”, and “I remember Matt [Aitken] pressing the talkback button going, ‘Keren, I can see your t**s wobble!’.
Being uncomfortable about leery, letchy comments, wanting a say in song choice and production and refusing to put up with this kind of creepy sexism, obviously fast-tracked the band and its members into the “difficult” category, or as Keren Woodward put it, “Difficult compared to other artists who just accepted songs, performed them and left.”
In 1989, Siobhan followed up with her own band, Shakespears Sister, initially with just herself, and then with US singer Marcella Detroit. Stifled by the shiny produced pop of the Nana’s, the band became Siobhan’s platform to explore a darker and more creative side. In 1992, they released the album “Hormonally Yours” which contained the monumentally popular “Stay”, a single that spent a total of 9 weeks in pole position on the UK charts, and whose accompanying video featured a re-energized Fahey as a glittery pop-goth apparition. Playing the angel of death, Siobhan, appears like a derranged Louise Brooks after a weekend spent watching old Roxy Music videos with Kate Bush; there’s the glam, the drama, plenty of pan stick and eyeliner and a certain amount of updated “It’s meee a-Kathyee”-ing about it.
After 27 years, Shakespears Sister have recently recorded and released several new songs, including the track “All The Queen’s Horses”. The video, made by “Stay” director Sophie Muller features the very modern and current Siobhan and Marcella in the desert – (“the cultural desert” according to Siobhan), and also, rather touchingly, their alter-egos as they were in “Stay”. It’s clever.
Shakespears Sister tour dates autumn 2019