Barry Blue And Bananarama

Welcome to the 80s, era of the flamboyant new romantics, the Rubik’s Cube and one of the most successful girl groups ever…Bananarama.

Paul Nichols
  • By Paul Nichols
  • 22 Mar 2012
  • min read
Welcome to the 80s, era of the flamboyant new romantics, the Rubik’s Cube and one of the most successful girl groups ever…Bananarama.

This picture was taken in 1982 and pretty much defines the fun and style of the music scene at that time.

Looking back I think producing Bananarama’s debut album Deep Sea Skiving was particularly challenging - it’s all there in the title! They were all over the place, both personally and musically, and it was very hard to get them all together in one place unless it was the pub.

They had very strong ideas of how they didn't want to sound but, conversely, they didn't have a strong idea of how they did want to sound. Of course the all singing melody helped to hone the band’s style and appeal. Though I have to admit, that while it was all a bit fraught and demanding, it was also really evocative and fresh.

I think we did get lots of work done, but over a much longer period than the scheduled six weeks. Bad timing, fag breaks and general banter are always particularly handy when pushing up the studio costs.

For me, Deep Sea Skiving gets seven out of ten for effort and eight out of ten for content; the album did go platinum after all…

Among the songs co–written with the band was Hey Young London, which was all about the capital's club and music at that time. The band were great at tapping into what was new glam-wise and the cool places to go and be seen at, and that's why they epitomised that era so well. For my part, I contributed as much as I could to the pop culture of that day by making records that hopefully people wanted to buy.

Getting back to the picture, it came about when I was asked to promote a certain Japanese music company’s range of guitars. Of course, Bananarama wanted one or two as well, so we had this random picture shoot at a studio right next door to the Spread Eagle pub in Camden, which is why I probably look like I had a pork pie too many as well as a couple of extra pints!

If you have a real look at this shot it shows off the era perfectly. I've got the mullet hair do and those kind of aviator shades that were really early ‘80s. The girls, like Boy George, Steve Strange et al, had that definitive post-punk style. You look at that picture and you know exactly when it was taken - it's all about a definite time and place.

One thing you may not notice is the absolute fear and loathing I had for staring down a lens. In fact one of the main reasons I curtailed my career as a ‘pop superstar’ were the endless photo shoots. I actually don't have one picture of myself from my artist career. I guess they are out there online for people to see but not for me. My ambition was always to be a songwriter and producer first and an artist by default. Leave me in the studio and let someone else promote the stuff was my mantra...

Barry Blue is part of that elite group of writer-producers who have had Top Forty hits over five decades. He has sold more than 25 million records.

He began his career at 14, writing Rainmaker Girl for Gene Pitney. As a producer and writer, Barry has worked with many artists, including multi-million-selling funk band Heatwave, Bananarama, Brotherhood of Man, Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli, Dina Carroll and Lynsey de Paul. Recently, he has written and produced for The Saturdays, Pixie Lott and The Wanted.

Barry continues to be heavily involved in songwriting and production. He is Managing Director of Favoured Nations Music Publishing and a PRS board director.

Watch M's exclusive video interview with Barry Blue where he discusses writing songs at the 'British Tin Pan Alley', working with Rod Temperton and the challenges and opportunities facing songwriters.

Part one
Part two