THE 1980’s – Big Hair, Boomboxes, Synths, and New Wave – The Chantoozies

Witch Queen (L Vegas/P Vegas) 1987 and Wanna Be Up (B Goldsmith/E von Bibra) 1988 – The Chantoozies

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The Chantoozies formed in Melbourne as a good-time covers band with four female lead singers – Ally Fowler, Eve von Bibra, Tottie Goldsmith (Olivia Newton-John’s niece) and Angelica La Bozzetta and subsequently recruited a backing band – Brett Goldsmith (bass, Tottie’s brother), Scott Griffiths (keyboards), Frank McKoy (guitar) and David Reyne (drums).They took their band name from a deliberate mispronunciation of the French word chanteuse (singer) and unashamedly projected a big-haired, shoulder- padded, eye candy image which was so very eighties. Girl groups had begun to re-emerge in the 80’s after the classic girl group era of the sixties when The Ronettes, The Shirelles, The Shangi-Las, The Crystals, Martha and the Vandellas, The Supremes, The Cookies, and The Blossoms, ruled the charts. In the 80’s the girl group revival was lead by Bananarama, The Pointer Sisters, The Nolans, En Vogue, and locally our very own Chantoozies.

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They were also the ultimate media cross-fertilization group, segueing to the music industry on the strength of their good looks and pre-Chantoozies public exposure, with no less than five of the band members having already appeared in various television series – all the females, Fowler, von Bibra, Goldsmith and La Bozzetta as well as Reyne had variously appeared in – Sons and Daughters, Neighbours, All Saints, Big Sky, The Henderson Kids, The Young Doctors, Starting Out, Prisoner and Special Squad. Below L-R Ally Fowler in Sons and Daughters, David Reyne – Possession, and Tottie Goldsmith in the action adventure series Fire.

After a one-off gig to celebrate Tottie Goldsmith’s 25th birthday the girls decided to go professional, they signed to Mushroom Records and released their eponymous debut album in 1988, the first single lifted from it was a cover of Redbone’s Witch Queen of New Orleans, a #21 hit for the native American swamp rock quartet from Los Angeles in 1972, written by the brothers Lolly and Pat Vegas.

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The Chantoozies version was fairly typical glossy 80’s synth-pop and lacked the bluesy bayou menace of the original which was a celebration of the voodoo traditions of New Orleans. The lyrics reference Zombies, Cajuns, black cats and Marie Laveau, the actual Witch Queen of New Orleans.

It’s worth noting that the Chantoozies version of the song was distanced from the original in the way they dropped that part of the title which referred to the New Orleans provenance of the witch, and the production of the Chantoozies record is more reflective of Stock Aitken and Waterman’s work with Bananarama, and the early music of Swiss synth-pop-electro duo Yello, who had a #8 hit in Australia with their 1988 single Oh Yeah. The producer at the Platinum Studios (Melb) was Brit David Courtney who had previously worked with Adam Faith, Leo Sayer, Roger Daltry, Gene Pitney and Eric Clapton. Below – Producer David Courtney.

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The promo video was filmed in the Montsalvat chalet near Eltham (Melb), with David Reyne driving up in a red Mercedes convertible sports car, to find the other band members variously draped over the furniture or lurking in the interiors of the house.

The location was vaguely mysterious, and the girls definitely aimed for a Bananarama sound-a-like with echoes of Stock Aitken Waterman and a production reminiscent of Venus by Shocking Blue.

All four women share the vocals harmoniously but the most menacing thing about the video was the black cat who hissed at the end. The song charted #4 nationally and the next time they would reach the top ten would be with an original composition by Brett Goldsmith and Eve von Bibra – Wanna Be Up in 1988.

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Wanna Be Up was another bouncy, synth-pop song with Ali Fowler very much front and centre as the lead vocalist, written from the female perspective it details the advice one girl gives to another about an unfaithful man with whom she is infatuated, another performer perhaps, who sings like “Mel Torme” “Did he work you overtime/ Did you want to run and hide/ Did you turn your face and cry/ Like I knew you would.” It was the third single lifted from their debut album and it charted #8 and the album climbed into the top ten in September 1988.

The wind machine setting was tornado-like, but the chorus featured some nice slide guitar riffs and country-tinged sounds.

Following the departure of Tottie Goldsmith in 1988, Ali, Evie and Angie continued as a trio and took three more songs onto the charts Kiss “N” Tell (#19 in ’88), Come Back to Me (#97 in ’89), and a cover of the Stephen Stills hit Love the One Your With (#20 in’91), as well as the album Gild the Lily (#62 in ’91)

Post- Chantoozies the group have remained in or on the fringes of the entertainment industry, Tottie Goldsmith was the first to leave the group but her solo recording career did not ignite, and she returned to TV to host Sex/Life in the mid-90’s, and followed up with acting roles in the 2000’s in such TV series as Stingers, Blue Heelers, Neighbours, Underbelly, Jack Irish, and several game shows, and in 2022 she signed on as a contestant in the reality series I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here Australia. She attracted some negative publicity in 2011 when she was searched by police at a music festival in Portsea (Vic) and found to be in possession of cocaine, but escaped a formal conviction. Darren “The Human Headline” Hinch accused her of being a “wild child” and behaving like Lindsay Lohan, she subsequently confronted Hinch and defended herself, a incident she later recounted to her fellow contestants during the screening of I’m A Celebrity. The incident badly derailed her career, her MC, brand ambassador, and charity work was largely cancelled, pilot shows were shelved, and she now works primarily as a marriage celebrant.

Eve von Bibra returned to TV acting roles (Time Trax, The Damnation of Harvey McHugh) and as an artist co-ordonator with Rockwiz, Angelica La Bozetta returned to TV acting roles (Home and Away, Blue Heelers, Big Sky), as did Ally Fowler in Cody, Big Sky, and All Saints. David Reyne secured continuing roles in Bony, The Flying Doctors, and as a presenter on the travel show Getaway. The Chantoozies got the opportunity to slip on their stilettos once again in to appear in the 80’s Countdown Spectacular in 2005, and again in 2012 when they supported Rick Astley on his Australian Tour.

  

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