Bucks Fizz is a British pop group which achieved success in the 1980s, most notably for winning the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest with the song "Making Your Mind Up". The group was formed in January 1981 specifically for the contest and comprised four vocalists: Bobby G, Cheryl Baker, Mike Nolan and Jay Aston. They achieved instant attention with the dance routine which accompanied the song, involving a skirt-rip. The group went on to have a successful career around the world (albeit ignored in the United States), while the UK remained their biggest market, where they had three No.1 singles with "Making Your Mind Up" (1981), "The Land of Make Believe" (1981) and "My Camera Never Lies" (1982) and became one of the top-selling groups of the 1980s. They also had UK Top 10 hits with "Now Those Days Are Gone", "If You Can't Stand the Heat", "When We Were Young" and "New Beginning (Mamba Seyra)". Their worldwide record sales have exceeded 15 million.
The line-up of the group has changed a number of times over the years, most famously when Jay Aston quit the group in 1985 and was replaced by Shelley Preston. Today, two versions of the group exist; the official version which includes original member Bobby G and a three-member version who tour under the name Cheryl Baker, Mike Nolan and Jay Aston formerly of Bucks Fizz.
In late 1980, Nichola Martin and Andy Hill sought to create a new group to enter their song "Making Your Mind Up" in the Eurovision Song Contest. The first member to be recruited was Mike Nolan, who was known to Martin. Together, they recorded a demo of the song and entered it for inclusion in A Song for Europe - the preliminary heats for the contest. Realising that a name was needed for the performing artists, Martin quickly decided on Buck's Fizz, as it was her favourite drink. In January, Martin contacted Cheryl Baker to join them, as she remembered her from the 1978 Eurovision group, Co-Co. Concurrent to this, Martin was holding auditions for another male vocalist and female vocalist, should Baker turn down the position (which she didn't). At the end of these auditions, Martin had found a male singer, Stephen Fischer and female, Jay Aston. Unsure of which female vocalist to use, she ultimately decided to use both Baker and Aston as she felt their vocals complemented each other and Martin stepped down from the group in order to team up with Hill for another line-up as they had two songs in the competition. Fischer then became unavailable as he was starring in a musical at the time and Martin hired another auditionee, Bobby G for the group. The four members met for the first time on 11 January 1981. An associate of Martin's, Jill Shirley agreed to manage the group.
During rehearsals, a dance routine was devised for the song which went on to become famous for the moment where the girls' skirts are ripped off halfway through - only to reveal shorter skirts underneath. The routine itself was choreographed by Chrissie Wickham, a former member of dance troupe, Hot Gossip, although Martin, Baker and Aston have all since laid claim to the skirt-rip idea.
On 11 March, A Song for Europe took place with the unknown Bucks Fizz competing against well-known act Liquid Gold, as well as Hill and Martin's own group, Gem. "Making Your Mind Up" became an easy winner and the group recorded the song with Hill as producer. Later in the month it was released as a single and entered the charts at No.24. By the time the contest was staged, the single had risen to No.2.
On 4 April, Bucks Fizz represented United Kingdom in the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest, which was held in Dublin. Although they were favourites to win, the song faced stiff competition and after a vocally unsound rendition, the early votes were poor. Halfway through the voting process, Bucks Fizz took the lead, although they remained close throughout. Ultimately, Bucks Fizz won the contest by a margin of four points, beating Germany into second place. "Making Your Mind Up" became a major hit around the continent, reaching No.1 in the UK as well as eight other countries. It charted highly in other countries such as Australia, eventually selling four million copies worldwide.
Post Eurovision success:
With Shirley remaining as the group's manager, Hill as producer and Martin as co-songwriter, they worked with record company A&R head Bill Kimber to continue the group's success, determined that they would not become another Eurovision one-hit wonder. A follow-up single was recorded amid promotional tours and the group's image was revamped. In May, the single "Piece of the Action" was released. The song boasted a contemporary pop sound and high production values, in contrast to the rock'n'roll style of "Making Your Mind Up". As Baker has stated: "Our follow-up single was nothing at all like 'Making Your Mind Up', it was a good, strong, contemporary pop song" "Piece of the Action" became an immediate hit and quickly rose to No.12 in the UK charts, making it the most successful follow-up to a Eurovision song ever. It also charted highly across Europe. Buoyed by this success, the group launched into recording their debut album with producer Andy Hill. Released in July, the self-titled album also became a top 20 hit in the UK charts as did their third single, "One of Those Nights". In November 1981, they performed for the UK at the World Popular Song Festival in Tokyo, where they achieved the "Best song award" and fifth place overall with their song "Another Night". The song was released as a single there and went on to be included on their second album.
Continued popularity (1981-1984):
In late 1981, Andy Hill with former King Crimson member Peter Sinfield came up with the fourth Bucks Fizz single. Titled "The Land of Make Believe", the song was produced by Hill and featured a strong melody. Released in November, it hit the charts and by Christmas was in the top five. In January 1982, it overtook The Human League's "Don't You Want Me" to reach No.1. It stayed there for two weeks and remained in the UK charts for 16 weeks -- becoming the group's biggest selling single and one of the top selling singles of the decade. It also reached No.1 in the Netherlands and Ireland and became the group's best-selling single in Germany. The song has since been hailed as an "Eighties classic" and is regarded as the group's best song by critics.
Early in 1982 the group were awarded 'best group' at the Daily Mirror Rock and Pop awards ceremony and received a nomination at the Brit awards. In March they released their fifth single. "My Camera Never Lies" swiftly rose up the charts and became their third number one single. With this they became the first British group of the 1980s to score three number ones within a year. Further success followed in May with the group's second studio album Are You Ready which went Gold and became their first top ten album. This album received particularly good reviews including a 10 out of 10 rating in Smash Hits. Attempting diversity, an (almost) a cappella ballad was released as the next single. "Now Those Days Are Gone" gave the group another top ten hit, reaching number eight in the UK charts. Soon after this they were invited to appear before the Queen and Queen Mother in the annual Royal Variety Performance, performing an old show tune, "You'll Never Walk Alone". Chart success continued with the release of the hit singles, "If You Can't Stand the Heat" and "Run for Your Life". Bucks Fizz's third studio album Hand Cut was released in March 1983, becoming another top twenty hit and certified silver by the BPI. By this stage, although Bucks Fizz faced harsh criticism in the media for their lightweight pop image, the music press were acknowledging the group's highly polished performances and sturdy productions, gaining favourable mentions in the NME and Record Mirror. With an eye to harden their sound, the group's next single "When We Were Young" featured a heavy production and doom-laden lyrics. With a rock-style lead vocal by member Jay Aston, the single became one of the group's biggest hits, featuring in the top 20 of many European countries, including top ten in the UK and top five in France. Towards the end of 1983 however, it seemed that the group's success was beginning to dim as singles "London Town" and "Rules of the Game" failed to reach the top twenty -- their first singles to miss. Along with these came the group's Greatest Hits album, which while reached the top thirty and remained on the charts for three months, fell short of expectations.
Early in 1984, the group decided to take time out of the public eye, fearing over exposure for their recent downward trend and instead concentrated on recording, which they undertook in Switzerland for their fourth album. In May they embarked on a 40-date tour of the UK, selling out many venues. In August they revealed their new look and new harder-edged rock sound with the single "Talking in Your Sleep". The break proved to be advantageous as this single returned the group to the UK top 20, peaking at number 15. The follow-up single "Golden Days" was released alongside their fourth studio album I Hear Talk. However again, the group saw their fortunes tumble as neither dented the top 40. As Christmas 1984 came around, the group embarked on another UK tour and the release of their next single.
On 11 December 1984, while on tour and returning from a sell-out gig in Newcastle, the group's tour bus collided with some road works and crashed. While no one was killed, several members of the crew were badly injured including all the members of Bucks Fizz. Bobby G was treated for whiplash, Jay Aston was hospitalised for back injuries and severe head pains, Cheryl Baker broke three vertebrae in her spine, but it was Mike Nolan who suffered the worst injuries. Nolan's head was badly injured, suffering internal bleeding and he fell into a coma. After an operation, he was reported to have died on the operating table but placed on a life support machine. He remained in a coma for three days, during which time the British press kept Bucks Fizz on the front pages headlines. Surgeon Anthony Strong at Newcastle General Hospital said that his condition was critical. On 15 December it was reported that Nolan awoke from his coma with the words "I'm all right". Following this, Nolan was ordered not to work for the next six months. The effects of the crash remain with him today, including epilepsy, short-term memory loss and a 50% loss of vision in both eyes. Following this, Baker and Nolan helped set up the HeadFirst charity for head injuries of crash victims.
On 12 December 2009, The Original Bucks Fizz (Nolan, Baker and Aston) played a concert at Newcastle City Hall to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the accident -- the same venue they played the night of the crash. The gig was in aid of HeadFirst. The anniversary of the crash was reported on local BBC News with the members revisiting the crash location.
With Nolan recuperating during the early months of 1985, the group returned to recording and released their next single in June. However, within the group, tensions had mounted to the point that Jay Aston no longer wanted to continue. After early promotion and a concert in Newcastle, she sensationally quit the group, despite still being under contract. Again, Bucks Fizz found themselves the subject of newspaper headlines, where it emerged that Aston had been having an affair with Andy Hill -- the husband of the group's creator Nichola Martin. Aston sold her story to the press in an article headlined; "The hateful, bitchy world of Bucks Fizz", while member Cheryl Baker was keen to point out that they were never friends. Aston was sued by management over breach of contract while a replacement member was quickly sought to continue promotion for the current single. Auditions were held at The Prince of Wales Theatre, where 800 girls were seen. Eventually, 21-year-old Shelley Preston was given the job and unveiled to the press and TV among much media attention.
In early 1986, the group's contract with RCA expired and a new one with Polydor was signed. The first single, "New Beginning (Mamba Seyra)" was released in May and brought the group back to prominence as it became a top 10 hit and one of their most successful singles. After two more less-successful singles and an album, the group took a break during 1987 and regrouped in 1988. After a successful UK tour, the group released their final chart hit, "Heart of Stone" (later a worldwide hit for Cher) and compilation album, The Story So Far. These proved to be the end for Bucks Fizz as a recording group and after a concert tour in 1989, Preston left the group at the end of the year.
With the focus on live work and touring, the group continued into the 1990s, now as a three-piece of Baker, G and Nolan. In 1991, celebrating 10 years together, Bucks Fizz released their last album, Live at Fairfield Halls. By this time, Baker had embarked on a separate and successful career as a television presenter and was eager to start a family. In December 1993, she left the group. Early the following year, keen to keep the group active, Bobby G (who was by then in effect taking over management of the act) and Nolan recruited two newcomers, Heidi Manton (who would later go on to marry G) and Amanda Swarzc. This line-up continued until 1996 when Nolan left and ex-Dollar star David Van Day joined.
The partnership between G and Van Day proved to be short-lived as the two failed to gel. In 1997, Van Day quit the group after a show in the Falkland Islands. Unable to come to an agreement with G, Van Day teamed up with Mike Nolan and two new female recruits (Lianna Lea and Sally Jacks) to form a new version of Bucks Fizz. Unhappy with the situation, G put an injunction on the name, resulting in the second group to go under the name; "Bucks Fizz starring Mike Nolan and featuring David Van Day". Under Van Day's guidance, this version released a newly recorded "Making Your Mind Up" single as well as an album of re-recorded Bucks Fizz songs. Neither found chart success and the recordings were universally derided by the group's fans.
By 2001, Nolan too had found it difficult to work with Van Day and left the group. With another male vocalist, Van Day continued to tour under the moniker "Bucks Fizz", despite never having been a member of the hit-making line-up. By this time, G and co-star (and now wife), Heidi Manton had acquired the legal rights to the name "Bucks Fizz", and brought a case in the High Court against Van Day. Bucks Fizz as a registered UK trade mark was filed in favour of Manton on 25 June 1997 and then registered in 2001 in classes 09 and 41. In 2001, a judge refused to grant a court injunction against Van Day as he had been operating as Bucks Fizz for five years at the time.
The feud and legal battle between Bobby G and David Van Day as to who had the right to perform under the name "Bucks Fizz" was the subject of a BBC television documentary, Trouble at the Top. The case was settled out of court in August 2002 when Van Day agreed to call his version of the group "David Van Day's Bucks Fizz Show". This group however was short-lived and soon Van Day returned to performing as Dollar. This chapter of the group's history has been referred to as one of the "messiest break-ups in music history".
In 2004, BMG Records released all of Bucks Fizz's original studio albums on Compact disc for the first time, which renewed interest in the group, leading to a brief revival of the group at the end of the year. In 2005, BBC viewers were invited to vote on the most memorable Eurovision moments ever. Bucks Fizz won with the "Making Your Mind Up" skirt-rip routine. A double CD collection of all the group's hits on both RCA and Polydor, The Ultimate Anthology, was also released. In 2006 and 2008, two albums were released featuring unreleased Bucks Fizz material. These were The Lost Masters and The Lost Masters 2, issued by Sony/BMG and were well received by fans. In early 2009, a two-hour documentary was made entitled The Bucks Fizz Story. It featured in-depth interviews from the original group members as well as management and other behind-the-scenes personnel. A DVD of the documentary was released in August 2010 through Glassbeach Media Ltd, and saw a general release in November 2011. Bucks Fizz continue performing live today with the line-up: Bobby G, Heidi Manton, Tammy Choat and Paul Yates.
The Original Bucks Fizz / OBF:
In December 2004, G, Nolan, Baker and Preston reformed briefly after 15 years to be part of 'The Here and Now Tour' of the UK. To distinguish this line-up from G's other group, they renamed themselves The Original Bucks Fizz (although Preston was not in the original four, she was the only other member to have been in a recording contract with chart success whilst in the group). Due to prior commitments with the current lineup of the group, G could not make all of the dates played, but did appear at some shows. Following this, Nolan, Baker and Preston subsequently performed more shows together as a three-piece under the same title and featured in the Congratulations show, the 50th Anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest in Copenhagen. In September 2008, Preston, Baker, Nolan and Aston reunited for a makeover show Pop Goes the Band for Living TV, which was screened in March 2009.
In April 2009, Preston announced that she was leaving The Original Bucks Fizz. Soon after it was announced that original member Jay Aston would be joining Baker and Nolan in the group for live shows -- the first time she has been a part of Bucks Fizz since 1985. In October 2009, this line-up embarked on their first tour, encompassing 10 venues across the UK as well as a special gig at Newcastle to commemorate the 25th anniversary of their coach crash. The group released their debut single on 24 May 2010, which is a jazz-style reworking of their hit "I Hear Talk". In January 2011, while preparing for a 30th anniversary tour, The Original Bucks Fizz became caught up in a legal conflict with Bobby G over the use of the Bucks Fizz name. Baker, Nolan and Aston sought legal advice over the matter.
A mini 30th Anniversary tour took place in May 2011, while a larger scale gig took place at the London Palladium on 11 July 2011 to celebrate their 30 years. This venue was chosen as it was the first place that Bucks Fizz performed a live concert at back in 1981, much publicity was undertaken around this time. The group have also recorded their debut album, Fame & Fortune?, which is a new studio album comprising six reworked Bucks Fizz tracks along with six brand new tracks, composed by the group. The first of these, "This Day is Mine" was premiered at the May gigs and has also been played on BBC Radio. The release of the album was put on hold until after the court case verdict.
A hearing between The Original Bucks Fizz and Bobby G took place on 15 July 2011. On 22 August 2011 the judge found in favour of G with the reasoning that since his wife (Heidi Manton, also a member of his group) owned the Bucks Fizz name, the use of the name The Original Bucks Fizz was an impediment on their trademark. The Original Bucks Fizz sent an appeal to the high courts which was subsequently dropped.
On 3 April 2012, the group re-launched as OBF. They performed some shows around the weekend of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest and released their debut album Fame & Fortune? on Saturday 26 May. It was made available through their official website. As of 2014 the group have been rebranded Cheryl, Mike and Jay - Formerly of Bucks Fizz. In 2014, the group gained a fourth member, singer Stephen Fox. An extensive tour will take place in 2015, for which Fox will be replaced by former vocalist with 1980s group Sweet Dreams, Bobby McVay.
Group members chronology:
There have been 16 members of the group since its formation in 1981 although only Cheryl, Mike, Jay, Bobby and Shelley have released any material under the name "Bucks Fizz". The rest have all performed live under the group name. Bucks Fizz operated as a trio between 1990 and 1993.
Bobby G 1981-present,
Mike Nolan 1981-1996,
Cheryl Baker 1981-1993,
Jay Aston 1981-1985,
Shelley Preston 1985-1990,
Heidi Manton 1994-present,
Amanda Szwarc 1994-1996,
David Van Day 1996-1997,
Karen Logan 1996,
Louise Hart 1996-2002,
Graham Crisp 1997-2002,
Nikki Winter 2003,
Wayne Chinnery 2003-2006,
Tammy Choat 2004-present,
Paul Fordham 2006-2012,
Paul Yates 2012-present,
(Also Jenny Phillips - 2006 - covering Heidi's maternity leave)
The Original Bucks Fizz:
Mike Nolan 2004-present,
Cheryl Baker 2004-present,
Shelley Preston 2004-2009,
Jay Aston 2009--present,
Stephen Fox 2014,
Bobby McVay 2015 (upcoming)
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license