Friday 5 December 2014

Sheena Easton

The Legatus' poster at  college photographed by Brian Aris.  Who wouldn't want this in your bedroom?

The Legatus has been subjected to much derision because of the appearance of a poster of Sheena Easton in a photograph of his room at university.  I remember a similar thing happening when Giles spotted a box of Howard's Way DVDs on my shelves a few years ago!  Fortunately I am now too old to worry about the tyranny of cool which pervades much of British attitudes to popular culture these days.

Sheena Easton, for those who don't know, was a very early example of a manufactured reality TV (it wasn't called that then) pop singer.  Back in 1980 the BBC produced a short series of documentaries called The Big Time, fronted by the terrifying teeth of Esther Rantzen.  In this episode, which I remember watching at the time, they followed a young singer, Sheena Easton, as she recorded some singles, took advice from others in the pop industry and generally tried to promote herself as the next big thing.  Nearly every music professional in the show said she had no hope of making it. When her first single, Modern Girl, was released it reached the far from dizzying heights of number 53 in what I would have still called the Hit Parade, at the time.  

However, such is the power of television, after the programme aired her second single, 9 to 5, reached number 3 and the re-released first single reached number 10 giving her two top ten hits simultaneously.  When 9 to 5 (called Morning Train in America) was released in the US it went to number 1.  The following year she sang the theme song of the James Bond film For your Eyes Only (1981).

She moved to the US and had a successful career there, winning two Grammy awards and working with Prince.  A song he wrote for her, Sugar Walls, was actually banned because of its dubious lyrics.  She also did quite a lot of acting, appearing in five episodes of massive eighties show Miami Vice.  Later on she also had two shows at Las Vegas casinos.  She has consciously retired from public life and lives quietly in Las Vegas, having divorced her fourth husband.

Although she was a very pretty girl with a curvy figure (which was why the Legatus had posters of her on his walls) the really interesting thing about her story was showing how TV could turn an unknown into a star overnight.  This was contrary to all the received wisdom about how to make it in the music business at the time and was a foretaste of what was to come in the nineties with the likes of Pop Idol and X-Factor.  

The redoubtable Millsy suggested that Pat Benatar would have been a better choice for a female lust object at the time.  Now, while Benatar may have been a superior singer (I have no idea) we would take issue here and say that her looks do not approach Easton's in her prime.

Now I had never heard of Pat Benatar (well I knew the name but thought it was a man!) as in 1981 my listening tastes were almost entirely classical and jazz, apart from Mike Oldfield, post-1977  Rick Wakeman and ELO.  

ELO's Time (their last big hit album) was released during my third year and was a favourite at that point and is what I am listening to as I write this post (I actually don't like Sheen Easton's music). It completely reminds me of that year (along with Mike Oldfield's Five Miles Out).  Now, my best friend, then as now, Bill, was a big ELO fan and he didn't like the very electronic Time, whereas I didn't like most of the earlier ELO records (except Out of the Blue).  But then my favourite ELO album is the even later and even less well-regarded Balance of Power, which is inevitably tied up (literally in her case) in my mind with another girlfriend, SA.  Time was unavailable on CD for many years (there was a legal problem relating to Dave Clark's Time concept album) but you can now get it with a number of bonus tracks which were recorded at the time but didn't make the original album.

So the Legatus makes no apology for having the lovely Sheena on his wall at university.  Sadly the poster is no more, as some years later, when I was living back at home, a squirrel broke into our loft and gnawed it to bits, along with my Kim Wilde posters, several boxes of Matchbox AFV kits and some Christmas tree lights.  Tragedy!


  1. Oops - apologies if I started this with my original enquiry about your "Babydolls" post. Absolutely no derision intended - I also had a poster of Sheena (spikey hair and leather jacket) on the wall at University AND I went to see her on tour at the London Palladium (late 1980/early 1981?). Debbie Harry never interested me but Sheena had a certain something!

  2. It's funny that the Beeb should ban George Formby's phallocentric references in 'With My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock' but completely miss the blatant - ahem (coughs) - cant of 'Sugar Walls', with its invocation of a vagicentric vison of heaven: 'come inside / my sugar walls'... the Americans have never been famed for their subtlety! But I guess it goes to show that a subcultural argot works.

  3. Wonderful and and potted history of the stirringly stacked Ms Easton. A very attractive girl who seems to have become more beautiful with age! And yes - leaves Pat Benatar for dead - and she's no slouch in the looks department either. Couldn't stand her music but could watch those tacky old videos no worries! I was lucky enough to have met Debbie Harry on tour and found her to be far more attractive in the flesh than on screen. Like Easton Harry is petite with a very shapely derriere but not nearly as voluptuous as Sheena E.

    1. My cousin, who is a journalist for an Australian newspaper had to interview Debbie Harry a few years ago and began his piece something along the lines of "it was very strange sitting opposite someone whose face was so familiar from my cousin's bedroom wall". Miss Harry's was the first poster of a girl I ever bought and my mother was very relieved I seemed to be showing an interest in women at last!