As punk’s flame began to sputter out, music started to reconstruct itself. Disenfranchised with safety pins, discord and anything-goes stage performances, young musicians borrowed old-school values from the Sixties, with tightly-choreographed shows, shiny, upbeat vocals, and a hefty splash of showbiz. While some might view them as a second-rate Abba, there are few UK bands that captured that sense of zest and fun than Bucks Fizz.
In 1980, the Eurovision Song Contest was a big deal. Politics hadn’t yet found their way into the voting and winning was a sure-fire way to launch a career. Producer Andy Hill, and his wife, Nichola Martin, were looking to put a band together to enter the competition. With their song, Making Your Mind Up, already written, all they needed were the right singers.
First through the door was Mike Nolan, a Dublin-born singer who’d had a near miss with the band, Brooks. At the time he auditioned for Hill and Martin, he was playing in pubs and clubs around London, armed only with a guitar and a few Irish ballads. With him onboard, the trio recorded a demo of Making Your Mind Up, which was accepted as an entry into the preliminary round of the contest, A Song For Europe.
Martin’s idea was to build the rest of the band around Nolan, so auditioning began in earnest.
Similarly, Cheryl Baker had already flirted with success. Her first band, Co-Co, had entered A Song For Europe in ’76, only to be pipped at the post by The Brotherhood of Man. Two years later, they entered again, but failed to make it into the final round. In 1980, Co-Co tried again, this time under the moniker, The Main Event. After failing to get through to the Eurovision Song Contest, they disbanded. Already on Martin’s radar, Baker was the next to join what was to become Bucks Fizz.
Next up: Jay Aston. By the age of 20, Aston already had a string of stage appearances up her sleeve. A trained actress, singer, and dancer, she entered the Miss Purley Competition in 1978 and found herself as a contestant in the Miss England finals. In a peculiar twist of fate, the interval band at the contest was Co-Co, fronted by a certain Cheryl Baker.
Last to join was Bobby G. After working as a builder and a plumber in his early teens, G set up his own construction businesses. Unfortunately, these crashed and burned, leaving him with significant debts. In the late Seventies, he embarked on a career as a singer, winning himself the role of understudy to Pontius Pilate, in the West End musical, Jesus Christ Superstar. At the time he auditioned for Bucks Fizz, G was working as the resident singer in a members’ club, in Surrey.
Legend has it that the band’s name came about during the recording of their first song. Mike Nolan recalled that he “raised an eyebrow at the line: “Don’t let your indecision take you from behind.” It sounded really rude. Andy laughed and said: “Never mind that, just sing it.” We needed a name and were stuck for ideas. Then Nichola Martin, who’d put the band together with Andy, said: “Anyone fancy a Bucks Fizz?” She meant the cocktail, but I said: “That’s a good one!”
Whatever the truth of the matter, the name was a superb choice for the UK’s new pop champions. Effervescent, colourful and with just the right amount of naughtiness about them, Bucks Fizz took the Eurovision Song Contest by storm. The song aside, what Chery Baker describes as the band’s “gasp moment” was the accompanying dance routine, which featured Nolan and G whipping Baker and Aston’s long skirts off, to reveal shorter ones underneath. Check out the Music Poster collection of Bucks Fizz images, to see the band in full swing.
Post-Eurovision, Bucks Fizz owned the charts for almost three years. While they continued to earn comparisons with Abba, the band seemed to change its musical style with almost every release. My Camera Never Lies fused electro-pop with acoustic riffage to create a more urgent, jagged sound, while If You Can’t Stand The Heat put its foot into the waters of pop-rock. The Land of Make Believe is a catchy concoction of pop and psychedelic tendencies and Now Those Days Are Gone, with its soulful acapella, owes as much to The Beach Boys as anything written by Benny Andersson.
Fast forward to December 11th, 1984 and things were to take a decidedly different turn. On the way back from a concert in Newcastle, the Bucks Fizz tour bus was involved in a crash with a lorry, on the Great North Road. While all members of the band sustained some injuries, it was Mike Nolan who came off worst:
“Cheryl and I were then rushed to the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle where I regained consciousness. I dragged myself out of bed and asked where the other band members were. The nurses said Cheryl was next door, so I staggered into her room and we both started laughing…My face was all marked, I had oil in my hair and even bits of glass from the windscreen. I told her I had a terrible headache. She said to ask for some painkillers, but the nurse couldn’t give me any straight away, so she opened the window. That was the last thing I remember – an ear-splitting, blinding headache then nothing.”
Nolan went into a coma and remained in hospital until January of the following year. His injuries were to become life-changing, leaving him with epilepsy and impaired vision.
The band began recording later in 1985, but tensions were starting to arise. It was discovered that Jay Aston had been having an affair with Andy Hill and she left the group, while technically still under contract. She was replaced by Shelley Preston, who left four years later, after finding out that Baker and Nolan had performed alongside Aston at two ‘secret’ gigs.
Cheryl Baker was next to leave, after finding success on the small screen as a presenter. Nolan followed and was replaced by David Van Day, from the pop duo, Dollar. With new recruits taking over from Baker and Preston, Bobby G trademarked the band’s name and took out injunctions to prevent any of the former members from using it. It was this move that was to ultimately end any potential for the original line-up to ever get back together.
However, Nolan, Aston and Baker have reformed, under the name, The Fizz. While it’s not the full complement that the fans are waiting for, there’s still a chance for them to catch three-quarters of a glimpse of that infectious Eighties sparkle.
Are there any defining moments of the Bucks Fizz story that we’ve missed out? Get in touch and let us know in the Comments below.