Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Listen To The Banned

I should say that this post comes with a warning: Extreme 80s nostalgia and total cheese ahead.

Right, now that's over I'm going to ask you if you remember The Banned?

The Banned was a 1986 summer storyline for EastEnders which saw the characters of Sharon Watts, Simon Wicks, Ian Beale and Kelvin Carpenter form a band and take part in a local Battle of the Bands competition at the community centre. Show creators Julia Smith and Tony Holland wanted to tackle "an important and complicated story about the ups and downs of a pop group" no doubt to attract and entertain the younger viewers in the audience and to take advantage of the musical training of cast members Nick Berry, Letitia Dean and Paul Medford - who all attended London stage schools like Sylvia Young and Italia Conti - as well as capitalising on the merchandise opportunities a couple of BBC released singles by those three could bring about. Or, to quote Gideon Coe in The Guardian, it was "an horrific scenario where fact and soap merged in messy fashion to give the fictional band a real-life hit with the appalling Something Out Of Nothing."

On screen, The Banned consisted of Simon 'Wicksy' Wicks (Nick Berry) and his friend Eddie Hunter (Simon Henderson) Kelvin Carpenter (Paul Medford) Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean), Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt) and Harry Reynolds (Gareth Potter) In forming they go through a range of different names, including So So Reverso (Sharon's choice) Bottled Up (Wicksy's) Left of Arthur - a reference to Arthur Scargill and not Arthur Fowler! - to express the Marxist sentiments of the left wing student character Harry and Kelvin's girlfriend Tessa Parker (Josephine Melville), Conjugal Rights and The Harry Reynolds Quartet (Wicky's friend Lofty's choice) Eventually they settle on Dog Market but when their enormous amplifier fuses the electricity in The Queen Vic during their debut gig, Sharon's dad Den bars them with the words "You're banned!" and a legend (hmm, yeah) is born.

The song Something Outta Nothing is shown to be written by Wicksy to the frustration of Harry who wants to take the band in the direction of communist propaganda. The rest of the group like Wicksy's song, but Wicksy becomes irritated by Harry and bows out of the group, giving them his blessing to perform his song at the competition, whilst he goes off and writes his own song for Lofty and Michelle's forthcoming marriage Every Loser Wins.

That always amused me - how much of a mate was Wicksy to write a song to celebrate his bezzie Lofty finding love entitled Every Loser Wins?

Yeah, cheers mate!

 The day of the competition comes and for some reason Harry, who is a political activist, decides to sabotage their performance by switching the cartridge in the synthesizer, wrecking any hopes the group have of getting anywhere. They are humiliated, and the rest of the band are furious when Harry confesses that he sabotaged their performance to show them up.

That just about sums up the stupidity of that storyline really, and it limped its way along the summer months from June until October.

Bizarrely however, Something Outta Nothing, released in Nov '86, managed to reach number 12 in the UK charts and Dean and Medford performed on many shows including Saturday morning favourite Saturday Superstore as seen here

The Guardian, once again, voted Something Outta Nothing the 9th worst single ever released by a soap star out of 10 examples.

Meanwhile, Wicksy's song Every Loser Wins was a smash hit for actor Nick Berry reaching number 1, toppling Madonna's True Blue off the top spot, and staying their for three weeks. It was the second biggest single of 1986 and until 2001 held the record for being the highest climbing single ever, before Steps It's The Way You Make Me Feel supplanted it. It also bagged the song's composer Simon May (who wrote the theme tune to EastEnders) an Ivor Novello award.

Despite this success the songs - as you can see, or rather hear and yeah sorry about that! - haven't aged at all well and the storyline itself was branded a failure lacking in credibility by Smith and Holland. Whilst other EastEnders actors have gone on to have successful singing careers - Michelle Gayle, Martine McCutcheon - they had to wait until leaving the soap to do so. EastEnders never tackled a music storyline again and it's perhaps telling that, in the 30th anniversary celebrations this year, The Banned earned no mention whatsoever.


  1. For a millisecond, I thought this was going to be about the 'punk' group who were called The Banned and recorded for the Harvest label in the late 70's. They were dire as well.

  2. Or it could have been a collection of songs you won't hear on the radio any more as they're banned....Gary Glitter, Rolf Harris, DLT's one hit wonder etc