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#RSFlashback: 30 Years Ago Shakespears Sister Gave Us Drama with Their Global Smash ‘Stay’

The U.K. pop duo comprising Siobhan Fahey and Marcella Detroit created a modern alternative classic

Amit Vaidya Jan 15, 2022

Shakespears Sister. Photo: Simon Fowler

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What do you get when you put an ex-Bananarama singer (Siobhan Fahey) with the co-writer of Eric Clapton’s hit “Lay Down Sally” (Marcella Detroit) and the male half of the Eurythmics who at the time opted for the pseudonym “Jean Guiot” (Dave Stewart)? Well, 30 years ago this week, you would have gotten the songwriting team behind what would end up becoming one of the biggest hits of the year, and definitely the biggest hit of Shakespears Sister.

The UK-based alternative pop duo released “Stay” as the second single from their second album “Hormonally Yours”. In 1988, Fahey had left one of the biggest girl groups of the 1980s after seeing smashing success with hits like “Cruel Summer” and “I Heard A Rumour”, to start Shakespears Sister. Initially a solo project, Detroit joined in 1989, having come off a mildly successful solo stint herself. She had already proved her singing chops serving backup for Clapton and dueting with Alice Cooper and songwriting chops by writing for everyone from Three Dog Night to Jennifer Rush and Chaka Khan.

While the two tasted success with their debut release in their native UK, with “Stay”, the duo created a modern alternative classic that still ranks as one of the most dramatic songs even today. The song is noteworthy for Detroit’s vocals as she featured more prominently in the song, unlike the rest of Shakespears Sisters discography.

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The track was warmly received by critics who lauded the unusual theatrics of the song. While most ballads followed a formulaic structure, the slow-build of Detroit’s angelic voice into Fahey’s devilish, almost Marianne Faithful-like bridge delivery alongside the heavily percussive bridge creates an intense sonic experience that left listeners enthralled. Detroit’s shift into the whistle register after Fahey makes for perhaps one of the most iconic closings to a modern pop ballad. In many ways, the song broke new ground, sounding unlike anything on the radio and may be the main reason why the song became such a massive hit.

The song shot to #1 in the UK where it remained atop the charts for eight straight weeks, becoming one of the best-selling singles of the year. It also became a massive hit across Europe and even the US where it peaked in the Top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100. While the song itself was dramatic enough, the single did get some help from a memorable music video too.

Directed by Sophie Muller, the video featured Detroit and Fahey fighting over a comatose man. While Detroit sings to her lover tenderly not to leave her, upon the bridge, Fahey enters as the angel of death, doing her best to take him away. They literally fight with one another until the man actually wakes up, forcing Fahey to retread back without having won the soul of Detroit’s lover.

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The video won Best Video at the 1993 Brit Awards and became the subject of a plethora of spoofs. Even today, the video is one of the most frequently reacted-to music videos by YouTubers. While the fight was of course staged for the song in the music video, the two women didn’t really see eye to eye after this monster success, leading to Detroit leaving the band in the same year itself.

While Shakespears Sister never quite replicated the success of their global smash “Stay”, the song lives on. In November 2010, when UK “X-Factor” contestant Cher Lloyd covered the song, the original version skyrocketed back up the charts. Perhaps seeing the continued desire and demand for the band, Detroit and Fahey finally reunited in 2018, after having not spoken to each other in 25 years. They released an EP “Ride Again” in 2019 and even performed their now-classic hit for the first time in 27 years.

PS: I Heard A Rumour – It was reported while filming the music video, Siobhan Fahey had to wait nearly a dozen hours before they filmed her part. To pass the time, she allegedly drank a shit ton of vodka, making it hard for her to walk properly down the flight of stairs as the Angel of Death, ultimately resulting in a most-camptastic performance!

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