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Bananarama's comeback offers just the silliness we need to lighten the national mood

Bananarama in 1988
Bananarama in 1988 Credit: Rex Features

Dig out your dungarees and crank up your crimpers: Bananarama are back! The internet grinches – already out in force to condemn the “silly” Eighties girl group – are missing the point. Which was always pure, giddy, uncompromising fun. Treat yourself to a 1983-themed lunch break on Youtube and you’ll see three friends larking about on the Austrian hillside, recreating scenes from The Sound of Music in the video for Cheers Then and knocking out blokes with their boxing gloves for Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.

Producers found them a nightmare in the studio because they got the giggles so often. With today’s hitmakers so relentlessly serious and guarded about their business and their branding, it’s almost shocking to see there was a time when being a pop star – indeed, being a young woman – looked like a such a laugh. 

Bananarama brought their attitude into pop from the punk scene. Sara Dallin met Siobhan Fahey on a fashion course where they were drawn to each other’s punk style. Soon they were living in the Sex Pistols’ rehearsal room with Dallin’s childhood friend Keren Woodward and decided it’d be a giggle to form an ironic girl group. A demo cover of a song in Swahili, Aie a Mwana, gave them a bright, tropical sound and a name to match. They added the “arama” as a nod to Roxy Music’s Pyjamarama and by 1979 the band was born. 

Bananarama in 1982 Credit: Ebet Roberts

Writing their own songs and running up their own clothes on their grannies’ sewing machines, they had a shambolic DIY style and an empowered attitude. They wouldn’t be bossed around by managers, producers or journalists. As Woodward said back in 2009: “We never mastered the niceties. We didn’t mean to be stroppy or awkward, we just had opinions and wanted our own way. If we’d been blokes that would have been perfectly acceptable.” She’s horrified by the “level of grooming” endured by other artists. “Even now I don’t go to the hairdresser. All that sitting around looking at yourself in the mirror bores me. Our joy was writing, and dancing like lunatics.’’ 

Their no-nonsense feminism came with a twist of very British humour. Their final performance together, at the BRITS in 1988, featured a troop of male dancers star jumping in their pants. 

Alas, by then there was less laughter backstage. “We hated each other,” says Fahey, with characteristic bluntness. She stormed off to form goth-pop duo Shakespear’s Sister while the other two kept the band running, but it wasn’t the same without Fahey’s dark and unpredictable edge. Happily they rekindled their band by rediscovering their fun, after a party at Fahey’s house. Eighties bands are reforming all the time, of course, as their synth sounds are embraced by a new generation. Often it's for the money. I'm sure Bananarama wouldn't say no to a few quid, but you can see they are genuinely – as ever – doing this because they think it'll be a hoot. 

Bananarama, circa 1990, with Jacquie O'Sullivan instead of Siobhan Fahey Credit: Tim Roney

Their reunion tour will succeed where others (such as the flopping Bros tour) have failed because of the sheer number and quality of hits the band pumped out over a decade in the spotlight. From the quirky marimba-backed chant of It Ain’t What You Do through the bittersweet rush of Robert DeNiro’s Waiting and Cruel Summer to the spangly disco-cheese of Venus. It’s just the blast of silliness we need to lighten the national mood. And Ba-nah-nah na-nah-nah to anybody too snooty to bop along with them.