Deep Sea Skiving


London, 1983

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


Get ready to get your smile on. Ah, the innocent days of 1983. Hailing from London, the female trio known cheekily as Bananarama (referencing the song “Pyjamarama” by Roxy Music) were initially discovered by Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols. They went so far as producing the Swahili number “Aie A Mwana,” before handing them off to ex-Specials member Terry Hall for the terrific Fun Boy Three/Bananarama single, “T’Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It).” Fun Boy Three would later return the favor, assisting them on the 60’s inspired “Really Saying Something.”

Production team Steve Jolley and Tony Swain would take the reins of the unruly, partying threesome from there. Somehow, they managed to get Sarah Dallin, Keren Woodward and Siobhan Fahey to focus and get down to brass tacks. Tellingly, the title of their subsequent first album Deep Sea Skiving, told the public all they needed to know about them. Skiving is British slang for slacking or truancy. The Deep Sea part, as anyone who would produce the group from here on out will tell you, meant that you would literally feel like you were drowning when trying to control and get the best out of them in the studio. Devil and the deep blue sea, indeed.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Somehow, they all succeeded in crafting one hell of a catchy and spellbinding debut album. Thankfully, it’s not as slick an affair as future albums, especially when it comes to the faceless dance material Dallin and Woodward are doing these days. That was the breaking point for third member, Siobhan Fahey, who felt it was a mistake to go in that direction. After marrying Eurythmics guru Dave Stewart and joining forces with Marcella Detroit for the terrific goth/pop act Shakespear’s Sister, Fahey could let her own alternative instincts shine. IMHO, Fahey was always the most creative and talented of the three, uh, Bananas.

The Deep Sea Skiving incarnation of Bananarama comes complete with serpentine rhythms, thundering percussion and primitive melodies. The thumping cover “(Na Na Hey Hey) Kiss Him Goodbye” is here, as are two of the aforementioned singles and the adorable hit “Shy Boy.”

Most of the songs can best be described as Flintstones Tribal. In other words, it’s as fun and irresistible as a box of Cracker Jacks. There’s a salute to all the girl groups that came before on “Young At Heart”, especially the Supremes, which Billboard magazine would later equate them to in terms of chart success and sales. They also show off their range going from dazzling for the ultra-modern “Hey Young London” to romantic on the elegant ballad “Wish You Were Here.”

There are some lesser tunes that sound painfully dated now, especially the corny and trite “Doctor Love.” And as lush as “Cheers Then” tries to be, it makes me wonder how it might sound if the girls would’ve at least attempted trading solo parts. That’s always been my main quibble with Bananarama, whose motto seems to always have been strength in numbers. C’mon girls, you could’ve at least tried to each sing a solo number every now and then. And if you’re that insecure with your voices, TAKE VOCAL LESSONS! The producers missed a golden opportunity on that front. Then again, we Americans can be demanding and expect too much.

Rating: A-

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