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Empire State College ​this is Nick over here on three counties Rob will be with you from 3 o'clock this afternoon with all the news affecting your cross beds hearts and bucks right I'm going to do something completely on the fly completely on the fly okay this is unrehearsed unprepared because this interview only fell into our lap about two minutes ago I think so I'm going to do a piece of a piece of performance art and just wing it with that with Karen founding member of the British girl group Bananarama karen woodward will be performing at this year's and rocks festival Bananarama had a string of UK top 10 hits and topped the American charts as well with Venus the original lineup of Sarah Siobhan and Karen will be back together for the first time at a festival since those glorious 80s on the 29th of June and Karen it auu okay with this strategy that we're just gonna wing it is that do you think that's going to be okay story of my life well I'm fine with that there's kind of a symmetry in the synergy so I'm digging deep into my Bananarama knowledge here bearing in mind that this is this this has come at the last minute but I'm delighted to chat to you and and funny enough I had Girls Aloud lined up to play a half past two there and and it's worth noting that but not Bananarama still to this day have had the largest number of hits for it for an all-girl band anyway well we have been going rather a long time I think we're up to about 38 years now 38 37 37 you know you're not meant to count quite that much but when you look back when you look back to the beginning there and III I think it's often sort of underestimates because we see Bananarama is a very sort of you know bubblegummy pop band but the origins were were quite almost punky Quay underground I think John Peel played you early dated me yeah the very first demo no we're far from being bubblegum I mean we never were I think that was from just from doing things like the cover of Smash Hits and yeah before we learnt to say no to stuff in some ways and and then we went through a sort of very miserable phase where we didn't smile a more black but she also wasn't us marecus I think you can be a lot of fun without being bubblegum if that makes sense but yeah we came Sara Sara and I were asked to leave the YWCA hostel in great Russell Street in London mostly for keeping late hours I think when we were very young and we'd met Paul cook out and about in various places and he said well you can come and live in you know there's a room going begging not luxurious I have to say above their rehearsal room which used to be the office of the pest the Sex Pistols it was after the pistols but Paul and Steve used it to rehearse in so Sara and I moved in there which yeah was far from glamorous but it was right in the middle of the West End and we loved it am I right in saying that this was the the bed sit where as your success grew so did the quality of the interior furnishings until ultimately you had to move out we had the furnishings we had were remnants left over from the so great Rock n Roll swindle films and we had a sort of polystyrene Bambi headboard and I think the Oh was our coffee table and we had but they had all drawn round the wall so Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten and everyone had left lots of graffiti on the walls and we added to and it's still there it's still there yes it's behind a guitar shop now and it's all still there on the walls and quite a history you see you said that of course you and Sarah work were close friends from from pretty well your your toddler years well when did Siobhan come into the picture and Sarah went to the London College of Fashion tis to do a journalism course and Siobhan was on the same course and they sort of looked and dressed similarly and and we became friends straightaway really and of course at the time you all you know you loved your clubs you loved your music you were very much part of of that whole scene and and therein lay the genesis of Bananarama a band that was formed with a decision to basically just have three vocalists now you decided that you were going to be your an instrument yeah I mean I I was brought up playing piano but and we used to strum a few chords and played bass and drums and stuff in in the rehearsal room but none of us were really proficient enough and we wanted to do it there and then so we used to get up on stage and do B V's with people like Department s who were born was very good friend and we did a cheval and had some friends at art school called the tea set and they did a gig supporting Iggy Pop when we got up and sang with them and anyone who'd let us up really and then we started doing our own demos and things at the wag club which was very famous of its time Horsa in the 80s and so it and then yeah well but it was Paul Cook's idea from from the pistols to to start recording and he produced our very first demo in Terry Hall who thought you all must have been proper singers because he he wanted you to come and sing yeah I mean I mean Sarah and I always sang in the

school choir and stuff it wasn't that we couldn't sing it's just we thought he thought you know we were very professional we don't you really just started yeah and we're all rather embarrassed really but then Terry was always quite shy as well so we all got on like a house on fire yeah he liked the way we looked in a magazine article in the face yeah and of course fun boy three then returned the favor didn't they with them we've they're really saying something yeah yeah great times and and it was a real good learning process for us because you know that it was very much doit-yourself and I think I sat at the piano with Terry and played and and then we all had a drum each or maracas or something and just sort of put it together from scratch and you know at that point we hadn't even thought about writing songs but we started writing songs from then on as well 1983 is is is when the the highlife probably would have started cool summer I think when top ten in the in the u.s. yes and yet and yet still you made your own clothes you have in your sewing machines yes still still you kindly you know had that slightly amateurish dance style that we remember you for nothing changed yes nothing has changed we still got amateurish dance routines we really just started making stuff up for our own amusement really and then got a choreographer in from I think about 1984 95 who happened to be Bruno Tonioli who has appeared in yes of stuff with us in and sort of danced with us on many occasions back in the day which was very amusing obviously and yes so it just sort of escalated from there were you slightly taking the mickey out of being in the girl band I mean was there an element this that was taking the-- well I don't know about that I just think you know we weren't maybe typical girls that you didn't imagine in a girl band I mean our background oh so it was very different and I think we thought of ourselves as like any male rock band it's just obviously because we were singing and we were girls yeah it was other people's perception that may have been different but as far as our own you know career is concerned we we've never really thought of ourselves as comparable to the previous girl groups we loved things like The Supremes and I love all that stuff but I think we were very different animals than them really because it was so do it yourself yes sometimes to our detriment maybe because we wouldn't listen to anyone and slightly coming once kicked off not just over in a live TV show and got banned to the carpark yes we've had many incidents but really just mischievous and being silly and having fun as well yes which we still do remarkably otherwise wouldn't do it to be honest yeah I mean the shows are as much about us having fun as the crowd really and I think it really rubs off I know if I go and see people you you kind of pick up on the vibe you can tell if people don't like each other and you can tell if people aren't enjoying it and just and it's just a sort of performance by numbers whereas that's never really how we've been the the the dividing point the moment when perhaps skew me we can talk about the divorce briefly would have been around the fourth album around Wow because it was stuck aching what and Waterman wasn't it so so you'd yes you switch producers you loved the album shevawn yes so and and she was getting involved with with Dave Stewart with it was right with the fault lines becoming very clear yeah I think so yeah they you know I mean I felt I mean I absolutely love that album I think it's brilliant and I was very happy making pure pop music and I just think they were brilliant yeah you know of their time maybe but really talented him and I really loved working with them and yes Peter Waterman used to come in with some tall tales and he's got a very creative mind he wasn't really involved his story suggests that it was very fond of is he I think he you know you Shyvana in him particularly didn't see eye to eye yeah I've got a real soft spot for Peter Waterman and as much as he said we were difficult to work with he's I don't he's very fond of us and it was just for the fact that we were the ebony artists at the time that they worked with who took an interest enough to want to write songs and to have things specifically done for us as opposed to being part of a conveyor belt of songs which they became very much and mostly after that after we went to them initially because they had a couple of tracks on album before the Wow album which was Venus we went to them to Davina's and we argued that we wanted guitars on it and they said well you can't have guitars on a pop record and we won out in that case and we did get guitars on it but yeah I mean we had an opinion and if you know if that means you're difficult then I'm very difficult and there is a very simple rule that I I learned growing up with my dad managing big indie bands around the time you were out and that way the artist is always right the artist is always right everything else follows but always follow the artists instinct well yeah I mean eat nerd we're the ones you know that I've always you know I you always think that whatever happens and whatever one anyone does around us it always falls back to the artist so if someone doesn't do what they're supposed to when you're doing a show or if someone goes wrong or is it all right if I go wrong that's fine I go wrong but if someone else doesn't do their job they're not going to say what a shame that the lighting people weren't doing their job properly that looked terrible you know because it all just thinks oh well that was rubbish people to look at us so I think the fact that we've always taken you know complete responsibility for what we do whether it's right or wrong means if the buck stops with us then so be it because it's our decision yeah and it's not for example the producer to take the glory my producer well knows that all of their great ideas have to end up being my great ideas that I just happy that's the way it works around here well I would say it's more a collaboration yes I mean it's really

important to have producers and writing partners that that you get on with and see eye to eye with and we have been in the studio with people we really don't and it just doesn't work you have to get on with people and you have to be on the same wavelength I'm just flicking an apology to my producer Cody who's looking daggers at me back together and just before we come to out rock so just just take me through that that that that period post-divorce because my my recollection of this and mine standing in the early days the early years of the first ten years or so it was a pretty harsh divorce was it this this was a big fallout but you know what I it it was it wasn't the massive fallout that you would think Siobhan left she moved to LA with Dave Stewart yeah and we just didn't see each other yeah I don't I mean I don't I don't think of it she was unhappy she left and she wasn't happy for whatever reason the music and and she was embarking on a new life well you know it's what people do as they you know change and grow a system a pretty upon then she came back and then we became friends again and you know for the first maybe seven years she was off doing her own thing and then we you know we we saw each other on and off in the intervening years and there it wasn't like there was any animosity it was just that's what happened at the time you know I I moved to Cornwall in the mid 90s and stopped working for a bit just because I felt like I wanted to have a different life and you know those sorts of things happened it doesn't mean say that you you hate behalf of persons there has been my best friend all the way through that but people do different things in their lives and I felt it was very much she went off and did a different thing for a bit and of course in many ways you are reflective of your fan base because my my little pet theory and I was talking to Tom Bailey yesterday from the the Thompson Twins and I'll play that interview later on on my show in a couple of weeks time and and I threw this theory at him and he agreed with me that actually one of the reasons the 80s have got such a renaissance is it your fan base they all loved you in the eighties and then went off and had families and children now those children have flown the nest and therefore everyone's trying to relive and take themselves back to where they were when they were 17 or 18 and actually they are under reflects your story as a band as well yeah I mean you know there was a point in the 90s where I think it went so indie it kind of went a bit anti pop which you know sort of suited me because I wanted to do some different stuff yes I did but for the last god feels like forever 15 more years Sarah and I have been you know recording doing festivals doing lots of shows and and we started sort of doing 80 shows with with really we don't we told after Siobhan left so we taught in 89 and then we didn't do a huge amount of live work and you know that's kind of what Sarah and I have done for as long as I can remember again now and it's brilliant and we do other shows apart from the 80 shows but I absolutely love doing the oh she shows there's a great vibe you know that the crowd come along I mean everyone gets up and does all their hits and I mean there's it's just such a great time I mean that the bands in the 80s were very diverse and yet you know everyone was a bit different and I think you know in divide the individuality really shone through oh and add their own sound their own look and and then when you bring it all together it's just a whole bunch of acts with great solace absolutely and acts who were who were pushing the boundaries using new instruments using new techniques using new studios yes yeah absolutely we saw God we laugh at the size of you know the fair lights when they came in or whatever it's like it was like a church organ coming in just to play a couple of different sounds they it's it's insane how things have changed what the reality is this smartphone in my hair now could create the same diversity of music that you would have required them huge rigs form and several rows those great big tract tapes and yes yes so anthrax Friday the 29th of June it starts at five o'clock it's you at Bananarama reef as well an example tickets currently are 35 per nice diverse lineup isn't that very diverse I think for every where there is there there's some pop there's some festival rock and there's how would we describe example good good contemporary pop as well condemned work there you know I'm trying to say I'm getting myself in a twist I'll just give the address it's gonna be am to a park which is of course in am till now if you want to buy tickets as I say they are currently 35 pounds my understanding is they go up to 40 quite soon you tickets can be to amp rocks that's amp rocks or you can head off to the amp rocks festival page which is unsurprisingly and procs on Facebook more about Bananarama is where Karen sorry more do you have a website yes Bananarama topcoat UK give you have you entered the world of Twitter as well or not oh yeah occasionally Instagram I'm really bad at it but nobody have official stuff yes we have official sites but me personally I'm pretty rubbish but you're more than welcome to check me out UK for the website and amp rocks don't if you want to go see a Karen with Siobhan and Sarah headlining ahead of reef and example as well and there's a local band called the kazoos playing as well if I'm not mistaken it's been great to catch it was completely improvised it was good it was interesting for that thing yeah I think it's sometimes nice to just you know have an office and chat and I'll let you get back to your birds cuz I can hear them tweeting in the background and I'm sure that many of my list can't she living for you see they'll enjoy seeing you at the end of June in the US it'll be fun good stuff there's Karen Woodward one third of Bananarama of course coming to camp rocks at the end of the month and very very nice she was to lots of stories a great era as well and and I do love the fact that there's this wonderful revival

happening you're listening to Nick coffer on three counties [Applause] Cornell University, Ithaca.