Shakespears Sister is a pop-rock act, formed in 1988 by singer–songwriter Siobhan Fahey, a former member of Bananarama. Based in the United Kingdom, Shakespears Sister was initially a solo act, but by 1989 it had become a duo with the addition of the American musician Marcella Detroit. Together they released two Top 10 albums and a string of Top 40 hits, including the 1992 hit "Stay" which peaked at No. 1 in the UK for eight consecutive weeks. Detroit was sacked from the band in 1993, leaving Fahey as the sole member again until she ended the project in 1996. After working under her own name for some years, Fahey revived the Shakespears Sister name in 2009.
|Years active||1988–1996, 2009–2013, 2019–present|
Shakespears Sister was conceived as a solo project by Siobhan Fahey, a onetime punk turned chart-pop singer who'd left the successful British girl-group Bananarama in 1988 due to disillusionment with the group's musical direction. The name was adapted from the title of the song "Shakespeare's Sister" by The Smiths, which was in turn a reference to Virginia Woolf's work A Room of One's Own. According to Fahey, the spelling began with an accidental misspelling on a woodcut sign, however she decided to keep it, because "It made it sort of my thing, as opposed to the song by The Smiths". Fahey has described the meaning of the name being "Siobhan Fahey is the mother, the sister, the daughter, it's not the artist. The artist is Shakespear's sister."
Fahey began writing and recording work for the project with producer Richard Feldman. Several other musicians were involved in the songwriting, one of whom was Feldman's friend and colleague Marcy Levy, a veteran of live and studio work with Eric Clapton (with whom she'd written "Lay Down Sally"), Leon Russell and Bob Seger as well as a songwriter for artists including Jennifer Rush, Chaka Khan and Patty Weaver. An accomplished singer and multi-instrumentalist (guitar, harmonica and keyboards), Levy also made vocal and instrumental contributions to the sessions, staying on as a prominent "hired hand". During this time, Fahey suggested that Levy - who'd previously tried and failed to get a couple of solo albums released - took on a new professional name in order to give herself a new lease of artistic life. Levy agreed, and restyled herself Marcella Detroit, a name she'd use throughout her time with Shakespear's Sister and afterwards.
The debut Shakespears Sister single was "Break My Heart (You Really)/Heroine" (released as a double A-side in the UK and as two separate singles in the United States, although none of the releases charted successfully). "Break My Heart" had been intended to differentiate Fahey's solo-artist persona from her past work with Bananarama. However, David A. Stewart (Fahey's then-husband and a member of Eurythmics) had been impressed by the musical chemistry between Fahey and Detroit in the recording studio. Seeing potential benefit in turning Shakespears Sister from a solo project into a band, he suggested that Fahey and Detroit should unite as a duo: a suggestion which was backed by Feldman, by Fahey's management and by her record company, London Records. Despite initial reluctance from both women (both of whom wished to retain their independence and avoid band commitments), Detroit was invited to become "a 50% member" towards the end of the recording sessions. She would later recall "by the time we did the last song on the first album, my role became more integral... I didn’t just want to be a background singer... It was Siobhan’s band, this was made perfectly clear. But I was cool with that – that’s the way it was."
The second Shakespears Sister single, "You're History", gave the project its breakthrough hit. The song displayed the effectiveness of the vocal pairing of Fahey and Detroit, setting the former's sly murmuring contralto against the latter's R&B-influenced soprano and falsetto parts: it also featured a solo from guitarist Stevie Salas. "You're History" reached the top 10 in the UK in summer 1989, as did the debut Shakespears Sister album Sacred Heart, which was certified Gold by the BPI. Two further singles were released from the album, "Run Silent" and "Dirty Mind", though both failed to peak within the UK top 50.
1991–1993: Hormonally Yours and departure of Marcella DetroitEdit
In October 1991, Shakespears Sister released a brand new single, "Goodbye Cruel World", which peaked at No. 59. However, the next single, "Stay", marked Shakespears Sister's first and only No. 1, staying at the top of the UK charts for eight full weeks, and also found similar success in international charts, and won "Best British Video" at the 1993 BRIT Awards. Notably, the song foregrounded Detroit, who sang the majority of lead vocals and featured prominently in the video. This allegedly led to tension with Fahey, with Detroit later claiming that Fahey felt sidelined as the project's instigator and usual lead vocalist, and that Fahey didn't consider the song to be representative of the band and had opposed its release as a single.
Hormonally Yours was released the following month, and sold well on the strength of "Stay", eventually being certified double platinum by the BPI. The duo continued to enjoy success with further singles from Hormonally Yours; "I Don't Care" peaked at No. 7, "Hello (Turn Your Radio On)" at No. 14, and a re-release of "Goodbye Cruel World" at No. 32. However, during 1992 tensions between Fahey and Detroit became overt, with backstage infighting and arguments marring the band's tour. A fifth single, "My 16th Apology", was released in early 1993, reaching No. 61 due to lack of promotion.
Although Fahey and Detroit seemed at first to have resolved their immediate differences, it became apparent that Fahey was struggling with personal issues, leading to the cancellation of what would have been the band's highest profile concert (at the Royal Albert Hall) and for her temporary hospitalization with depression. The duo decided to put Shakespears Sister on hiatus, and Detroit began working on a solo album (something which had already been agreed and scheduled around band work). During this time Fahey decided to end her partnership with Detroit, but did not choose to discuss this with her directly. Instead, Detroit was publicly dismissed at the 1993 Ivor Novello Awards ceremony, at which Hormonally Yours won "Best Contemporary Collection of Songs" (and which Detroit attended, although Fahey did not). Fahey's acceptance speech, delivered by her publisher, contained a farewell to Detroit wishing her "all the best for the future, all's well that ends well."
While unsurprised at the final dissolving of the partnership, Detroit was distressed at the way in which it ended and how it was announced. Many years later, she would comment "I was never in it to steal anyone’s glory away; I just did my job. I was asked by everybody to become part of it and then everybody wanted me out... I learned a lot about what it means to be an artist... To put two people as different as we were together – well, we were bound to have differences personality-wise. In the video for ‘Stay’, I was singing to this guy who was dying and she (Siobhan) was the Angel of Death. We used our personality differences to our advantage, but it was a little too real!" Detroit and Fahey had not spoken to or seen each other for 25 years, before eventually meeting and talking again in 2018.
1994–2005: Hiatus, compilations, delays and #3Edit
Having now reverted to being a Siobhan Fahey solo project, Shakespears Sister remained inactive for three years while Fahey attended to issues in her personal life, including a divorce from Stewart (who nonetheless was one of the two producers of her new material). In June 1996, the project returned with a new single, "I Can Drive". This met with a lukewarm commercial reception - peaking at No. 30 on the UK charts - and was not released at all outside of the UK. The relative failure of "I Can Drive" prompted London Records to cancel the release of Shakespears Sister's completed third album, #3. Continuing disagreements between London and Fahey resulted in her leaving the company with whom she had been signed for fifteen years since being with Bananarama. Fahey would later claim that Shakespears Sister was dropped not because of "I Can Drive"'s commercial performance, but due to London Records thinking that the album (which had a notably darker and rockier tone than its predecessors) was "too alternative for a woman of my age".
Discouraged with the Shakespears Sister identity, Fahey would go on to release her next single, "Bitter Pill" under her own name in 2002. In 2004, The Best of Shakespear's Sister was released, compiling the group's hits and B-sides as well as including a number of tracks from the unreleased third album. In the same year, Fahey obtained the full rights to #3 from London Records and made plans to release it independently.
In 2005, #3 was finally made available via Fahey's own website. Also in 2005, a second compilation album, Long Live the Queens!, collected various Shakespears Sister rarities, remixes and unreleased tracks. 2005 also saw the release of a second Fahey solo single, "Pulsatron", which charted slightly better than its predecessor, reaching No. 95 - to date, Fahey's final chart appearance.
2009–2012: Songs from the Red Room and Cosmic DancerEdit
"Bitter Pill" and "Pulsatron" were originally intended to appear on Fahey's post-Shakespears Sister solo album, Bad Blood. In the event, although the title track was released as Fahey's third solo single in 2005, the album release was cancelled. Bad Blood did not surface for another four years, until Fahey opted to relaunch the Shakespears Sister name in 2009. The album was retitled Songs from the Red Room and came out on Fahey's own label, SF Records. A fourth and final single from the record, "It's a Trip", followed in April 2010.
In February 2011, Fahey announced the release of Live, a Shakespears Sister recording from the band's Two Thousand and Ten Tour, consisting of a CD and DVD set. To date, the album has not been released, but in June 2012, it was announced on Shakespears Sister's official Facebook page that Live was due for release in 2013. Three singles were released in March and April 2011, "Dancing Barefoot", originally by Patti Smith, an acoustic re-working of "Someone Else's Girl", and "Really Saying Something", released in celebration of 30 years since Bananarama recorded their first single. Also in March 2011, an EP consisting of demos, The Red Room Sessions was released.
The band's first live album, originally broadcast on BBC Radio, Live 1992 was released exclusively on digital format through Shakespears Sister's website in June 2011. Their fifth studio album, Cosmic Dancer, was released in December 2011, consisting entirely of acoustic tracks, including several re-recordings of older songs, most notably "Goodbye Cruel World". Fahey had announced as early as April 2010 that she was working on an acoustic album featuring original songs and re-workings of older songs, for the purpose of it "being a nice thing to do for the fans". She also worked on the album with her son, Sam.
2012–2018: Hiatus and digital music releasesEdit
In January 2012, Shakespears Sister released their third compilation album Rarities exclusively through their website. On 10 June 2012, Fahey posted a photo on her official Facebook simply saying "Seek the Woman" in red font against a black backdrop. It was confirmed on 28 June that this was the working title of Shakespears Sister's sixth studio album, then scheduled for release in 2013 amongst several other new releases, including a 20th Anniversary edition of Hormonally Yours. Although originally scheduled for release in Autumn 2012, it was at first pushed back into early 2013 along with a Deluxe Edition of Sacred Heart. When the sixth album failed to be released in 2013 no further release date was given. Both the sixth album and Sacred Heart were said to consist of a 2CD and DVD set, with liner notes from both Fahey and Detroit. In November 2012, Cosmic Dancer, a new expanded edition of #3, and a new album Remixes were released for the first time through major retailers, including HMV, Amazon. On 20 December 2012, it was announced that Seek the Woman was to be released under the name Cherchez La Femme, set for release in early 2013. The artwork was revealed the same day. In May 2013, Fahey re-opened the act's digital store on their website, and released two new EPs, The Other Side... Demos and Rarities, and The Other Side... Demos and Rarities Part II.
Also scheduled for release in 2013 was a live album, and a DVD entitled History: 1988 – 2010. Both releases were shelved indefinitely some time after 2013.
2019–present: Ride AgainEdit
In May 2019, it was announced that Fahey and Detroit would reunite on stage later in the year. A few days later the Shakespears Sister Ride Again UK tour was confirmed, starting in Nottingham on 31 October and running throughout November. Their first new single, “All The Queen's Horses”, was release on 15 May with an accompanying music video, and will be followed by a special compilation, Singles Party, in July 2019.
On 20 May 2019, the duo performed their single "All the Queen's Horses" on BBC Radio 4's "Woman's Hour".
Awards and nominationsEdit
|Year||Nominee / work||Award||Result|
|1990||Themselves||British Breakthrough Act||Nominated|
|1992||"Goodbye Cruel World"||British Video of the Year||Nominated|
|1993||Hormonally Yours||British Album of the Year||Nominated|
|"Stay"||British Single of the Year||Nominated|
|British Video of the Year||Won|
Ivor Novello Awards
|Year||Nominee / work||Award||Result|
|1993||"Stay"||Best Contemporary Song||Nominated|
|Most Performed Work||Nominated|
|Best Selling Song||Nominated|
|International Hit of the Year||Nominated|
|Themselves||Outstanding Contemporary Song Collection||Won|
MTV Video Music Awards
|Year||Nominee / work||Award||Result|
|1992||"Stay"||International Viewer's Choice Award for MTV Europe||Nominated|
|1993||"Hello (Turn Your Radio On)"||Nominated|
RSH Gold Awards
|Year||Nominee / work||Award||Result|
Smash Hits Poll Winners Party
|Year||Nominee / work||Award||Result|
|1989||Themselves||Most Promising New Group||Nominated|
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