Let’s take a look at some of everyone’s favourite 80s rocker ladies and what they’re doing today!
1. Wendy James (Transvision Vamp)
Signed by MCA in December 1986, this British alternative rock group reached the peak of their success in the late 80s. With lead singer Wendy James drawing in attention from the media with her memorable anarchistic image, the band produced their first popular hit, “I Want Your Love”, in 1988. Their debut album Pop Art was a roaring success in the UK.
However, they are probably best known for their pop punk single “Baby I Don’t Care”, which was released in 1989. The single reached #3 in the UK and Australia. Additionally, their second album Velveteen stayed at #1 on the UK Albums Chart for an impressive 26 weeks.
The band split in 1992, shortly after MCA wouldn’t release Transvision Vamp’s third album – Little Magnets Versus the Bubble of Babble – due to disliking the album’s “mellow” sound. Wendy James has commented about the third album:
“…the English record label had said they weren’t convinced about this record, we’re going to hold off on it and see how well it does in other countries first.” she said. “By the time they were ready to release it, we’d already decided to split up, and so it never came out.”
After leaving the band, James went on to pursue a (somewhat disappointing) solo career, with her album Now Ain’t The Time For Your Tears only reaching #43 on the 1993 charts. In 2004, she formed another band by the name of Racine, and they managed to release two albums before they split only four years later.
At age 51, Wendy is still the sassy and rebellious blonde bombshell. Her single “Bad Intentions And A Bit Of Cruelty” was released in 2015, followed by her album The Price of a Ticket.
She currently lives in New York, and in interview with Scotman, has told us what life is like for her nowadays:
“I’ve just got my own little life going.
“Every day I get up in the morning, pick up my guitar and a pile of lyrics.
“The music builds up in me and I write down the things I think. Then a song pings out, and the whole thing starts again.”
2. Kim Wilde
Kim’s catchy debut single “Kids In America” gave her an incredible amount of fame, with the song reaching #2 in the UK in 1981.
After producing her own version of The Supremes hit “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”, she managed to top the charts in both Canada and Australia, earned a #2 in the UK, and a #1 in America in 1987. Interestingly, she has commented that she didn’t even know the song too well in the first place before she recorded it:
“Basically we just went into the studio with a lot of energy and not a lot of reverence. We changed quite a lot of the song and I think that’s why it was so successful. It was a very spontaneous idea.”
Another classic, “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”, was recorded by Wilde and Mel Smith for Comic Relief.
She holds the title of the most-charted female solo act of the 80s, and has won many awards in Sweden, Germany, and the UK. These include ‘Best British Female Solo Artist’ (UK, 1983 BRIT Awards), ‘Best Female Singer’ (Sweden, 1981), and ‘Golden Otto Best Singer’ (Germany,1981).
Now 56, Kim has since toured the UK three times as a part of an 80s revival series, but has recently described her fame as causing her to have “a bit of a breakdown.”
“I’d wake up and not be able to see any light at the end of it. I just remember being without motivation,” she said. “I gave myself a hard time because I had everything I thought I wanted – to make music, be a pop star, travel the world – but I had this gaping hole in my soul. I felt ungrateful because I had so much and it wasn’t enough.”
However, nowadays she’s managed a dramatic turnaround. With her dreams of settling down and having a family realised, she finally married ‘Mr Right’ Hal Fowler in 1996, and had a daughter and a son.
She’s now more likely to be seen in a garden than on stage, as she pursued a career as a landscape gardener. This kind of branching out meant that she recorded two series of Garden Invaders, and has written two books about gardening, too.
If that wasn’t enough, she also works as a radio presenter on Sundays, hosting Secret Songs on Magic 105.4!
3. Carol Decker (T’Pau)
British band T’Pau formed in 1986, and Star Trek fans might recognise the name of the band as one of the Vulcan elders from the show. In the late 80s, T’Pau had many successful hits in the Top 40s, including “China In Your Hand”, “Heart And Soul”, and “Valentine”.
Particularly popular, “China In Your Hand” remained at #1 for five weeks in the UK. The band’s second album Rage did reach platinum status, but was never quite as successful as their debut album Bridge of Spies.
Did you know that the band has had a total of eight former members and has two current members? Well, now you do.
Impressively, Decker is still performing in T’Pau today – at age 59! – with fellow band member Ronnie Rogers. She’s barely showing her age at all, and in 2015, the band released their fifth album, Pleasure and Pain.
She has expressed some frustration about a lack of airtime for T’Pau’s more recent material. Decker felt that radio stations weren’t too interested in her current works, and only found time for her classic hits.
“It’s a little harder to get on the radio because all the ’80s stations play the ’80s stuff and they won’t play your new stuff,” she said in interview. “They actually say they can’t, and then the younger stations play the younger artists, the hip stations. That’s the downside, and I miss hearing radio plays for the new stuff… it is a little frustrating that I can’t get it out to the wider audience anymore.”
Pleasure and Pain still crept into the charts at #98, which is impressive considering they hadn’t had any chart related action for about 20 years!
4. The Bangles
Do you Walk Like an Egyptian, have the occasional Manic Monday, or keep an Eternal Flame for someone special? If so, you’ll know these pop-rock superstars. The Bangles first formed as an all-female trio known as ‘The Bangs’ in LA in 1980, consisting of Susanna Hoffs and sisters Debbi and Vicki Peterson.
Their first single, Getting Out of Hand, was published on their own label, but they then joined Faulty Products to release their first EP in 1982 under the band name Bangles. Their career peaked in the mid-to-late 80s, with help from a music video starring Leonard Nimoy and a tour as the opening act for Cyndi Lauper.
When Prince caught wind of them, he gave them one of his songs, Manic Monday, which reached number 2 in three countries! They finally hit number one with (you guessed it) Walk Like an Egyptian in 1986. That wasn’t their biggest-selling single, though – Eternal Flame became the greatest hit of any all-female band. Inspired by Olivia Newton-John, Susannah Hoffs recorded this song in her birthday suit.
Tension within the band led to their split in 1989… But that wasn’t the end of their story.
The original trio reformed a decade after their break to provide their signature sound to Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
They went on tour in 2000, were added into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and recorded a brand-new album (Doll Revolution).
Their latest album (and accompanying tour) were in 2011, but the band is still together – maybe we can hope for more Bangles hits in the future?
5. Debbie Harry (Blondie)
Blondie released their first album in 1976, and are most popular for their #1 hit songs including “Call Me”, “Atomic”, “Heart of Glass”, and “The Tide Is High”.
As many confused Blondie for Debbie Harry’s real name, the band’s slogan became “Blondie is the name of the band”, just to really drive the point home. The band was also originally called Wine In The Willows, but was changed to Blondie after the many catcalls Harry received from men.
Harry released a solo album in 1981, with the band being on hiatus at this time. But in 1982, they regrouped to produce The Hunter, their sixth studio album.
This album didn’t prove as popular as their previous works, and the band split shortly after. Factors for this decision included slow ticket sales for their world tour, slowing record sales, and band member Chris Stein becoming ill with a rare autoimmune disease.
Harry is still in fantastic shape today at age 71, and has never stopped rocking her memorable platinum blonde hair.
In 2014, she took to the stage once again to perform at Glastonbury Festival with an incredible performance of Atomic. Will she ever actually retire? We don’t think so.
Having grown increasingly proud of her band’s unwillingness to quit, she said:
“The fact we’re still around I’d put down to our dedication, stubbornness and idiocy. I might be 71 but the energy is still there. I just pace myself more carefully these days.”
Bananarama have more chart entries than any other all-female group according to The Guiness Book of Records, and were ranked as the 94th most successful dance artist of all time last year by Billboard Magazine. Sara Dallin, Keren Woodward, and Siobhan Fahey got together in London in 1979.
Despite being known now as a pop group, they were avid fans of punk rock. They were strong from the start, providing backing vocals at gigs for famous names such as Iggy Pop and The Jam, but their success was in part due to where they chose to live in 1991… Above the room used by two former Sex Pistols members as a rehearsal space!
In the 80s they were signed on to their first label, recorded 25 singles (including 4 UK silvers and 1 Canadian platinum certification) and 4 albums (which all placed in the UK top 50). They had so much success that they were able to release their first greatest hits compilation in 1988, which reached UK #3 and was awarded Platinum and Gold in 4 countries.
Things took a turn for the worse for the friends in 1988, however, when Fahey left. She did not like the direction they were taking, and felt socially isolated from the others, as they had been friends for longer. Fahey continued to hit the charts as part of the pop duo Shakespeares Sister. But what about Dallin and Woodward?
Well, they continued on as Bananarama! They were joined by Jacquie O’Sullivan from 1988-1991, before reforming as a duo in 1992.
They have continued to release new material alongside remastered versions of their retro classics, and perform live in person and on TV. In fact, we are expecting even more new material in the near future – Sara Dallin tweeted that they signed a new deal in 2016, and posted a teaser of a new song on the band’s page in November.
7. Shakespears Sister
Speaking of Siobhan Fahey… After she left Bananarama in 1988, she started her own solo project, Shakespears Sister, with a decidedly more gothic vibe. She was joined by Marcella Detroit in 1989, turning Shakespears Sister into a highly successful duo. Two of their albums reached Top 10 status, and they had a series of hits in the Top 40. Their best known single, Stay, held the UK #1 spot for 8 weeks in a row, won a BRIT award for Best British Video, and was similarly successful in the international charts.
Unfortunately, that was the height of their success, and their only #1. The two fought openly in their 1992 tour, and Fahey was hospitalised for depression in 1993, preventing them from performing at the Royal Albert Hall as planned. Fahey dropped Detroit from the project publicly during a 1993 awards ceremony (ouch!) and the two have not seen or spoken to each other since.
So where are they now?
Fahey has continued to create and perform as a solo act under her own name and as Shakespears Sister. Her 3 solo albums have unfortunately failed to reach any success in the charts, but some of her singles did reach the top 100 – most successful was I Can Drive from the album #3, which reached number 30 in the UK.
Meanwhile, Detroit also began a solo career, with a bit more success – her album Jewel charted in four countries, reaching number 15 in the UK and earning a silver certification. She later formed the blues band Marcy Levy Band in 2002, which split in 2009, and has co-written a number of songs for other artists with Richard Feldman, including Patty Weaver’s Somebody’s Gonna Get Hurt and Eric Clapton’s Tangled in Love. More recently, she has worked with Charlotte Church and X Factor winner Joe McElderry.
8. Marie Fredriksson (Roxette)
Marie was part of Swedish pop-rock duo Roxette – formed in 1986 – and gave us popular albums ‘Look Sharp!’ and ‘Joyride’. Overall, Roxette achieved a brilliant total of 19 Top 40 hits in the UK.
However, the pair weren’t always the duo we know and love. Both band members were already solo artists before they recorded “Neverending Love” together, which went on to become a Swedish hit single. We have the managing director who advised them to pair up to thank!
The band is still together today, having since toured the world. They unleashed a stunning performance at the Sydney Opera House in 2015, where they absolutely wowed the crowd. Frederiksson, now 58, is yet another rock star who refuses to let go of her awesome peroxide blonde look.
Unfortunately, in 2016 the band announced that they would no longer be participating in tours. After undergoing surgery in 2002 to remove a malignant brain tumor, the star hoped she was in the clear despite having lost her vision in her right eye. But the tumor has returned and she has been “by her doctors to refrain from touring and as a consequence”, said the band’s management.
With Frederiksson reportedly fighting for her life again, we can only hope she’s able to pull through once more.