The Paper Dolls were one of Britain’s few girl groups of the 1960s. Complete with outrageous wigs, camp stage names and over-the-top outfits, they cut quite a dash on the music scene.
The group comprised Tiger (Susie Mathis), Spyder (Pauline Bennett) and Copper (Sue Marshall). Tiger hailed from London, Spyder from Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, and Copper from Northampton. They met at school in Northampton and later studied dance together at the town’s Pitt-Draffen Academy of Dramatic Arts.
They signed to the Pye record label in early 1968, after auditioning for producer Tony Macauley, who’d been looking for a girl group to record a song he’d written. But they only got to the audition after future club owner Peter Stringfellow drove them to London and bought them tights to wear for their performance.
After numerous name changes, the group eventually agreed on The Paper Dolls as their stage moniker, and in May 1968, their first single, the Motown-esque Something here in my heart (keeps a-tellin’ me no), was released. It reached number 11 in the UK charts and led to appearances in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. Its B-side, All the time in the world, has gone on to become a favourite of fans of the Brit girl sound.
The girls were kept in the public eye over the following months through media reports that they were to star in their own Monkees-style television series and that Tiger was dating DJ Tony Blackburn, both of which were nothing more than PR inventions.
Build me up buttercup was lined up as the follow up but was eventually recorded by The Foundations, who took the song to number two in the UK charts in the autumn of 1968. The Foundations scored a second hit with Any old time (you’re lonely and sad), which The Paper Dolls had recorded for their album, Paper Dolls house.
The girls were left to release My life (is in your hands), a danceable number that hadn’t appeared on the album, as their second single.
However, both it and a third single, Someday, stalled outside the top 40.
When Macauley left Pye shortly afterwards, the group’s chances of further success were given a severe knock.
The girls signed with the RCA label in 1970 and released two further singles, My boyfriend’s back (a cover of US girl group The Angels’ classic) and Remember December.
Various line-up changes ensued as the girls went their separate ways. Tiger released a solo single, as Tiger Sue, in 1978 and went on to become a successful radio DJ in the 1980s and 90s, under her real name.