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Mark Cooper Mark Cooper | 13:21 UK time, Friday, 27 March 2009

As far as British pop queens go - we've never had it so good. Since Amy Winehouse went supernova with Back To Black, we've had Duffy, Estelle and Adele feasting at the Grammys while Leona Lewis is shaping up to beat American divas like Whitney or Mariah at their own game. Meanwhile Lily Allen is at the forefront of a diverse bunch of confident young women setting the world to rights in their native tongue - think Kate Nash, Little Boots, Florence and the Machine, Emmy The Great and the rest. And I haven't even mentioned Girls Aloud...

This golden age made us think about the women who came before - the Brit girls of the 60s who kicked off the modern age - and the pop queens who brought us through the 70s and 80s into something close to now. We pitched the idea of a celebration of our British pop queens to BBC One and, hey presto, they gave us the money and the slots to make two one hour films.


We set about the difficult task of compiling a list of 12 female stars who'd somehow changed the game, who'd imposed themselves upon the pop firmament or tilted at its windmills, women whose careers would sweep us through the decades and, by very juxtaposition with one another, tell the story of those decades in a very particular kind of soundtrack.

Choosing was a nightmare and there's no doubt it would have been easier for us to go with a squad system - 20 Queens would have been so much easier and fairer than 12! Think of the 60s alone where we chose Dusty, Sandie Shaw and Marianne Faithfull but left out Lulu and Cilla. But we decided early on to choose on the grounds of which Queens would take us on contrasting journeys, whose lives and careers would provide different narratives, different struggles, different songs.

That's why we quickly admitted two women from other countries whose pop careers have been firmly based here and who we took to our hearts early on - take a bow, Suzi Quatro and Kylie Minogue.

When I think of the Queens that are missing in action I wake up in a hot flush which is why we've put the Queens of British Pop website together, to remind you of the strength and joys of the field - of Lulu, Sandy Denny, Lynsey De Paul, Joan Armatrading, Sade, Dido and so many more.

Enjoy them, celebrate them, let us know your own favourites - the women who write their names most brightly across your sky.

One last thing - we didn't choose on exclusively musical grounds and we wouldn't begin to suggest that our 12 represent the best female pop vocalists from the UK. Many of our chosen 12 are wonderful singers and great songwriters but finally, for us, this was about something else besides and the women we've chosen are there because their songs and experiences and impact best write the story of the last five decades.

Mark Cooper is the Executive Producer of Queens of British Pop


  • Comment number 1.

    Really looking forward to this show and great to see a wider cross-section on the site. Fingers crossed Alison Moyet made the final 12!

  • Comment number 2.

    If anyone wants to get up close and personal to some of the amazing artifacts, clothes and memorabilia of these fine ladies, take a trip to the British Music Experience at The O2.

    There's fabulous dresses worn by Amy, Cilla, Dusty, Leona and loads more.

  • Comment number 3.

    Lynsey de Paul was the UK's first female artist that was in control of her music and enjoyed international success and at a time when the music business was very much male dominated. She wrote all seven of her chart hist singles as well as ALL songs on all of the five albums she released. She also played keyboards, sang, produced and arranged most of these songs. She was awarded two Ivor Novello awards in the early 1970's each for songs where she was the sole writer. Even though she doesn't have a voice like Dusty et al., this was quite an achievement.

    However, unlike any of the other female artists listed, she wrote a number of international hits for male artists like the Fortunes, Barry Blue (a total of 4 top 30 hits) and the Martyn Ford Orchestra. These were NOT cover versions but specifically written by Lynsey for other artists. Her songs have been recorded (and often produced) by artists as diverse as Shirley Bassey, Vera Lynn, Marti Webb, Sacha Distel, Petula Clark, Dana, Cheryl Lynn, Ricky Martin, Heatwave, The Real Thing, Gerard Kenny, Spencer Davis Group, Lenny Zakatek and Bruce Johnson of the Beach Boys.

  • Comment number 4.

    Very disappointed to hear that the incomparable Sandy Denny was cut out of this show, Mark. I hope you'll now remedy that by commissioning the BBC Four documentary that she deserves.

  • Comment number 5.

    I was really looking forward to watching this programme on Wednesday, but what a major disappointment...

    No mention of my "Queen Of Pop" HELEN SHAPIRO...

    Lulu, who will be appearing in the next programme never had a solo No 1 and even the great Dusty only had one No 1.

    Helen had two, and The Beatles were her support act in 1963, but no mention was made of this.

    She was not even included on the list of 60 female artists to vote for- I would like to ask why Helen was not considered relevant?

  • Comment number 6.

    Cannot believe Helen Shapiro was missed out on Queens of Pop! She was the first!! She set the trend! She was 14 years old when her 1st record (Don't Treat Me Like a Child) went to no 3 in 1961 and the following 2 records got to no 1 the most memorable of which was Walkin' Back To Happiness written by John Schroeder & Mike Hawker (who also wrote the previous 2) and which won an Ivor Novello award for the best song!!! What were you thinking, to miss her out?

    Diane Allen. Former Fan Club Secretary for Helen Shapiro from 1974-1982 (which was subsequently taken over. Helen has never been without a Fan Club since 1961 up until 2006 when she retired to concentrate on her Gospel concerts.

  • Comment number 7.

    Have you never heard of Helen Shapiro? Don't need to say anymore Helen's voice and talent over the years outshines all the rest. Nuff said!

    Christine Donald, Manchester

  • Comment number 8.

    What a dissapointment that the only British female singer to headline a tour with the Beatles as her supporting act was missed from this show. She also had two number ones both million sellers while she was still only fourteen and a career that included collaborations with such BBC icons Benny Green and Humphrey Lyttelton.
    Helen Shapiro deserves a "Legends" show all to herself.

    Tony Dowse

  • Comment number 9.

    Dismayed that Helen Shapiro wasn't included in this programme or the voting list afterwards. A megastar in her day, topped the bill at the London Palladium, twice I think, at the age of 15. Two number one hit records plus several others in the top half of the top ten. Still holds the record as the youngest solo female singer to get to number one. Continued to play to packed houses around the country until a well-deserved retirement only a few years ago. I could go on...

    Vicki Marsden

  • Comment number 10.

    What a let down - advertised as the "Queens of Pop" - and the true Queen of Pop doesn't even get a mention! Where are your researchers getting their information? How can they ignore Helen Shapiro's contribution to the history of pop music. I agree with all the other blogs - big mistake BBC!

  • Comment number 11.

    HOW can you POSSIBLY have the Queens of British Pop WITHOUT Helen Shapiro???????
    SHE was the one who had the Beatles as her support act as she toured Britain. There is evena TV show video with her singing "Look who it is" to each of the lads from Liverpool.

    This was a GREAT idea - but it's spoiled by the fact that you make NO reference to the girl who has the BEST voice in Christendom!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 12.

    I could not believe that the name of Helen Shapiro was missing on Queen of British Pops. I discovered her in 1961 whilst working for EMI Records and together with Mike Hawker I wrote practically all her hit songs including You don't Know and walking Back To Happiness both of which went to Number One with Waking Back winning the Ivor Novello Award for the best song of the year. The full and true Helen Shapiro story is told in my self penned forthcoming book entitled Sex and Violins due to be published imminently. She was a phenomenal talent and perhaps the first Queen of Pop. Ignoring my personal involvement I am amazed she has been so completely ignored. Without her influence the rest may not have happened in the way they did.

  • Comment number 13.

    Unbelievable...No mention of HELEN at all.
    Its all been said above so I wont go on and on, but surely you can't have a programme like this without featuring the number One Queen of Pop that is .........

    P. RYAN

  • Comment number 14.

    What a mistake the BBC made in not including the great Lynsey De Paul.
    As the first female singer to obtain two Ivor Novello Awards, and the 'pen' of many of the '70's TV theme tunes I wonder at the judgement of the programme makers.

    I only hope that a 'one off' (or series)programme will be made to compensate for this grave error and injustice!!!

  • Comment number 15.

    I would also like to agree with the comments made by oohido.

  • Comment number 16.

    I thought the shows were both really good, well researched and intelligent, great editing and writing, my only 2 little moans would be that in the first show it would have been good to mention that Kate Bush is still having hits and selling lots of albums in the 21st century and in the second show, where was Kim Wilde? I know it's impossible to include everyone but she was one of the most sucessful British female singers of the 80's and 90's, including a number 1 in America? it just seemed odd not to mention her at all?

  • Comment number 17.

    Hey guys check this track:



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