'80s - The Original Buck Fizz (2010)
'A New Beginning'
In late 1980, Nichola Martin and Andy Hill sought to create a new group to enter their song 'Making Your Mind up' in the Eurovision song contest. After successfully finding Mike Nolan, Cheryl Baker, Jay Aston and Bobby Gee they decided on the name Bucks Fizz (after Nichola's Favourite drink!).
After winning A Song for Europe the newly formed band went on to win the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin and also created the now famous skirt ripping routine. Making Your Mind Up went straight to #1 in the UK and around Europe making the band international stars overnight.
Two more #1 singles followed 'The Land of Make Believe' and 'My Camera Never Lies' along with the groundbreaking album Are You Ready. During the hectic recording schedule Bucks Fizz also went on tour, performing worldwide to their legions of fans.
1983 saw the release of the critically acclaimed album Handcut with a further two hit singles 'If You Can't Stand the Heat' and Run For Your Life'. By the end of the year the band had released the stand out track 'When We Were Young' which finally proved that they were not just a pop band. By Christmas they had notched up enough hit singles for a Greatest Hits album.
In the summer of 1984 they released their version of The Romantics song 'Talking in your Sleep' which gave them a top 20 hit. Then came the fabulously dramatic 'Golden Days', but it was on the release of the fourth album 'I Hear Talk' that things would take a dramatic turn for the worse.
While on a December tour, after a sell out concert at Newcastle City Hall, the band were involved in a tragic coach crash which left Mike Nolan in a coma and fighting for his life. A further blow for the band came in 1985 when Jay Aston announced she was to leave the band. Auditions to replace Jay found singer Shelley Preston who secured a further album 'The Writing on the Wall' and five more singles including the stand out top ten song 'New Beginning'.
The single 'Heart of Stone' would be the last recording from Bucks Fizz in 1988, although the final single release was the classic 'Handcut' album track 'You Love Love' from 1983.
The band has continued in various forms until the present day. Bobby Gee still continues to fly the Bucks Fizz flag with his own acclaimed live show and, after the recent departure of Shelley Preston from The Original Bucks Fizz, Jay Aston is back after 24 years with her old band mates Mike and Cheryl to keep the (Original) Bucks Fizz name alive.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Cheryl Baker about life back in the '80s, that infamous Eurovision Song Contest, the horrible bus crash, and, of course ... penguins!
When We Were Young
Taking it from the top, and casting your mind back to that infamous Eurovision Song Contest date in 1981, what was going through your heads that night - and after your performance (and before the voting), did you think you'd done enough to win? "Well, I didn't think we'd win for a start! I had represented the UK before in 1978 and lost badly (CoCo came 11th, which at the time was the worst the UK had ever done) so I didn't want to build my hopes up. Mike was very confident leading up to the contest and his optimism was infectious but, by the time of the actual contest, even he thought we weren't going to win."
"During the performance you just - well - perform! I certainly didn't think "hundreds of millions of people are watching me right now!" I just thought "remember your words and routine!!!!!" I was incredibly nervous though. The voting is the time when you get really tense. With the first vote I think we were awarded 4. I thought "we're going to come 11th again!" but then, of course, it started to get close."
"The closer it got, the more nervous I got! Even when we won, I couldn't believe it. Mike was jumping up and down like a man possessed but I thought he'd added the scores up wrong. Remember, we didn't hear Terry Wogan's commentary! The cameras in the green room at first went to the German girl who came second so I assumed she had won. Watch that bit of the contest again and you'll see Mike, Bob and Jay coming towards the stage to collect the trophy but I'm lagging way behind in a complete state of disbelief!"
Had you not won that contest do you think you would have still gone on to be one of the top-selling UK groups of the '80s? "Well, I'd love to say 'yes' but, if I'm honest, no, I don't think our popularity would have been as great as it was. We were on a six-month contract with RCA, our record label, and I reckon we would have been dropped after our third single, 'One of Those Nights'."
Piece Of The Action
I can't believe, with all those hit singles on the radio that you only managed three (3) No. 1 singles! Surely that's a typo, because in the '80s your music was everywhere, your videos playing on TV, and the band was playing live as much as possible! What am I missing here if that truly is the case?! "The 80's was a time when you had to sell a lot of records to get in the charts! 'Land of Make Believe' sold just under 1m in the UK alone, yet was only No. 1 for two weeks. Even our second single, 'Piece of the Action' went silver, which meant it sold more than 250,000 in the UK but only got to No. 12! We have walls lined with gold and silver discs yet, as you say, it's unbelievable we only ever had three No. 1s!"
One Of Those Nights
With that terrible bus crash happening on 11th December 1984, just last year you (the Original Bucks Fizz) went back and played the very same venue you had played that fateful night, some 25 years later. Standing backstage, before and after, what emotions were coursing through you - and how did the night turn out? "We had been asked by "Look North", the TV company for that area, to make a docu leading up to the night of the gig. That was what really brought it home. We actually drove on a bus along the very stretch of road where the accident happened. It was a very weird and eerie feeling and it felt good to get off the bus again! Also, we were introduced to the paramedics who attended to us on the night of the crash."
"One of them told us that, when they saw the bus from a distance, it was "utter carnage" and that "there will definitely be fatalities". That brought me to tears. At the actual gig, the audience reaction when our intro video was played was so terrific that, once again, I was in tears. The paramedics were in the audience and we paid tribute to them. We also showed some of the TV footage that was broadcast after the night of the accident. It was so very moving and, once again - yes, you've got it - I cried! The whole event was hugely emotional for me."
In that crash you broke three vertebrae in your spine. Today, all these 25 years later, how are you doing in relation to your injuries? "Mike and I both went through the windscreen of the coach and neither of us remember a thing about it. I just remember waking up in the road with blue flashing lights around me. It truly was the most bizarre thing. At first, when a voice was trying to wake me up I wanted to say "five more minutes" because I thought it was my mum waking me up to go to school!"
"As you say, I had three vertebrae broken in my spine plus my left leg was stripped of skin on the outside. I still have tarmac embedded in my leg - it looks like someone has drawn lines on my skin with a pen - but other than that, I'm OK. My back aches when I stand for too long, that's all really. It's a miracle I wasn't hurt more, because if you had seen Mike and I afterwards, you would never have believed it. Our hair was a mass of blood and glass. It almost looked backcombed - very 80s!"
New Beginning (Mamba Seyra)
After Jay left, the band carried on with Shelley Preston, but just four years later, after the release of 'Heart of Stone,' the end was nigh for Bucks Fizz as a recording band. Now with the pop fame media whirlwind at an end, what were your initial feelings - angry, sad, or simply relieved? "Oh, I was sad! 'Heart of Stone' was such a superb song, in my opinion, it should have been a big hit. I felt sorry for Shelley too, because our glory days were definitely when Jay was in the band. In Shelley's own words, she always "walked in the shadow of Jay". However, my TV presenting career at that time was keeping me much busier than Fizz so I knew there was life after the band for me. I still didn't leave for another few years though. Well, how could I leave Mike?!"
Today, indeed 2010, The Original Bucks Fizz line-up is back and fully operational (give or take Bobby flirting in and out for various shows!), playing shows, recording live DVDs, and even has plans for a new album later this year! My God, how exciting is all this now that you've come full circle! So, what's it like to be back in the same routine once more, skirts flying back off again in front of thousands each night - and will we ever see The Original Bucks Fizz touring over here in the USA? "We were once asked to perform in Las Vegas but for some reason, it didn't happen. We flirted with the charts in the US with 'I Hear Talk.' There are all sorts of reasons why I believe we didn't have much success in the US, and most of my reasons aren't because of the band!"
"2010 is certainly looking very exciting for The Original Bucks Fizz. Mike, Jay and I are having meetings with various people who seem very keen to keep the Fizz dream alive. There are tours and albums in the offing but, a tour of the US ... it would be soooo great, but probably not this year!"
'I Hear Talk' - Watch The New Video!
And please do tell us more about what we can expect re: the new album - what sound, has it got a working title yet (come one, we're not called Exclusive Magazine for nothing!), and when this year can we hope to see it in the stores? "There are two albums that are likely - one is already being recorded. Anyone who came to see us on tour will have heard a new take on a couple of Fizz tracks. This album will be half re-worked Fizz stuff, the other half new material. The company who have offered the other album we are in negotiations with so keep your eyes and ears peeled!"
I Hear Talk
Fun Five - OK, it's now time to fire off some quick questions to you both - to allow those that think they know Cheryl Baker to perhaps think again!
a) Can you remember your very first TOTP appearance? What song/year was it and at what level of nervousness were you at that whole day? "My very first TOTP was in 1978 when I did my first Eurovision Song Contest with "The Bad Old Days" - actually, it might have even been in 1976 with "Wake Up"!! I remember in those days you had to sing to a live orchestra! But the first one with Fizz, yes I remember it well. We wore knitted jumpers with glasses of Bucks Fizz (of course!) on the front. It was fabulous to perform at TOTP because you really knew you had made it. And to play it when you were No. 1 in the charts....oh, that was special!!"
b) Did you have a nickname growing up, or in the heyday of the bands fame, that you haven't considered revealing (until now) - and if so, what was it, who gave it to you, and why? "I didn't really have a nickname. Boys at school called my "Crutch" because my surname was Crudgington, but generally I was called "Rita" or "Reet"."
c) Do you have a recurring nightmare or dream - and if so, how does it usually end? "I used to have a horrible nightmare involving the first girl I ever worked with. She was a real weirdo and, I believe, into the occult. It was a very dark nightmare and I remember one night, I told myself to "Wake Up!" because if I hadn't, I wouldn't, if you know what I mean!"
d) What is your sweetest, guiltiest pleasure late at night? "I suck chocolate off my husband's toes! No, I don't really!"
e) If you could meet any deceased celebrity, who would it be - and what would be the first question you would ask them? "I would so love to meet Elvis Presley! I think he had a wicked sense of humour. I wouldn't really want to ask him a specific question - I'd just like to have dinner, conversation and a quick snog! (But in his early days, not his Vegas years!)"
Making Your Mind Up
If you all could choose one (1) Bucks Fizz song that you have LOVED since day one, and one (1) that you always thought was, perhaps wrong for the band, or had a title/lyrics that didn't make sense, which songs would you all choose from both categories - and why? "Well, I love 'Making Your Mind Up' because it changed my life, however it also has the most ridiculous lyrics; "don't let your indecision take you from behind" What the hell does that mean? And how about "...you really gotta burn it up, and make another fly by night..." What?!! The lyrics in 'MYMU' are the worst of any of our tracks, in my opinion, but where would I be without it?"
Back in the day, at a nightclub called Bailey's (Watford, Herts, UK), I saw you guys perform and to this day, even though sometimes I can't remember what I had for breakfast, I can recall the entire show - and meeting you lovely ladies and Bobby backstage afterwards! Do you both have memories of smaller shows like that as you were starting out - good memories of shows/times when things were new/simpler for the band, that have stuck with you to this day? "A show is as good as the audience makes it. I certainly remember playing Baileys, plus other similar venues like Blazers and The Nite Out in Birmingham. Back in the 80s there were lots of those theatre clubs, and generally the audiences were terrific. You can play the biggest, best concert hall in the world but if the audience response isn't good, you won't enjoy it. Once we (Mike, Bob and I) played a small club in Lanzarote and something went wrong technically, so Mike sang "Danny Boy" unaccompanied. That was a special moment!"
OK, if asked to record one for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today...and why? "I'd like to do 'Word Up' by Cameo, with Mike wearing that bright red cod piece!!"
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine loves Penguins (the flightless bird, not the chocolate bar!) ... do you? "Penguins are so cute! Yes, I love them - but I couldn't eat a whole one!!"
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
'I Hear Talk' - Watch The New Video!
'I Hear Talk' is released as a download only single on 24th May, 2010.