Shakespears Sister’s shimmering “Stay” was a “weird sci-fi ballad of gothic-gospel electronica”

By on April 30, 2018

In 1994, this special “Take Off to Eclectic Ladies” episode — which pre-saged Lilith’s Fair by a few years — paid tribute to visionary female musical artists who, as host Tom Juarez’s tells us, were some of “the most interesting, the most unusual and well… the most Night Flight.”

The episode — now streaming on Night Flight Plus — features a video by Shakespears Sister, the goth-glam British/American duo comprised of Siobhan Fahey (ex-Bananarama) & Marcella Detroit (née Marcy Levy), who by ’94 had already parted ways.

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Shakespears Sister — the Bard of Avon’s name was intentionally misspelled without an “e” and with no apostrophe — was the name Fahey chose for the solo recording project she’d begun with producer Richard Feldman.

It had been the title of a Smiths song, and before that had been used in an extended essay penned by British author Viriginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, about William Shakespeare’s imagined “sister” Judith (he actually had a daughter named Judith, though).

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The shimmering “Stay” — described as “a weird sci-fi ballad of gothic-gospel electronica” — ended up being the longest-running #1 hit single by an all-female group in UK chart history.

The duo’s second album, Hormonally Yours, was originally conceived as a faux soundtrack for the 1953 grade-Z sci-fi schlockfest Cat-Women of the Moon, shot in black & white and released in 3-D (they’d wanted to use actual clips from it in their videos, but London Records nixed the idea).

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In the dark space odyssey-themed “Stay” video — directed by Sophie Muller, who also worked with Björk, Béyonce and Annie Lennox — Detroit nurses a man in a coma, while Fahey, looking like an Angel of Death, descends a mythic stairway from heaven.

They get into a catfight over the dying man’s soul (you’ll have to watch the video to see who wins).

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Dublin-born, London-raised Fahey had split from Bananarama in 1988, due to her disillusionment with their increasingly squeaky-clean musical direction and image.

Afterwards, she decided to go in a darker, different direction, one that combined her the androgynous glam & glitter influences of David Bowie and T. Rex with the early ’80s gloomy goth-pop of the Cure.

She grew out her spiky blonde hair, dying it jet black, and began wearing white Kabuki mask makeup with raccoon-ish dark eyes.

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“Stay” — written by Detroit, Fahey and Fahey’s husband, Dave Stewart of Eurythmics — entered the UK singles chart at #27 in January 1992 and climbed to the top position in Ireland, Sweden and the UK, where it spent eight consecutive weeks at #1.

The  single also charted at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S., and went on to influence a generation of similar goth-pop female artists.

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Read more about Shakespears Sister below.

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During the 1970s, Marcy Levy had sung in a number of bands in her native Detroit — her band “Julia” had even opened for Bob Seger — before she moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Seger had recorded his Back in ’72 album at Leon Russell‘s Grand Lake Studio.

Levy sang backup on tour with Russell, and toured for four years with Eric Clapton, writing/co-writing his hits “Wonderful Tonight,” “Promises,” and “Lay Down Sally.”

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She wrote songs and sang backup for other established artists too — including Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager, Chaka Khan, Al Jarreau and Belinda Carlisle — while struggling to get a solo career going.

Originally, her David Foster-produced debut album was going to come out on Robert Stigwood’s RSO, but she felt they were trying to “pigeonhole” her and the album was subsequently shelved.

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Levy continued writing songs and occasionally singing duets with Alice Cooper, Johnny Lee (she sings on Lookin’ for Love”), Jimmy Ruffin, and her duet with Robin Gibb, “Help Me,” appeared on the Times Square soundtrack.

Finally, she signed with Epic Records, who released her solo album, Marcella, in 1982, and she was all set to join John Mellancamp’s tour but after Marcella failed to chart, she was dropped off the tour.

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Levy toured again with Clapton behind his 1985 album Behind the Sun, produced by Richard Feldman, who would end up recommending her for Fahey’s solo project (she not only sang, she played guitar, harmonica and keyboards).

Changing her name to Marcella Detroit upon joining Shakespears Sister, the duo would record a few albums worth of material together, beginning in the summer of 1989 with Sacred Heart.

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They would find chart success a number of times in the UK and opened for Prince and other established acts.

By the time they began recording their Hormonally Yours concept album in 1991, Marcella Detroit was singing the majority of their lead vocals, leading to some tension and acrimony.

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Hormonally Yours — released in February 1992 — spent over a year on the UK album charts, peaking at #3.

Unfortunately, they’d eventually stopped communicating with each other, and after their scheduled concert at the Royal Albert Hall was canceled, Fahey was temporarily hospitalized and treated for severe depression.

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They have reportedly not seen or spoken to each other since May of 1993, when Hormonally Yours won an Ivor Novello award for “Best Contemporary Collection of Songs.”

That’s when Detroit learned on-stage, via a statement aloud read on Fahey’s behalf, that she was no longer in Shakespears Sister.

This syndicated era special”Take Off to Eclectic Ladies” — which also features videos by Kate Bush, Suzanne Vega, Björk, Cyndi Lauper, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Juliana Hatfied, Melissa Ferrick, Bonnie Raitt and Natalie Merchant’s 10,000 Maniacs, as well as a couple of odd little PSA’s by Night Flight fave Laurie Anderson — is now streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.