Bananarama interview: Keren and Sara recall George Michael friendship, Band Aid's lack of women and lifelong friendship
30 October 2020, 15:02 | Updated: 30 October 2020, 16:39
In Smooth's latest Virtual Coffee Break interview, Bananarama legends Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin talk about their new tell-all book, look back at their biggest moments and look ahead to their 40th anniversary.
Bananarama were one of the biggest pop groups of the 1980s, scoring several massive hits around the world including 'Venus' and 'Cruel Summer'.
Bananarama was formed in 1979 by friends Keren, Sara and Siobhan Fahey. Keren and Sara were childhood friends and recruited Siobhan when she and Sara were at university together. While Siobhan left in 1988 to form Shakespears Sister, Keren and Sara continued, first with Jacquie O'Sullivan and then as a duo.
Looking back at starting as a band as friends, Sara said: "It wasn’t a manufactured band. So I guess everything seemed, to use the word we don’t like using, organic.
"We went to the clubs, we were friends and then we put the group together and started writing songs and yes, it was not in any way manufactured. So that’s kind of the difference, really."
On how their children all hang out together today, Sara said: "Yes, like really good friends. Obviously it’s different because Keren lives in Cornwall and I live in London, so we don’t see as much of each other but when we’re together it’s just like [we’re] best friends."
The duo spoke of some of their showbiz encounters during their career, including their close friendship with George Michael. Keren also dated George's Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley for a number of years.
"We met him in the very late 80s, 90s and became really really good friends," Sara said. "He lived just up the road from me, so we would have lunch, and dinner, and play all these different games, and go on holidays with him.
"And to be honest, it was really hard to condense the George Michael chapter down to like, 'Oh we went here, we went there.' But we just did, you know, we were good friends so, we spent so much time together. Yeah, he’s really missed."
Keren added: "Yeah, I hope it gives a flavour of sort of what he meant to us and the relationship we had."
The girls also recalled the surreal night they hung out with actor Robert De Niro, after releasing their song 'Robert De Niro's Waiting'.
"Keren and I loved his films and we were always watching them so I had a bit of a crush on him, really," Sara said. "He just happened to be filming in London at the time, and I guess the PRs got together and said, 'Oh look, this band have written a song about you.'
"And he called us up in our council flat and asked us out for a drink. Of course my boyfriend came rushing in and said, 'Oh, Bob De Niro’s on the phone' and we were, 'Don’t be ridiculous.'
"But eventually we went to the phone and ended up going out for a drink. So yeah, it was really, now that was surreal. It was just bizarre sitting in a club, you know, with Robert De Niro, very odd."
"We have no recollection [of what they said]," Keren added. "I have no idea what we talked about."
Bananarama were the only women in the original Band Aid lineup in 1984, alongside Jody Watley. They were also the only artists to re-appear in the second version in 1989.
Recalling how they were the only girls in 1984, Keren joked: "Yeah, us and Jody Watley and a sea of blokes!"
Earlier this week, the duo spoke of how they were surprised about the lack of women the first time around, telling BBC Breakfast that it was strange the likes of Alison Moyet and Kim Wilde weren't asked.
On the second version, Sara laughed and said: "I think we just sang the chorus again!"
Keren recalled: "I think we sang, if I remember rightly, we sang a line in harmony with, I think, Nick Kamen? Do you know what, that’s only just come to me. I’m sure we did. I think he sang with us, so we did get a line!"
Jenni also asked Sara and Keren what it was like to be a female group in the 1980s when the music business was so predominently run by men.
"I think, for us, even as kids we always presumed we could do anything that a boy could do," Sara said. "So we kind of approached it quite naturally and it was only when certain things would, sort of barriers would come up, we’d sort of think, 'Well why can’t we do that?' or, 'Why are we not getting the respect or the credibility that male bands are getting?'
"But the way we dealt with it is we just continued and made music and carried on. And just focused on, you know, what we did."
Keren continued: "Yeah, I think we were quite lucky in our record company, because they were very supportive. I think they signed us as a novelty act and it worked so they let us kind of get on with it and they never tried to make us look a certain way or be a certain way or produce a certain type of music, because it was working.
"I think it was in maybe other areas of the business, which was a struggle, But I still think things have changed hugely but there are a lot of businesses that are still a real boys club. And I still think it’s harder for women to fight to get to the top.
"I think when people are hired they would take into account, 'Oh well we won’t hire her because she might want to have to leave and have a baby.'"
Looking ahead to their 40th anniversary plans, Sara revealed: "Most of the shows that we were doing [this year], the festivals and things that were cancelled this year, have been rebooked for next year.
"But it’s difficult to say even if next year they’ll happen. So obviously we’ve got our 40th anniversary coming up in 2022 and so we’ll be looking at plans for that."