Why 'Cruel Summer' Singers Bananarama Still Haven't Heard Taylor Swift's Song of the Same Name (Exclusive)

Bananarama's own "Cruel Summer" became the British pop act's breakthrough U.S. hit in 1984

<p>Alma Rosaz</p> Keren Woodward (L) and Sara Dallin (R) of Bananarama

Alma Rosaz

Keren Woodward (L) and Sara Dallin (R) of Bananarama

Taylor Swift’s hugely popular synthpop track “Cruel Summer” went to No. 1 on the Billboard chart last October, four years after it debuted on her 2019 album Lover. But she isn’t the only artist who recorded a hit song with that bittersweet title. That honor belongs to the legendary British pop group Bananarama, whose own "Cruel Summer" single first appeared in 1983 — six years before Swift was born.

While Bananarama – consisting of co-founders and co-singers Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin – are certainly aware of Swift’s recent smash (whose lyrics are completely different from the Bananarama song), they tell PEOPLE in a recent interview they haven’t heard it yet.

“A great title, isn't it?” Dallin responds when asked about the Swift song.

“I have to confess I haven't listened to it,” adds Woodward. “I've listened to quite a lot of her songs, but that one seems, I kept thinking, ‘I must listen and hear it.’ But I haven't. I must be one of the few people.”

Thanks to its appearance on The Karate Kid film soundtrack in 1984, “Cruel Summer” became Bananarama’s first U.S. Top 10 hit and is now considered one of their signature songs. The track was co-written by Woodward, Dallin and former member Siobhan Fahey with producers Steve Jolley and Tony Swain. 

“We loved their work with [the group] Imagination,” Dallin says of Jolley and Swain. “They came up with a rough backing track, and then we wrote the melody and the lyrics over the top.

Related: Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff React to 'Favorite Song' from '5 Years Ago' 'Cruel Summer' Hitting No. 1

“It was about our friends because we just sort of made it quite big at that point,” she continues. “We were on Top of the Pops, and so we're doing loads and loads of promo. We were used to going on our little annual holiday and then we couldn't go because we had so much promo. We were just moaning because all our friends were going on holiday and we couldn't, and the city is very oppressive in the heat in London and New York or wherever. So that was the kind of inspiration for it.”

“Forty years of moaning is what we've done,” jokingly says Woodward. “It's like half-and-half: half laughing, half moaning.”

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<p>Fryderyk Gabowicz/picture alliance via Getty</p> Bananarama in 1983: (L-R) Keren Woodward, Sara Dallin and Siobhan Fahey

Fryderyk Gabowicz/picture alliance via Getty

Bananarama in 1983: (L-R) Keren Woodward, Sara Dallin and Siobhan Fahey

The “Cruel Summer” video was filmed in New York City, featuring the then-trio of Woodward, Dallin and Fahey dancing in the streets and taking in the sights. It was a moment that Dallin and Woodward still fondly recall 40 years later.

“We remember certain places we were with certain songs, obviously with the States,” says Woodward.” “Cruel Summer” being a big hit for us in the States was extraordinary. It's almost like you thought, ‘Oh God, we've made it.’ Because as much as we'd had success in lots of other countries and here [in the U.K.], that's kind of the big one. And we came to New York for the first time to do the video and it was hugely exciting for us to come out to your neck of the woods.”

“You guys have really taken it to your heart,” adds Dallin of Americans’ reception to the track, “I mean, it just seems, for me, it's almost like it's America's song.”

Related: Taylor Swift Drops Live and Remixed Versions of 'Cruel Summer': 'We Can All Shriek It in the Comfort of Our Homes'

Forty years after its release, “Cruel Summer” has endured in popularity, from Ace of Base’s 1998 cover version to its inclusion in numerous movies and TV shows such as Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, Cobra Kai and American Horror Story.

“They just love it so much and always play it and ask for it to be in Netflix things and films and movies, which is just great,” says Dallin.  “It was such a one-off peculiar little song with the marimbas. I don't know what caught the imagination, but it caught people's imagination and really stood the test of time. It's just a classic.”

The track remains a staple of Bananarama’s live set over the decades and undoubtedly will be performed during the duo’s three-night run at London’s Palladium venue starting on April 3. The shows coincide with the group’s latest greatest hits collection, Glorious, spanning their classic ‘80s output and beyond with such popular tracks as “Venus,” “I Heard a Rumour,” “Love in the First Degree" and of course "Cruel Summer."

Related: Lionel Richie, Bruce Springsteen and More Stars Look Back on Recording 'We Are the World' in New Documentary

“There's this absolute love for the ‘80s,” says Woodward. “I think there's an individuality with all the different groups and you know immediately who you are listening to. There is some great music around now, but I feel like it was less homogenized in the Eighties, maybe because everyone had the freedom to explore and express themselves and dress how they wanted.

“We go and do shows [today] and you look out and you think, ‘They look a bit young for us,’” she continues. “And then they know all the songs. They know all the lyrics to all the songs. It's just the decade that won't go away. It's brilliant.”

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