Belle Stars


If you know “The Clapping Song”, then you’re definitely of a certain age! So do you know what happened to The Belle Stars, or is it just a “Sign Of The Times”?

The Belle Stars came out of The Bodysnatchers, a seven-piece group formed in 1979 that had just two minor hits in 1980 before disbanding. Stella Barker, Sarah-Jane Owen, Miranda Joyce, Penny Leyton, and Judy Parsons formed a new group, The Belle Stars and recruited Lesley Shone and Jenny Matthais for good measure, performing (without a name) for the first time on Christmas Day 1980!

At the beginning of 1981 they signed to Stiff Records, then home of Madness, and released their debut single, “Hiawatha” in April. Both it and the follow up, “Slick Trick”, failed to chart and Leyton left the group, to be replaced by Clare Hirst. The group’s third single, “Another Latin Love Song’, also flopped at the beginning of 1982 and the members decided on a new course. Releasing cover versions! Their first attempt was a cover of The Dixie Cups 1965 US hit “Iko Iko”, which, hoorah, charted at No.35 in the UK.

They followed this with Shirley Ellis’ 1965 US No.8/UK No.6 hit “The Clapping Song” and this time they went a little further, to No.11 in fact. They next recorded “Mockingbird”, which had been made famous by Carly Simon in 1974, but this didn’t do so well, missing the UK top 40. But with their confidence back, the girls set about writing for themselves again and at the very end of 1982, released the song that would become their signature tune, “Sign Of The Times” (which sounded very Bananarama, and maybe that was the plan?!). The song became a huge hit all over Europe in the opening weeks of 1983, peaking at No.3 in the UK and later even entering the US singles chart at No.75!

Three years into their career, The Belle Stars released their debut album in early 1983, which would eventually make No.15 in the UK and gain a chart position of No.76 in Australia. They followed “Sign Of The Times” with “Sweet Memory” (UK No.22) and “Indian Summer” (UK No.52) later in 1983, but their tenth and final release from the album, “The Entertainer”, only just scrapped into the very bottom of the UK singles chart at No.95. After releasing a new song, “80’s Romance”, in early 1984, the band broke up, just as Stiff Records was bought by Island Records and subsequently wound up the following year.

But that wasn’t quite the end of The Belle Stars. In 1986 their single “World Domination” reached No.2 on the US dance chart and even better than that, in 1989 “Iko Iko” was finally a hit in America when it reached No.14 on the singles chart. The reason for this was its inclusion in the hit Tom Cruise film ‘Rain Man’. It also made No.7 in Australia at the same time. The girls all went their separate ways, many of them forming new or joining groups into the 1990’s. In 2019 four previously unreleased tracks from an abandoned second album were released under the title of “Turn Back The Clock”.

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Written by Christopher Smith

So perhaps you’ve read an article or two that I’ve written and wondered “just who is this character?”! Well I thought maybe it would be time to introduce myself and what I’m all about. Well it’s all about the music! Having been born in the late 1970’s I was heavily influenced by my parent’s love of ‘popular’ music and rock and roll of the 1950’s and 60’s. My Mother always said she should of married Elvis and my father was, and is still, in love with Sandie Shaw! But while my Dad’s tastes stopped in about 1967, my Mum carried on loving music throughout the 70’s, 80’s and beyond. My first memory was playing on the floor whilst my Mother was ironing one day with the radio on, and hearing ABBA’s “Super Trouper” dancing my nappy off to it! Maybe that’s where it all went wrong…?! Having been subjected to all and sundry in my infant years, I finally found my feet in the mid-1980’s and began ‘partying’ to the likes of Culture Club, Stevie Wonder(!), Elkie Brooks and Bananarama to name but a few! The year 1987 would have a profound effect on my listening tastes and from thereon in my life would be dominated with buying and listening to music. Any number of outstanding songs were released and listened to that year, most notably “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and “La Isla Bonita”. That Summer my mind was completely taken over with music and sounds I’d never heard before and I was totally taken in by it all. My father would say “whaaar rubbish you got on naaaaao?” (I’m from Norfolk!) but I was hooked. And it continued so for the rest of the decade and the next. At the beginning of 1988 I ‘met’ my true love and the singer I’ve worshipped more than any other artist or group. You may know of her. She’s from Australia…! Aside from pop music, my tastes are many and varied and continues to grow and expand as I ‘mature’ in age. I’ve always been heavily interested in films and in particular the mechanics of film making and of course film music, so scores and subsequently orchestral music takes up a lot of my tastes and collection. 90’s dance and club tunes also takes up much of the space in my head and I’m surprised my brain has stopped shaking from the years of abuse it took being dragged to nightclubs, often three times a week in my 20’s! I find with each year that passes I regress back to my youth and of course the 1980’s. 80’s music dominates and the lust to see as many 80’s acts and singers play live now is insatiable. I’m still getting into the groove as much as every breath I take, but I’m never gonna give up listening to my heart and pumping up the volume, simply because I LOVE MUSIC…any kind of music!