3 Must-Hear Marcella Detroit Moments that Came After Shakespears Sister’s Massive Hit “Stay”
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3 Must-Hear Marcella Detroit Moments that Came After Shakespears Sister’s Massive Hit “Stay”

Baby Boomers and early Gen Xers may remember Marcy Levy as the backing vocalist for some of Eric Clapton’s best-known hits, including “Wonderful Tonight” and “Lay Down Sally,” the latter of which Levy co-wrote. Late Gen Xers and early Millennials are more likely to know Levy under her alias Marcella Detroit and as one-half of the duo Shakespears Sister.

While 14 years elapsed between Levy’s visits to the Top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100 with “Lay Down Sally” and Shakespears Sister’s “Stay,” she kept busy writing songs for other artists, such as Philip Bailey, Chaka Khan, and Belinda Carlisle. Levy also released her debut solo album Marcella in 1982.

“Stay” was an international hit and one of the most successful singles in the history of the UK Official Singles Chart, Its eight-week tenure at No. 1 is the longest for any song by an all-female band. However, “Stay” and Hormonally Yours, the 1992 album from which it came, would mark the end of Levy’s time with Shakespears Sister. It reverted back to how it started—as a solo project for former Bananarama member Siobhan Fahey.

Levy resumed her solo career after leaving Shakespears Sister, this time releasing albums as Marcella Detroit. She continued to be a presence on the UK charts, but “Stay” would be the last time Levy would perform on a song that reached the Billboard rankings. More than 30 years later, we are overdue to revisit some of the highlights from the post-”Stay” portion of Levy’s career.

Going Solo on Jewel

As Levy was set to release the 30th anniversary edition of her first solo album as Marcella Detroit (and her second solo album overall) on June 21, she sat down with American Songwriter on a video call to share her thoughts about Jewel. Levy says she started writing songs for the album during Shakespears Sister’s 1992 Hormonally Yours Tour, when she became aware that Fahey wanted to take a break from the duo to devote more time to her family. While Fahey eventually returned to make two more Shakespears Sister albums, Jewel would be the start of an eight-album discography for Detroit.

Jewel’s 13 songs got their start as demos played and programmed entirely by Levy, and then parts by guest musicians—including Jools Holland, Phil Manzanera (Roxy Music), and Phil Spalding (GTR)—were eventually added. According to Levy, this was done “to give [the album] a little bit more of a live feel.” For Levy, highlights of the album include the anthemic lead single “I Believe,” which went to No. 11 in the UK, and the lush track “The Art of Melancholy.” She also cites “James Brown” as a track she is particularly proud of—and one she thinks some listeners have misunderstood. When she sings ‘Cause tonight I feel like James Brown, Levy is using Brown’s leave-it-all-on-the-stage concert finales as a metaphor for a broken relationship that has rendered her with nothing left in the tank.

Jewel features Levy and Elton John’s cover of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing.” The expanded reissue also includes Levy’s cover of “Lay Down Sally” and a live solo rendition of “Stay,” recorded in 1994. Levy says she has frequently performed “Stay” as a solo number on acoustic guitar or keyboard, and this version consists of just her vocals and guitar. She calls it  “a simple but emotional song that I love to sing.”

Duetting with Marianne Faithfull on Absolutely Fabulous

In 1995, Levy’s manager got a fax from comedic actress Jennifer Saunders, inquiring if Levy would want to write some songs for the BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, which Saunders created and starred in. Levy says she “jumped at the chance.” She wound up writing five songs for the program, including three she wrote for the 1996 series finale entitled “The Last Shout: Part 1”: “Today’s My Day,” “Glad to Be Me,” and “Val d’Isere.”

Then Saunders asked Levy if she wanted to appear in the episode (one of two she would appear in), which she happily agreed to. Levy played the role of an angel who greets Saunders’ character Eddy in heaven after she nearly skis off a cliff. Eddy is welcomed to heaven by God, played by a cigarette-puffing Marianne Faithfull. After Faithfull tells Eddie “it’s not your time” and orders her to leave heaven, she and Levy break into a rendition of The Animals’ “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.” The performance is indeed heavenly.

A Shakespears Sister Reunion

Fans clamoring for a reunion of Levy and Fahey got their wish in 2019, 26 years after they split. Levy recalls her husband, Lance Aston, arranged a “clandestine meeting … around 2012” with Fahey in order to gauge her interest in a Shakespears Sister reunion or writing collaboration. Nothing came of it, but Fahey’s management got in touch with Aston about a reunion several years later.

That led to Levy and Fahey meeting in Los Angeles and clearing up misunderstandings that contributed to their breakup. In October 2018, they met in Joshua Tree to write and record new songs. Two new compositions, “All the Queen’s Horses” and “C U Next Tuesday,” appeared on Shakespears Sister’s 2019 compilation Singles Party (1988-2019). Later in 2019, they released the Nick Launay-produced Ride Again EP, which featured new versions of “All the Queen’s Horses” and “C U Next Tuesday” along with three new songs. Both Singles Party and Ride Again spent a week on the UK Official Albums Chart, with the former reaching No. 14 and the latter checking in at No. 67.

“All the Queen’s Horses” not only finds Levy and Fahey in great vocal form, but also with their senses of humor as sharp as ever. The song’s official video shows their antagonistic characters from the “Stay” video trying to pull the peacemaking 2019 versions of Levy and Fahey away from each other. They use a pool table as a prop to re-enact a famous scene from the classic video, complete with Fahey’s dismissive eyeroll. The song and video feel simultaneously nostalgic and fresh.

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