As I was having my mind blown by all kinds of new music in 1983, the first full year I lived in Madison, Wisconsin, I somehow came to know the British pop trio Bananarama via the British New Wave trio Fun Boy Three.
Siobhan Fahey, Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin sang backup on the Fun Boy Three single “It Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It).” I want to say I heard it first on the (still) wonderfully diverse WORT-FM, a listener-run radio station in Madison.
Later that year, I heard the first true Bananarama single — “He Was Really Sayin’ Something” — on which Terry Hall, Neville Staples and Lynval Golding of Fun Boy Three returned the favor of backup vocals. Only much later did I learn it was a cover of an old Motown tune done first by the Velvelettes in 1964.
Sucker for sunny pop goodness (and for charming ladies) that I am, I must confess that Bananarama has ever since been one of my guiltiest pleasures.
What follows is not a side of the first Bananarama album I ever had, but a side of the first one I really liked from beginning to end. In the summer of 1984, Bananarama became MTV faves with the video to “Cruel Summer,” the biggest single off their self-titled album.
The critics said Bananarama’s lyrics were getting more serious, and perhaps so. To my ears, though, “Bananarama” simply had a more mature sound. Tony Swain and Steve Jolley’s music behind those sweet vocals became more interesting.
As always, decide for yourself. Here’s Side 1.
“Cruel Summer,” “Rough Justice,” “King of the Jungle” and “Dream Baby,” Bananarama, from “Bananarama,” 1984. It runs 16:06.
(If you’re a Bananarama completist, you’ll be happy to know this side has a secret cut at the end. “Link” runs 1:31 and comes uncredited after “Dream Baby” on some of the original vinyl pressings. And, yes, this comes from my old vinyl LP.)