Sheeba – The Singles
This post coincides with the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest weekend, and might hopefully serve as an inspiration to whatever bland balladeer has been chosen to represent Ireland this year or in future years.
In March 1978 Sheeba took part in the Irish National Song Contest to select that years Irish Eurovision entry, with It’s Amazing What Love Can Do. They finished 6th out of 8, behind such luminaries as winner Colm C.T. Wilkinson, Chips and Reform. But the group, or rather the group members, were far from unknown. Frances Campbell had appeared as a teenaged solo singer on Opportunity Knocks, and Marion Fossett was a member of the very well-established Fossett’s Circus family. But it was Irene ‘Maxi’ McCoubrey (“Mac-C”, you see) who was a household name, having already been with late-’60s pop girl group Maxi, Dick & Twink and – following their acrimonious split during a Canadian tour – with country-pop group Danny Doyle & Music Box (Doyle himself finished in last place in the 1978 run-off). Maxi had in fact represented Ireland already in the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest, but ruffled some feathers when she threatened not to perform because of problems with the live rehearsals. RTÉ even took the precaution of flying Tina Reynolds to Luxembourg as a possible replacement, but it’s not clear if this had any impact on Sheeba’s chances in 1978.
Undeterred, Sheeba launched their recording career in 1980 with the Roberto Danova produced single Woman Without Love / Like A Falling Star. They soon followed this with Ain’t That Enough / Baby Come Back, produced by future Riverdancer Bill Whelan. There was a definite disco feel to these first singles, but Baby Come Back is credited to Grant, which would appear to suggest a cover of Eddie Grant & The Equals 1967 hit single – it’s not, and this may be a label error, but it’s a pretty catchy song. In 1981 the girls tried out again for the Eurovision, this time securing the Irish nomination and representing the country in Dublin with Horoscopes, in which they got unreasonably angry about astrology (“Don’t let the planets take control of your lives, believe in the truth and not celestial lies…”), and finished in 5th place. They embraced the exposure of the European contest with inter-galactic disco outfits and earned a following internationally. Horoscopes was inevitably released as a single, backed by the ballad You Came Through Love With Me, produced by Freshmen frontman Billy Brown (note, however, that the single version almost doubles in volume during the course of the song for some reason – this is one of the few occasions where I’ve done substantial digital altering on an original recording, as it’s quite jarring).
Sheeba decided to try again for the Eurovision nomination the following year with the somewhat corny Go Raibh Maith Agat (Thank You Very Much), but finished a disappointing 7th, ahead only of Chips. 1982 also saw the release of two more exceptionally europop singles: the Brown-produced The Next Night (“Well I wasn’t very good tonight… you were really in the mood tonight… I can’t forgive myself” – not the most empowering of lyrics) / I Like My Love Like This; and Coming To You / Don’t Know How (in which the girls adopt a country twang to sing about “the thangs you do”). They were heavily promoted through their extravagant and risque outfits and were arguably the first Irish group to use their sexuality in such an explicit way. The group were also regular performers on the ITV series Name That Tune.
According to Maxi the trio were working on an album in Mayo at the time of the horrific accident that abruptly interrupted their career in 1982. Driving to Castlebar on a rainy afternoon, their car hit that of a woman on a school run, killing the mother and one of her children. Campbell suffered a collapsed lung, Fossett a facial injury, and Maxi had a fractured skull and lost her short-term memory. With Maxi unable to remember song lyrics and her hair shaved off to facilitate over 100 stitches, and after the trauma of the fatal crash, the group’s confidence was crushed. Although Maxi’s memory returned and they flew to Japan for a short tour in 1983, they soon decided to stop touring altogether. Nevertheless, they entered the Irish National Song Contest one last time in 1984 with the ballad My Love And You, finishing 4th behind Linda Martin. That was the end of Sheeba, but Marion Fossett turned up two more times as an unsuccessful solo entrant: in 1985 with Only A Fantasy, and in 1996 with This Time. Fossett returned to the family business and remains the ringmisteress and public face of Fossett’s Circus today. Frances Campbell joined BBC Radio Foyle in Derry where she hosted an afternoon show for six years before retiring to raise her family. In November 2012 she returned to the music scene with her solo album Beautiful Age. Maxi also became a radio broadcaster and presented RTÉ’s breakfast show up until 2010. She has also presented TV and was a special representative for UNICEF Ireland, highlighting the problems of AIDS-ravaged sub-Saharan Africa.
- Woman Without Love
- Like A Falling Star
- Ain’t That Enough
- Baby Come Back
- Horoscopes (live INSC)
- Horoscopes (live ESC)
- You Came Through Love With Me
- Go Raibh Maith Agat (Thank You) (live INSC)
- The Next Night
- I Like My Love Like This
- Coming To You
- Don’t Know How
- My Love And You (live INSC)
- Marion Fossett – Only A Fantasy (live INSC)
- Marion Fossett – This Time (live INSC)