They didn’t stay. They didn’t save our love. But for a while Eternal were one of the biggest all girl groups in music. What happened?
by Christopher Smith
Eternal were sisters Easther and Vernie Bennett, Kelle Bryan and Louise Nurding, who were brought together in 1992 by Denis Ingoldsby having seen how successful En Vogue were in the US. The Bennett sisters had performed backing vocals on Dina Carroll’s multi million selling debut album “So Close”, while Bryan and Nurding were school friends who wanted to pursue a music career. They were signed to EMI Records in early 1993 and released their debut single “Stay” in September, which reached No.4 in the UK, No.19 in the US and charting high across Europe and in Australia.
They released their debut album “Always And Forever” that December, prior to releasing a follow up single “Save Our Love” in January 1994, which made No.8 in the UK but did nothing Stateside. That Spring they released “Just A Step From Heaven” which also reached No.8 in the UK (outselling “Save Our Love”) and No.62 in Australia. A fourth single “So Good” just missed the UK top ten in August of 1994. That Autumn the girls released “Oh Baby, I…” which put them back in the UK top 5 as well as hitting No.11 in New Zealand.
By now “Always And Forever” had become one of the most consistent sellers of the year and the success of “Oh Baby, I…” ensured that it finished as the fifth biggest selling album of 1994 with 1.2 million copies sold in the UK alone and over four million worldwide. The album did see a US release where it has sold 81,000 copies there. Christmas 1994 saw a sixth single lifted from the album with “Crazy” peaking at No.15 in the UK. Nurding left the group at the end of 1994 to pursue a solo career that began with the UK No.8 hit “Light Of My Life” in September 1995.
Now a trio, the remaining members quickly went into recording for their second album. “Power Of A Woman” was the feisty lead single as well as being the title track of the album. It was released in the same week as Louise’s debut in the UK, but would perform better than their former bandmate’s release in reaching No.5 in the UK and No.8 in Australia. The album would peak at No.6 in the UK and be certified double Platinum for sales of over 600,000 copies there.
They released the soulful ballad “I Am Blessed” later that year which became a huge seller in the UK where it peaked at No.7 and sold over 200,000 copies. It also charted high in Australia and New Zealand, two territories that had been very supportive of the group from the very beginning.
In 1996 Eternal continued their unbroken string of hits with “Good Thing” in March (UK No.8) and “Someday” in June (UK No.4), which was featured in the international version of the Disney film ‘The Hunchback Of Notre Dame’. The fifth and final single to be taken from “Power Of A Woman”, “Secrets” was released towards the end of the year and reached No.9 in the UK.
The group quickly followed this in March of the following year with a new track “Don’t You Love Me?” which would prove their most successful to date when it peaked at No.3 in the UK as well as (of course) charting high in Australia and New Zealand. It would be the first taster of the girls third studio album that followed a few weeks later…
“Before The Rain” would equal “Don’t You Love Me?”s UK chart placing as well as reaching the top 40 in more than a dozen other countries including The Netherlands, where it went to number one! This success can only be attributed to the second single “I Wanna Be The Only One” in May of 1997 becoming the groups biggest seller of all. Featuring American singer Bebe Winans, it would top the UK singles chart and make the top ten in a further fifteen other countries around the world.
Strangely no further singles were released from “Before The Rain”, instead a “Greatest Hits” album was delivered just eight months later, preceded by a brand new single “Angel Of Mine”, which reached No.4 in the UK as well as charting top ten across Europe. The “Greatest Hits” entered the UK chart at No.2 and sold over 900,000 copies there.
Perhaps the departure of Kelle Bryan shortly after this may explain the hurried nature of album and singles releases in 1997. In fact Bryan was sacked by facsimile by the Bennett sisters citing “breakdown in professional relations”! She would release a solo single “Higher Than Heaven” (UK No.14) in 1998 but was forced to abandon any further releases when she was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease Lupus. Reduced to a duo, the Bennett’s continued as ‘Eternal’ releasing “What’cha Gonna Do?” in late 1999, but perhaps with all the comings and goings, their fanbase largely deserted this release as it peaked at No.16 in the UK and made no impact elsewhere. An album simply called “Eternal” could only manage No.87 and a follow up single “I Cry Real Tears” was shelved.
Eternal were finished. However, in 2006 there was an attempted reformation for a nationwide tour of 90’s groups, although only Easther and Kelly Bryan would make this as Vernie was heavily pregnant and Louise, now married to footballer Jamie Redknapp, was busy with her solo career. In 2013 it was announced the group would reform for a British television programme The Big Reunion, although once again, only three of the four would actually turn up! Since then, Easther has continued to record (without much commercial success), Kelle has founded her own artist management company and was a runner up on celebrity reality show Love Island, Vernie has studied law and works closely with a number of cancer charities and Louise went on to score nine UK top ten singles and two platinum albums. She and Redknapp divorced in 2017.