Cherry Red Records (label)
29 June 2015 (released)
12 July 2015
As the excellent inlay notes on the album Bucks Fizz claims, Bobby G, Mike Nolan, Cheryl Baker and Jay Aston were more than just a Eurovision act, with 3 number one singles and 11 Top 20 hits in total. As with all the re-releases through Cherry Red, the inlays are well researched and written. Here they are put together by Jason Greenwood and make for fascinating reading. Surprises arrive aplenty with the back story. How the band was the brainchild of songwriter Andy Hill, whose wife was supposed to be in the band but couldn't decide between Baker and Aston so took a backseat role instead.
You also learn, to no great surprise, that Bucks Fizz used Abba as a template. Of course, their Eurovision success was perhaps best remembered for the removal of the girls' skirts during the performance. A gimmick, but a hugely successful one. After their victory the band always suffered from being considered slightly twee and would probably admit that their musical legacy is hindered rather than helped by how they launched their career. Unfairly perhaps too, as those notes claim, because the catalogue of songs here is impressive.
1981's Bucks Fizz was a bid to quickly break free from the Making Your Mind Up shackles, containing the classy hit One of Those Nights and Piece of the Action. Here it is re-released with extra tracks and remixes plus a full Spanish version, recorded because of the band's success in Latin America.
1982's Are You Ready (no question mark!) saw their hit making at its most potent. Andy Hill's writing was at its peak, with two number ones, The Camera Never Lies and the still excellent The Land Of Make Believe. Another single, Now Those Days Are Gone shows the wish to add depth to the music. The acapella single earned Hill an Ivor Novello nomination (he would later win one for Celine Dion's Think Twice). These musical experiments show the band caught between their pop background and trying to be more creditable. The photographs also reveal this contradiction, with the band pictured in a wholesome farm scene, two pages after they are shown in extraordinarily skimpy outfits.
The following album sees their image change again, the cover looking all New Romantic, but the music remained fundamentally throwaway pop. There was only one single lifted from Hand Cut, the terrific If You Can't Stand The Heat, one of the band's best songs. Also included on the bonus section is Oh Suzanne (four versions no less), which has been a fans' favourite. It is a perfect slice of art-pop from the era.
For 1984's I Hear Talk, Bucks Fizz obviously decided to up the seriousness of their music and image. Both musically and in looks there are clear echoes of Fleetwood Mac, with the edgy Talking In Your Sleep (a cover of The Romantics hit from 1981) sounding like Lindsey Buckingham. The album also sees Andy Hill's songwriting mature as well as the band, with tracks like Indebted To You and Breaking Me Up hinting at the kind of hits he would later have with the likes of Celine Dion.
These four albums work well as a combined insight into a band's journey through the hey-day of synth pop, from Eurovision innocence to the kind of conflict that almost seems inevitable for bands of the time. I Hear Talk marked the beginning of the end of the band. In December 1984 they were all injured in a coach crash, Nolan the most seriously. Line-up changes followed, and later bitter disputes between Bobby G and the other 'original' members. These four albums capture them at their peak, and most fun.