Were they really as “Strong As Steel” or were Five Star bound to “Rock The World”? And where are they now…?
by Mark Keen
We really need to “Find The Time” to revisit the career of Romford’s finest – the very under-appreciated sibling group Five Star. Their success in the UK during their 80’s peak is often left unrecognised. However, during their, as I will call it, imperial phase between 1985 and 1988 they had six top ten single hits and a further nine top 40 hits. Whilst they never hit number one in the singles chart, they did manage a huge number one album “Silk And Steel” in 1986, which sold over a million, and a further three top twenty albums.
Success outside of the U.K. was less stellar, but they did trouble the US R&B charts on several occasions. The 90’s were less kind to Five Star and whilst they continued to record, success was more limited, which culminated with their move to America and a move from pop to R&B. I’m going to stick to the ‘pop years’. Somehow they never appeared to achieve the credibility they deserve. It’s time to reevaluate Five Star. It “Can’t Wait Another Minute”!
My early memories of Five Star were punctuated with their frequent appearances on Saturday morning television, and the sadly missed Wogan, although they got their earliest break on Pebble Mill performing “Problematic”. They were signed to their father Buster’s Tent record label, which at one point was, it is claimed, the biggest independent record label in the UK due to Five Star’s sales. “Problematic” never charted and nor did the subsequent singles “Hide and Seek” and “Crazy”.
However, in 1985 Five Star would enjoy their first top twenty hit with the third single from their first album “The Luxury Of Life”. “All Fall Down” hit number 15 in the UK, and even hit the top twenty in the US R&B charts.
Further top 30 success would follow with “Let Me Be The One” (number 18) (trivia alert – later covered by Mandy Moore on her first album) and “Love Take Over” (number 25), although there was a bump in the road when “RSVP” missed the top 40 hitting 45, although is was by now the sixth single from their debut album. The video for “Love Take Over” is a particular favourite with Five Star appearing somewhere nice and sunny. It always reminds me of Wham’s Club Tropicana video.
Their debut album would yield a further gift with one of their biggest, and first, top ten hits with “System Addict” hitting number three in early 1986. This was the seventh single off “Luxury Of Life” but nevertheless was huge helped by a great futuristic video.
After the early success in 1986 Five Star were finally on a roll with their greatest success, the number one album “Silk And Steel”. The album produced six UK top 15 singles and three US R&B successes. The album campaign would get off to a great start with “Can’t Wait Another Minute” hitting number 7.
1986 would continue with the successful single releases “Find The Time” (number 7) and their biggest hit “Rain Or Shine” (number 2) held off the top spot by the Communards “Don’t Leave Me This Way”. They were robbed!
More was to come with “If I Say Yes” (number 15 and never a favourite of mine) and “Stay Out Of My Life” in early 1987 (number nine – my favourite Five Star single and written by their very own Deniece). I even loved the re-recorded “(How Dare You) Stay Out Of My Life” for a children’s show.
“The Slightest Touch”, a further single from “Silk And Steel”, with a remix from Shep Pettibone, would hit number four in the spring of 1987. Unfortunately this would be their last top ten hit.
The summer of 1987 would see the return of Five Star with the first single from their third album “Between The Lines”. “Whenever You’re Ready” would miss the top ten hitting number 11 and this must have been a shock. Perhaps we were not ready for the more mature and sophisticated look. I loved it nevertheless and can safely say the lyric “Whenever You’re Ready” is repeated 32 times, or is it 33?
The album “Between The Lines” faltered at number seven, it’s a great album showing real progression in the group with some great songwriting from Denise, Doris, Lorraine and Leroy all getting songwriting credits. The album is full of gems, and again another absolute favourite was the amazing “Hard Race” written by Deniece. This album deserves a reappraisal. Check out the Cherry Red reissue. The album would contain two more hits, the Diane Warren penned “Strong As Steel” (later recorded by Tina Arena and Gladys Knight) hitting number 16 and “Somewhere, Somebody” limping to number twenty three, mainly as there was no video and it got caught up in the Christmas rush.
Things would go quiet for six months when Five Star would return with a dramatic new leather clad look, which unfortunately distracted from some great music with the “Rock The World” album. “Another Weekend” peaked at only number eighteen.
The “Rock My World” single also failed to set the sky alight peaking at number 28, but in my view still burns bright today.
Two further Deniece penned singles, the excellent “There’s A Grand New World” and “Let Me Be Yours” stalled outside the top 40 and the imperial period came to an end.
There was an underperforming “Greatest Hits” album (UK number 53) in 1989 and a new single “With Every Heartbeat”, but it felt like Five Star were caught up in that transition from the 80’s to the 90’s that also left many of their contemporaries behind. Pop seemed to be out of fashion by 1990. Five Star also suffered from some negative press at the time.
The come back in 1990 with the “Five Star” album misfired after the failure of the “Treat Me Like A Lady” and “Hot Love” singles, and subsequent albums never saw a return to the glory days. However, the albums have been reissued and all the videos can be found on the now rare DVD ‘Performance’ compilation.
A reunion of the five members appears unlikely, but all the members are active again in different ways. Deniece even appeared on the New Year’s Day edition of Top of the Pops in 2016 as a guest vocalist performing Sigala‘s number one hit “Easy Love”. Ironic that this would include an interpolation of The Jackson 5 song “ABC”! Deniece even popped up on The Voice, but the quality of her voice and performance was way beyond what the programme could deal with.
Recently Deniece curated “The Definitive Anthology” and whilst it is a pricey collection it is sure to meet the needs of dedicated Five Star followers (I’m saving the pennies for it!). “The Remix Anthology” is also worth checking out.
By the way, Five Star certainly mined their albums for singles, but there are many album tracks that remain firm favourites and many written by the group. Check out my favourites: “Say Goodbye” (written and sung by Lorraine), “Don’t You Know I Love It” (written and sung by Doris), “You Should Have Waited” ( written be sung by Lorraine), “Knock Twice” (written by Doris and Leroy), “Hard Race” (written by Deniece), and the super album tracks on the greatly under-appreciated “Rock The world” album including “Godsend” (written by Climie Fisher), “Someone’s In Love” (written by Doris and Leroy) and a couple of firm favourites of mine “Physical Attraction” and “Rescue Me”, which I consider an undiscovered classic.
My love for Five Star remains as “Strong As Steel”.
Make sure you check out Mark’s review of “Five Star Gold” here
Remind yourself of the awesome music and also stay in touch with Five Star through their official FACEBOOK page