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Bucks Fizz Eurovision 40th: Cheryl on her 'best friend' in the band and her Olympic dreams

Eurovision 1981 – Bucks Fizz – Making your mind up

To celebrate the anniversary of Bucks Fizz’s momentous victory, Cheryl gave an interview today to the official Eurovision Song Contest Youtube channel. As well as revealing her first impressions of meeting one bandmate for the first time in a towel, she also spilled about how the band got their name and which band member became her “best friend for life.” It’s unlikely that the UK will ever triumph again, but the veteran champion also gave her tips on what it takes to succeed. WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW BELOW
Cheryl starts the interview with the rather surprising news that her original dream had been to win an Olympic medal.

She said: ‘At the time I wanted to be an Olympic runner. I wanted to win a gold medal for my country. But I also loved singing. I saw Sandy Shaw win the Eurovision Song Contest and I thought, ‘That’s it, I want to be a singer in a band and win the Eurovision Song Contest.”

Cheryl actually was part of a different band, Co-Co, that represented the United Kingdom in 1978 with the song Bad Old Days. They were “tipped to win.” WATCH THE CO-CO VIDEO BELOW.

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Bucks Fizz Eurovision anniversary

Bucks Fizz Eurovision anniversary (Image: GETTY)

Cheryl said: “The awful thing was, at that time the UK had been in the Top 5 every year. But we came eleventh which broke my heart and I felt like I’d let the Queen down.”

She stayed with the band until 1980 and then started work as a secretary at Mayfair Sound Studios in London.

While there, she bumped into musician and manager Nicola Martin who was putting together some songs and groups for the annual Song For Europe contest which would pick the UK Eurovision entry.

Nicola had lined up Mike Nolan for the track Making Your Mind Up and wanted three more singers who would complement him.

Cheryl said: ‘Mike was short and blonde, so that was the criteria! And the reason we were called Bucks Fizz is because she was drinking one while they were recording the demo… We could have been called Cup Of Tea.”

When Cheryl went to meet Linda about joining the band, she was not expecting the sight that greeted her.

She said: “(Linda) rang me and I went along and the first person I met was Mike, coming down the stairs. He’d just got out of the bath and had this white fluffy towel wrapped around him. He just looked like a dream. He was so handsome, He was so beautiful.

“Mike and I got on so well straight away. I was very lucky. He became my best friend on that day and he still is 40 years later.”

Although Bucks Fizz has been through many splits and line-up changes, Cheryl and Mike are still performing together, along with original member Jay Aston, in the group The Fizz. Fourth founding member Bobby G owns the rights to the Bucks Fizz name. 

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Bucks Fizz; Cheryl and Mike remain best friends

Bucks Fizz; Cheryl and Mike remain best friends (Image: GETTY )

Back in 1981, meanwhile, The BBC had such faith in Bucks Fizz they released the single ahead of the contest and it was already Top 5 in the UK and receiving airplay across Europe.

Cheryl said: “When we flew out to Dublin everybody wanted a piece of us.. I actually felt like, even before winning, we had succeeded. It was an extraordinary time.

“To be perfectly honest, before we went on I was thinking ‘I don’t remember any of the moves, I don’t remember the lyrics.’ Thankfully, it kicks in and you do the performance. We had applause from the other contestants. It was such a lovely experience.”

Bucks Fizz in 1981

Bucks Fizz in 1981 (Image: GETTY)

Cheryl admits that when the first county’s votes came in and they only received three points, she was worried that might set the tone.

Instead, and unusually, they received votes from every single country. Although they only received the maximum ‘douze points’ from two countries, Isreal and The Netherlands, Bucks Fizz scored solidly and consistently throughout the night.

It came down to the nailbiting final vote from Sweden who gave the UK’s main rivals Germany 12 points and Bucks Fizz 8, but it was enough to clinch victory by a margin of 136 to 132 votes.

Bucks Fizz Eurovision 40th Anniversary

Bucks Fizz Eurovision 40th Anniversary (Image: GETTY )

Cheryl said: “It’s the most thrilling that ever happened to me in my entire life and still is, apart from having my children.

“Thanks to Making Your Mind Up I have a wall of singles, gold, silver and platinum. I married my husband, I live in this house, I have my children, I have all of that thanks to Making Your Mind Up – and velcro.” 

Of course, she is referring to the skirts that were whipped off thanks to a velcro fastening. Cheryl reveals that she and Jay have both sold their originals skirts for charity, but Mike refuses to part with his blue velour sweater.

Bucks Fizz: Cheryl, Mike and Jay have formed The Fizz

Bucks Fizz: Cheryl, Mike and Jay have formed The Fizz (Image: GETTY)

Cheryl confesses she is still “addicted” to Eurovision and thinks it is better now than ever before.

She says: “It’s bigger and more for the fans. When we did it, the majority of the audience was stuffed shirts… Now it is an amazing atmosphere, electric. It is the happiest place.”

But it is still a competition of course, and Cheryl is convinced the idea behind their infamous skirts-off moment is as relevant today.

She says: “I think that songs, possibly more so now than then, need a gimmick. There are so many songs, you need to stand out. There are lots of really good songs but you need to stand out and for that you need a gimmick.”

Bucks Fizz now on Eurovision 40th Anniversary: Bomb threats, car crashes and feuds

Eurovision 1981 – Bucks Fizz – Making your mind up

Back in the day when it was still possible for the United Kingdom to win Eurovision, it was still a thrilling triumph (and a very close call) when Bucks Fizz triumphed, beating German entry Lena Valaitis’s Johnny Blue by just four points. It’s quite possible that a nifty costume change mid-way through the song made all the difference. All the band members and choreographer Chrissie Wickman have claimed credit for the idea but Cheryl Baker gave a new insight this week.
Cheryl said: “We were all throwing in different ideas about what we wanted to wear. Jay Aston wanted to wear a short skirt, I wanted to wear a long one as it suited the song and definitely suited my legs, I said flippantly. ‘for goodness sake let’s have both’.

“Then the choreographer said, that’s it… on the line ‘if you want to see some more’ we take the top skirt off and the little one will be underneath.

“I think we won the competition by four points because of the skirts coming off.”

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Bucks Fizz Eurovision 40th Anniversary

Bucks Fizz Eurovision 40th Anniversary (Image: Getty)

The Fizz: Jay, Mike and Cheryl

The Fizz today: Jay, Mike and Cheryl (Image: PH )

What few remember, is that the competition was overshadowed by terrorist threats.

Staged in Dublin after Irish entry Johnny Logan’s win in 1980 with What’s Another Year, there was a fear of violent anti-British demonstrations and attacks from the IRA.

Bucks Fizz had to stay at a separate hotel from all the other contestants with constant armed guards and travel separately to the RDS Stadium for rehearsals and the main show.

Happily, nothing marred the contest apart from one bomb scare at a different hotel.

Cheryl told Dublin Live: “To be perfectly honest when you’re young, you don’t see the danger, you just see the excitement.

“Apart from that, we did get together with the other contestants, the Irish organisers made sure we had lots of events where we got to know each other! There was lots of laughter, lots of champagne!”

Bucks Fizz was formed specifically for Eurovision just three months earlier, but their entry was already at number two on the UK charts before they won.

With the rare exception of acts like Abba and Celine Dion, very few acts who make their debut at the Contest go on to any lasting success.

Bucks Fizz went on to sell more than 50 million records, including three UK numbers ones – Making Your Mind Up, My Camera Never Lies and The Land of Make Believe – and another four top ten hits.

But the chart-toppers had begun to dry up by 1984 and then the band was involved in a horrific accident.

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Bucks Fizz Eurovision 40th Anniversary

Bucks Fizz posed for unusual publicity shots (Image: Getty)

After a concert in Newcastle on December 11 1984, the band’s tour bus collided with an articulated lorry. Everyone on board was badly hurt, including crew members. The driver, Cheryl, Mike and a guitarist flew out through the windscreen and the roof of the bus was ripped off.

Bobby was treated for whiplash and Jay was admitted to hospital for back injuries, bruising on the brain and broken ribs, while Cheryl broke three vertebrae in her spine.

Jay later admitted: “We were all lucky to walk away with our lives that night.”

Mike almost didn’t. He suffered major head injuries and fell into a coma.  He was reported to have died on the operating table and was placed on life support machines for three days before he regained consciousness. He still suffers from impaired vision, epilepsy and short-term memory loss.

It was the beginning of the end for the band in its original form.

Bucks Fizz Jay in 1982

Bucks Fizz Jay in 1982 – Jay often wore skimpy clothes on stage (Image: GETTY )

Struggling with rehabilitation and unhappy with the direction of the band and mounting tensions, Jay suddenly quit in June 1985 after the release of the single You And Your Heart So Blue.

She was still under contract and found herself being sued. She said later: “Life got very difficult after that too as I was involved in several lawsuits because the management weren’t happy with my decision to leave.”

Jay’s affair with the band’s songwriter Andy Hill, who was also the husband of the band’s creator Nichola Martin, was made public and she sold her own story to the press with the headline “The hateful, bitchy world of Bucks Fizz.”

Bucks Fizz Cheryl, Mike and Bobby in 2003

Bucks Fizz Bobby, Cheryl and Mike in 2003 (Image: Getty)

Apart from the typical band tensions and jealousies, Jay later said the main issue was how badly paid they were.

As a manufactured band with no song-writing revenue they might have been topping charts across Europe but they were paid as employees on a fixed contract.

Jay said in 2016: “On one 45-date, sell-out tour, the band members only got £1,600 (per show) each while musicians walked away with £7,000 each. You would be amazed at how little we received.” 

The other three members, however, stayed put and a new replacement was brought in, 21-year-old Shelley Preston.

Bucks Fizz Cheryl, Mike and Jay in 2011

Bucks Fizz Cheryl, Mike and Jay in 2011 (Image: GETTY)

Things looked brighter after the first single under the new line-up, New Beginning (Mamba Seyra), hit the UK top ten in May 1986, followed by two minor hits but it soon seemed clear the band’s glory days were behind them.

The rather ominously titled album Writing On The Wall only made it to number 89 on the UK charts. 

After a greatest hits compilation, The Story So Far, failed to chart in 1988, there were no plans to record any new material and Shelley officially left at the end of the following year.

Bucks Fizz: Cheryl, Jay and Mike with new member Bobby McVay in 2017

Bucks Fizz: Cheryl, Jay and Mike with new member Bobby McVay in 2017 (Image: GETTY)

Cheryl forged a hugely successful television career and left the band in 1993, by which time Bobby’s wife had bought the rights to the Bucks Fizz name and then it all gets very confusing.

The next decade was a revolving door of new line-ups that even included Dollar star David Van Day when Mike left in 1986. After that Mike and Bobby formed competing versions of Bucks Fizz until Bobby legally established his right to exclusively use the name.

By 2004 some hatchets had been buried and Shelley, Cheryl, Bobby and Mike briefly reunited as The Original Bucks Fizz, performing shows that year, before Bobby left again.

Shelley left in April 2009 and shortly after Jay rejoined her old bandmates under a variety of names from OBF to the truly terrible Cheryl, Mike and Jay – Formerly of Bucks Fizz.

Bucks Fizz: Cheryl, Jay and Mike today

Bucks Fizz: Cheryl, Jay and Mike today (Image: PH )

Much more successful was a rebranding in 2014 as The Fizz, along with new member Bobby McVay. 2017 album The F-Z of Pop gave any variation on Bucks Fizz the highest chart position for 31 years when it debuted at number 25.

But there was still one last line-up change and a final challenge to face.

Bobby left the group amicably in February 2018 to focus on his life in Italy.

In June that year, Jay was diagnosed with cancer of the mouth and had surgery the following month to remove part of her tongue.

Now fully recovered, she is back with the band and they released Christmas With the Fizz later in 2018. Their third album Smoke & Mirrors followed in March 2020 and the trio is planning on recording new material once the lockdown is lifted.