Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – Betty Boo
1. Which two chart hits that you’ve written lyrically reference ‘Doin’ The Do’?
“Well, one’s ‘Doin’ The Do‘. Have I mentioned it in another song?”
WRONG. The answer is your 1990 song ‘Doin’ The Do’ and The Tweenies’ 2001 track ‘Do The Lollipop’, which you wrote, and contains the lyrics : ‘Gonna show you how to do the do’.
“I forgot about that completely! I shouldn’t have done that on a children’s record – bloody hell!”
Was it meant as a Betty Boo Easter egg?
“I liked the idea of doing something cartoony. I was thinking of [purple Tweenie] Milo – he was cool and looked like more of a rapper than the others! When I wrote ‘Doin’ The Do’ at 19, it was about showing off and running things. I only found out it was an expression for cunnilingus later when somebody pointed out that’s what James Brown meant by ‘doin’ the do‘. I was horrified! But yeah, I didn’t realise I had The Tweenies sing about cunnilingus!”
2. Your rap band She Rockers and Public Enemy once got thrown out of which establishment in Shepherd’s Bush for freestyling together?
“At the end, I stuck two fingers up to the manager – he had an ’80s ‘tache and looked really square! Afterwards, we bumped into LL Cool J in the kebab house.”
You toured America with Public Enemy..
“It was intimidating because we were only 17, and Public Enemy asked us along to get some experience. I remember being in a club in Queens with all my heroes – EPMD, Eric B. & Rakim, Run-DMC – watching us, all in sick gold chains. Professor Griff produced us, and he did quite a few Public Enemy interviews at my house, being very controversial. He was quite anti-white, and when I called him out on it, he pointed to my mum – blonde and blue eyed – and said: ‘I can’t be racist because I like Betty’s mum! She’s alright!’ I could never tell if his views were real, or just part of the image.”
Chuck D says he pushed you to go solo…
“It wasn’t so much that, it was more about his words giving me a sense of believing I could achieve it if I wanted to. I had a strong image of what I wanted to do, the rap group didn’t share the same worldview as me, and I was already writing my own stuff on the side. I wanted to make pop music. We’ve stayed in touch – I’ve seen Chuck D a lot over the years.”
3. Name the three songs you wrote for Girls Aloud’s 2003 debut album ‘Sound of the Underground’.
“I can’t even remember Girls Aloud to be honest! Was one called ‘Mars Attack’? ‘Love Bomb’? I did a version of ‘Grease’ for them – but I don’t know if that came out.”
WRONG. You wrote ‘Mars Attack’, ‘Boogie Down Love‘ and ‘Love Bomb‘ for their debut. ‘Grease‘, recorded for ITV’s ‘Greasemania’, was the B-side to their single ‘Jump‘.
“Blimey! I have no memory of ‘Boogie Down Love’ – rock ‘n’ roll kills brain cells!”
What was it like working with Girls Aloud?
“Post-pop star, it was like being an ex-footballer and working at a club – although not as well paid. It was a bit shit. Managing vocals on a group is difficult because you want to feature all of them equally and not turn up the best singer, because the others get upset. I worked with one girl band – not Girls Aloud – and one of their mums came into the studio demanding: ‘Can you turn my daughter’s mic up?’. I’m like: ‘Get the fuck out of my studio!’”
You had a public spat with Cheryl in 2007. Ever run into her afterwards?
“No, she’s in her own bubble. She wasn’t very nice about me. What happened was when Girls Aloud were splitting up – and it hadn’t been announced – record labels were finding people to work for them. I mentioned in an interview that I’d been asked to write for her solo album, and she lost it and said I was trying to get publicity – as if!”
4. When you appeared on Popworld in 2006 to promote your joint band WigWam, what was Alex James wearing?
“I remember this! A Vivienne Westwood kilt!”
“And it didn’t fit him! He got stick for it because he was showing his hairy legs.”
“Dom Joly was desperate to make a video for us, and the whole thing escalated. It was fun, and had potential, but I wanted to do other things and Alex wanted to do things like making cheese. He’s done well with his food festival – I think his ultimate goal is to be a mini Michael Eavis.”
Ever tried his cheese?
“No. I saw it in the supermarket and saw the words ‘Exclusive to ASDA’ and thought: that’s a bit low rent!’”
5. What is the number plate of the car in the Jack Rokka V Betty Boo video ‘Take Off’?
“Does it say BOO-1?”
WRONG. It’s 698-BABY
“I enjoyed featuring on that. I love that electro stuff. I’ve just liked to dip in and out of things, but now I’m ready to release a new album. I’ve nearly finished writing it, and am aiming to to get out in October. It feels like the right time. Turning 50 this year made me think: ‘Stop putting it off – get your shit together’. It’s definitely got that classic poppy, uplifting Betty Boo flavour. I love it – and I didn’t think I’d ever enjoy music again. Even hearing The Beatles on the radio used to get on my nerves. I was like: ‘Aggghh! I’m going to go and play tennis’. So I’ve been playing tennis non-stop for years, and now I’ve rekindled my love of music.”
6. The casting advert for which band stated they were looking for “five Betty Boos”?
“Their original manager [Chris Herbert] told me that. I think Geri Halliwell mentions me in one of her books, saying she wanted to dress like me.”
7. You won Best British Breakthrough Act at the 1991 Brits. Can you name two of the acts you beat?
“Was it The La’s and The Charlatans?”
CORRECT. You could have also had Happy Mondays and Beats International.
“I was in pretty good company there – apart from Beats International! I know it was pre-Norman Cook which is better, but I can’t name any of their records. But the others are amazing groups. I used to have a studio in Chiswick and The La’s were residents for a while, and they used to have a lot of violent fights. When the two brothers [Lee Mavers and Neil Mavers] played pool, they’d shout at each other and I’d have to leave the room. I was quite scared of them.”
8. You wrote Hear’Say’s ‘Pure and Simple’. What is album it appears on called?
“I don’t know – something original like ‘Hear’Say’?”
WRONG. It’s ‘Popstars’ – also the name of the show where they formed.
“That’s so cheesy! Just in case people forgot who they were!”
You’ve recently started performing that song live…
“I learned to really like that song because of the reaction it gets. People love it and their hands start swaying. It’s just a bit of fun – especially in the big, cheesy key-change!”
Why did you originally dislike the song?
“Because it caused so much trouble. Simon Cowell originally dismissed it as ‘the worst song I’ve ever heard’, even though he wanted a song like that. So it was on the shelf for about two years, I’d forgot about it, didn’t watch Popstars and I only found out it was being used when a Sunday newspaper printed an interview with Hear’Say with a phone number you could ring to hear their new single ‘Pure and Simple’. I dialled it – and it was my song! But Simon Cowell despising it was a blessing because it ended up as the fastest-selling UK debut single.”
9. Which 1991 video game features a chiptune version of ‘Doin’ The Do’?
“The boss of my label, Rhythm King, had a computer game company [Renegade] so that’s how that appeared on there. I’ve never seen it.”
10: In 1990, you appeared on the cover of Record Mirror alongside which comedian?
“Who slated me on the day because I’d turned down going on Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer’s show [Vic Reeves Big Night Out]. My plugger didn’t want me doing any shows that made me look stupid, so turned it down without my knowledge. I’d have done it in a second! Three years ago, I saw [co-writer] Paul Whitehouse and he seriously said: ‘I’ve never forgiven you for that. I mean, what was wrong with our show?!’. He held a grudge for 30 years!”
Bonus question! For half a point, what gift did you give Madonna when you met her?
“That’s one of the biggest moments of my life – I gave her a Versace leopard-print faux fur jacket.”
“She kept saying ‘Oh my God, I love your jacket!’ – so I thought I’m going to give it to her to shut her up. We were having dinner and Tupac and all these amazing rappers were there. Afterwards, we were in the back of her Mercedes – I remember her chauffeur was called Alfonso – and Madonna’s so tiny, she’s like a packet of crisps! When we went round corners, she’d slide from side to side. As she was getting out of the car to go to her apartment in Central Park, I took my jacket off and threw it at her in the street. She said thanks – then dashed upstairs in case I changed my mind. Afterwards, I saw her on MTV doing interviews with my jacket on. She did a magazine interview promoting ‘Bedtime Stories’, and she was talking about wanting to sign me and she said: ‘In fact, I’m wearing the jacket she gave me’. I thought: am I reading this?!”
Would you have signed with her?
“Definitely. I had the contract. But my mum got very sick and I gave it all up and looked after her until she sadly died. After that I had to rebuild my life and come back from grief – creativity was the last thing on my mind. It was an amazing label – it was pro-women, she’d just signed Alanis Morissette, and was very fussy about who she signed.”
What was Tupac like?
“I noticed how boyish he was. He was really young. Whereas in his videos he looked manly and buff, it was a bit like when you see footballers today and think ‘You look about 12!’ Sadly, it wasn’t long after that when he got shot.”
The verdict: 6.5/10
“You just forget complete portions of your life. You caught me out with The Tweenies!”
Betty Boo plays Mighty Hoopla, which takes place June 6, 2020 in Brockwell Park, London.