Formed in February 1978, this three-piece all-girl band hailed from Cambridge and played a blend of new mod-angled pop with an overlay of Ronettes/Marvelettes vocal trill and lyrical style the group called “Dolly Rock”. Titles such as He’s So Frisky, Will He Kiss Me Tonight? and Shakerella illustrated this perfectly.
On stage, the three former school friends were corny, immature and under-rehearsed. Between numbers, there were shy thanks, bashful smiles and a pigeon-toed “1234” countdown before they tripped clumsily into the next number.
They hadn’t played more than a couple of dozen gigs – all in and around Cambridge – when John Peel picked up on them through a local fanzine and contacted them to ask them to play at a roadshow in Norwich.
After this, they did a session for the John Peel show, and soon, record companies were queuing up to sign them.
They eventually signed with Chrysalis for two singles and an option on an LP. The girls wanted to record an original composition but were told in no uncertain terms that Chrysalis had only signed them because they wanted to release their cover of The Shirelles‘ song Baby It’s You (which was produced by Eric Faulkner, the guitarist from The Bay City Rollers).
The trio fought for a double-A single to get at least one original onto vinyl, in the end settling for their own New Look Baby as a B side.
To compound their unhappiness, when the single’s picture sleeve materialised, it was covered in drawings of sweets and sported a sugar-tinted photo of the Dolly birds looking like frolicsome jailbait.
Dolly Mixture and Chrysalis parted company shortly thereafter.
Their next single, Been Teen (1981), was released on Paul Weller‘s Respond label and produced by Captain Sensible and Paul Gray of The Damned. The girls returned the favour by singing backing vocals on the Captain’s unexpected smash Top 10 hit, Happy Talk.
In 1983, the band released a double album called Demonstration Tapes on their own Dead Good Dolly Platters label. The album sported a plain white cover, and each copy was numbered and autographed by the group members. The same year saw the release of the single, Remember This.
The 12-inch EP Fireside was released in 1984 and contained mostly instrumental pieces, abandoning the guitar/bass/drum format for a chamber music style with piano and strings. The trio dissolved as a working band in 1984.
Debsey Wykes and Hester Smith formed an outfit called Coming Up Roses in 1986 with Nicky Brodie (vocals, percussion), Patricia O’Flynn (sax), Leigh Luscious (guitar) and ex-Amazulu bassist Claire Kenny (later replaced by Sophie Cherry). Their melodic pop dance style – described by the group as “ballroom soul” – featured witty and caustic lyrics (“she’s so cute, well I don’t care, she’s got stinking underwear”).
The group toured the UK as part of the pop-socialist collective Red Wedge in 1987 and – signing to Billy Bragg‘s Utility Records – released one album (I Said Ballroom) in 1989. After several personnel changes, the group settled down with Tony Watts (guitar), Midus (bass), and Jane Keay (sax).
Disillusion with the music business’s preoccupation with current trends prompted the group’s demise in March 1991.
Rachel Bor and Debsey Wykes reunited on 24 April 2013 for a performance at the Islington Assembly Hall in London.