Seminal girlband All Saints have spoken about the rampant industry sexism they experienced at the start of their music career in the 1990s.
Speaking ahead of the release of their first new album in a decade, the band’s main songwriter Shaznay Lewis said that producers at Top of the Pops, the BBC’s flagship music TV show, wanted to film the women topless.
“They were filming images of us to use as a backdrop and they wanted us to take our tops off,” she told the BBC in a recent interview. Producers had wanted to shoot them from the shoulders up to make it look as though they were singing nude.
“The vision was that we looked naked and we didn’t want that vision,” added Natalie Appleton. “But because it was such a huge show, we were told ‘if you don’t do it, you don’t get to go on the show’,” her sister Melanie said.
Sexism was rife across the music industry in the 90s, according to the band, who have recently reunited for a second time since 2006, which followed a first, more acrimonious split in 2001, in an argument over a combat jacket which escalated.
The band claims that their unwillingness to “play the game” and do things like saucy FHM cover shoots. It earned them, they claim, an unfair label as sulky.
“A lot of Britpop groups at the time would act very arrogantly and very stroppy, but that was never seen as a negative thing,” said Melanie. “We weren’t half as bad – but if we didn’t want to smile one day, or we weren’t really interested in doing an interview, we’d be labelled as stroppy cows.”
A spokesman for the BBC said: “We’re not able to comment on something that is alleged to have happened nearly 20 years ago, but today we seek to ensure that everyone working at the BBC does so in an environment in which they are comfortable.”
All Saints’ new album ‘Red Flag’ is out now on London Records.