Cheryl’s still fizzing
By Martin Hutchinson
It was a memorable night in music back on April 4, 1981, at Dublin’s Royal Dublin Society when two attractive women had their skirts ripped off in front of half a billion people watching on live TV across Europe.
Yes, it was Bucks Fizz winning the Eurovision Song Contest for the United Kingdom with Making Your Mind Up.
The two women were Cheryl Baker and Jay Aston, whose outer, and longer, skirts were removed by bandmates Bobby G and Mike Nolan to reveal mini-skirts underneath. But Cheryl, now reunited with Mike and Jay in The Original Bucks Fizz (sometimes known as ‘Formerly of Bucks Fizz’), tells me the routine was not a deliberate ploy to be noticed.
“No, it was purely by accident.” the bubbly 55-year-old explained.
“We were discussing costumes for the show; Jay wanted a mini-skirt and I wanted a longer skirt as I had quite muscular legs because I used to be a runner.”
“Everybody got involved; us, the costumiers, the choreographers, management, the record company and Uncle Tom Cobley and all. In the end I said, ‘why not have both?’ and the choreographer said ‘Yes! That’s it’, and came up with the routine.”
Cheryl was no stranger to Eurovision though.
“That’s right, I was in a band called Co Co from 1975 to 1980, and we represented the UK at Eurovision in 1978 with a song called The Bad Old Days.”
The song came 11th in the contest, but gave the band a Top Twenty hit (their sole chart entry).
Then, after Co Co split, Cheryl was lucky enough to get a second bite at the cherry.
“The band was being built around Mike Nolan by Nichola Martin, and she turned up at the office where I worked – I was doing secretarial work at the time – and asked me to audition, as she knew who I was. It was perfect timing for me, and we went on from there.”
Winning the contest was a great moment for Cheryl.
“It was my childhood dream,” she says smiling. “It’s like winning an Olympic Gold Medal. Once I realised I couldn’t win one of those, Eurovision was the target.
“To think that I’m one of only five artists to have won it for the UK is a great feeling, and for me and Mike, it’s the most fantastic thing we’ve done.”
After the Eurovision win, Bucks Fizz became one of the most successful bands of the eighties with a total of 20 chart hits from 1981 to 1988, which included three No.1s: Making Your Mind Up, The Land Of Make Believe, and My Camera Never Lies.
The decade wasn’t without it’s ‘downs’, as the band had to cope with Jay leaving (she was replaced by Shelley Preston) and a coach crash which left Mike Nolan seriously injured.
Famously, Cheryl became a TV presenter after Bucks Fizz disbanded, co-presenting ‘Record Breakers’ with the late, great Roy Castle.
Despite her success as a presenter, Cheryl prefers to sing.
“Oh, definitely, without any question. I always get nervous before a show, but everyone is there to see you and there’s nothing like it. Being on stage is the best feeling, you can’t compare it to anything.”
The band got back together in 2007, but only as a trio, as Bobby didn’t want to be involved – and this is where it gets complicated.
Apparently Bobby tours as Bucks Fizz, while Cheryl, Jay and Mike – despite there being three originals – can’t call themselves ‘Bucks Fizz’.
“It’s a funny situation really,” says Cheryl. “The law can be really funny. It’s actually Bobby’s wife that owns the name. The funny thing about it is, if they ever broke up, she would be able to go out as Bucks Fizz and he couldn’t.”
Having started performing again, there was just one thing missing.
“Even though we were sounding like Bucks Fizz, it didn’t quite sound right to us without a fourth member. So, in 2014, Mike rang an old friend of his – Bobby McVay to join the band for a tour – and he stayed.
“It feels like a proper line-up now,” Cheryl said. “It looks and sounds like it should.”
Bobby also had Eurovision in him, as he was a member of the duo Sweet Dreams, who represented the UK in the contest in 1983. Their song I’m Never Giving Up, came sixth in the contest.
“We sing I’m Never Giving Up in the shows these days as it’s a nice gesture to Bobby.”
But what about Bad Old Days?
“No, we don’t do that one as it sounds very seventies-ish and Bucks Fizz was all about the eighties.”
Cheryl and the rest of the ‘Fizzers’, are at present in the throes of a nationwide tour.
“It’s so fantastic!” she enthused. “It’s going better than I expected, and it’s great, considering we haven’t toured like this for a long time.
“You look into the audience and see fans from the eighties who are there with their children and parents, Three generations are coming to see the show – it’s unbelievable.”
Of all the hits the band enjoyed, Cheryl picks out a few as favourites.
“There’s Land of Make Believe, New Beginnings, and Now Those Days are Gone. Sometimes you can hear a pin drop during that one.”
The present tour is entitled ‘The Land Of Make Believe Tour’ and goes on to the middle of November.“We sing all the hits, bar a couple, and a couple of medleys incorporating album tracks which were picked from a survey of our fan club members.
“Towards the end, we do an 80s medley which lasts about 15 minutes and really gets the crowd on their feet. Then we finish with Land Of Make Believe and Making Your Mind Up. And yes, we do the skirt-ripping.”
Cheryl, Mike, Jay and Bobby will be performing at various venues around the country until November 17.