Sandie Shaw was one of the UK’s most successful singers of the 1960s, enjoying three number one hits in Britain. She also found fame in Germany, where her 1967 Eurovision song contest winner, Puppet on a string, in particular, was a massive hit. She re-recorded some of her material in German too and her accented delivery charmed record buyers.
She was born Sandra Goodrich in Dagenham, Essex, east of London, on 26 February 1947.
After leaving school she worked at the nearby Ford factory and did some part-time modelling. However, as a result of finishing second in a talent contest, she got to appear at a charity concert in London at which singer Adam Faith was singing. He spotted her potential and introduced her to his manager, Eve Taylor.
Within a fortnight, the singer had a contract – and a stage name – with the Pye record label.
Sandie’s second UK single, (There’s) always something there to remind me – written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David – topped the UK charts for three weeks in October 1964. Having seen the success enjoyed by label mate Petula Clark in particular in the rest of Europe, bosses at Pye were keen to push Sandie in a similar direction. Many of her songs would be released in mainland Europe in their original English versions, but Sandie was also encouraged to re-record a number in French, German, Italian and Spanish.
Re-recorded as Einmal glücklich sein wie die Andern, her UK chart topper, it was decided, would become her debut German-language release. It was issued with Ohne dich (originally Don’t you know) on the B-side, but it failed to attract much interest from record buyers.
She fared better with her second UK chart topper, the calypso-styled Long live love, however. The song gave the singer her first German hit, both in English and in its translated version, Du weißt nichts von deinem Glück, and the two versions made the top 30 in the late summer of 1965. (The flip of the German-language release was a translation of You can’t blame him, retitled Das ist unmöglich.)
As the coolest of the Brit girl singers, Sandie’s trademark barefoot performances endeared her to the public in Germany, just as they did in the UK.
However, 1966 proved a difficult year for the singer. Some poor choices of singles saw her career falter, at home and abroad.
I don’t need that kind of lovin’, issued as an album track in the UK, was re-recorded as Und so was nennst du nun Liebe and issued as a single in March 1966. Arguably, record buyers might have shown more interest if the record had been flipped to make Mir ist alles klar – originally Message understood, a top ten hit at home – the top side.
Similarly, Ich denke an morgen, the German version of Tomorrow, which had gave Sandie another top ten UK hit, was relegated to the B-side of the so-so original composition Wir seh’n uns ja wieder. The release proved a minor success, managing only to scrape into the top 40 in late 1966.
It reflected a fall from favour, both in Germany and in Britain, and by the end of the year Sandie’s career was in the doldrums.
The chance to represent the UK at the 1967 Eurovision song contest proved an offer she couldn’t refuse – although she would have preferred to. She recognised that she needed the exposure and was guaranteed another hit.
All five entries for the UK selection were great songs that showcased Sandie’s vocal strengths. The public picked the Bill Martin and Phil Coulter composition Puppet on a string to go on to the final in Vienna. Sandie, however, was disappointed, as the song was the least representative of her material.
Nevertheless, she gave it her all at the contest and scored a runaway win, beating, amongst others, Greek-born German star Vicky’s entry for Luxembourg, L’amour est bleu, which became a worldwide hit for Paul Mauriat and his Orchestra.
Sandie enjoyed her third UK number one – a record for a female singer at that time – with the song and a huge hit throughout the rest of Europe. In Germany, advance orders of 500,000 meant the record sailed to the top of the charts upon release. It spent eight weeks at number one and became the biggest-selling single of the year. (The song remains popular in Germany, where, in 2008, the public voted it the best Eurovision song of all time.)
Even a subsequent German translation, the curiously titled Wiedehopf im Mai, charted too. The B-side, Was kann ich dafür, a version of Had a dream last night from the UK national final, was one of the few ballads Sandie recorded in German.
Critics have claimed that Eurovision ruined Sandie’s career. Arguably, however, it is a lack of decent material in its wake that is to blame. She returned to Martin and Coulter for a follow up to their Eurovision winner. Unfortunately, the best they could offer was the decidedly limp Tonight in Tokyo, which didn’t fare well at home and wasn’t considered strong enough to merit recording in German.
Chris Andrews was brought back for subsequent releases, Du bist wunderbar (originally You've not changed) and Heute (Today). The former proved Sandie’s final German-language hit, reaching number 28 in February 1968, while the latter was considered a somewhat pale imitation of her earlier work. (Arguably, however, the phrasing of Heute works better in German.)
Despite lacklustre record sales, Sandie remained a draw, proving more popular in mainland Europe than in Britain. This, she later commented, helped spare her from having to perform end-of-the-pier summer shows at home.
Her version of Mary Hopkin’s Those were the days, An jenem Tag, for instance, though not a hit, kept her in the public eye.
In Britain, as if to underline her European credentials, she cut Monsieur Dupont, a take on an 18-month-old hit for German singer Manuela. It proved her last brush with the UK top ten.
Meanwhile, in Germany, Ich sage stop!, a translation of Think it all over, became her final German release of the decade. After a few more German-language singles – Du kommst morgen (By tomorrow) in 1970 and Alles was ich will ist deine Liebe (Heaven knows I'm missing him now) and Sommerwind in 1971 – Sandie’s recording career in Germany ground to a halt.
She went through a lean period in the 1970s, but returned to the UK charts in the 1980s, thanks partly to a collaboration with the Smiths, and enjoyed further mid-sized hits.
She now runs her own show business psychiatric practice.