Anyone who hasn’t experienced how it feels to be obsessed by a pop group needs to seek one out now.
As a pre-teen, many of us would spend hours upon hours singing their songs in our bedrooms. We’d kiss shiny programmes with their photos jauntily splashed over every page. We’d write letters, sit on our beds talking out loud to them, beg for concert tickets, scream, faint and idolise the boys and girls who sang straight to our hearts. They were just so damn cool. Weren’t they?
Here are a few of our favourites…
With his boyish good looks and jaunty quiff, Cliff Richard was a pin-up sex symbol (yes, really) after springing to fame in 1958. At his live performances, girls screamed uncontrollably and mobbed him.
But Cliff back then was cool. He’d changed his name from Harry Webb to Cliff because that sounded like a cliff face, which suggested rock – apparently. And he was marketed as a rebellious rock ‘n’ roller like Elvis Presley. He didn’t smile that much and could curl his lip . How could fans resist?
Some of those girls, who fell in love with him when he was slightly dangerous and sang Move it and Living Doll, fell in love forever. Which is why so many of his fans nowadays are ageing ladies.
Girls fainted, cried, and created pandemonium. In 1963, Beatlemania was unleashed – and the frenzy was in a different league from anything that had gone before. The Beatles seemed so approachable. They smiled, wore suits and sang in 1964 about wanting to hold your hand.
Nice girls, who were too young to date, dreamed about which Beatle they’d marry. Paul was cute, but Ringo was fun and George was the one you picked if you liked the shy type. John, being so clever, was more intimidating, mind you. Loving the Beatles gave their young fans a sense of community. And utterly mystified their parents. What wasn’t to like?
“Ooh, ooh baby! (I want you back) Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah! (I want you back)…” It’s almost impossible to resist the urge to dance to The Jackson 5. Don’t believe us? Pop I Want You Back on Spotify now and your toes will have a life of their own.
Little Mikey J and his brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon signed with Motown in 1969, and had a No 1 hit with I Want You Back in January 1970, quickly followed by another three chart toppers: ABC, The Love You Save and I’ll Be There, making them the first act to have four consecutive No 1s on America’s Billboard Hot 100.
It was the combo of the energy when they performed, those coordinated dance moves and the funky Seventies outfits that made them so appealing – then and now. Jacksonmania was relatively short-lived before Michael began his solo career in 1972, but their legacy for cheesy discos around the world is immense.
In October 1980, Adam and the Ants appeared on Top Of The Pops for the first time (their single Dog Eat Dog was only at No 37, but someone else dropped out). Next day, Adam Ant was chased down the street by excited, pointing girls. For the next 18 months, they ruled pop.
Glamorous and theatrical, Adam and the Ants were really quite weird – their 1981, No 1 single Prince Charming opened with an onslaught of screams. But the videos were brilliant – Adam Ant crashed through windows and swung from chandeliers, he dressed in pirate gear and highwayman outfits and the kids loved it.
Or at least some of them did. Playgrounds across the country were divided between those who loved Adam Ant (the cool kids, in retrospect) and those who hated his make-up and strangeness. There were actual fights over him.
The pre-teens who despised Adam Ant tended to love Shakin’ Stevens. Posters of clean-cut Shaky plastered bedroom walls – and it somehow didn’t matter that he was old enough to be his devotees’ dad.
Shaky had a quiff and was as loved for his leather jackets as he was his double denim. He crooned songs like This Ole House, Green Door, Oh Julie and Merry Christmas Everyone. Inexplicably, his cheesiness wasn’t a problem – he was the UK’s biggest-selling singles artist of the 1980s, charting no less than 33 Top 40 singles.
Looking back, we don’t really get it. But it was amazing at the time.
Matt and Luke Goss, the gorgeous – if slightly plastic-looking – identical twins, were Bros and in the late Eighties they had millions of besotted fans known as Brosettes. (There was also a third member of the band, Craig Logan, who was known as ‘the other one’ and wasn’t fancied anywhere near as much.)
Brosettes spent hours pointlessly debating which twin was better looking. They also showed their devotion by deliberately ripping their jeans, using the protractor from their school pencil case, and attaching Grolsh beer bottle tops to the laces of their Dr Martens shoes.
The songs were pretty brilliant – When Will I Be Famous?, Drop The Boy, I Owe You Nothing all deserve respect. The Grolsh top thing seems a bit silly now though.
The band that saw us out of the Eighties and into the Nineties were New Kids On The Block. NKOTB or New Kids for short, these boys were the kings of cool. We all had a favourite. The majority plumped for the most beautiful Knight brother, Jordan (sorry Jon), but many swooned over cute youngster Joe McIntyre and those that loved a bad boy loved Donnie Wahlberg, once the most famous Wahlberg brother in America. Poor Danny Wood wasn’t such a hit with the ladies.
We crooned along to I’ll Be Loving You (Forever) and Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) and busted some street moves to Hangin’ Tough and You Got It (The Right Stuff). (They liked to use brackets in their song titles a lot.)
The band split in the 1990s, but if you haven’t thought about them for a while and are now humming along and remembering how obsessed you were, you’ll be delighted to hear you can actually board a real-life New Kids On The Block cruise (nkotbcruise.com). You heard me. All five of them, on a ship, this October, singing, drinking and offering up selfies. Who’s in?
Take That to the Nineties were like The Beatles to the Sixties – and arguably Gary Barlow matches Sir Paul McCartney for song-writing prowess (cue much debate…).
They were unleashed on the world in 1990, a British rival to NKOTB, but it was THAT video for Do What U Like in 1992 (when first album Take That & Party was released) where they end up writhing around on the floor semi-naked, covered in jelly, that really caught fans’ attention.
The following year saw them claim their first No 1 with Pray, which had a much better video – we swooned over Mark in a floaty open white shirt and surfer necklace on a beach – and even now the words are committed to memory. Then Relight My Fire (with lucky Lulu), Babe (Mark at his cutest) and Everything Changes gave them another three consecutive No 1s to cement their place at the top of the charts.
Then came Robbie’s exit and the band’s split in 1996 – the fans’ heartbreak was so intense the Samaritans set up a helpline (1D fans take note – we were inconsolable long before you). We really needn’t have cried so much; they were back for good in 2006 and are still going strong today, albeit as a threesome, with Robbie ducking in and out, and Jason leaving.
So far every band or artist on this list has been male, but this all changed during the Nineties thanks to the Spice Girls and the dawn of “girl power.”
If you grew up during this time, you would have gone to your fair share of Spice Girls parties, dressed up as your chosen member – whether it was Posh, Baby, Scary, Sporty or Ginger. Each had her own distinctive personality, meaning you really felt like the Spice Girls were your mates.
Their powerful message of female friendship and feminism really struck a chord, and it helped that their songs were absolute bangers, from Spice Up Your Life to Who Do You Think You Are.
Even though they disbanded in 2000 and are now doing their own things, the legacy of the Spice Girls lives on. What Nineties kid can’t rap every single word in Wannabe?
For those who weren’t pre-teens or teens during the Noughties, the infatuation with bands like Busted might seem a little bizarre. Sure, they weren’t the most gorgeous popstars and yes, they definitely had some dodgy haircuts, but there was something about the simple charm of Busted that had mass appeal.
They dominated the first half of the 2000s with hits like Year 3000 and What I Go To School For, filling arenas with screaming girls (who probably didn’t realise how weird a song about fancying your teacher was).
The Noughties was when pop-punk really exploded, and Busted were the cleaner, English version of US bands like Sum 41 or Blink 182.
The band called it quits in 2005, but that didn’t mean they were gone forever. In 2013 to 2015 Matt and James teamed up with McFly to form McBusted, and then, in 2016, the original Busted lineup released a new album.