Remembering Sarah Harding: pop’s walking primrose

I am deeply saddened to be hearing and thus writing a post about the news that Girls Aloud’s Sarah Harding has passed away this morning at the age of 39, following a year long battle with terminal cancer.

Although I never met her or knew her, the news has hit home today in a big way for me. I think anybody who has known me for a long time will know that, as a fan of music, and pop music in particular, that Girls Aloud were a massive part of that during my mid-late teens and early twenties.

It is hard to put into words how much they meant to me, and it can be incredibly easy to slip into platitudes at a sad time like this. But one thing I always associate with the girls was what fun they were and how much joy Sarah, along with Nadine Coyle, Cheryl Tweedy, Nicola Roberts and Kimberley Walsh bought to my life in the 00s.

Formed off Popstars: The Rivals in 2002, at a time when reality TV shows centred around music weren’t going anywhere, but were starting to be derided and met with scorn by advocates for “real” music (a stance I’ve always questioned the thinking behind, as if any other music is assumedly produced by fictional characters from a novel), it was never considered cool to be a fan of GA (as I and many others have always affectionately called them) in the beginning.

This despite the fact that their first single, “Sound of the Underground” was not only an instant pop classic, but remains one of the most left-of-centre Christmas number one singles ever produced. And this despite the fact they went onto release and hit the top 10 an incredible 20 times over in succession with more genre defining bangers like it; “Love Machine”, “The Show”, “No Good Advice”, “Biology”, “Wake Me Up”, “Call The Shots”, “Can’t Speak French”, “The Promise”, “Something New”.

Only once they won their BRIT Award in 2009 seven years after forming, being invited to support Coldplay on their stadium tour and racking up the level of success they did did the wider public ever give them their due respect. But I always had their back, even when I was being taken the piss out of multiple times at school and sixth form for being a fan of theirs.

They were fearless, oftentimes funny, but also phenomenally talented, and they were that rare gift of a pop band where you never knew what to expect next from them. They were a force to be reckoned with. Sarah exemplified all of those qualities in abundance, often being dubbed the band’s “wild child” or “caner” or “Hardcore Harding”. She was all of those things, but she was also easily likeable and charming.

I had a little giggle to myself when one of the first memories that came to my head when I heard the news today was a clip of her from the girls’ fly-on-the-wall documentary Girls Aloud: Off the Record they made for E4 in 2006.

I watch my DVD of it about twice yearly so I can recall it well. In footage from when they were filming a TV show at Silverstone, Sarah got into a very expensive Ferrari, that she then proceeded to crash into their tour manager Drew’s people carrier, before driving off down the circuit as if nothing of event had occurred.

It is memories like this, and the joy and escapism she and the rest of the girls gave me which I am holding onto today and for the years to come. Rest in peace Sarah, and thank you for being part of “my band” that made my world that bit brighter from the ages of 13 – 23. You will never be forgotten.

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