Prior to the 80’s there was plenty of female solo artists but only a few All Girl Groups that had hit songs, most of these were part of RnB sound of Motown featuring African-American women. Not until the “Runaways” of the late 70’s did an all girl band write, sing and play their own music make it to the top of the charts. The decades to follow made the “Girl Bands” a commodity but in the 80’s it was still rare for all female groups to have any commercial success. The Spice Girls, En Vogue, All Saints, Pussy Cat Dolls, Girlicious, Dixie Chicks, Be Good Tanyas, Destiny’s Child, Girls Aloud and Bikini Kill all owe some respect to their sisters from the 80’s.
The British trio consisting of life long childhood friends Siobhan Fahey and Keren Woodward met up with Sara D while studying fashion journalism together in 1979; recorded their first hit “Cruel Summer” on their 2nd album featured in the Karate Kid soundtrack in 1983. The bands original image British Tomboy Punk later gave way to a more sexually aggressive and slick image in 1986 for the hit song and video “Venus” as the music became more dance oriented. The girls biggest hit “I Heard A Rumour” 1987 was a full-blown glam dance video straight from Madonna with wardrobe and boy toy background dancers to match. Banarama appeared in the original Band Aid video “Do They Know Its Christmas” and Band Aid II in 1989. They continue today as a duo.
Sisters, Debbie and Vicki Peterson were joined by Susanna Hoffs and Annette Zilinskas formed in Los Angeles in 1981 as “The Bangs” changing the name to “The Bangles” due to a legal issue. Zilinskas was replaced in 83 with Michael Steele from the “Runaways” The Bangels had numerous hits with the quirky “Walk Like an Egyptian” and “Going Down to Liverpool” as it featured Leonard Nimoy in the video. Manic Monday written by Prince was their 2nd best-selling single after “Eternal Flame”.
The Go Go’s had a classic 80’s new wave pop sound that made music history as the first all women band to both write their own music and play instruments to a billboard #1 song. Fronted by Belinda Carlisle with Jane Wiedlin, Kathy Valentine, Gina Schock and Charlotte Caffey this early 80’s band had many hits that preceded the music video. The debut album “Beauty and The Beat” 1981 went double platinum selling more than 3 million copies. The band split in 1985 due to personality conflicts and creative differences but in reality it was due to the ongoing drug addiction of some of the band members mainly Belinda Carlisle that would not be openly discussed until 20 years later. All members of the group went on to successful solo careers and write for todays popular stars; Charlotte Caffey penned hits for Keith Urban and Gina Schock for Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez. There have been many reunion tours over the years including a new one in 2011.
Susan, Vanity and Brenda. Vanity 6
The purple great one “Prince” said he created this trio in his own musical image as female. Denise Matthews, Susan Moonsie, and Brenda Bennett survived for only one album. Along the way Mathews a Canadian B movie actress took the stage name Vanity and Prince tarted the group up to perform in high heels and lingerie; lyrics of songs matched their appearance. Their second single release “Nasty Girl” was featured in “Beverly Hills Cop” and hollywood teen sex romp “Private School” 1983. Vanity and Prince appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in the same year. Vanity who was dating Prince at the time was staring opposite him in the film “Purple Rain” abruptly quit and ended the relationship when offered a solo record deal. Apollonia took over lead duties of the band and in the movie. The band was renamed Apollonia 6. The six is rumoured to be used as it represented the number of breasts in the band.
1985 saw the first all female rap group form and make hit records for the next 15 years. Cheryl James (“Salt”, now Cheryl Wray), Sandra Denton (“Pepa”), and Deidra “Dee Dee” Roper (Spinderella) were overtly sexual and controversial in their songs, ushering in a new era and genre of music for women. Salt n Pepa continue on today celebrating their 25th anniversary on Oprah.
Initially formed in Miami (1984) Expose released a 12 inch single to take advantage of the new radio format of House/Club/Dance mixes for major urban markets that evolved into “Freestyle”. The group was reformed in 86 with an entire new lineup of women Jeanette Jurado, Gioia Bruno and Ann Curless and signals the first commercial packaging of an all Female Group as they were selected by Miami Disc Jockey and Producer Lewis Martineé along with his partners at Pantera Productions. The group was the first to hold the record of 4 top 10 billboard hits from a debut album. They disbanded in 1995 after only 3 albums but with sales of 25 million records.
Once again a Sister Act makes it big in the 80’s. The Pointers, Ruth, Anita, June and Bonnie began as a quartet in 1973 reaching commercial success in the 80’s as a trio recording 10 top 10 hits between 1979 and 1985; Bonnie left to pursue a solo career. With the advent of MTV the sisters were put into heavy video rotation with now classics “Im so Excited” “Jump” and “Neutron Dance” which was featured in Eddie Murphy’s movie hit “Beverley Hills Cop”
Another very late 80’s girl group in the freestyle genre assembled as a studio project by Robert Clivillés and David Cole (C+C Fun Factory) for the dance club scene, had an unexpected hit and thus the group was put together with April Harris , Michelle Visage , and Idalis DeLeon.
Sisters Margie and Mari Fernandez joined with Betty LeBron to form this all female Puerto Rican Freestyle Dance music group based out of New York in 1986. Mari was replace in 1989 with Sheila Vega and in 91 Margie & Sheila were replaced by 3 new members, Belle, Maya, & Jenae, making them a quartet. By 1992 the group disappeared. Their debut album Take It While It’s Hot 1989 spawned 5 hit singles
Another New York based Freestyle Dance music trio formed by music promoter and dance club owner Sal Abbatiell that went through 8 performers from 87-96. ” Show Me” the debut album, 1987 released 5 singles, 2 became top 100 hits “Because of You” and “Promise Me” a 12 inch single named after the album.
Started in 1981 this funk dance oriented group had a few hits that broke the top 100 on the charts, doing a bit better on the RnB charts. 1984 – 1987 saw the most activity with 3 albums and nine singles. By the end of the decade the group of six was a trio.
Company as a Trio
And yet another Freestyle group from the late 80’s from the producer driven trend of all girl dance groups. Company B had a #1 hit on the Dance charts that crossed over to the pop chart making it to #21. They were able to hold it together long enough to record 4 albums with 6 singles released and 8 girls rotating through the band. They were known for platinum wigs.
Formed in 1980, spending most of the decade as an opening act for Ozzy, Scorpion and Bon Jovi they got their shot when EMI signed them to a record deal in 1988 to get a piece of the pie from the growing commercial success of other all girl groups. Their self titled album was followed by one other in 1990. “Edge of a Broken Heart” is there only hit. What makes the band unique was Glam and Hard Rock has had only a handful of female bands over the past 30 years.
Mary Jane Girls
The protogees of “Rick James” this funk, disco and RnB group were to take on Prince and Vanity 6. They stuck around just long enough to record two albums that went gold in 83 and 85 with 8 songs that cracked the top 100 chart in either the dance or RnB list. “In My House” made it to #7 in the US and #1 on the dance chart.