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Sex, Drugs, Pop and Roll: The Undoubted Stars of the ’90s | music | entertainment

Step Group Members: Lee Latchford Evans, Claire Richards, Faye Tozer, Ian “H” Watkins (Image: GETTY)

They were, without any fault, required to project a squeaky clean image to fans young and old alike, and woe to anyone who let the side down with drunkenness and passion in public. The bastions of Top of the Pops, Smash Hits, Saturday Morning TV, boy bands, and girl groups were the undeniable stars of the ’90s, and it was the lucrative era of million-selling albums before the internet airplay of the record industry.

But only, on the whole, if they keep their reputation clean, bad manners at bay, and most of all, a flashy, sparkling show on the road.

It was the era of Cool Britannia, and while the likes of Oasis and Blur may be celebrated for their antics, they popped out of London clubs like the Met Bar into the wee hours, pop stars all at home sleeping in their beauties. Or were they?

“People thought if you were into pop you wouldn’t go out and party, but of course you did,” recalled former Eternal member Louise Redknapp. “It’s something people don’t always know about me, but I love tequila.”

Like many pop music contemporaries from the era, Eternal can often be found partying at various nightclubs before appearing full of beans – if their eyes are a bit squinted – on CD: UK the next morning.

In fact, it was the most important skill every pop star had to learn at the time, along with choreographed arm shaking and answering magazine questions like “What’s your favorite sandwich?” , is how to hide a hangover.

Acts like Steps, Sugababes, Atomic Kitten, 5ive, Girls Aloud, S Club 7, and Busted — all of whom appear in my new book celebrating ’90s pop culture, Reach For The Stars — were hard-pressed to keep this aspect of their lives a secret. their fan bases. The truth is, pop music is basically unglamorous.

Members of pop girl group Atomic Kitten: Natasha Hamilton, Keri Katona, and Liz McClarnon (Image: GETTY)

Success is as much about putting in hours on the road, going from look to look, as it is about the actual songs.

And the music industry at the time was still effectively governed by the superstar etiquette of the 1960s. Top of the list was: do what you’re told!

Stars like Billie Piper and Ritchie Neville from 5ive have had to hide their relationships for fear of alienating fans. Gay pop stars like H of Steps were locked tightly in the closet.

The groups were almost forced to live two separate lives, zigzagging between radio road shows, and shop appearances from day to night at Funky Buddha.

This often means going straight from the club at 4 a.m. to the TV studio for a quick shower before going live. Or, in the case of Girls Aloud’s Nadine Coyle, she was given a muscle relaxant injection to try and stop vomiting on ITV.

“It worked so I threw up really relieved,” she recalls. “I can see the residue when I watch those clips.”

Before we get into all that, let’s travel back in time to, well, the mid-90s.

At the time, British pop was ruled by Take That, who breathed new life into the strict boyband mold with a string of hits including Pray, Everything Changes and Back For Good.

Gary Barlow’s clean reign, and their world came crashing down in July 1995 when Robbie Williams – who had spent a wasted weekend at Glastonbury with the Oasis Gallagher brothers the month before – jumped out before he could be pushed.

Seven months later, Take That was no more, the band announcing their split in a somber press conference that also seemed to acknowledge that pop music had lost out to the wilder rise of Britpop.

Robbie’s rock and roll demeanor, and his desperation for the freedom that those indie bands enjoyed, clashed with the immutable rules of boy bands and pop in general.

It would take something very special to make pop music sound fun again. Then, just three months after Take That split, the Spice Girls arrived, complete with spunky single, Wannabe, reshaping the pop scene one at a time.

The Posh, Sporty, Scary, Ginger, and Baby’s Girl Power slogan chimed in with the rise of the so-called ladette culture, which saw women and men equalize in drinking plenty of pints.

Fancy, Sporty, Scary, Gingerbread, and Baby Spice

Fancy, Sporty, Scary, Gingerbread, and Baby Spice (Image: GETTY)

It drew the then-upstart All Saints—billed as the Spice Girls—into their orbit, even if their ideology didn’t suit everyone. “I always see [ladette] Meaning you drank pints. But I didn’t drink pints! Nicole Appleton told me. “I was drinking champagne and margaritas. I was champet.”

For her sister, Natalie, nights out caught up with her from time to time. “I had a very awkward morning on CD: UK. We were talking to Ant and Dec and everyone was wearing sunglasses because we couldn’t see.

We went on a commercial break and I had to go because I couldn’t breathe. It was really bad, and I got this phone call from my mom asking what happened to me. Then they came back from recess and I wasn’t there. Our hairdresser was throwing up in the toilet. I was throwing up before we really got to live.”

Suddenly, pop music is full of personality again, characters that could match the Gallagher brothers.

But the Spice Girls—whose faces appeared on everything from pencil cases to lunchboxes to lollipops—had young fans too.

Indeed, their arrival quickly created layers of pop music aimed more at children; Acting as Steps, who appeared at the end of 1997 with Line Dancing Antiques 5,6,7,8, and two years later by S Club 7, who also starred in their children’s TV show.

While the Gallaghers were never seen as role models, these budding pop stars, who would go on to tour magazines (Smash Hits, BIG!, Top of the Pops) and TV pop show (Top of the Pops, CD:UK, Live & Kick), sure it was. Did that prevent them from having a good time? Absolutely not – even if they can’t tell anyone about it.

“One year, BRITs was a Friday and we had to do SM:TV the next morning,” Claire Richards of Steps explains. “I was still drunk. I have a memory of being there the other day and standing next to Geri Halliwell. She looked at me and said, ‘Oh, you’re really pretty, aren’t you?’” I thought that was cute at first, but then I thought it was weird. A bit. Did you think I was some kind of monster before?”

For S Club 7’s Bradley McIntosh, who was once pulled from the club to record his parts on the band’s 2001 No1 single Don’t Stop Moving, that period was about pure adrenaline alone.

“I would literally run around, take a quick shower — or lick the cat as they say — and then get in the car, take a nap, go to the TV studio and crawl under the table with a pillow I brought,” he recalls.

“Then I’ll do it all over again that night. I don’t know how I’m still alive, to be honest with you.”

This attitude of worrying about it was later replicated by Mutya Buena of the Sugababes and Jenny Frost of Atomic Kitten. Buena laughs: “I was the worst.” “How I looked at things was, ‘Okay, my call time is 4 a.m., I’ll do hair and makeup at 5 a.m., so if I want to go out I can go straight from raving to GM: TV studio, there are showers and then I get ready.’”

Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan and Siobhan Donaghy from Sugababes

Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan and Siobhan Donaghy from Sugababes (Image: GETTY)

“If I had gone home, I would have just slept. That was the way of life at that time.”

For Frost, the big night usually ends with a knock at the door.

“Honestly, I’m very embarrassed by some of the states I’ve been in,” she recalls. “The doorbell went off one time and we’d all be partying and I’d say, ‘Oh, the neighbors are complaining again,’ and he’d be, ‘No, he’s your chauffeur.’” are you going to work “.

The boy band 5ive was the pop band of the era that acted like a rock band. After being thrown into a house together, and promoted via the ITV documentary Neighbors from Hell, Abbs, G, Richie Neville, Scott Robinson and Sean Conlon, it was often a law in itself.

The fact that they were reasonably against Westlife often helped to intensify this. “We were the band that liked to have a drink,” says Robinson.

“But so did Westlife. They’re Irish boys. They could drink. They were just not saying they were drinking; they were good boys. So we were vilified as ladband, but we were still a boy band.”

Richard Abs Breen, Richie Neville, Jason Brown, Scott Robinson from British Boy 5ive

Richard Abs Brien, Richie Neville, Jason Brown, Scott Robinson from boyband 5ive (Image: GETTY)

“We were a little cooler. And we still are.”

Robinson once even got the seal of approval from Liam Gallagher himself, backstage at a festival in Rio: “Then Liam got a Bop It! electronic toy that came out of his bag, and he was like, ‘Are we going to have a big bang on this, it’s a game’?” Brilliant?” So we’re all about playing Bop It!, totally.”

For Neville, the heart of 5ive, no matter what music you make, or people’s perceptions, gigs were par for the course.

You think about it, you’re 17. Before that, you’d raid coin vats at your mom’s house to get a couple of Hoochs or Mad
Dog 20/20s. Then all of a sudden you’re going to these industrial parties where the whole bar is just free booze.

You drop it. I probably should have been thinking, ‘I’m in a band, there’s media here, I probably shouldn’t have so many drinks,’ but it was the ’90s, man!”

  • Reach For The Stars: Fame, Fallout, and Pop’s Final Party by Michael Cragg (nine books, £25) available now. For free UK P&P visit Or call 020 3176 3832

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