Baggy Dungarees, Bananarama and “Cruel Summer”

It’s Saturday morning which is usually my preferred slot for a weekly blogging session however I am struggling to find inspiration. That’s not actually true, it’s more that I am still overwhelmed by what’s going on in the world, and can’t seem to snap out of it. Is it just me, or is the initial relief the country felt at being in full lockdown starting to morph into something quite different? I think it is only now starting to hit home that there won’t be a V-shaped bounce back for the economy, and many will lose their jobs and businesses.

Talking of which, last Saturday we had a tricky manoeuvre to perform in getting DD back home to the Highlands but we managed without breaking (too many) rules. Back in March she had a pretty good life for someone her age but this pandemic has put paid to that – Once you lose your job, bit by bit you lose everything else and although she is by no means the only one, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. Today is the summer solstice, astronomically the first day of summer (written about here before). In years gone by I would have probably had a wee soiree for the neighbours, but this is going to be a Cruel Summer I can tell, so not really in the mood. Cue Bananarama.

Cruel Summer by Bananarama:

Anyone who was around at the time will know that Bananarama were incredibly prolific in the 1980s and they ended up being listed in the Book of Guinness World Records for achieving the world’s highest number of chart entries by an all-female group. They came along just at the time my life as a student was coming to an end but we weren’t ready to cast our student wardrobes aside quite yet and I remember those Bananarama-inspired dungarees and baggy T-shirts were a staple right through those transition years. They had caught the eye of Terry Hall, and in February 1982 released It Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It) with Fun Boy Three, which got to the No. 5 spot in the UK Singles Chart. By the time Cruel Summer hit the charts in July 1983, they’d already had 5 other hit singles!

As we are contemporaries, it’s always interesting to see the girls when they pop up on telly today. Although they lost Siobhan Fahey for a good while as she embarked on other projects, she got back together with fellow Bananaramers Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward in 2017, and they completed a world tour. The dungarees have gone, in favour of the little black dress, but I don’t begrudge them that at all. Once we ladies get to a certain age the clothes of our youth just look silly on us, although we can still rock the shoes. Back in 1982/83, when we copied their look, it was all about the shoes. A large sector of the female population was at that time going down the white stiletto route, even with dungarees. You could always tell which “tribe” a girl belonged to because of her shoes – It was always Doc Martins and loafers for Bananarama and if I’m not mistaken they still marry up their old footwear of choice with their little black dresses of today. Way to go girls.

So “What’s It All About?” – It’s going to be a tough old summer for many of us I suspect. I keep telling DD she is not alone, as if that somehow makes it better, but of course it doesn’t. As my holiday house is sitting empty at the moment she at least has somewhere to stay whilst she tries to regroup. I had been optimistic recently about my ability to reopen the holiday hideaway for staycations later in the summer, but having seen the many cleaning protocols and risk assessments that (understandably) need to be completed ahead of each guest arriving, like many others in the hospitality and tourism sectors, I am starting to wonder whether it will be possible. Based on costs/unit of hospitality, we should now be charging around £30 for each drink in a pub and around £500 for each night away. With a recession looming, just don’t think that’s going to be possible.

I’ve not exactly come back with a very positive post today, but at least I’ve eased the blockage which had stopped me from writing. I have had something very positive happen to me of late however which involves this blog. What did they say to Kevin Costner in Field Of Dreams? – “If you build it, they will come.” Something along those lines and I hope to share more in due course.

Until next time….

Cruel Summer Lyrics
(Song by Sara Dallin/Siobhan Fahey/Steve Jolley/Tony Swain/Keren Woodward)

Hot summer streets
And the pavements are burning
I sit around

Trying to smile
But the air is so heavy and dry

Strange voices are saying
What did they say
Things I can’t understand
It’s too close for comfort
This heat has got right out of hand

It’s a cruel, cruel summer
Leaving me here on my own
It’s a cruel, cruel summer
Now you’re gone

The city is crowded
My friends are away
And I’m on my own

It’s too hot to handle
So I got to get up and go

It’s a cruel, cruel summer
Leaving me here on my own
It’s a cruel,
It’s a cruel, cruel summer
Now you’re gone
You’re not the only one

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

14 thoughts on “Baggy Dungarees, Bananarama and “Cruel Summer””

    1. I don’t think people really understood what the longer-term impact would be at the start of our lockdown whereas it’s now obvious our lives are going to be turned upside down for quite some time. Sad about those successful businesses who just can’t re-open.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I was seriously thinking about posting this song today too. I’m not at all embarrassed to say I like early Bananarama, especially the Deep Sea Skiving era and the work they did with my hero Terry Hall. I have this whopping four-disc set of the album that’s chock full of remixes. B-sides and such. My favorite B-side is the instrumental they did with Fun Boy Three called Give Us Back Our Cheap Fares. As a kid across the pond, I had no idea what the title and fuss was about. Just liked the sound. I have to dig deep for a bright side these days, Alyson. Here’s one: In 10 days, 2020 will be half over.

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      1. Hope you enjoyed revisiting the 3-disc set – You are right, we can’t mislead any Banarama fanatics into thinking they have missed out on a fabulous 4-disc set!

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    1. This is good to know as I’m just never sure if I’m sharing something that gets the thumbs up or not. Yes that period with the Fun Boy Three was great wasn’t it and although we had entered the real world and got sensible jobs, come the weekend we dressed up in our Bananarama garb and revisited our old haunts. As for your B-side I’ve just discovered that the A-side was actually a Motown song first recorded by the Velvelettes. Hadn’t realised that before.

      I was starting to get a bit more optimistic but we’ve not fared well as a family during this pandemic and now I find there are many, many barriers to opening up my holiday house again. About half an hour ago we had our summer solstice here, so are now heading into winter – Cross fingers we get out of lockdown before the snow falls!

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  2. I too had a soft spot for early Bananarama, I think for me it was more about them than their music, even. Perhaps more to do with their groundedness, their relaxed image, just the way they came across. And also remember Mr SDS buying their first single Aie A Mwana – having heard it first on John Peel! I find it a little strange to think of them being played on Peel now but they did seem pretty alternative really, especially in the context of that time.
    So glad to hear you’ve got DD back in the fold now and also she’ll be able to make good use of the holiday cottage at least. I totally get what you mean about feeling overwhelmed by what is going on in the world. I cannot rid myself of a constant low-level anxiety – mostly it’s just there in the background but sometimes it rises more to the surface and I just want to cry! (I have to pull myself up sharpish and consider how it must have felt for our parents/grandparents etc. at times, dealing with the war especially.) I’m determined to still keep as positive as possible but I’m really aware of how much more effort it’s taking to do so – wading through treacle springs to mind!
    So Iook forward to reading about the positive thing that has happened to you re. the blog – we need all that we can get!

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    1. I’m feeling the love for early Bananarama! You just never know when you post songs that don’t pop up very often on the blogs. Yes, we all loved their style and although my hair, being so straight and fine, was a nightmare to get all tousled looking, with lots and lots of product I tried. Loved my baggy dungarees too – just so comfy.

      Not sure what’s going to happen next for DD as jobs are going to be few and far between. Their generation have really been hit hard by this situation and hard to believe now that back in February things were going great for her. I know what you mean about the low-level anxiety as I have it all the time but I was feeling optimistic about the reopening of tourism etc. Looking at all the protocols and new rules however, I can’t see how many will be able to open and still make money. Everyone kept saying, “when this is all over and we get back to normal…” but obvious now that won’t happen. A lot of the old normal was bad, so good we won’t be going back to that, but we need to find a new balance where it’s not a case of half the population retired on good pensions or still working, and the other half with (pretty much) nothing. There will have to be a rebalancing of the economy but sadly that takes time and for my daughter’s generation these are important years. Being back in her old school bedroom would make her feel she’s right back at square one again – So sad.

      Yes, will let you know about the exciting blog thing in due course!

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  3. I too love the relaxed image and casual clothing of Banarama. Pop music today, such as it is, is so in your face. So sorry to hear about DD, it is indeed going to be a cruel summer, hopefully thing will bounce back sooner than it seems right now. Rick

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, back then the girls were just so “well clad” but sadly those days have gone for most females in pop. I sound like such a prude but we all know what I mean!

      Yes maybe I am being a bit negative but we’re now heading towards the end of June and about 15 million people here in the UK haven’t been able to work since mid-March. Tough times I suspect until we either manage to re-open or rebalance the economy.

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  4. I look forward to reading your good news, Alyson. (Field of Dreams is a favourite movie of mine, though I haven’t been able to watch it since becoming a father.)

    I’m glad DD is home safe, despite everything else.

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    1. I’ve probably hyped it up a bit too much but for someone who has always worked with numbers and did little writing until 4 years ago, all quite exciting. I will tell all in due course.

      Yes, DD back here and seems quite happy despite it all.

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