Monday, 3 October 2016

INTERVIEW - Cheryl Baker

IT’S fair to say that over the past few years Britain has not had the best of luck when it comes to the Eurovision Song Contest. Despite determination and some decent entries you will have to go back a fair way to find UK success.
One such year was 1981. It was in that year that the judges were wowed by Making Your Mind Up, a belter of a pop song and the group behind it was Bucks Fizz.
The four-piece group danced and sang their way to the winner’s spot with their brilliantly catchy and cheeky song which featured their famous skirt-ripping dance routine. Not only did it win them the coveted prize but it also gave them a number one in nine countries, made them household names and assured their place in history. 
Over the next few years the band went on to sell more than 15 million records, win plenty of other awards including an Ivor Novello and had two other number ones with Land Of Make Believe and My Camera Never Lies.
The band split up in the mid 1980s after their tour bus crashed and Mike Nolan sustained a serious head injury.
It signalled the end for the original group and they parted ways to pursue other interests. However they reunited in 2004 and it wasn’t long before Cheryl, Mike and Jay began working together on stage.
Now more than 30 years on from their Eurovision success the three are back on on the road with The Make Believe Tour with relative newcomer Bobby McVay and are coming to Bromley’s Churchill Theatre on Sunday, October 16.
In a chat ahead of the gig Cheryl tells me she still gets a buzz out of touring and singing those songs that made them famous. And she’s also looking forward to being in her former stomping ground of South London again as she got married in Blackheath and lived for a while in Eltham.
“We got back together as a band in about 2004 and we have been together ever since,” she says. “We play at festivals and events around the country - it’s like we never stopped really.
In fact, every year it gets better. And now we have Bobby who has joined us we are stronger and better than ever before.
“Vocally and visually it’s great and it just fits.”
Chatty, friendly and full of humour, Cheryl surprises me by saying that the original band didn’t gel together as much as people may have thought.
“It was me and Mike and Jay and Bobby and we were never really friends,” she admits. “They were different and never really socialised.
“You don’t have to like the people you work with but now we are older we get on so much better and it’s a pleasure to work with them.”
All this is good news especially for the fans who Cheryl says still come and say hello when they see her out and about.
“I was in Russell and Bromley the other day buying a pair of sandals and the girl who served me told me she was a huge fan,” she says warmly.
“She said she had all the albums and came to the gigs to see us and it’s so lovely that those people that loved us when they were so young are still coming to see us now and still love those songs.”
And for those coming to the Bromley gig Cheryl promises all the songs that made them famous as well as all the hi energy dance routines - including the skirt ripping one that helped secure their victory on Eurovision.
“I’m looking forward to coming back to South London and performing in Bromley,” she says warmly. “I used to live not far away in Eltham so it will be great to be back. The Churchill is a venue we’ve never played at as Bucks Fizz though I did perform there when I was in Happy Days. It’s a fantastic modern theatre and I’ve seen loads of productions there over the years. It has a great big stage and it’s big enough that you can see the audience which I really like.
“We do all the songs, the changes of costumes and the dances. There will be no surprises though we may do slightly different harmonies on some of the songs and we will include some of the tracks from the early albums.
“There will be a lot of laughter though with lots of jokes so it will be a lot of fun. It’s a great atmosphere, full of fun and nostalgia, taking everyone back to those early years. As part of that we also do an 80s Medley which gets the whole crowd going. 
“What’s fantastic is that our fans from back in the day used to get brought by their parents but now they have their own kids and so we see three different generations singing back at us - it’s just brilliant.
“The skirt ripping still gets a big cheer! We use a lot of velcro on those costumes - in fact I should have bought shares in the stuff after Eurovision!”
Cheryl admits that none of them thought they would win the competition and instead they would go back to their old jobs.
“We never thought we would win,” she says. “It was just a chance to be on the TV. I was living in a council flat in East London and I thought I’d go back to being a secretary the next day. Mike was the only one who was convinced we would win. He said we had a powerful ballad and felt confident about it. He was proved right and it launched our careers.
“Of course in those days it was done in a much smaller theatre with smaller audiences. Now it’s huge. I thought this year’s entry was a good song and it’s a shame they didn’t win. I know it’s got all political since we did it though which is a shame.
“Winning went way beyond our expectations and dreams though. Without it we would not have had the success we did and when we won I realised that it would change my life - everything I do now is because of Making Your Mind Up and velcro!” she adds laughing.
“I wouldn’t be a TV presenter and I wouldn’t get to be still touring with this band and singing the songs.
“I do feel really lucky - my life has been phenomenal.”

Bucks Fizz will be at the Churchill Theatre Bromley on Sunday, October 16. Visit for tickets and full listings.

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