Beyond the Valley of the Bimbos

Johnny Black

CD Review (UK) December 1988

The Bimbo Boom has been big news on the rock charts for the last few months, with a host of interchangeable mini-skirted Debbies and Mandys wailing tunelessly while looking very pretty on Top Of The Pops. Johnny Black goes where most fear to tread...

Suddenly, one night in August, I was watching Top Of The Pops and every single act on the show was either a female singer or a group fronted by a female. And they weren't all Bimbos by any means. There was Yazz and her Plastic Population with a song of hope for the poor. There was Tracy Chapman with a tale of a young woman's escape from tedium into more tedium. There was Eddi Reader of Fairground Attraction, with quite the purest voice I've heard in many a moon.

What on earth was going on? It was as if the Bimbo Boom had also, inexplicably, opened the door for another kind of woman - the intelligent singer-songwriter. As if record companies, in their desperation to find pretty girls who could more or less sing, had inadvertently signed up some very talented human beings. And the public, finally given the opportunity to buy something worthwhile, were gleefully lapping it up.

That's when I decided it would be worthwhile to do a feature which could let a few of these women say their piece, explain what's going on in their heads and why they're suddenly being so successful. So here we go.

[Articles on Tanita Tikaram, Michelle Shocked, Tracy Chapman, Voice Of The Beehive, Gail Ann Dorsey, Nanci Griffith and Suzanne Vega omitted]

Enya - Atmospheres And Moods

Eithne Ní Bhraonáin is a bit of a mouthful. Enya fits the bill rather better.

Enya is quite unlike any of the other women on these pages. Not just because she's Irish, but because hers is in many ways the most distinctive music of all.

While most of the new women songwriters use acoustic guitars, Enya works with the latest in computer keyboards, creating haunting backdrops and compelling rhythms which are somehow also folksy and ancient. She sings, as often as not, in her native Irish language, adding a further edge of mystery to her sound.

"Music was always there in my family because my parents were involved in it. We used to sing harmony together as a family, singing Irish folk songs and ballads."

At college she studied classical music and piano, and her break came when she was asked to join Clannad, Ireland's most successful musical export of recent years, other than U2. It was in Clannad that she developed the haunting sounds she now uses to great effect in her own songs.

Film-maker David Puttnam liked her music so much he asked her to score his film The Frog Prince, and she subsequently did the soundtrack for the BBC series The Celts. There were those who said that her music was the only good thing about the series.

She has recently signed to WEA, and her first album for the label has just been released. Give it a whirl.

Note: Originally transcribed by Peter Warburton. His notes follow:

The cover illustration of the December 1988 issue of the British glossy monthly CD Review consisted of the portrait of Enya from the Watermark album cover. It was used to advertise the feature article "Beyond the valley of the Bimbos (Is There Life After Kylie?)". Here are the introduction and the Enya section of the article.