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Bananarama on digging up the past and getting personal in their first memoir

Exclusive: The most successful girl group of all time tell Attitude why the time was right to write their autobiography.

2020-11-03

Words: Darren Scott

Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward – founding members of Bananarama – have been friends since childhood and their life-story is now a best-selling autobiography.

Really Saying Something: Sara & Keren – Our Bananarama Story goes back to those playground moments, through chart success, a band breakup, discovering the gay community and being given the code to George Michael’s house.

Oh, and entering the Guinness World Records for the sheer amount of hits along the way...

How’s life as published authors?

Sara: I never actually thought we'd get around to writing a book and, actually, writing, I absolutely loved doing it. In lockdown, we could focus totally on that. It’s something I'd quite like to do more of, to be honest. I don’t know that it would be about Bananarama, but I would like to write another book.

Keren: Fiction, I think would be great, but quite difficult.

S: Yes, it's probably quite easy writing about your own life. But conjuring things out of nothing...

K: Unless it's a fictional story based on our own lives...

S: See I do quite like, fact, historical or something that I'd have to research and travel, something really interesting. Garden centres of the world… [Both laugh]

K: I can see you doing that, Sara.

S: I'd love to research something I don't know, something very different.

K: Dogs!

S: No.

How did the recording of the audiobook go? The book’s very funny, so it must’ve been interesting reading it out loud…

[Both start laughing again]

K: We loved reading the book. We really enjoyed doing it. I dread to think about the person who edited it together, how much he had to take out, and how often we have to read again, [Sara’s just laughing in the background while Keren’s talking] just laughing and then making comments or asides. We ended up not being able to look at each other. We sat opposite each other in the recording.

S: My priority was trying not to sound too wooden, it was like, ‘Will we be able to say it again if it’s just sort of really all on one tone?’ And they said  ‘You're not actually actors. You just read it, you don't have to try and act out the thing.’ And once I knew that I continued my wooden way [Both laugh]

You get the impression this book could’ve been volumes long – there’s been so much that’s happened since that first single in 1981.

S: It’s snapshots of things, you can't really go into great detail about  anything really. I think we're very unique in the fact that we're two best friends from childhood who then happen to be in the same line of business and are still going almost 40 years later. So that in itself is quite unique. That's what we focused on.

K: We focus more on the friendship. We touched on personal stuff, but I don't think we went into depth about a lot of stuff. I think if we'd written it from an individual point of view, they’d probably have ended up with quite a different book.

How did you decide what had to be left out?

K: We didn’t necessarily leave stuff out. But we had to, obviously, edit stuff to fit it in. And I think we, specifically, maybe didn't talk about our relationships, because that's nothing to do with what the book’s about. Originally we weren't even going to put childhood in because it's something we haven't really talked about in great depth before. And it is very personal. And we are quite private people. I think there are certain things that you don't necessarily want to make public knowledge. And actually, even some of the pictures we put in – obviously it’s full of our private pictures – it almost felt like you're giving away a bit of yourself in some way. Especially, you know, with your dad or with this and that. So it's quite a big step to share things with people.

S: Although it would be hard not to talk about childhood, since we're talking about our 50-something relationship, obviously, then we had to add little anecdotes from childhood, but I think it hangs together quite well.

The book – which is out now – features many stories about their friendships and inspirations in the queer community. Here’s a few of our favourites:

On being inspired by Pete Burns:

Sara: It was in 1986 that we heard a song on the radio that would change our musical direction once again. ‘You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)’ by Dead or Alive was a hi-energy extravaganza, and we loved it. We had to find out who was responsible for this slice of pop genius – immediately!

On loving gay clubbing:

Keren: Sara and I loved nights out at The Daisy Chain at The Fridge in Brixton and the theme nights were a particular favourite. I once found myself empty-handed en route to ‘Handbag Night’, so stopped our cab to grab a large police sign with a handle on the top of it, before continuing our journey across the river.

On their friendship with George Michael:

Keren: We also loved the Rizla game. George wasn’t out publicly at the time, but we all knew he was gay so it was a running joke that we would stick the name of someone outlandish and camp on George’s forehead. At some point he would invariably end up asking, ‘Am I a camp old queen?’ and we’d all say, ‘Yes! but back to the game!’ We never tired of that one.

On their queer fanbase:

Sara: The sheer embrace and love from the LGBTQ community throughout our career has been immense and hugely important to the group. We will always be grateful for that.

Really Saying Something: Sara & Keren – Our Bananarama Story is out now.