Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – Bananarama

In Does Rock 'N' Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz a grizzled artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward, aka Bananarama.

Which sitcom did its creator say drunken nights out with Bananarama helped inspire?

Keren:Ab Fab.”

CORRECT. Jennifer Saunders claimed on The Graham Norton Show that she used your pissed nights out together as inspiration for Absolutely Fabulous’ physical gags.

Sara: “We used to have some great nights out with French & Saunders because we recorded The Beatles’ song ‘Help!’ together for Comic Relief,  when they did their Lananeeneenoonoo spoof of us, so we became good friends and she possibly based some of the behaviour on us.”

Keren: “She told Graham Norton about someone from Bananarama falling out of a taxi bottom-first and Sara and I are definitely sure it wasn’t us…”

Sara: “I’ve never fallen out of a taxi! (Laughs) And I’m sure it wasn’t Jacquie [O’Sullivan, Bananarama member from 1988 – 1991]. Maybe she’s confused us with Dawn [French]! I think most women who’ve been out clubbing and had a few drinks can see themselves in those characters.”

Name the two cover versions on Bananarama’s 2001 album ‘Exotica’.

Sara: “‘Careless Whisper’? There’s another one? Oh, ‘Venus’.”

CORRECT. You covered Wham!’s 1984 chart-topper, and there’s also a remix of your 1986 hit ‘Venus’, which was originally by Shocking Blue. Did George Michael ever hear your version of ‘Careless Whisper’?

Sara: “Hopefully not!”

Keren: “That only came about because a French rapper had done a version and we were asked to sing on it, then he was taken off which was strange. But George was a huge part of our lives for a long period of time, whether it was parties or holidays. We’d have games nights in where we were all very competitive and unfortunately for him, Sara and I normally ended up winning and he’d get very irritated.”

Sara: “He’d always accuse us of cheating during charades.”

Apparently you were his only friends who he wouldn’t let meet Elton John…

Keren: “He’d say: ‘Of all the people I would take to meet Elton, you are the last two!’ (Laughs) It was in case we showed him up.”

Sara: “Why was Elton so special? I think it was because he didn’t want us to take the mickey out of him because we were always doing that, but he loved it and that was the hysterical nature of our holidays and conversations. We had the entry code for his house, so we’d just turn up and let ourselves in. We’d go out to lunch most days and he’d say: ‘Not you two again!’ (Laughs).”


Who did you once hitch a lift on a bin lorry with after a raucous night out?

Bananarama, Noel Gallagher and Binmen
Bananarama and Noel Gallagher. CREDIT: Bananarama

Sara:Noel Gallagher.”


Sara: “It was a bizarre way to get home. We’d all been to see Paul Weller live and were trying to flag down a taxi. We couldn’t get one, and then the binmen recognised Noel. Noel said: ‘I’ll ask them if we can get a lift home’. I’m not even sure they were going our way…”

Keren: “They weren’t.”

Sara: “And I’m not sure it’s legal for them to take passangers on a detour but they did bless them, so we sat up front with Noel and Meg [Matthews, his ex-wife]. We all got back to our friend’s apartment and the binmen came up for a beer for their troubles…”

Keren: “Then I had to usher them out and say ‘Enough’s enough’ when they wouldn’t leave.”

Sara: “Then Keren danced into an antique table and snapped its legs off (Laughs)”

Keren: “Not that drink was involved in any way!”


Which martial arts-themed series did ‘Cruel Summer’ appear in last year?

Keren: Karate Kid? No?”

Sara: “Oh god, I know this – is it Cobra Kai?”

CORRECT. Would you be up for a cameo in it?

Keren: “Why not? I don’t know if it helps, but I did judo as a child to an intermediate level (Laughs).”

Sara: “ ‘Cruel Summer’ was a huge hit in America because it was in the original 1984 The Karate Kid movie which was massive.”

When you were hot in America, even Andy Warhol was a fan…

Sara: “He told NME Bananarama were the coolest thing in New York. We first met him at the MTV Awards and then on a boat party, where he just followed us around taking Polaroids of whatever we did – it was surreal.”

How many weeks does the ‘Shy Boy’ video take place over?

Keren: “Four?”

Sara: “Three?”

CORRECT. It’s three.

Sara: “I hope we’re totalling individual scores! Paul McCartney sent us a congratulations telegram when ‘Shy Boy’ was a hit. That’s how long ago it was. A telegram!”

Keren: “It was by Morse Code. Delivered by pigeons.”

Sara: “Smoke signals. And Linda [McCartney, Paul’s late wife] would send us songs to listen to and invite us to her photographic exhibitions.”

Midge Ure directed that video. Was the Ultravox frontman and writer of Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?‘ which you appeared on – twice – a good director?

Keren: “(Laughs) Well – you be the judge of that!”

Sara: “Anyone could have done it. We were in vile homemade clothes with terrible hairstyles.”

Keren: “That and the lack of confidence and it was a winner! It was a top five hit.”

Bananarama rejected songs written by some big-names. For a half-point each, identity the artist who suggested them:

‘Don’t Touch Me Down There Daddy’.

Sara:Malcolm McLaren.”

CORRECT. Was it as creepy as the title suggests?

Sara: “It was a very weird meeting. Malcolm liked to shock people and it was a friend who said ‘Come and meet him’. It was when we lived on Denmark Street [in the Sex Pistols’ rehearsal room] and we met him, he asked us to sing that, and we said no. It was a very awkward meeting but no big deal.”

‘One Way Street’

Keren:Pet Shop Boys?’

CORRECT. Apparently they submitted it to you for your 2005 album ‘Drama’, but you turned it down as not being very good…

Sara: “That’s what we told Neil! [Pet Shop Boys frontman].”

Keren: “You can never accuse us of not being honest! We were like that with George. I remember him [George Michael] playing us a song when we were away in San Tropez and Sara said: ‘Wasn’t that the one you told me was rubbish?’ to me. He said: ‘I can’t believe you said that! How insulting!’ But I don’t think you should pretend to like something just because it’s by someone famous or a friend. People have been very honest about what they think about our music – it doesn’t affect our friendship.”

Who did you dance onstage with at Knebworth in 1996?

Bananarama's Sara Dallin and Keith Flint
CREDIT: Bananarama

Sara:The Prodigy.

CORRECT. When they supported Oasis at their record-breaking gigs.

Keren: “Bless them – we’ve been onstage with them loads of times.”

Sara: “We met them in Japan in 1994 and became good friends with Keith [Flint] and they invited us to Knebworth. We were standing on the side of the stage and Maxim dragged us on to dance in our flip-flops.”

Sara: “Keren used to take her son, Tom, who was a youngster to their shows and he’d sit in the mixing desk and Keith would fly over the crowd in his manic way then stop and become completely normal and say: ‘Hi Tom, are you alright?’ then get back into character and shoot off across the audience. I’d visit him with my daughter and we’d do normal things like country bike rides, which is what Keith really wanted to do.”

Keren: “Obviously he suffered bouts of depression, but my abiding memory of Keith is with a great big smile on his face, giggling, being warm and generous. Everyone he met adored him, regardless of their first impressions of him because of the hair. He was the smiliest person.”


Bananarama appeared on ‘A Song For Eurotrash’ in 1998 covering Abba’s ‘Waterloo’. Name three other bands on the Eurovision-themed compilation.

Sara: “I’m afraid we can’t!”

WRONG. Among many others, you could have had: Kenickie, Edwyn Collins, Saint Etienne,  Sinéad O’Connor & Terry Hall and Shane MacGowan & the Popes.

Sara: “We reunited with Siobhan [Fahey, founding Bananarama member who left in 1988] for the first time in years for that. I don’t know how it came about, but it was hilarious fun – until we had the food fight at the end and I threw a spray-can of cream and it hit one of the dancers on the head. He was angry and everything came to a halt and went silent…”

Keren: “While he had his face patched up.”

Sara: “I felt like I was being told off by the headmaster – it was awful.”

Did reuniting with Siobhan properly for a tour in 2017 feel cathartic?

Sara: “It was just a lovely interlude. It was the best fun and we’d never toured with her, so it was great.”

Which indie anthems does Bananarama’s 1990 single ‘Only Your Love’ reportedly sample?

Sara: “I don’t know.”

WRONG. According to the famously infallible Wikipedia and various sampling sites, it’s ‘Fool’s Gold’ by The Stone Roses and ‘Loaded’ by Primal Scream.*

Sara: “What?!”

Keren: “Who knew? If it’s true, that’s producer Youth’s handiwork. When we met Ian Brown in the Met Bar in the ‘90s, he was hugely complimentary about us. He liked our attitude.”

Sara: “He liked our swagger (Laughs). We crop up in the most unusual places. Simon Gallup, the bassist in The Cure, knew all of our B-sides and also The Cult’s tour bus was covered in posters of us. We had a few evenings out with the Happy Mondays – they were delightful.”

Keren: “Bez was adorable and a charmer – I was bowled over by him.”

Sara: “(Laughs) Bowled over by Bez, eh? There’s the headline!”

Keren: “I won’t hear a bad word said against him!”

Talking of The Cure, there’s memorable footage of Bananarama drunkenly playing The Cure’s instruments on a 1985 Dutch TV appearance…

Sara: “We were friends and doing the same show and they said: ‘Come onstage and dance with us’. Then we got a small plane back home with them and as we sped down the runway to take off, someone lent on a release button and the door flew open. It was terrifying.”

Keren: “That was me that lent on the door!”

*NME reached out to Youth for confirmation and await his reply

Bananarama played Manchester Pride last year. Who headlined?

Sara:Ariana Grande.”

CORRECT. What current music are you into?

Sara: “I like Dua Lipa’s recent disco album [‘Future Nostalgia‘] , which reminds me of us in parts because it sounds very ‘80s. I like my daughter Alice D obviously, and Billie Eilish’s style and attitude.”

Keren: “She [Billie Eilish] reminds me of the early stuff we did when we were playing with Fun Boy Three. It’s not run-of-the-mill pop – it’s quirky and clever. She seems like a strong-willed individual that nobody’s telling: ‘Dress this way. Make this music’. Like us, it all comes from her.”

Bonus question! For a half-point: In 2005, Siobhan Fahey released a solo single named after a sex toy belonging to one of Bananarama. What was it called?

Sara: “’Pulsatron’ (Laughs)”

Keren: “Surely my proudest moment.”


Sara: “Well, it didn’t belong to me. Who did it belong to Keren? Make sure you know she said it was hers.”

Keren: “It was a cool song.”

The verdict: 8.5/10

Sara: (Mock indignant) Eight out of ten?! What did I get wrong? I’m not happy with that…”

Keren: “Well, I think I probably only got four of those.”

‘Bananarama: Really Saying Something’ by Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward is published by Hutchinson on October 29.