Shelley Preston with Bucks Fizz

Tweet Little History: Shelley Preston

Since Twitter lifted its limit on the length of Direct Messages, the idea of succinct 140 character Twitter interviews has kind of gone out the window. Mind you, as far as Shelley Preston’s concerned this is probably for the best – “I’m a bit rubbish at being concise,” she admits. Here’s what she told us about Bucks Fizz and beyond…

You first came to fame as the “new girl” in Bucks Fizz. How did it feel to suddenly be part of a successful group? Were you thrown in at the deep end?
It was a complete shock. I only auditioned to stop my parents from pestering me to audition for musicals in the West End! I was happily spending winters surfing in Sri Lanka. I was singing a bit in a night club, doing a bit of modelling there and even got scouted by a top UK modelling agent whilst there but I had no plans to pursue any career in either music or modelling. I was too busy having a fantastic time swimming, surfing, beach life and exploring Sri Lanka and India every winter.

I nearly said no to joining Bucks Fizz! I loved my life but realised I didn’t want to wonder “what if?” later in life. And here I am 31 years later still performing.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was kept a secret and hidden whilst all the new press shots and rehearsals and everything involved in suddenly having to be a pop star just like that! It was extremely surreal for me. I never craved fame or fortune, I never wanted to live in the city. I was a country girl, a beach girl who never wore make up or heels. And at that time very shy. So people shaking in my presence and asking for my autograph and being so interested in me and the press was so alien to me. Not to mention the 80’s hair and make up and clothes. I lived in my jeans, T-shirts, shorts and bikinis!!

I had to have a full on make up lesson, learn how to walk and dance in stilettos. I had lessons in being interviewed by press and for TV and your camera shots plus 5 years’ back catalogue of hits, harmonies and dance routines. I think it was six weeks or a month I was hidden till we appeared on Wogan. They insisted on an exclusive – absolute secrecy, no leaks to the press so I was moved from various secret locations when the press got too close to finding out. It was unbelievable when I think about it now just how big a story it was. It even made the BBC Nine O’Clock News! Absolutely crazy!

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So yes, literally jumped off the highest diving board into the deepest part of the pool! But wow, what an amazing experience at just 21, especially not once ever in the auditions did I think it would be me and did I even consider doing it. To be honest if I’d have wanted the job I’d have been utterly utterly crap in the auditions. I’m absolutely rubbish at auditions.

What’s your favourite memory of the Bucks Fizz days?
“Huge Sigh” that’s really really hard…. One is definitely being on Top of The Pops in the Top Ten with New Beginning. I grew up watching that as a kid (pranced about a lot in front of the tele when it was on)

We laughed a lot and so many amazing trips and experiences. And really it would have to be my first appearance with the band. On Wogan, that’s a pretty memorable moment wouldn’t you say?

Since leaving Bucks Fizz you’ve done backing vocals for lots of acts, who’s been your favourite to work with?
I have been so lucky in my career both with Bucks Fizz as a session singer and Cloudfish. So aside from Bucks Fizz my favourites (can I have more than one?) as a session singer are INXS top of the list. Funky Rock is right up my strasse as it were and being on stage with Michael Hutchence was such a joy and a huge influence on my later performances. They were a proper rock band in every sense and every gig was amazing on that world tour.

Touring in The Brian May Band with Brian was also just incredible, real rock chic stuff, loved it and we were invited to sing Knocking on Heaven’s Door with Axl, Slash and the guys to a sold out Madrid Stadium – that was awesome. With Brian we did some really massive festivals in Europe, thousands of people to the horizon, that’s awesome and out of this world.

Then the years spent with Belinda Carlisle who is such great fun to work with and a very talented lady. We laughed a lot and I particularly loved doing the unplugged sessions with her where people really got to see just how great a singer she is live. And there’s not many artists who’d have their singer right down the front with them the whole show. I also loved working with Michael Bolton, who aside from his phenomenal talent as a singer, told the best blonde jokes I’ve ever heard. There were 2 exceptionally memorable performances with Michael, we did a performance of his single Can I Touch You There whilst we ladies in the band wore sexy little black numbers in front of an audience of the cardinals and priests. Which felt a little bit weird. The other one was the Pavarotti and Friends concert in Modena for the children of Bosnia. That was a magical event.

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And lastly I really loved being the lead singer and performing Cloudfish with my former partner Steve Norman, and putting all the personal heartache aside, I was very proud of what we did together. I loved creating songs, producing and performing them together. I remember being immensely thrilled and proud at selling out Ronnie Scott’s and deeply touched and honoured by the wonderful comments from the sophisticated members of such a historically iconic jazz venue.

Of all the records you’ve released over the years, which one would you hold up and say with pride “I did this!”?
Again it’s hard to narrow it down to just one. With Bucks Fizz it would be Heart Of Stone, I thought that was an amazing track and I always felt it should have been a bigger hit. Also I’m very proud of New Beginning. That was the first new song from the new line up. I was added to You And Your Heart So Blue and Magical. So New Beginning was the first new track from 1985 lineup.

I am also very proud of the later Cloudfish tracks Star, Everything and Some Kinda Wonderful which were co written and produced by myself, Steve Norman and Joe Holweger.

What’s next on the agenda? Any new music in the pipeline?
Well now is a new chapter in my life. I’ve literally come out the other side of a particularly horrific divorce and it’s taken 3 years for it to end and for me to find myself again. I have started writing songs after not even being able to listen to any music let alone write and perform it. I’m not one of those people who writes when they are sad. I write when I am happy in my life. So it’s been a bit barren on the writing front since 2013.

I’ve already written a new song entitled Blue (Bench) that was inspired by literally falling off a bench in front of a lovely chap which believe it or not led to us going out.. I’ve not had a chance to record it but did perform it in a very unplugged manner at the one off local gig I did in Alresford recently. I have ideas flowing now and can often be seen randomly singing into my phone when ideas pop into my head.

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The gig in Alresford has prompted some interest from local magazines and also me to start booking some small intimate gigs and finally get back out there. I’m playing The Colour House Theatre in Abbey Mills Merton #upcloseandpersonal on Sat 4th Feb next year and just finalising another gig in February at The Stables Milton Keynes. There are 2 other gigs in the process of being booked in Hampshire next year as well.

I would at some point like to record a few new tracks and put an EP CD as it were available to sell at gigs and online etc … So will be working towards that as well.

I still enjoy performing, still get a bit nervous but it’s part of who I am. I tried running away from it for personal reasons but it’s what I do and to be honest I’m not qualified to do anything else.

I’m really looking forward to a little run of gigs with my band well 2 musicians Mak and Marc who are great fun to work with. I don’t like being on stage on my own, I like to be able to have a laugh with the guys. That’s what it’s all about, really enjoying it and having fun.