Beat babe Sandie Shaw was one of Britain’s top female singers of the 1960s – enjoying three UK number one singles and a win at the Eurovision song contest.
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.
After coming second in a talent contest, she took part in a charity concert in London at which singer Adam Faith was appearing. He spotted her potential and introduced her to his manager, Eve Taylor.
Taylor was initially unimpressed, assuming that Faith’s interest lay more in Sandie’s beauty than in her singing ability. However, she quickly relented. Complete with a new stage name, Sandie cut a couple of demos with Tony Hatch, a staff producer at the Pye record label and later better known for his work with Petula Clark.
Pye rejected Sandie initially but warmed to the idea of taking her on after Taylor announced that she would finance Sandie’s first recording. This took much of the financial risk out of the equation for the record company – no advances to the singer were required – and a contract was duly offered.
Taylor assigned young songwriter Chris Andrews to work with Sandie. He had already penned As long as you’re happy baby, which Charles Blackwell had earmarked for Samantha Jones.
However, Sandie issued it instead, in July 1964, but, receiving little airplay, the single flopped.
On a trip to Los Angeles, Taylor heard a track that had been a minor US hit for Lou Johnston. The song, (There’s) always something there to remind me, had been written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, whose Anyone who had a heart had given fellow Brit girl Cilla Black her first number one earlier that year. Sandie recorded it and her version topped the UK charts for three weeks in October 1964.
The Chris Andrews-penned I’d be better far better off without you was intended as the top side of her follow up, but at the last minute the sides were switched to make the flip, Girl don’t come, the A-side. The song was a perfect vehicle for Sandie and gave her a top three hit at the end of the year.
Around this time, Taylor was offered a Les Reed and Gordon Mills song called It’s not unusual. She turned it down, and Tom Jones went on to record it instead, enjoying a number one hit for his efforts.
Sandie was able to brush this off – after all, her I’ll stop at nothing had her riding high in the UK charts in February 1965.
That month she also issued her debut LP, entitled simply Sandie. As was common at the time, but pretty much unthinkable today, it contained none of her hit singles. Instead, it comprised covers and a few new Andrews compositions. Highlights include his Stop feeling sorry for yourself and Jackie de Shannon’s You won’t forget me. The album sold well, reaching number three in the charts.
At this time, Sandie could do no wrong. She was the coolest of the girl singers of the day – Mods, in particular, loved her, and her trademark barefoot performances endeared her to the public at large.
The calypso-styled Long live love, another terrific Andrews composition, swept into the charts that May, and gave the singer her second UK number one.
By this time she had also begun recording versions of her hits in French, German, Italian and Spanish, to increase her appeal in the rest of Europe.
Many of these were also released on EPs and LPs at home.
Her next UK release, Message understood, made number six in the autumn of 1965, but the shouty How can you tell – deservedly – missed the top 20 at the end of the year.
A second LP, Me, also sold poorly. The album included Till the night begins to die, a convincing composition by the singer herself, plus some covers and a host of Andrews songs, the best of which is One day. (The latter had been a Song for Europe entry for Kathy Kirby earlier that year.)
1966 started well, with the pounding gem Tomorrow returning Sandie to the top ten, but Nothing comes easy only made number 14, suggesting that the public had began to tire of the Chris Andrews formula. To compound matters, Taylor had repeated her earlier mistake in rejecting a sure-fire hit – this time, Bacharach and David’s Alfie. Instead, Cilla Black enjoyed great success with the song.
Sandie’s next two singles, the atmospheric Run and the gentle ballad Think sometimes about me, both stalled at number 32. (The latter should, arguably, have been flipped to make Hide all emotion – a song written by Marty Wilde, who also penned hits in the 1960s for Lulu – the A side.)
When I don’t need anything missed the top 40 altogether, it looked like Sandie’s career was washed up.
However, salvation came in the form of 1967’s Eurovision song contest. Sandie was invited by the BBC to represent the UK. Although she had reservations about doing it, 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. She performed them on the Rolf Harris Show and the public picked the Bill Martin and Phil Coulter composition Puppet on a string. Sandie was disappointed, as the song was the least representative of her material.
However, she gave it her all at the contest in Vienna in April and won convincingly, beating, amongst others, Greek-born Vicky’s entry for Luxembourg, L’amour est bleu, which went on to become a worldwide hit for the Paul Mauriat and his Orchestra.
Sandie enjoyed her third UK number one – a record for a female singer at that time – with her winning song and a huge hit throughout the rest of Europe.
Unsurprisingly, given the quality of the material, she also released an EP of the other songs from the UK final, called Tell the boys. Some also found their way onto an LP that Pye rush-released to cash in on the singer’s success. Unexpectedly, however, it bombed.
Critics have claimed that Eurovision ruined Sandie’s career. Arguably, however, it is a lack of decent material 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 exactly consolidate her position when it stalled outside the top 20 in the charts.
Chris Andrews was brought in for subsequent singles, though this didn’t prove the right approach either. You’ve not changed proved an apt title for this standard Andrews fare, which made number 18 in the autumn of 1967.
A further LP, Love me, please love me, also failed to sell, despite its quality. The title track, a cover of a song of the same name by France’s Michel Polnareff, was a particular stand out.
Back on the singles front, Today – Chris Andrews’ not-so-thinly disguised revisit of the hit Tomorrow – managed only number 27 in February 1968. Don’t run away, Show me and Together, all issued later that year, missed the charts altogether.
Further humiliation would follow when Sandie’s release of Those were the days saw her lose out in a chart battle with Opportunity knocks winner Mary Hopkin.
With her tall, slim frame, modelling experience and new fashion designer husband, Jeff Banks, it was little surprise when Sandie launched her own range of clothes later that year. She also began hosting her own television show, The Sandie Shaw supplement, which spawned an album of the same name. The show proved too ahead of its time for many viewers and the LP, one of her most consistent, didn’t fly off record shop shelves either.
None of this excuses the release of the single Monsieur Dupont, however. In a bid to capitalise on her popularity in mainland Europe, Sandie covered this 18-month-old piece of Schlager nonsense by German singer Manuela. Although it succeeded in giving Sandie a much-needed hit – making number six in the UK in February 1969 and the French top 20 shortly afterwards – it left her credibility in tatters.
Think it all over, her next UK 45, proved even worse, and her last single of the 1960s, Heaven knows I’m missing him now, surprisingly, flopped completely.
Sandie took over production on her last album of the decade, Reviewing the situation, on which she surprised the industry and the public by covering songs by Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, amongst others.
She went through a lean period in the 1970s, but returned to the 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.