Nigel Parkinson, Cartoonist

Nigel Parkinson, Cartoonist
This is him, at a recent Comic Con

Saturday, 27 November 2010

A small digression. (But art and comics are mentioned.)

They never really got very big, and people confused them with Bananarama for some reason, but The Belle Stars were a proper band - Dave Robinson at Stiff Records tried (successfully, a bit) to market them as seven adorable darlings, and had them record typically-early 80s percussion heavy- pop reworkings of old hits from the 60s. Their only big self-penned hit, (rhythm guitarist Stella Barker had the idea waiting at the 139 bus stop in Camden) 'Sign Of The Times', was the start of a run of catchy singles that gradually became less and less successful as they got better and better. Having seven young women in a band was never going to be easy, and their manager John Rummens recalls trying to get all seven to agree on any one thing was a nightmare.

Eventually the band split up after a fraught week in Germany where miming to their two German hits in white tuxedos on TV for the fourth time in a week led to Clare Hirst (you remember her playing sax with Bowie at Live Aid, I'm sure) storming out, followed by all but three, who elected to stay on as The Belle Stars. They had a minor American hit around the time an earlier cover single, 'Iko Iko' charted big there due to it's being used as the theme to the movie Rain Man.
After a good attempt at a 1986 sound, an album taped in new York and a splendid video, the three-piece Belle Stars (Miranda, Lesley and Sarah-Jane) finally called it a day, and despite up to two of them at a time performing at '80s extravaganzas' in the last ten years, the seven of them have never played together since. Some are still in music- singer Jenny McKewon is gigging still, as is Clare- and some have turned their back on the scene.
The most successful must surely be Miranda Joyce (on sax, above left) who, being only 24 when the Belle Stars ended, decided to pursue what had always been a dream of hers and become a make-up artist. In no time at all, she became a very well respected name in make-up artistry (see below), and she's always been the nicest sort of person too. She appeared in a Dennis the Menace strip once, I had her applying make-up to Dennis at one point!
Last week a new compilation of all the Belle Stars hits, misses and album tracks was released, the press release calling them all singing, all DANCING- completely missing the point that all the instruments you hear on Belle Stars records are played by them, too.
I know they were never cool, never hip, but they were fun.  Remember the slogan: If your feet don't dance to Belle Stars, your shoes don't fit!

Added 2014: listening again to Sign of The Times after discussing it with Miranda, I find that a lot of the song was written by her. The Belle Stars democratically credited all their songs to all seven members, but Sign of The Times would really be better bylined 'Barker/Joyce/Owen.


NP said...

And Miranda turned up in a bus queue in Bea once. Mmh, who could have drawn that!

Lew Stringer said...

Crikey Nigel you know everyone! :)

NP said...

Wait till I start telling you about people I've met that you've HEARD of!

Anonymous said...

Hello Nigel, I've just seen this post..I know I was in The Beano doing Dm's make up but was I also queuing for a bus?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, that was from me Miranda

NP said...

Yes indeed Miranda- there was a bus queue in a different strip called 'Bea'- I'll try to find it. Funnily enough, there may be a hat-trick in March, I just got a Minnie the Minx script with a make-up lady in it! So it could be 3 appearances in 11 years.