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Shakespears Sister – Run Silent


When the news broke in 1988 that Siobhan Fahey was leaving Bananarama I was positively aghast. The ‘rams were – and remain – my all time favourite girl group and it was unthinkable that they could simply draft in someone else and carry on as before. Of course that’s exactly what they did, and Jacquie O’Sullivan turned out to be a really good, if sadly short-lived member. The original trio did one final and quite spectacular performance of Love in the First Degree at the BPI Awards and then Siobhan was off to do goodness only knows what – having transformed from a dungaree-wearing, beer-swilling urchin into a sleek bobbed style icon during the Bananarama years, it was kind of hard to tell what would happen next.

When Siobhan re-emerged later the same year she was quite literally unrecognisable, smothered in more eyeshadow than even Dusty Springfield could withstand and emphatically brunette to boot. Her new project, Shakespears Sister, got off to a fairly inauspicious start with the somewhat tinny and couldn’t-be-more-1988-if-it-tried Break My Heart. Sonically, it wasn’t quite the break from Bananarama that some were expecting, but the revelation was to be found in Siobhan’s deep and husky voice. But it wasn’t necessarily a pop voice, or at least one that was going to sell a lot of records. What she needed was a foil, specifically someone who could shine light on what could otherwise prove to be very dark proceedings indeed. Enter American soprano Marcella Detroit, whose integration into what was now officially a band created a partnership to rival the divine feud of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford – something they were savvy enough to play on for commercial gain but which forced them apart all too quickly.

Things got off to a great start with the top ten hit You’re History – a brilliant and unusual pop song, with Siobhan coming off a bit like Rex Harrison in her almost spoken-word delivery and Marcella trilling away at the top end; suddenly the move away from Bananarama started to make sense. Follow up Run Silent was even better, showcasing the alchemy that Siobhan and Marcy had created. Individually their voices might sink a song – Siobhan with a limited if effective range, Marcy with her multiple octaves. But together? They just worked.

Run Silent is one of those terribly important sounding songs – chanting always helps achieve this effect – that doesn’t actually say an awful lot beyond “I’m rather in love with you.” But despite being largely meaningless, it manages to be rather moving. I often think of 1989 as being one of pop’s greatest years, and in many ways it was – but it was also the year in which Jive Bunny scored three no.1s , so perhaps Shakespears Sister were just a little bit too challenging for the times. Run Silent struggled to make an impact and when the next single bottomed out at no.71 it looked like it was all over before it had really begun. Thankfully, history has taught us otherwise, for 1992’s world-conquering Stay was yet to come. Unfortunately the Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? antics became a bit too real, and that year’s Hormonally Yours album was to be the last time Siobhan and Marcy worked together.

I suspect it’s more likely that Johnny Marr and Morrissey will mend their fences before this pair do, but I always live in hope of a glorious, money-spinning reunion.

Entered chart: 08/10/1989

Chart peak: 54

Weeks on chart: 3

Who could sing this today and have a hit? The Veronicas.

Editor’s note: I’ve used the most common spelling of the band’s name: Shakespears Sister. An apostrophe has appeared on various releases (including Run Silent) but for the bulk of their output they were apostrophe-less, and so it shall be here.

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