In their new memoir, Really Saying Something, Karen Woodward and Sara Dallin remember the early days of Bananarama, before hitting the big time.
The pair, who were appearing on White Wine Question Time, chatted with Kate Thornton about moving to London, where they ended up living in the Sex Pistol’s former studios!
“It was squalid!” remembered Woodward. “It really was. It had a horrible outside toilet that was filthy and I imagine the Sex Pistols would use ten years before, five years before us!”
Dallin, who said that the Sex Pistols still rehearsed there with their new bands, recalled the rather sparse living conditions at the time.
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“We just lived in what used to be the office above it and so it had an old table and just had nothing in there,” she said.
“Keren and I just took the mattresses from the YWCA, where we were living before that… We just dragged the mattresses down there and flung them on the floor and that was it. I think we were only there for six months.”
Woodward continued: “There were leaks between the beams, so we had sort of carrier bags, catching the leak, catching all the water!”
The studio, which was on Denmark Street, right in the heart of the West End of London, also had no hot water, which meant the girls had to visit the local swimming pool to get clean.
Dallin laughed recalling their bathing arrangements: “They had like little stalls where you open the door and there's a bath in there and as Keren said, somebody ran the bath for you and you paid 50p and you had a bath.”
The rest of the time the duo used a kettle of hot water and a bowl to clean up. The kettle was also their only kitchen appliance, which made dinner times difficult!
As well as boiling eggs in the kettle, the duo lived off beans and Smash! instant mash potato.
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“We'd put the beans in the tin - in the kettle - and have Smash and baked beans” recalled Woodward.
The studios were also heat-free, but luckily Woodward bought a fan heater with her – one that is still going strong all these years later.
“We had one fan heater - Fanny - and it came with me from home,” she said
“My son ended up taking to university and she's still going. She's in Cornwall now and she's still in working order. Good old Fanny!”
Despite the horrendous living conditions though, the pair, who have been pals since they were four, said they have happy memories of living there.
“It was such an adventure,” exclaimed Woodward. “I think it was just a place of huge excitement for us. The fact that we could walk out and just be in the middle of everything.”
Dallin continued: “Back then there were clubs everywhere - and even if it was for one night somewhere, everybody knew where to go and so we literally went to millions of clubs and could just walk home… Stagger home!”
The duo, who have been together as Bananarama for over 40 years, also recalled how their unique style was originally created in London markets.
“We went to Camden, Portobello markets and bought men's suit trousers and put the braces on,” remembered Dallin. “Then we made our own clothes - I can't sew for toffee and it was diabolical!”
One memorable outfit, that the group wore when they appeared on the Brit awards, was a fetching combo of bus conductor trousers and lumberjack shirts!
“We all wore different shirts, but we had to be coordinated” recalled Dallin.
“It just wasn't necessarily a look that you'd expect on a huge award show. We definitely downplayed it!”
While Woodward claimed she looked like a boy for most of her time in the band, she said that looking back, she’s proud to be have been a fashion trailblazer.
“I'm quite proud that we became successful pop stars wearing bloke's clothes,” she said. “In some ways it's not conforming to some sort of stereotype!”
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