Take yourselves back now, to a time when the Spice Girls were just a twinkle in their creator’s eye, and when Little Mix were but mere specks in the pop constellations. The year is 1979, and childhood friends Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward have just moved from outside Bristol into the YWCA in London.
Little did they know that, together with their friend and Sara’s coursemate at the London College of Fashion, Siobhan Fahey, that they were about to embark on a career in music that saw them become the defining girl group of the 80s, that is still going strong after nearly 40 years.
‘Really Saying Something’, named after one of their famous early hits, is the autobiography and debut book from the two longest serving members of Bananarama, and is exactly the escapist, riotous and funny read that you’d expect from the band that epitomized DIY fashion sense, “couldn’t-give-a-toss” ethics and some of the most recognisable chart bangers of that decade.
It’s easy to see reading this why Sara and Keren have been friends since childhood and have enjoyed the career they’ve had. Their camaraderie and banter shines through as they recount in detail everything, from their school days japes, to living in a squat above the Sex Pistols’ old rehearsal rooms, to securing their first top 5 single with Fun Boy Three in 1982 on ‘It Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It)’.
They also vividly recall when they met Hollywood legend Robert De Niro (who was referenced in their 1984 hit ‘Robert De Niro’s Waiting’), Sir Michael Caine and being called up by Bob Geldof to appear on the now legendary Band Aid single, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’
But alongside recounting the real highs of their career – hitting #1 in the US with their now legendary cover of the Shocking Blue hit ‘Venus’, touring the world and being declared by no less an icon than Andy Warhol as “the best thing happening in New York right now” – they also recount with frank honesty about the lows.
In fact, this is probably part of what makes this book an interesting read. You suspect if this had been written straight after the fact that it’d be a little less measured, but their (relative) maturity as women in their 50s allows for a sense of objectivity over events such as Siobhan’s shock departure from their fold in 1988.
Keren in particular also talks openly about her struggles with depression, balancing being a new mum to her son Tom with touring the world and recording albums at the peak of their success, likewise Sara when she talks about her life threatening fight with meningitis.
The chapters I particularly enjoyed were the ones that recounted their friendships with the now late George Michael and also The Prodigy’s Keith Flint, and the good times they had with them away from the limelight. Jennifer Saunders, who once parodied the girls as Lananeeneenoonoo with Dawn French for their sketch show, once said they “were the hardest drinking girls I ever met in the 80s”. And reading this book I felt that.
Bringing right up to date with their packed turnout on the Avalon stage at Glastonbury last year, one thing that remains true and indeed appealing about Bananarama, even as a duo when you read ‘Really Saying Something’, is the unwavering friendship between Sara and Keren that means they will probably, as they say, still be cackling madly in a corner somewhere 20 years hence.
‘Really Saying Something’ is available now, published by Cornerstone Books. Twitter: @VivaBananarama
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