The Fizz look back: ‘We look close in that old photo, but we didn’t know each other at all’
The Fizz are Mike Nolan, Cheryl Baker and Jay Aston. The trio are founding members of Bucks Fizz – the pop group who won the Eurovision song contest in 1981 with Making Your Mind Up. Having triumphed in the early 80s with hits such as The Land of Make Believe, the group disbanded in 1985, with decades of lineup alterations and litigation relating to the ownership of the Bucks Fizz brand to follow. Bucks Fizz’s fourth original member, Bobby Gubby, along with his partner Heidi Manton, now own the group’s original name. The Fizz perform on 31 March at Indigo at the O2 in London.
The moment this photo was taken was manic. It was in April, the day after we won Eurovision, and we were in Dublin getting our photographs taken by the world’s press. The jumpers were given to us as gifts – I’m not sure by whom – and they had our names on the back and champagne flutes on the front. I don’t drink alcohol any more, but in those days I started having glasses – well bottles and bottles – of buck’s fizz to calm down a bit after a performance. It didn’t work at all. I’d just get up the next morning looking a wreck.
I’d heard a few things about Cheryl, that she was a bit of a stirrer. But as soon as she turned up we hit it off
Our worlds changed overnight. It went from normal, everyday life to winning Eurovision and having no life at all. We were told where to go, what to do, what to say, what not to say. We didn’t argue – we just got on with it and we had a great laugh.
Bucks Fizz were put together in January 1981. When we first met, I really liked Jay and thought she was great. I’d heard a few things about Cheryl, that she was a bit of a stirrer, so I was a bit worried. But as soon as she turned up we hit it off. All the gossip was nonsense, and together we turned into troublemakers. We were always late – and it was always Cheryl’s fault! We also bickered like brother and sister. Still do. We’re not like some bands who have to travel separately, but we have had a few big rows. In the end, I just say to her: “Look, let’s leave it there. Do you want tea or coffee?” She’ll say: “I’ll have tea. But I know I’m right.” And it’s over.
Everything went wrong after the accident [in 1984]. We were going back to our hotel in Newcastle after a two-week tour and our coach crashed. I was in a coma for four days. Jay left the band. I’m fine now, but it haunted me for a very long time. I became a recluse for a while, and went from being an extrovert to an introvert. Cheryl and I drifted apart because I was argumentative and tried to let everyone know that I knew everything. I was talking rubbish.
Eventually, I came through the other side, and it’s brilliant performing with these two again. Although the girls would probably say they’d prefer it if I went back to being an introvert!
I’m smiling here, but I just wanted to get back home to my council flat in Bethnal Green. I wanted to get the press done and see the people I loved. When we landed at Heathrow the next day, I came into the arrivals area and my family were all there with their banners, playing a cassette of Making Your Mind Up on a stereo. I fell to the ground crying. I asked Dad where Mum was and he said: “She thought you’d want a nice roast dinner, so she’s at home cooking.”
I thought Mike was beautiful when I first met him … He was coming down the stairs with just a towel hanging on his hips
I thought Mike was beautiful when I first met him. I went to see our manager Nichola Martin to hear Making Your Mind Up so I could figure out if I wanted to be in the group. Mike was a friend of Nichola’s, and he’d been gigging that day, so he’d had a bath at hers. I walked through the door, and coming down the stairs was this beautiful bloke with just a towel hanging on his hips. I thought: blimey! We listened to the song and chatted away, and we realised we had a common denominator – the band Mike had been in previously was formed by a guy I’d been in a band with. He had told Mike all sorts of stories about me, which were lies, as I was quiet as a mouse in those days.
The first time we were brought together as a four-piece, I was desperate to make small talk, but the only thing I could think to ask them was: “Have you all had your Sunday dinner?” Roasts were a big part of my life so I thought it was a good way in. Mike looked at me as if I was an idiot as he’d just been gigging in Watford, and it was clear it wasn’t important to Jay and Bobby if they’d eaten or not.
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In the early days, Mike lived in Essex and I had a car, so I would pick him up and we’d drive to wherever we needed to be that day. After that we became best friends. If it hadn’t been for Mike, I don’t know how well I would have survived Bucks Fizz. Jay was 19 and I was 26 – we had nothing in common back then, even though now we get on brilliantly. I never got on with Bobby and Bobby never got on with me. One time he said: “If you said black was white, I’d say: no it’s not, it’s grey.” We were oil and water. But not on stage. Musically, the four of us worked amazingly together.
We may look close in that photo, but it was just a physical thing – in reality we didn’t know each other at all. We’ve since been through so much heartache and trauma together, and have a real affinity.
We were all tired in this photograph, but so happy that we had just won Eurovision. We toured constantly for the next year – every week in a different country. Before that I’d only been to Mallorca twice on holiday with my parents.
It was a bit lonely in Bucks Fizz: Bobby was married with kids and almost 10 years older than me. Mike and Cheryl were very close and always being silly, and I was just a teenager and not as streetwise as they were. But my parents were in the industry [comedy act Ted Durante and Hilda]. They would do panto and summer season, so there were always costumes and props around the house. In Bucks Fizz, I was able to draw from those comedy concepts and make outfits which had a sense of humour. I’d go shopping for clothes and fabrics, and busy myself with the more creative elements of the band.
Cheryl was amazing at harmonies and more confident. I was quite shy, but I had a more powerful voice
We all brought something different to the group. Bobby was more serious, and fast in the studio. Cheryl was amazing at harmonies and more confident, and Mike was always the comic. He had a sweeter voice that wasn’t as powerful as Bobby’s. I was quite shy, but I had a more powerful voice than Cheryl. We were like the ingredients of a cake – together we made a whole.
The fact that we can’t call ourselves Bucks Fizz because of the trademark law is heartbreaking. That conflict with Bobby, as terrible as it has been, has actually brought us three closer. I consider myself so lucky to do my job – even though I still find the travelling part quite hard. We should have made enough money for a helicopter, but we haven’t – yet!