Sandie Shaw was one of the UK’s most successful singers of the 1960s, scoring three number one hits in Britain. She also re-recorded more of her material in Spanish than any other Brit girl, becoming a big hit in Spain as a result. In particular, her 1967 Eurovision song contest winner, Puppet on a string (or Marionetas en la cuerda, as it became), has enjoyed a lasting popularity.
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, after coming second in a talent contest, she appeared at a charity concert in London at which singer Adam Faith was performing. He introduced her to his manager.
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 topped the UK charts for three weeks in October 1964, and label bosses were keen to push the singer in the rest of Europe.
So she re-recorded the song in French, German and Italian, but not in Spanish. Sandie released only the English version in Spain, which left a void for native singers to fill. Adriángela was the first to do so, and Karina followed a year later, both cutting versions of Siempre hay algo que me recuerda a ti.
Soon Sandie was scoring hit after hit in her homeland and also releasing repackaged English versions of her records in Spain. It wasn’t long before the decision was taken to have Sandie record in Spanish too. All her Spanish-language releases and most of her English-language records were issued through a collaboration with the Hispavox label.
Four-track EPs were more popular in Spain at the time than singles, and her first Spanish-language release was an EP of translated versions of four UK successes – a sort of greatest hits compilation in miniature. Issued in 1966, it led with Mañana (a version of Tomorrow) and also included ¡Viva el amor! (Long live love), No lo comprendí (Message understood) and No vendrá (Girl don’t come).
The move was a smart one – Sandie became a hit in Spain. Although all of Britain’s most successful female singers made some attempt to re-record their material in other languages, Sandie was the only one to do so seriously in Spanish. Even Petula Clark, Britain’s most linguistically prolific songstress, gave up the language after just one EP.
A second Spanish-language EP followed later that year, featuring another four translations of songs she’d recorded in English. It led with Lo conseguí (a version of Nothing comes easy) and also included No necesito tu amor (I don’t need that kind of lovin’), Ante nada me detendré (I'll stop at nothing) and No me quieres más (You don't love me no more).
The release consolidated her popularity and she appeared often on Spanish TV screens and in the press.
Ironically, this coincided with a fall in favour back in Britain. By late 1966, her singles were stalling in the lower reaches of the UK charts.
Salvation came in the form of 1967’s Eurovision song contest. Sandie was invited by the BBC to perform all five entries for the UK selection. Although she had reservations about doing it, she recognised that she needed the exposure and was guaranteed another hit. The British public picked the infectious Bill Martin/Phil Coulter composition Puppet on a string to represent them. Sandie was disappointed, though, 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. (Spanish hopes were pinned on home-grown heartthrob Raphael, and some tactical voting may account for the Spanish jury failing to award Sandie even one point.)
Her winning song was promptly re-recorded in other languages. In Spanish, it became Marionetas en la cuerda and was issued on an EP with three other translated versions of songs from the UK national final, A los chicos les dirás (Tell the boys), Otra vez soñé (Had a dream last night) and Dile a qualquiera (Ask any woman).
The song – in all its versions – gave Sandie the biggest hit of her career. In Spain, it proved so popular that umpteen native artists, including Betina, Silvana Velasco and girl group Ellas, all issued rival versions.
Sandie became even more in demand for Spanish television appearances and media interviews in the weeks after her win, and even featured on the cover of ¡Hola! magazine.
Musically, however, her biggest problem was that she had no song up her sleeve to issue as a suitable follow up. She returned to Martin and Coulter but the best they could offer was the second-rate Tonight in Tokyo. Nevertheless, Sandie duly re-recorded it in Spanish, as Esta noche en Tokyo, and it became the lead track on her second Spanish-language EP of 1967. The release also included La has vuelto a ver (a version of You’ve been seeing her again), Párale (Hold him down) and Así, así (That’s why).
She returned to Chris Andrews for further UK singles, and his You’ve not changed became No has cambiado nada for Sandie’s first Spanish-language release of 1968. It was followed later that year by Que tiempo tan feliz, her version of Those were the days, a song that had given fellow Brit girl Mary Hopkin a massive worldwide hit.
In in a bid to capitalise on her popularity in mainland Europe, Sandie released the not-great Monsieur Dupont, a cover of an 18-month-old single by German singer Manuela. It was her last top UK 40 hit of the decade. She re-recorded it in Spanish with the same title, and it was issued in 1969 with Dejate ya – a translation of another UK single, Think it all over – on the B-side.
After just one more Spanish-language single, Que efecto me hara (a version of her 1970 San Remo entry, Che effetto mi fai), Sandie’s career in Spain ground to a halt.
Back at home, she went through a lean period in the 1970s, but returned to the UK charts in the 1980s, thanks partly to a helping hand from The Smiths, and enjoyed further small hits.
She now runs her own psychiatric practice.
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