British all-girls bands are everywhere post 2000, but in the early 80s the Belle Stars were at the start of something new. They were sexy, but they kept their clothes on. They jumped around and mimed on Cheggers Plays Pop, but they could play live too. They released twelve singles on Stiff, and became the label’s best selling singles act after Madness.
Their first three singles – one of which was recorded by Madness’ producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley – had all failed to chart. On the back of touring with Madness and The Beat (various Belle Stars had been part of another Two Tone act, The Bodysnatchers), the band finally cracked the UK Top 40 with their fourth, a cover of The Dixie Cups’ 1965 hit Iko Iko.
Their next single, another cover of a 1965 hit, Shirley Ellis’ The Clapping Song, became their biggest hit and firmly established the girls as bona fide early 80s icons. By 1982, the Belle Stars were seen as less of a novelty act and more a sophisticated pop outfit, and the funky and anthemic Sign Of The Times (BUY 167) defined that era and still sounds fresh. They still had a dozen more singles left in them but it didn’t get any better than this, which managed to peak at number 3 in the UK singles chart. They later scored a top five hit on the Billboard dance chart with World Domination in 1985.