Beat babe Sandie Shaw was one of the UK’s most successful singers of the 1960s, with three number one hits in Britain. She also re-recorded much of her material in Italian and her accented delivery charmed record buyers in Italy. In particular, Domani, a version of Tomorrow, proved a big hit.
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 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.
At home, Sandie’s follow up, Girl don’t come, proved a perfect vehicle for the singer and gave her a top three hit at the end of the year. Re-recorded as E ti avrò, the song, it was decided, would become her debut Italian-language release.
It was issued with Viva l’amore con te (originally Long live love) on the B-side and was launched with an appearance on the Studio uno television programme. Released in 1966, the disc made the Italian top 20.
Sandie’s trademark barefoot performances endeared her to the public in Italy, where she became known as the cantante scalza, or barefoot singer.
Her follow up, Domani, a version of Tomorrow, sailed into the Italian top ten – peaking at number nine – later that year. An EP featuring all four songs from her first two singles was also issued.
Such was Sandie’s popularity that she was invited to take part in the International song festival in Venice in June that year.
Following her appearance, she headed for the recording studios to cut a clutch of songs for an Italian album. The LP consisted mainly of translations of her English-language material, such as Che ragazzo matto (Message understood) and Pochi sorrisi (Nothing comes easy). It also included the exquisite Italian original Guardo te che te ne vai, a song that suited her beautifully. She recorded an English-language version of the song too, though, surprisingly, it remained unreleased for many years.
However, by this time Sandie’s career in Britain 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. Sandie enjoyed her third UK number one – a record for a female singer at that time – with the song.
It also became a huge hit throughout the rest of Europe. In Italy, the song reached number 11 in the charts. This was unusual, as foreign Eurovision entries rarely scored well in Italy.
An Italian translation of the song, La danza delle notte, was issued as the B-side to Ho sognato te, a version of Had a dream last night, which had finished fourth in the contest to select the British Eurovision entry. The single stalled just outside the Italian top 40.
In Britain, Pye cashed in on Sandie’s internationality by issuing an EP entitled Sandie Shaw in Italian, which included reworkings of four of her earlier British recordings.
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 Italian.
Instead, she released the original Lo vuole lui, lo vuole lei – with Stop li dove stai, a version of Stop before you start, on the reverse – though it narrowly missed the top 40. The single also marked a switch of distributor in Italy to RCA Victor.
The single’s failure led the new label to issue a translation of one of her domestic hits, Today, as her next single later that year. However, Oggi, as it became, though a decent tune, sounded somewhat familiar and missed the charts.
From then on, Sandie proved 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, Quelli erano giorni, for instance, made the top 20 in Italy in the autumn of 1968, while her English-language version bombed in Britain. (The B-side of the Italian release, Com’è bella la sera, was taken from the television programme Controfatica.)
As if to underline her European credentials, Sandie cut Monsieur Dupont, a take on an 18-month-old piece of Schlager nonsense by German singer Manuela. The song was intended to give her career a much-needed boost. Whilst the ploy worked in the UK and in France, the Italians – wisely – ignored Papa Dupont completely.
Un battito d’ali, from the TV programme Gran varieta, became her next Italian single, in early 1970.
She boosted her profile further with an appearance at the San Remo song festival in February that year with Che effetto mi fa, a song that Italian star Pino Donaggio had written and also performed. Neither version made the final, finishing way behind stars such as Iva Zanicchi, Patty Pravo, Gigliola Cinquetti and Caterina Caselli. The single died upon release and marked the end of Sandie’s recording career in Italy.
In the mid-1980s British group The Smiths helped resurrect her career, and in 1988 she released the album Hello angel in Italy.
She now runs her own show business psychiatric practice.