Girls still wanna have fun

It’s not just male rock­ers age­ing (dis)grace­fully… lisa Ver­rico her­alds the post-50 women redefining pop

Woman & Home - - Contents -

the post-50 pop stars who are still go­ing strong

of the dozens of gigs that I saw last year, only one made me laugh out loud, dance arms-aloft down an aisle and not care that I could hear my­self singing out of tune. Bana­narama’s come­back con­cert at Ham­mer­smith Apollo in De­cem­ber was a night of pure joy. Watch­ing the “girl group” – now all in their mid to late fifties – fluff their dance rou­tines just as they used to, gasp at the size of their

80s hair and tell sto­ries about how they be­came friends wasn’t just a nos­tal­gia trip. As a pop critic for The Times, I’ve seen scores of re­unions over the years – from Si­mon & Gar­funkel ig­nor­ing each other on stage in Manch­ester to The Po­lice bury­ing hatch­ets in Hyde Park. All were fan­tas­tic but none as much fun as Bana­narama. The trio at­tempt­ing to mimic the moves from one of their old videos, or teas­ing each other for be­ing out of breath, was bril­liant be­cause of

who they are now, not who they were decades ago. It re­minded me of nights out with great mates af­ter years apart.

What­ever mu­si­cians claim, al­most all re­unions are about the money. bana­narama’s wasn’t like that. the joy that the au­di­ence felt came straight from the stage. sara Dallin, siob­han Fahey and Keren Wood­ward ob­vi­ously loved be­ing back to­gether in front of fans who shared their ex­cite­ment. the re­union came about af­ter they got drunk sev­eral sum­mers ago at a bar­be­cue at Fahey’s house. at 2am, they talked about tour­ing to­gether for the first time – Fahey quit the band in the late 80s, just be­fore their first tour. the de­lay was partly due to other com­mit­ments, but there was also the worry that no one would care. In fact, when their come­back concerts were an­nounced, all 13 dates sold out so quickly that an­other ten were added. as Keren joked, “that’s 23 dates in a month – at our age!” the band has since toured the states and are spend­ing this sum­mer play­ing fes­ti­vals in Europe.

WOMEN POWER

bana­narama are by no means alone in prov­ing that pop isn’t a ca­reer that women out­grow af­ter a cer­tain age. Deb­bie Harry, 72, has never stopped tour­ing or re­leas­ing records. she re­formed blondie 20 years ago, and be­gan hav­ing hits all over again. and un­like, say, the Rolling stones, much of the band’s new ma­te­rial has been fan­tas­tic. If you love clas­sic blondie, check out their cur­rent al­bum, Pol­li­na­tor – it has all the hall­marks of Par­al­lel Lines, but brought up to date.

two years ago, I watched Pe­tula Clark, then 83, rock a base­ment club in ber­lin, play­ing old songs and new, in­clud­ing the dance hits she’s been hav­ing across Europe in re­cent years. Cru­cially, Clark doesn’t try to keep up with the kids – she just writes songs she likes and per­forms them. she

doesn’t need the money, but as she told me, “What else would I do? It’s my job.”

In a sea of male pop stars whose ca­reers seem­ingly have no sell-by date – Paul McCart­ney, El­ton John, Rod ste­wart, Robert Plant, Paul Weller, the stones, the Who… women post-50 mak­ing mu­sic have of­ten been viewed as an ano­maly. When Kate bush took a decade out of the lime­light to bring up her son, she was seen as an ec­cen­tric recluse. the 59-year-old has since re­leased three as­ton­ish­ing al­bums and, in 2014, played a >>

record-breaking 22-date res­i­dency at Ham­mer­smith apollo, which was hailed as one of the best pop per­for­mances of all time.

like bush, sade, also 59, chooses when she wants to work and records new mu­sic only when she has some­thing to say. the ex­cite­ment around the re­lease of her first sin­gle in seven years this spring showed it’s a smart de­ci­sion. sade’s last world tour, in 2011, grossed more than $30 mil­lion. she can dis­ap­pear for as long as she likes; it only in­creases her fans’ fer­vour for her.

AGE IS AN AS­SET

but it’s not only su­per­star singers who are chang­ing per­cep­tions of post-50 women in pop. since go­ing solo, for­mer ev­ery­thing but the Girl singer tracey thorn, 55, has made her age an as­set, touch­ing on top­ics in­clud­ing dat­ing af­ter di­vorce and the menopause in her songs. Her lat­est al­bum, Record, is a must-hear for mid­dle-aged mums. one of its high­lights is Go, a dreamy pop song that de­scribes empty-nest syn­drome al­most too beau­ti­fully to bear. “You must out­grow it all/Those marks on the wall/You should leave it all be­hind/And I should never mind,” she sings. “To wave you out the door/ It’s what my love was for.”

lis­ten­ing to Go or the glo­ri­ous disco song Ba­bies – on which thorn looks back over her life and com­pares 3am on a dance­floor to 3am in a rock­ing chair, feed­ing – I was shocked to re­alise that, de­spite be­ing a mid­dle-aged mum my­self, I’d never no­ticed that next to no pop songs de­pict that side of my life. now, I’m in search of any that do.

my cur­rent ob­ses­sion is Kylie’s new al­bum, Golden. Re­leased shortly be­fore the singer turned 50 in may, it’s by a mile the best record she’s made since her thir­ties, partly be­cause it ac­knowl­edges her age. Kylie mixes coun­try with her trade­mark disco-pop – “Dolly Par­ton on a dance­floor” as she de­scribes it. Golden is a sur­vival al­bum, made in the wake of Kylie’s very pub­lic break-up from the ac­tor Joshua sasse. I love the song

A Life­time To Re­pair not just be­cause it makes me want to dance, but also be­cause it cap­tures a re­la­tion­ship break-up in mid­dle-age, so dif­fer­ent

THESE SUC­CESS­FUL ARTISTS ARE ALL MAK­ING MU­SIC THAT SUITS THEM AND EX­CITES THEM

from how it feels in one’s teens. Go lis­ten, and while you’re at it, check out her hit Danc­ing, which has a killer cho­rus for any­one wor­ried about los­ing their lust for life. “When I go out/I wanna go out danc­ing,” sings Kylie, as ef­fer­ves­cent as ever, but re­fer­ring to the rest of her life, not her by­gone club­bing days.

NO RULES

What these suc­cess­ful artists have in com­mon is that they’re mak­ing mu­sic that suits them and ex­cites them, rather than try­ing to com­pete with a new gen­er­a­tion with dif­fer­ent ideas and in­flu­ences. björk, 52, is cur­rently mak­ing the most chal­leng­ing mu­sic of her ca­reer, whereas lisa stans­field, 52, re­cently re­leased an eighth al­bum that is as classy and soul­ful as its pre­de­ces­sors.

I’m look­ing for­ward to re­dis­cov­er­ing more of my teenage idols. last year, I saw ali­son moyet, 56, for­merly of ya­zoo, on her first world tour in 30 years, for which she rightly re­ceived ec­static reviews. this year, I’ve fallen back in love with Kim Wilde, whose new al­bum, Here Come The Aliens, re­calls her Kids In Amer­ica era, but adds rock gui­tars. at her re­cent lon­don gig, I watched Wilde, 57, play her rock chick role to per­fec­tion. It was only on my way home that I re­alised that the old Wilde didn’t rock at all.

Per­form­ing last year at Lon­don’s Ham­mer­smith Apollo Bana­narama The orig­i­nal trio re­formed last year for a suc­cess­ful tour. From left: Siob­han Fahey, Sara Dallin and Keren Wood­ward

Kate Bush Her 2014 live shows – her first since 1979 – were well worth the wait. Right: in the late 1970s

Sade She has re­cently re­leased a new song, much to her many fans’ de­light

Deb­bie Harry Blondie’s front­woman is still one of the most iconic women in mu­sic. Right: in 1978

Kim Wilde She may be in her fifties, but she’s a true rock chick!

Tracey Thorn Writes about her ex­pe­ri­ences of emp­tynest syn­drome and the menopause

Ali­son Moyet last year saw her first world tour for 30 years

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