A summer song with a twist, Bananarama’s Cruel Summer remains one of their most memorable hits.
Back in the day before every boy or girl band was carefully groomed to within an inch of its life before being unleashed on the world (see Boyzone, Westlife, Girls Aloud, S Club 7, Steps et cetera), Bananarama were the original template for British girl bands. Formed by childhood friends Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward along with Siobhan Fahey, there was nothing manufactured about the girls’ tomboyish image and lightweight but catchy pop numbers.
Originally released in 1983, Cruel Summer was the fifth of ten UK top ten singles for the group, peaking at number eight. It featured in the original Karate Kid film and was re-released in 1989 with new vocals by Jacquie O’Sullivan, who joined following Fahey’s departure.
Unlike most summer-themed songs, Cruel Summer focuses on the oppressive heat and misery of the season, with an accompanying video shot in New York in temperatures close to 40ºC that riffs on the TV show The Dukes of Hazzard. (The girls are chased around New York by a police cruiser carrying a character with a distinct resemblance to the show’s white-suited Boss Hogg.)
The band remain one of the most successful girl bands in British pop history and have strong links to other notable musicians. Siobhan Fahey married the Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart (although they later divorced), while Keren Woodward lives with her long-term boyfriend Andrew Ridgeley, formerly George Michael’s sidekick in Wham.
Bananarama will be playing at Camp Bestival in Dorset at the end of July. I’ll be there and I’m hoping that this track will take pride of place in their set.