Jay Aston, British singer and songwriter and member of The Fizz, chats with Kevin Cooper about working with Mike Stock of Stock, Aitkin and Waterman fame, winning The Eurovision Song Contest, the litigation with Bobby G over the group’s name and the release of their 2023 album Everything Under The Sun.

Jay Aston, a British singer and songwriter, is best known for being a member of British pop group Bucks Fizz from 1981 to 1985 and is now a member of The Fizz with former Bucks Fizz members, Cheryl Baker and Mike Nolan.

Bucks Fizz was formed in 1981 to compete in that year’s Eurovision Song Contest, which they won with the song, Making Your Mind Up. As a result of that win the group went on to become one of the top selling groups of the 1980’s.

The original Bucks Fizz line-up consisted of Bobby G, Cheryl Baker, Mike Nolan and Jay Aston. When Aston left the group in 1985, it continued with Baker, G, and Nolan until David Van Day joined them in 1996. Unfortunately he left a year later and formed a new version of Bucks Fizz with Nolan.

This resulted in G taking legal proceedings to protect the Bucks Fizz name which led to protracted litigation and resulted in G securing ownership of the name. Now Baker, Nolan and Aston perform under the name The Fizz.

During Aston’s career she has released four solo albums; Shape Up And Dance (1984), Lamb Or Lizard (1993), Alive And Well (2003) and I-Spy (2016).

She was diagnosed with mouth cancer in June 2018, but she has made a full recovery after having surgery.

Whilst busy rehearsing for The Fizz’s appearance at the Indigo at The O2, Jay Aston took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what she had to say.

Good morning Jay, how are you?

Hi Kevin, I’m doing well thank you, but more to the point, how are things with you?

At this moment in time, all is good thank you and before we move on let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

No problem, it’s my pleasure.

And just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

I have to be totally honest with you and say that life is good. We are very busy, things are very hectic, but having said all of that I really can’t grumble. We are all working towards our concert at the Indigo at The O2 at the end of the month, plus we have been doing a hell of a lot of stuff for Eurovision, which unfortunately, I am not allowed to talk about yet (laughter). We performed at Dancing On Ice a couple of weeks ago which was really good fun. So yes, all in all I really can’t grumble; things are great.

And I have to ask, how are things on the health front; are things moving in the right direction?

As you know, almost four years ago now I had mouth cancer and since then I have had to learn how to sing slightly differently. I now talk slightly differently, but yes, it is now all going in the right direction. I really cannot grumble because here I am talking to you today (laughter). And let me tell you, that is good with me, that really is good enough (laughter).

I have to be honest with you and tell you that you have made me feel really old today (laughter).

Really, how have I managed to do that?

On Sunday 20th March 1983 I took my bridesmaids to see you here in Nottingham at The Royal Concert Hall as a thank you. It was my way of saying thanks for being bridesmaids and we came along to see the show (laughter).

Wow, that really is lovely. I hope that you all enjoyed the show.

We did; a good time was had by all.

That really is fantastic.

Moving on, we really must talk about your latest album, Everything Under The Sun and I have to say that I have been playing it for a few weeks now and I absolutely love it.

That’s great, thank you.

Are you happy with it?

Yes, I am, I totally am.

As you know, these things change like the weather but at the moment I have got four go to tracks. They are A True Heart, I Close My Eyes, You Can Find It Here and This One.

Okay, thanks for saying that but I hate to disappoint you because the track that we are currently performing on the tour is Treasure Forever which is currently number one in the Heritage Chart. (laughter). So, we will most definitely be performing that one when we get to the O2. That really is one of Mike (Stock’s) favourite tracks on the album.

You mention producer Mike Stock, obviously of Stock, Aitkin and Waterman fame. This is the fourth Fizz album that he has produced. What is he like to work with?

Mike is great. He really is a fantastic guy who knows exactly what he wants. As you quite rightly pointed out this is the fourth album that we have worked on with Mike, the first album was really a trial album which contained a lot of the old covers. From then on, each album has had its own individual identity, and I think that Mike, together with his son James, they have now got a format together with a formula on how to record our vocals. We will go into the studio and record the vocals for the album within a couple of weeks and then Mike and James will produce a rough mix which they then send over to us to enable us to say yes or no.

The whole process is easy; it’s great fun. They know what they want, and they will always encourage us to try different things. Back in the day it was a case that you had to have a number one album or there was always a threat that you would get dropped. Nowadays, I think that Mike is doing it simply because he loves music. We still love making music, and it is just a great formula. Mike is fun, charming, and always very interesting.

Bearing in mind that you have a very loyal fan base, the fans are saying that this album is your best work to date. Would you agree with that?

To be totally honest with you, I’m not sure that I do agree with that assessment. I think that each album has had a couple of songs; a couple of tracks that I feel have been really strong. I think that the musical change where Mike has gone back and used some of the old analogue synthesisers and bits of other stuff, has really worked and I know that the fans really love that. So in answer to your question, I’m not really sure because all of the albums have had something great on them; they have all had great songs on them, and I have to say that I think that this particular album is equally as good.

You have briefly mentioned Friday 31st March when you will be playing the Indigo at The O2, are you looking forward to it?

Yes, I am, totally, in fact we all are.

And am I right in thinking that it will be a bit of a homecoming gig for you?

(Laughter) yes, you are absolutely spot on as I used to live in Blackheath and I actually got married at the Royal Navel College in Greenwich, so yes, I feel like I am going home.

And correct me if I am wrong but is the gig an anniversary concert that was cancelled due to lockdown?

(Laughter) wow, someone has been doing their homework haven’t they. Yes, that’s right, this gig should have taken place a couple of years ago now, but as you rightly say, we had to cancel it due to lockdown. So, it feels good that we are now able to do it, and I personally feel that it will be a better show for it.

What can we expect from the show?

Well, it is going to be around an hour and a half of all of the old hits, some of the new hits, some of the fans favourites, a few medleys, plus a few album tracks which never made it out as singles but have become firm favourites of the fans. And, what can I say; it will be a great night.

How many tracks off the new album will make it onto the set list?

To be honest with you I think that we are only doing one actually, simply because we have got so many hits (laughter). We have got five original Bucks Fizz albums, which contain all of the big hits, songs like; Making Your Mind Up, If You Can’t Stand The Heat, Land Of Make Believe, My Camera Never Lies, When We Were Young, and Now Those Days Are Gone. Plus, I think that we have got one or two songs off each of the Mike Stock albums, so we will actually be doing five or six of the new songs. So, as you can see, we actually do have quite a body of work from which to choose a set list (laughter).

You have mentioned lockdown. What did you do in order to keep busy during lockdown?

What did I do, well for a start I decorated my house, I organised the cupboards in my kitchen, I did a hell of a lot or gardening, I did a lot of dog walking around the fields, and I actually sat down and wrote some songs. We also did a lot of stuff with our fans via Zoom. Don’t get me wrong when I say that it was tough, but if I am completely honest, because I was at that time still recovering from having mouth cancer I quite enjoyed the fact that I had a bit of time off and I think that lockdown really did make a difference to my recovery. If I performed two of three nights in a row it really did become quite uncomfortable for me. So, to be totally honest with you, I was actually quite pleased, and I think that I have come back better for it.

I am lucky to have a lovely home and I just busied myself. Some people I know found it really difficult; financially it really was horrific, if I am going to be honest with you. We all know what we went through, and we are all now in the process of coming back. It is what it is, and we are all delighted that the industry has actually come back with flying colours. People now actually realise just how much entertainment actually meant to them. Plus, they now know just what going out, having a coffee and a chat with your mates actually means to them. It is those little things that makes life so special. I think that people re-valued things, and I think that we have been very lucky in the long run.

Do you still enjoy touring?

Yes, I do but I have to say that the downside to touring is the travelling, and there are more cars on the roads now than there ever was. If you have got a gig and you have got to be on stage at nine o’clock, and you are hours away from the venue stuck in traffic, that really can be stressful. Having said that, on the plus side, when we are on stage, we are making people happy, they are cheering for more, and you are actually getting paid for doing it; it really is amazing. So, I think that it is worth going through all of the hassle of being stuck in traffic for a few minutes for what really is a dream job.

Putting you firmly on the spot, what is your favourite Bucks Fizz song to perform?

Wow, where did that come from (laughter). To be totally honest with you, there are a few. Now Those Days Are Gone is always a classic, whilst Land Of Make Believe really did make us into a real band. There are certain hits and milestones which always make you feel good whenever you perform them. For example, I still love performing When We Were Young which is the song that I fronted and I still really do love so many of the songs. I still love If You Can’t Stand The Heat; there really are so many that I really couldn’t pick out just the one.

I can’t talk to you without mentioning Saturday 4th April 1981 can I?

(Laughter) okay, but only if you must.

That was the day of the 26th Eurovision Song Contest, which was being held in Dublin, and which Bucks Fizz won for the United Kingdom singing Making Your Mind Up. Just how did it feel when you were announced as the winners of the competition?

The only word that I can use to describe just how it felt is incredible. You have to remember that we only won by a few points, and I personally do think that the skirt ripping really did help to move us on a little bit, otherwise you would be speaking to Lena Valaitis from Germany today (laughter). What can I say, it really was phenomenal and it really did change our lives. I can remember saying “we have got three minutes to change our lives” and it really was true. It really was just a fun thing. There was a lot of competition even back in the day. It was a very different show back then because there was an orchestra, everyone was dressed in suits and evening dresses, and there was an entirely different vibe to what there is today.

In fact I would have to say that it was a little bit stuffy by comparison; it was almost as if you were going to a classical concert (laughter).I remember that there were a lot of invited gentries sitting in the audience. The show went around the world to millions of viewers; it was a very different show but still a brilliant show. Representing your country back in those days really did mean a lot then as it does now. I am so delighted that Sam Ryder managed to change everything last year because everyone has been totally embarrassed at just how badly the UK has been doing in the competition for the last twenty odd years blaming this, that, and the other.

At the end of the day if you have got a great song, a great performance, and it happens on the night, you really can break boundaries. Sam has managed to change the whole face of it. Obviously, this is the Ukraine’s moment, and I am very happy to support them, because they were the winners. I am so pleased that we will be hosting the competition here in the UK in Liverpool, the birthplace of music; well that’s what they like to say (laughter). It’s great that Sam’s performance changed all of that in three short minutes. And I have to say that Eurovision is not an easy competition to win. People often underestimate that and they are quick to blame things. At the end of the day was it any good, did it stand out, and did you deliver on the night, end of.

You mentioned the skirt ripping, whose idea was that?

(Laughter) that really was a compromise because I thought that the mini skirts would get us more points whilst Cheryl (Baker) wanted to cover her knees up. Making Your Mind Up has a rockabilly beat so Cheryl wanted us to go for a fifties style of skirt, but I said “no, let’s go for a sixties look”’ and needless to say, we had a slight argument about it (laughter). Our choreographer stepped in and said “the line ‘and if you want to see some more’ was the perfect line for you to rip the skirts off” to which Cheryl replied, “oh come on then, lets wear them both and we can rip them off in the middle of the song”. So, it really was a silly compromise, but it worked a treat (laughter).

Back then, if anyone would have told you that you would still be performing the song some forty years later, would you have believed them?

(Laughter) most definitely not. Coming from a showbiz family I know that your life in showbiz is very, very short potentially. If you are a dancer you are usually finished by the time that you are twenty five or twenty six; you are most definitely on the way out. Singers too usually fall into that time frame whereas actors can go on forever. It is a very crowded, very competitive industry and it is very rare, unless you are incredibly lucky, to have a long-term career in music. It is really unusual. And for us, that is all down to Eurovision.

Do you ever tire of performing Making Your Mind Up?

No, not at all because although it is a silly song which doesn’t make any sense, it is obviously responsible for the success that we have had, and it always makes me smile. It is a silly song, it’s not cool, it’s not credible, but it just communicates something and people love it. Whenever we perform the song, the audience will all get their camera phones out, in order to film it (laughter). It is just fun; it really is a happy song. I personally feel that the song has a bit of a magical quality.

At Fizz gigs are you noticing a difference in the demographic of your audiences?

The good thing is that we still have a lot of our original fans from back in the day attending gigs. Some of them are now bringing their kids along and some are even bringing their grandchildren along. We played some gigs during last summer and we had a guy come over from Canada to see us and he was in his early twenties. It really is incredible and we never know just who will be at the next gig; some people simply like what it is that we do. It never ceases to surprise us really.

Testing your memory, what was the first record that you bought?

(Laughter) now don’t laugh at this but I think that it was a song called Cinderella Rockefella by the Israeli folk duo Esther and Abi Ofarim back in 1967 (laughter).

Who did you first see playing live?

You know what; I was never allowed to go to concerts. My parents were in showbiz and I would go along to see their shows, and stuff like that but the very first musical concert that I saw wasn’t until I was really successful in the band, and I can’t remember which, but it would have been Queen or Whitney Houston.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

Wow just where did that come? From (laughter). That would most probably have been my own song entitled From Here To Eternity (laughter). It is a song that was on the last album, which I was singing whilst I was battling cancer.

Being nosey, what is currently on Jay Aston’s rider?

You are right; you are being bloody nosey (laughter). Let’s see, there is usually Champagne and orange juice, a few beers for the band, occasionally there will be a couple of bottles of wine, fruit juice, snacks, and very occasionally a bottle of Baileys (laughter).

Will we see anymore Jay Aston solo work?

(Hysterical laughter) as you probably know, I put my last solo concert up on YouTube simply because realistically I can’t sing on my own for two hours like I did then, and I most probably wouldn’t be physically able to do that show again now. So, in reality, no. Having said that, I aim to carry on recording, and I aim to release a few singles and maybe even another album, but I honestly do not think that I will ever perform another solo concert in its entirety like I did there. If there are any people who are interested in seeing my own solo stuff, it is all there on my YouTube channel.

The reason I ask is that I am still playing your 2006 Lamb Or Lizard album and in particular Suffocating Cindy; I love it.

Thank you, I wrote that particular track with a band called Underworld, who were quite hip and basically a dance band. They wrote a track called Born Slippy for the soundtrack to the movie Train Spotting. I wrote with them for a few years. My brother shot the video; it was only ever a demo video, but it found its way up onto YouTube (laughter). It was at the time that I was living in Los Angeles for a while, and my brother was at that time a video producer. He is actually married to Marcella Detroit from Shakespears Sister. We were simply clowning around really; it really was just a bit of fun.

What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?

I would have to say that winning Eurovision would be hard to beat. I think that would have to be it really. I’ve done lots of things on my own, but doing something like that when you realise just how difficult it is to win, and being one of the few British acts who have actually managed to do that, I really am quite honoured by it. There have been a few highlights within the family kind of stuff but in relation to my musical career, it would have to be Eurovision.

On the flipside of the coin, what would you say has been your biggest disappointment?

(Laughter) I think that losing our name, Bucks Fizz, really was a kick up the backside. I feel that was unnecessary and I was surprised that Bobby (G) and his team, his family and his wife did that to us. I really did feel that it was below the belt and is totally unforgivable. That really wasn’t very nice. From a personal point of view, I would have to say that my health and health issues within my family have been a concern. Career wise, I have to say that I have been very lucky to have the job that I have got.

On that note Jay, let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it has been delightful. Take care and have a great time at the Indigo at The O2.

It’s been a real pleasure Kevin, thanks so much. Please try to get down to the Indigo, it would be great to see you there. Bye for now.

Indigo at the O2 tickets are now on sale