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Weekend Intermission: Shakespears Sister (UK/US) – Hormonally Yours 30th Anniversary edition

Weekend Intermission is our regular feature where we look at an artist or band not from the Nordic countries, just to mix things up a bit.

One of the last live performances I attended before we entered the lost world of lockdown was one of the ‘reunion’ shows for Shakespears Sister, the duo of Siobhan Fahey and Marcella Detroit which had broken up acrimoniously 27 years previously, although Fahey had continued the brand as a solo project.

I wrote at the time, “Hello, hello, turn your time machine on… the sisters are back together and love is in the air” as they kissed and made up, putting to bed previous decades of vitriol. Then, “tonight, living in the here and now, everyone – artists and audience alike – was privileged to share in this joyful reunion and the delight of reconciliation.”

And, to the surprise of some, they’ve ‘stayed’ the course since, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Now, to celebrate the 30 year anniversary of their seminal album ‘Hormonally Yours’, London Records have announced a special edition release across multiple formats.

A double platinum and top three UK album ‘Hormonally Yours’ secured Siobhan Fahey and Marcella Detroit a place in British pop history, spawning the single ‘Stay’ – which spent eight consecutive weeks at the top of the UK charts – and winning the duo an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contemporary Song Collection. 

The anniversary CD format will include a DVD featuring all videos from the album plus live recordings of album tracks from the band’s 2019 tour (the one I saw).  In addition previously unseen footage shot during the making of the album is included. 

Released on 19th August, the vinyl will be available in two limited edition formats – standard white vinyl and a deluxe version in spattered vinyl.  A special sequinned bag edition acts as a nod to the sequinned cat suits that formed Shakespears Sister’s signature look around the album’s release. 

‘Stay’ is undoubtedly the best-known song from the album, indeed in their locker, at least partly on account of Marcella’s legendary F6 scream, and is their career marque. Watching it being performed on the night was highly intuitive of their relationship because it is the song that brought about the split when Marcella received appropriate international kudos for the breathtaking way in which she sang it, and Siobhan threw her toys out of the pram.

On that evening it was heartening to see Siobhan not only playing her own role to perfection but also visibly backing off, sitting at the rear of the stage during the opening section by Marcella, only to return to reprise her role in the precise manner of the video. There was something quite touching in that moment when Siobhan quite deliberately directed the limelight on to her opposite number.

So you’re thinking that ‘Stay’ will be the supporting video here, or perhaps ‘You’re History.’ Wrong.

Let’s return to my opening remarks ‘Hello, hello, turn your time machine on…’ and to the final, anthemic track on the album.

“We’ll say goodbye…by saying Hello” was Siobhan’s parting shot on the night, then they went on to deliver ‘Hello (Turn your radio on),’ for my money one of the greatest pop songs ever written and certainly the most underrated, together with its surreal, gothic, and brilliantly acted, filmed and produced video.

It was an enormously prescient song when it was composed thirty years ago and remains remarkably apposite even today:

And as I stumbled through last night’s drunken debris/The paperboy screamed out the headlines in the street/Another war, and now the pound is looking weak… A brave new world has dawned upon the human race…”

And then, the apogee.

“…Where words are meaningless, and everything’s surreal /Gonna have to reach my friends to find out how I feel”.

The New World Order; Fake news; virtual reality; and social media dependence predicted – in 1992!!

And a guitar solo to die for from Marcella Detroit.

And when did you last hear a harpsichord in a pop song? Or see a video co-starring a couple of piglets?

The song’s most poignant, repeated line is “Life is a strange thing, just when you think you’ve learned how to use it, it’s gone” and we are reminded that the duo’s reunion, just as with Bananarama’s a little earlier (another band of which Siobhan was a member), evolved because those members realised they were getting older and that time was running out for them to do what they do, together.

Let’s hope the hormones won’t become history and they’ll be staying around on the radio for a long time to come. They’ve still a lot of lost time to recover. Enough puns for tonight.

‘Hormonally Yours’ 30th anniversary edition is out 30th September via London Records.

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