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

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: pop heroes Steps

1
Your then-manager Pete Waterman demanded a vote recount when Steps were beaten to the 1999 Brit Award for Best Breakthrough Act by which band?

Lee Latchford-Evans:Belle & Sebastian.”

Lisa Scott-Lee: “We’ll never forget that!”

Ian ‘H’ Watkins: “I have it tattooed on my ass. Not really.”

CORRECT. He alleged the Scottish indie-group rigged the online vote in their favour.

Claire Richards: “I took it seriously. We were robbed!”

H: “(Chanting) “STOP THE COUNT! STOP THE COUNT!”

Claire: “WE WON…BY A LOT!”

Lee: “Plus they’d [Belle & Sebastian] released multiple albums before then.”

H: “But we did quite well anyway. We’re still here 21 years later. When it comes to Brit Awards, they can count these!” (H flicks a two-fingered V sign).

2
In 1998, which comedy double-act played H and Lee in a sketch involving them having an art exhibition called ‘Hello? We’re in the group too you know!’?

Claire: “Matt Lucas and David Walliams.”

CORRECT.

H: “It was on  Rock Profile, where they spoofed pop stars like Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones. I’ve got it on VHS – I blinkin’ love that.”

Lee: “They come in as us with a Tesco bag with a picture of the band in it with the girls’ faces scribbled out. I did a theatre show in London and Matt Lucas came to watch and he said: ‘By the way, you weren’t offended when we did that sketch about you?’. I replied: ‘Don’t be silly’. If you’re noticed by that type of talent, it proves you’re doing well in the industry so you can only take it as a compliment.”

 

3
What number did Steps, Billie Piper, B*Witched, Cleopatra and Tina Cousins’ rendition of ‘Thank Abba For The Music’ reach on The Guardian’s 2018 ranking of ‘Weirdest BRITS performances’?

Faye Tozer: “Probably Number One!”

H: “It couldn’t have been weirder than Geri Halliwell singing [her single] ‘Bag It Up’ coming out of a pair of legs that opened and gave birth to her [at the 2000 BRIT Awards]?”

Lisa: “Number Four?”

CORRECT. Bang on! You were Number Four. Geri was Number 10 and siblings Natasha and Daniel Bedingfield topped the chart with their incest-tastic version of Chaka Khan’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’.

Lisa: “They got a hard time whatever they did. I liked them.”

Which brings us to…

For a bonus half-point, which 2002 H & Claire [their Steps spin-off duo] song was written by Natasha and Daniel Bedingfield?

Lisa: “Oh God, I wouldn’t know that! (Laughs)”

Claire: “Um…’Hold Me In Your Arms’?”

CORRECT. The B-side to ‘All Out Of Love’ / ‘Beauty and the Beast’.

Claire: “Daniel came to the studio. He was a very intense young man.”

H: “He was trying to get stuff out me I clearly couldn’t do. (Laughs) Vocally, I mean!”

Lisa: “Were you sat on the casting couch H?”

H: “No, I’d already got the job! I’d auditioned him!”

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4
Your debut album ‘Step One’ charted at Number Two in 1998. Who pipped you to the top spot?

Lee: Westlife?”

H: “No, we beat Westlife to Number One for an album,  ‘cause I talked to Brian [McFadden, ex-Westlife member] recently and he was having a dig. (laughs) I know Manic Street Preachers beat us to Number One for the single ‘One For Sorrow’. Was it them?”

CORRECT. It was the Manics’ album ‘This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours’, and their single  ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’ beat ‘One For Sorrow’ to Number One.

H: “We played a gig with the Manics in London with Pulp, George Michael and all these cool icons. And we got up and did ‘Say You’ll Be Mine’ (laughs)”

Faye: “That was when Paul Weller came up to us, hinting that us girls were looking quite nice (laughs).”

Who’s been the most unexpected person who’s turned out to be a Steps fan?

H:Sia wrote our recent single ‘What The Future Holds’ with us in mind. But Lisa’s met Michael Jackson

Lisa: “It was in Bahrain not long before he died. We got led in a convoy of 4x4s through the desert to the palace. I was the first in, and Michael was stood there. I went: ‘Hey, I’m Lisa. I’m in a pop group called Steps’ (laughs) and we sat for three hours talking about music. He was lovely and all he wanted to know about was the UK pop scene.”

H: “I can go one down from that. I used to wake up next to his brother [Jermaine Jackson] every morning on Celebrity Big Brother (laughs)”

 

5
Steps have appeared on various reality TV shows. For a full point, can you identify who said each quote?

“Did you really hate us?”

Faye: “That was me!”

CORRECT. That was Faye’s tearful outburst from the 2011 hatchet-burying documentary Steps: Reunion. She was referencing the time, in 2001, when H and Claire resigned to the rest of the band by shoving a letter into your hands just before you went onstage, thus signalling the end of the group.

H: “Thanks for bringing that up!

Claire: “Happy Monday!”

Lisa: “We’ve just lost Claire – she’s left again! (Laughs)”

 

“I said: ‘If you don’t stop now, I’m going to put you up against the wall and deck you’.”

Lee: “I actually did that to H.”

CORRECT. From the same documentary.

“He won’t remember but I had him against the wall backstage at a Blue Peter roadshow in Wales. I was ready to leave [the group] He’d got under my skin, but it had probably taken a few years to get to that point. (Laughs) So I lifted him up against the wall, told him to stop being an idiot, and drove halfway home, before taking a time-out at a service station and coming back.”

H: “And we had make-up sex.”

Lisa: “To be fair, the boys have only had one or two rows in 23 years.”

“But I’m B-List at Capital!”

Claire: “Lisa!”

CORRECT. From Lisa’s 2005 MTV fly-on-the-wall documentary Totally Scott Lee where the premise was she had to score a UK Top 10 with the single ‘Electric’ or she’d quit the music industry. It peaked at Number 13, with her protest of “But I’m B-List at Capital!” becoming a quotable camp classic among fans.

Lisa: “I knew it! When you said this question, I was waiting for that!”

H: “It’s an iconic quote with the gays. People turn up to our gigs in T-shirts saying: ‘I’m B-List At Capital’.”

Faye: “Someone’s named their Twitter account after it (Laughs).”

Lisa: “It was said with sincerity (laughs). 15 years on, I didn’t think people would still quote that at me. I don’t get it but it seems very nice – I think! That documentary was a stitch-up. There was meant to be a second series where they wanted me to go over to Australia and release as a solo artist there, but I said, ‘No, thank you’. With increased awareness of mental health, they couldn’t treat people like that now.”

H: “You did right. That exploitative TV genre has changed now, because people humiliate themselves on Instagram, so you don’t need to watch that.”

 

6
Who did Liam Gallagher describe as making ‘fucking three-year-old’s music that’s worse than Steps’?

Lisa: “I remember this! Because I’m a massive Oasis fan – and was gutted.”

Lee: “Was it Robbie Williams? It’s got to be someone he’d have a dig at like Lewis Capaldi?

TRAGEDY! (WRONG). It was Gorillaz, his one-time-rival Damon Albarn’s cartoon band. You once appeared on Top of the Pops with Oasis…

Faye: “Yeah. I had a run-in with them actually. Top of the Pops was on tour, so we ended up doing it in a club and we’d put our bags down on a bench and they [Oasis] moved our stuff out the way so they could sit there. When we came back from doing camera rehearsals, I had a right mouthful on me because I was so pissed off they thought they were better than us. They were nice about it – but I had a chip my shoulder that people were not seeing us as colleagues.”

H: “I’ve got a picture of me and Noel. We were all posing nicely but just before the flash, he went [flicks a V sign] ‘Fuck You!’ (Laughs)”.

Lee: “Standard! A little bit different to the picture we got of Prince Charles, eh?”

Claire: “That was the gig where H upset [Pet Shop Boys frontman] Neil Tennant. He told Neil his brother went to a Pet Shop Boys gig in Wales and Neil insisted, ‘We’ve never played that venue’. Then H realised: ‘Wait, that was Erasure’. Neil was not impressed (laughs). We got out of the dressing room very quickly!”

 

7
In 2008, H presented a BBC documentary about growing up gay in Wales. During it, a hardcore Christian Voice [a Christian advocacy group] director compared him to which serial killer?

H: “Was it Fred West?”

Claire: “Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer?.”

CORRECT. It was Jeffrey Dahmer – a comparison which even the most vicious review of Steps would have found extreme.

H: “I interviewed loads of people for that, including guys that had undergone hideous gay conversion therapy,  and gay men who were thrown out of their homes and ended up on the street. I just let them [the homophobes] talk and dig their own grave. One guy who was a massive homophobe was a local councillor and ended up losing his job over what he said on the show.”

You made history as part of the first same-sex dance partnership on Dancing on Ice this year, and have said the next step is for someone trans to appear on the show…

H: “I texted the producers about it. I knew some trans people who would be perfect for it, so that’s the next stage. Let’s fly the flag for humanity and celebrate everyone. Steps have always had an open door policy and that’s what it’s all about. You can come to a Steps show, be your authentic self and not be judged.”

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8
Who was the guest host when Lee appeared in the Identity Parade round of Never Mind the Buzzcocks in 2010?

Claire: “Was it Mark Lamarr or Simon Amstell?”

Lee: “I know comedian Paul Foot was trying to guess me. I was just shocked as to why the hell I was there, but it was all to do with promo for something.”

TRAGEDY!  The host was Mark Ronson. A few of you have appeared on Never Mind the Buzzcocks…

Lisa: “I’ve never done it.”

H: “They ply you with drink in a mug, which is why I ended up calling Dido a “cunt”. She’d dissed us.”

Lisa: “Oh wait – I did do it! [In 1999] The alcohol is why I forgot!”

Lee: “I remember sitting next to Dido at Top of the Pops – my phone went off and embarrassingly I had her music as a ringtone.”

H: “That’s when we were having lunch, feeding Geri’s dog sausages, and putting gel in its hair. It was around the time she did that dreadful cover of ‘It’s Raining Men’..”

First Dido and now you’re off Geri’s Christmas card list too…

Lisa: “We were probably off it when we were going a gig together and she tried to fly the plane we were on. It was a Hercules and they [the RAF] had to tell her to back off. They gave in to her in the end to shut her up (Laughs)”

 

9
Name the three Steps tracks that Bananarama have writing credits on.

Claire: “ ‘Movin’ On.’”

Faye: “’Last Thing on My Mind’”

Claire: “What other cover did we do of theirs?”

Lisa: “Claire will get this. She’s the only one we can’t see [on Zoom] so she’s probably Googling it…”

WRONG. It’s ‘Last Thing On My Mind’, ‘Movin’ On’ –  but you missed ‘Steptro’, the intro track from your 1998 album ‘Step One’.

H: “Jesus Christ! I love that you know what that is. It has a snippet of ‘Last Thing on My Mind’, and we’d stick it on whenever we had a dance break.”

 

10
Your recently covered  ‘Something In Your Eyes’,  originally by Jenny Silver, which was a contender to represent Sweden at Eurovision in 2011. But who ended up representing the country that year?

Faye: “I’m not a Eurovision fan myself. Is it somebody famous?”

He’s a relatively obscure answer…

Claire: “’Something In Your Eyes’ was written by the same person who wrote Loreen’s [2012 Eurovision winner] ‘Euphoria’. Was it her?”

H: “No, it’s a guy..”

Claire: “Sorry I wasn’t listening – I was Googling! (Laughs)”

Lisa: “I knew it!”

TRAGEDY! It was Eric Sadde’s ‘Popular’.

Lisa: “Oh, I liked that song.”

Tell us about your new album, ‘What the Future Holds’..

Faye: “When we came off tour in 2018 we had that Sia track put on the table, which started the ball rolling. When we released our last album, ‘Tears On the Dancefloor’, in 2017 it was difficult to get people to give us songs. No record label wanted to sign us so we did it ourselves and ended up as the second most successful independent album that year behind Stormzy. [Our new album] was a totally different experience, with writers of a high-calibre wanting to work with us.”

 

The verdict: 6.5/10

Lisa: “We’ll take that! We’ve been around a long time, so can’t remember everything.”

– Steps’ new album, ‘What the Future Holds’ is released on November 27

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