She was the ‘other woman’ in Bananarama...
When Siobhan Fahey left Britain’s biggest girl group to become Shakespear’s Sister, former Shillelagh Sisters singer Jacquie O’Sullivan joined Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward from 1988 to 1991, appearing on eight hit singles (including the amazing Love, Truth and Honesty).
We tracked down Jacquie on Twitter to have a chat about her part in 30 Years of Bananarama.
Thank goodness for Twitter – where have you been and what have you been up to?
Twitter is the saviour of the Universe, it has really opened up so many lost friendships and formed some great cyber ones too. I think even my close friends were surprised how obsessed I am with it, especially me with my hermit tendencies, I feel I can be myself warts and all and sometimes channel other people too!
Where do I start with what I have done for the last 20 years? I literally ran away after being in London a few years after I was messed up, I had been to Thailand before I joined the Nanas, went on holiday there again after the band and stayed to live on an island in Thailand ending up working in a diving school, running clubs and bars on Koh Tao and then travelled the world for many, many years. India, Thailand, Napal, Borneo etc, coming back every now and then to earn some money being a freelance casting assistant or whatever and then run away again.
I have been practicing yoga for over 20 years and spent time in India in different ashrams becoming a yoga teacher. I now run a casting studio in Soho. I live a pretty clean life in Bloomsbury, one little glass of red wine with loads of water can get me buzzing. Cheap date. Yoga is still my number one love, closely followed by belly dancing!
How do you feel discussing Bananarama generally?
I was very uncomfortable, but Twitter is changing that. This is the first interview I have done for years. Although I did hide on Twitter for ages the Bananarama fans have now found me and I welcome them, they are so bloody funny and honest! I would never tell people upfront when I was travelling that that’s what I used to do, because people then treat you differently, I can’t say how exactly, but you are never just Jacquie again to some people when they know.
I do think of it as one of my past lives, I have done soooo many things in my life and Bananarama was just a few years, although being in Bananarama never really leaves you. The fame thing is weird.
I honestly never went into music to be famous, I did it for the love of music and performing, I had an energy, I was a punk mid 76/77 and was inspired to get up and do it myself. I was never a brilliant singer, but I was a good singer and a good performer in the Shillelagh’s. I had an energy – the band was brilliant live. I think trying to be someone I wasn’t in Bananarama is where it all went wrong, the dance routines were not for me (although I do love them now!), I was doing what I was told (people pleasing). That was what went wrong, I had no choice in what I did, and if you strip someone of power completely they have to make themselves feel good in other ways, my way was quite destructive.
And has the 30th anniversary had any impact on how you feel about things now?
Honestly, something in me has shifted and I think Twitter has helped with that, I have had such a positive response, because I used to believe what the group said about no-one really accepting or liking me, but that’s simply not true, I know that now from how many Bananarama fans on Twitter who tell me that Pop Life and my era was their favorite time and album and they loved I Want You Back, Help etc and my involvement. You live and learn. So even though you’d hardly know that I was in the group if you look at the new album (I have almost been airbrushed out), you can’t wipe me out of the bands history ‘cos the fans won’t let it happen!
It’s probably quite boring for you to talk about, but can we ask (yet again, sorry) why you left the group?
Did I jump or was I pushed, ha ha. I was about to jump but I was PUSHED!
I realised pretty early on that I had made a BIG mistake joining the group. I really didn’t think about it too much when I was offered the job by Pete Waterman and Hilary (their manager). The Shillelagh Sisters had fizzled out, I was running nightclubs and having the life of riley, and being totally hedonistic it was an experience I couldn’t turn down (BIG MISTAKE!).
At that time I was very much part of the 80’s scene in Soho, being in the Shillelaghs, running clubs “The Big Snit” (Sara and Keren used to come down), it was such a small scene everyone who was in the music/club scene knew each other. I was taking a LOT of disco biscuits and having the time of my life with a really, really tight knit group of friends, a bunch of totally brilliant, creative, artistic, party people, (some very famous pop stars, top models, journalists, hairdressers, make,up artists, stylists etc). We were all having the time of our lives in London, New York etc living for the 3/4/5 day up all night weekends and I was still a big part of that when I joined the band.
So being taken away from all that, all your brilliant friends and go into someone else’s world, where Sara and Keren were so tight and obviously not looking to embrace you as a friend (I was a little slow to realise this) but basically I think Siobhan summed it up in a recent TV interview about how it became for her, “lonely, alone and friendless,” and in my case totally powerless.
I liked playing live and that was it! When I joined Bananarama there was no “live” music at all, it was just miming and lots and lots of press, something that never occurred to me at the beginning. I didn’t know till I joined that being in Bananarama was not the fun it looked from a distance but it was more like being in a tightly run business (I hadn’t experienced this with other bands) and I had to toe the line.
I hated the business end of things, but most of all the interviews. I am not a natural as you may remember and it was hard to answer things when you felt constant judgement and disapproval of everything you did and said.
I then just pressed the self-destruct button and just drifted along not really knowing how to get out.
The truth is I was not easy for them to deal with, in fact a bit of a nightmare towards the end, not turning up for interviews etc, but I was essentially alone with no friends for months at a time and found solace however I could.
You were friends before you joined the group – has there been much conversation since those days?
The story that we were all friends was not true, I met them out a bit in the 80’s and they came down to a club I ran, they knew I was in The Shillelagh Sisters but I think I probably knew Siobhan a little more than Sara and Keren.
The publicity was all a bit untrue as well in that regards but I went along with it and I even believed it when they said they wanted me to join the group, turns out in recent interviews they say they never wanted me to join and they never wanted to be a threesome after Siobhan left, (they could’ve told me!)
You’ve said on Twitter that you’re unlikely to ever perform Love, Truth and Honesty in public (noooooo!) but do you think it’s ever likely that you might reunite with the girls for any reason?
I can honestly say that will NEVER happen, I have moved along from feeling weird about the whole thing, I would hope I could laugh about it with Sara and Keren, it is over 20 years ago!
What about a Shillelagh Sisters reunion?
Me and Lyn have always remained friends and I love her, even though we don’t see each other that much, we still mention playing every now and then….who knows. Boz might not want to leave Morrissey for the reunion, although I have recently seen him “drag up” again (old habits) ha ha. The Shillelagh Sisters was the happiest of all my musical endeavors, it was mine and Lyns baby and it was real LIVE music, warts and all fuck ups galore, playing with Pogue Mahone all the time, touring with The Sweet, Gary Glitter, it was mental, we needed a bouncer on tour as me and Lyn would often fly off stage to deck anyone who insulted us. Gigs where we would just stand up from where we were sitting and climb on stage, not so glamorous but not so serious and much more fun!
Is it weird joining a band and immediately replacing Siobhan’s voice rather than doing your own songs?
I didn’t really think about it, I wasn’t some professional session singer, I was just little ole me running round in my own little world of fun, friends and party’s, I never thought about it, (never a deep thinker, ha ha). It never bothered me in the slightest, I thought Siobhan was great.
I understand the fans missed her (she was brilliant) and I understand that she left huge shoes to fill, it was an impossible situation for me both inside the band and outside. I did my best in a bit of a weird situation.
You appeared in one of the only Bananarama tours – what was that like? There are rumours of a live album, as the whole thing was recorded professionally…
It was without doubt my happiest time, I love playing live, I loved the live tour sooooo much, I could have happily stayed on tour forever!
I had friends coming out on tour and also brilliantly we had Jeffrey Hinton and Mel O’Brien doing wardrobe and they made the tour one of the happiest times ever. (Although we did get in trouble…..a lot) Thank you (Whiskaaay!!) Hinto! Thank you Mel!
According to journalist’s friend Wikipedia you appeared briefly in Siobhan’s Pulsatron video. Any truth? And if so how did this come about? Were you friendly with Siobhan before you joined?
As I said before I knew Siobhan a bit more than the other two from clubs in the 80’s and actually still see her now on occasion. My bessie friend Paul Simper is an old friends of Siobhan as well and I met her for lunch in LA last year, she introduced me to fish tacos on Muscle Beach (FEEDER!). I’m a big fan of her music and have been to see her play, she is so, so talented. I think there was a video of Siobhan’s with me in it somewhere, yes.
Rumours abound of an album entitled The Jacquie O Collection – again, what’s the story and are we ever likely to see this released?
It was a working title but I ran away to Thailand again. I think it was more about recognition of all the bands I had been in, The Shillelaghs, Max Emotion, Bananarama then finally Slippry Feet plus some new tracks, but the wanderlust got the better of me again.
Did you keep much ‘stuff’ from your Nana’s days?
I have a few albums but lost most things along the way. Gave away gold discs to family etc.
Any particular memories that we can (legally) print?
It was 20 years ago I did take a lot of mind altering substances and I did wipe it from my memory.
I guess all the signs of what might happen in the future was in the first time I turned up to learn some dance routines. I had been up tripping all weekend with my best mate Polly and we turned up to Pineapple Studios together to meet choreographer Bruno Tonioli, Sara and Keren. Me and Polly were both in tutu’s and sporting the finest wigs we could find, eyes like saucers, but at least I turned up!
Another memory, was the night before the world tour, my mates getting together to wave me off and decided that all of us would have just a little cheeky half of E, well it was the strongest acid ever, we spent the whole night trying to bring me down with various remedy’s, one of them being raw bacon and beetroot (you had to be there) to be able to go home and pack. In the end my friend Paul came back and threw a few clothes in a suitcase found my passport and had half hour to spare before the car turned up!
I will go for happiest times with the girls being when I went to Japan for the first time and just giggling loads with them about us having repeatedly having to say “NIPPON”. Very childish, but we were in hysterics and kept getting told off.
Meeting Michael Cane in The Russian Tea Rooms in New York and meeting Prince was unforgettable.
Lots of other story’s but that would be kiss and tell!
Favourite Bananarama song and why….
Venus, I love the energy of it, I loved performing it live, loved the dance routine and think it was the best video (I wish I did that video, love the styling) and I still think it’s the best track they ever covered.
Least favourite Bananarama song and why…
I don’t have one.
What’s next in life for you?
I am never sure what’s round the corner I guess I have always had wanderlust and so for now I will continue with what I love, yoga, meditation, belly dancing and travelling. Who knows!
You can follow Jacquie on Twitter. 30 Years of Bananarama is available here.
Arguably one of the best pop songs EVER: