Steps performing at the Manchester Apollo on their Christmas with Steps tour in December 2012
|Origin||London, England, UK|
|Genres||Pop, dance-pop, Europop|
|Years active||1997–2001, 2011–present
|Labels||Jive, Sony, Steps, Warner Music|
Ian "H" Watkins
Steps are a British BRIT Award–winning dance-pop group consisting of members Claire Richards, Faye Tozer, Lisa Scott-Lee, Ian "H" Watkins and Lee Latchford-Evans. Steps formed on 7 May 1997 and have released four studio albums, three compilation albums and seventeen singles to date. Their musical approach throughout their career had a strong 1990s dance-pop, House, electropop and bubblegum dance sound, similar to many artists of their time. Their name was based on a simple marketing gimmick: that each of their music videos were to be choreographed, and the dance steps were included in the sleeve with most of their singles.
Over the five years they were together, Steps achieved a series of charting singles between 1997 and 2001 including two number-one singles in the UK (one a double A-side), two number-one albums in the UK, 14 consecutive top 5 singles in the UK and a string of hits throughout Europe. The group has sold over 20 million records worldwide in addition to acquiring a BRIT Award nomination in 1999 for Best Newcomer while supporting Britney Spears on tour the same year. When Richards and Watkins departed, the group disbanded on 26 December 2001. Their penultimate single reached number five in the UK charts while their final album of greatest hits, Gold (2001), scored the band their second number-one album in the UK.
Steps reformed in May 2011 for a four-part documentary series on Sky Living titled Steps: Reunion. The series started airing on 28 September, following an announcement of a second Greatest Hits album, The Ultimate Collection, that was released on 10 October 2011. The album entered the charts at #1, becoming the band's third UK #1 album. Series 2 of Steps Reunion titled "Steps: On the Road Again" aired on Sky Living in April 2012; the series followed the band as they embarked on their sellout 22-date UK tour. On 24 September 2012, the group confirmed they would release their fourth studio album Light Up The World on 12 November 2012, alongside a six-date Christmas tour, starting from 30 November and ending on 5 December.
- 1 History
- 2 Other endeavours
- 3 Discography
- 4 Tours
- 5 References
- 6 See also
1997–99: Formation, Commercial success and Step One
Steps were formed by Steve Crosby & Barry Upton (writers of "5, 6, 7, 8") alongside Manager Tim Byrne after auditioning hopefuls who answered an ad in The Stage newspaper. Byrne had previously been involved in the production of the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party, the BBC collaboration with the pop magazine, Smash Hits. Byrne was looking to manufacture a band in order to release "5, 6, 7, 8" as a one-hit wonder. After auditions, the original line-up of H, Lisa, Derek, Maddy, and Mitch was finalised and the band started shooting promotional images and recording tracks. However, Derek, Maddy, and Mitch left, as they wanted more than a one-hit wonder, and saw no long-term future with Steps. New auditions were held on 7 May 1997, this time with H and Lisa acting as members of the judging panel, and in conjunction with the manufacturers, they selected Faye, Lee and Claire as the remaining members.
Their first single "5, 6, 7, 8" was a techno line dance song. Though not typical of what became their style, it was their first hit both in the UK and internationally. Despite only peaking at number 14, the single achieved considerable longevity in the fast-paced singles climate of 1997-1998, racking up over four months on the UK chart. The track remains one of the highest selling singles never to reach the top 10 on the UK Singles Chart. Its release in Australia gave the group their first number one in 1998.
Tim Byrne then founded a management & production company, Byrne Blood, with former BMG head of marketing & video, Victoria Blood, which took over sole management of Steps and was also instrumental in the creation and management of A1.
The group were signed by Jive Records and following the success of their debut single, songwriter Pete Waterman became involved in the project. Waterman's stated intention was to try to recreate the sound of ABBA and blend it with a more modern style. He often referred to the group as "ABBA on speed". In April 1998, Steps launched their second single, a cover version of Bananarama's "Last Thing on My Mind", which became their first UK top ten peaking at number 6.
By August 1998, Steps continued to build momentum with their third single "One for Sorrow" which peaked at number 2, and began an unbroken chain of 14 consecutive Top 5 hits on the UK singles chart. Unlike many other pop acts of the era, Steps' singles success translated into impressive album sales as their debut album Step One entered the chart at number 2. It was certified 5x Platinum following a run of 50 weeks in the Top 20.
The next single release was a double A-side which provided Steps with their signature song and biggest career seller. The single was a cover version of the Bee Gees "Tragedy" and an original track "Heartbeat". The single was released in November 1998 when it charted at number 2. Following enduring popularity over the Christmas period, the single rebounded up the chart and became their first number one hit in January 1999, seven weeks after it initially charted, a feat almost unheard of during the pre- and post-millennium era. The single eventually sold over a million copies and occupied the chart for 30 weeks.
The final track to be released from Step One was "Better Best Forgotten". Because of the continued success of the previous single, the CD release was delayed by nearly two months. Nonetheless, Better Best Forgotten could do no wrong and entered the chart at number 2 despite surrendering a midweek lead over the official Comic Relief song by Boyzone.
Steps were part of the ensemble that released "Thank ABBA for the Music" (a medley of ABBA's "Take A Chance On Me", "Dancing Queen", "Mamma Mia" and "Thank You for the Music") in March 1999, as performed at the BRIT Awards. The other artists singing were Tina Cousins, Cleopatra, B*Witched, and Billie, known collectively as the Supertroupers. The single later peaked at number four. The group was also nominated for Best Newcomer. Pete Waterman claimed to have been told days before the ceremony that STEPS had won the award, as voted for by listeners of BBC Radio 1. However, on the night the award was handed to the Scottish band Belle & Sebastian, who were assumed to be rank outsiders. Despite the allegation that a significant number of votes for Belle & Sebastian were traced to one location (two computers sited in a particular UK university campus), the band held onto their award as foul-play was denied by organizers of the BRIT Awards.
A fan-created Steps fanzine, Count Me In, started in 1998. This became known for its Steps Photostory, in which cut-out members of Steps went on a variety of fun adventures. It ran for 13 issues and later issues included interviews with Steps themselves, as well Dermot O'Leary, Pink and other pop culture figures of the time. Count Me In can be viewed by visiting the British Library archive where all issues are held.
1999–00: Steptacular, International tour and Buzz
In July 1999, Steps released the first single from an all-new album, "Love's Got a Hold on My Heart". Once again they narrowly missed the number one spot following a last minute surge by Ricky Martin. After the single's release, Steps went to America to support Britney Spears on her 1999 ...Baby One More Time Tour. A remixed version of "One for Sorrow" was included in the film Drive Me Crazy and released as their debut American single. They were also successful in Europe and Australasia.
Steps returned home to release their second album, Steptacular, which was accompanied by "After the Love Has Gone". The album charted at number 1 and was eventually certified 4x Platinum, thus becoming their second UK million selling album. The group subsequently released an album in North America which was titled Step One and was an amalgamation of their first two albums. The group's next two singles "Say You'll Be Mine / Better the Devil You Know" and "Deeper Shade of Blue" (originally recorded by label mate Tina Cousins for her debut album) both continued their top five run.
In February 2000, Disney Channel aired a concert special featuring Steps and another group, Youngstown, titled Steps and Youngstown In Concert. The concert itself promoted the group and the sales of the album.
In July 2000, Steps released another double-A-side, consisting of the Steptacular track "When I Said Goodbye" and an entirely new song "Summer of Love". The latter was a Latino-flavoured pop song, which later appeared on their third album. Steps were also awarded the BRIT Award for Best Selling Live Act of the year in 2000.
In October 2000, "Stomp" became their second and final number one single. The third album Buzz followed shortly and whilst it was less successful than their first two albums, went on to achieve double platinum status and contains five UK Top 5 singles. The group worked with many American and Swedish producers who had created hits for other Jive artists such as Britney Spears, 'N Sync, and the Backstreet Boys. The following single "It's the Way You Make Me Feel" reached number 2 upon its January 2001 release. Steps promoted the Buzz album worldwide and did not return to the UK until May, when they released "Here and Now / You'll Be Sorry".
2000–01: Gold, group tensions, Watkins' and Richards' departure, and split
Split rumours started circulating after it was announced that Steps would be releasing a greatest hits album. The group continuously denied this in their interviews. "Chain Reaction", a cover of the popular Diana Ross song, was released as the first single from Gold: Greatest Hits. The single became their biggest in almost two years. The second single, "Words Are Not Enough / I Know Him So Well", was another top five hit. It would become their final single as a group.
In 2001, following their Boxing Day split, the group were heavily criticised by their fans. Many UK tabloid papers published the fans' disgust on their front pages, displaying quotes taken from Steps message boards. After the group spent much of 2001 strongly dismissing claims of a split, fans were furious and accused the group of capitalizing off the success of a host of merchandise released in the lucrative pre-Christmas market. However, it has since come to light that both H and Claire left the group on the last night of the Steps "Gold: Greatest Hits" tour because of their ongoing unhappiness within the group, although Steps' official statement stated that the split was caused by their belief that they should end on a high, while they were at their best and could be remembered for being the best of their kind. H and Claire went on to form a duo and signed to Warner Music for a reputed £5 million (over five albums), although they only released one album Another You Another Me before being dropped due to poor album sales.
Jive released a remix and b-side compilation in 2002. The Last Dance featured previously released remixes, b-sides and rarities. The album did not fare well in the charts but charted at a number 57 without any promotion. A planned release for the track Baby Don't Dance was scrapped in November 2002. However, promotional copies were pressed and a video based upon their live Gold tour briefly aired on MTV. Claire Richards performed "Tragedy" on ITV1 special Everbody Dance Now in 2008. This was also Richards' first public appearance in seven years.
2011–12: Reunion, The Ultimate Collection and touring
Ever since the band's break-up, rumours had been circulating that they would reunite in one form or another. In 2009, Lee Latchford-Evans revealed that the band had been approached to perform a series of concerts. He hinted that a future reunion was possible, but that "it isn't the right time right now".
In early 2011, rumours began circulating that Steps would reunite for a TV series and a one-off concert to mark the tenth anniversary of their 2001 split. Despite the claims being reported by various news stations and newspapers, the reunion was denied by bands members, including Claire Richards on her Twitter page. Richards also announced on 9 July 2011, that a Steps reunion would be "silly", but she would "never say never". However, contrary to these claims, just 12 days later, it was announced that Steps would be reuniting for a four-part Sky Living documentary, depicting their split and the interim years. The band would also release their Ultimate Collection, as well as potential new material.
In a new promo for the show each member reveals their true feelings, with Watkins sharing that he regrets the way it all ended but insisting: "If I were to revisit it and turn the clock back, I would probably have done it exactly the same way." Evans has commented: "They took something away from three people that we loved and we didn't get a choice because certain people took that choice away from us and I think that is very unfair." Steps Reunion premiered on Sky Living at 9pm on Wednesday, 28 September.
Steps recently said in a recent interview with Digital Spy that they believe there is a gap in the market for their brand of "happy pop". Scott-Lee said: "Times have changed, but we are in a recession and Steps' music was very light-hearted and fun, so there could be a place for that in today's society," "What else is interesting is that there aren't any boy/girl pop groups out there at the moment, so there's definitely a gap there."
In the first episode they opened up about the tension in the band, with Scott-Lee saying "problems first arose when H started flying in Britney Spears' private jet while the rest of them travelled by bus." Before, Richards stated "Further cracks appeared when Richards discovered that H had been secretly dating the band's manager Tim Byrne. The second episode will focus on the band talking about their reasons for the breakdown of communication and friendships in the group and will also be the first time they have all been together in one room for over a year. The girls will go to Marbella to bond whilst the boys will go to Wales."
Steps' newly recorded and produced version of "Dancing Queen" (not to be confused with the 1999 version) has been added to the tracklist for The Ultimate Collection.
On 10 October 2011, Steps appeared for the first time on This Morning, performing "It's the Way You Make Me Feel" and "Tragedy" and announced their 14-date 2012 arena tour entitled 'The Ultimate Tour'. They also announced that they had reformed as a band full term. On 14 October 2011, Steps appeared on Lorraine and sang "Deeper Shade of Blue", to which they also sang during an appearance on Loose Women on 24 October 2011. They have since added an additional 6 performances and removed 2 from the tour bringing the total number to 18 dates, they have also announced a new date at the Summer Saturdays at Newmarket Racecourse on 25 August 2012. On 16 October 2011, their new album The Ultimate Collection went to number one in the UK Albums Chart. Steps performed a medley of their singles, including "Deeper Shade of Blue" and "One for Sorrow" on 19 November for Children in Need. They also appeared on Alan Carr: Chatty Man on 25 December 2011 and performed a medley of "One for Sorrow", "Deeper Shade of Blue" and "Tragedy". A DVD of the Reunion tour entitled Steps - The Ultimate Tour Live was released on Monday 29 October 2012. It charted at number one on the Official Charts Company's Music Video Chart on 4 November 2012. In November 2012, Steps talked about their Christmas tour in an interview and hoped that there will be some more music and tours to come in 2013.
2012–present: Light Up the World and hiatus
It was announced that the group would release their own fragrance called Guilty Pleasure in a disco-ball styled bottle. It will head out to stores on 1 November 2012. They are also going to bring out an official calendar for 2013. It was released on 15 October 2012. On 13 October 2012, Steps without H, appeared on BBC Radio 2 with Graham Norton. Their new single "Light Up the World" aired for the very first time. They announced that it will be released on 22 October 2012.
Following their sell-out arena tour, the group went on to perform a number of summer shows and public appearances. At the end of June, Tozer confirmed on Twitter that there would be more from the group after their summer shows. In August, H posted a picture on Twitter confirming the group were in the studio recording. In September, it was confirmed that a new album, titled Light Up the World would be released by the end of the year, consisting of Christmas songs. On 12 November 2012, Steps released their fourth studio album titled Light Up the World, which consists of Christmas songs. The lead single from the album, "Light Up the World" was released on 22 October 2012. The group also embarked on a six-date Christmas tour entitled Christmas with Steps in November 2012 through to December 2012. In an interview with Metro, H confirmed that there could be two new fragrances for 2013, following the success of 'Guilty Pleasure'. In an interview with Digital Spy, H also confirmed that he would like Rylan Clark to be a support act on their next tour. Tozer appeared on Loose Women in February 2013 and when asked about the future of the band she commented saying that they would be soon getting together for a meeting and discussing what to do next. In March 2013, H announced on Twitter that he and the rest of Steps were having a meeting.
In May 2013, it was announced that Steps were going to be taking a break due to heavily touring last year, confirming on several occasions, after some speculation, that they have not split up. During this hiatus they are each pursuing solo projects.
Faye recently appeared in the worldwide premiere of the musical The Tailor Made Man from March to April and will be appearing in the musical Singin' in the Rain from December through to March next year. H will be appearing in Joseph from June to October and in Jack and the Beanstalk in December. Lee will be running 3 marathons and taking time to manage his wife's band Concrete Rose. Claire is working on her own fashion range for Fashion World after, which she also models becoming ambassador. She has also announced on Twitter that she has thought about producing a solo album. In January 2014, Claire announced on Twitter that she had begun work on her first studio album.
Steps had their own talent show named Steps to the Stars, in which young people performed three acts to be judged by a public vote. It was revealed on the next show who would go through to the final. This was shown on CBBC in 1999/2000. Two series were aired, presented by H and Claire, although the group performed one of its classics at the end of each show. The show featured a young Danny Jones (McFly) in a band called Y2K in which he played guitar with his sister and their friend Joss Stone who eventually won the show. Also featured were Gareth Gates, before he found fame on Pop Idol, and Sean Smith from pop duo Same Difference before he found fame with his singing partner and sister, Sarah Smith, on The X Factor. In one episode, Claire Richards was sawn in half. A young boy performed the torn-card trick to amaze Claire and then performed the sawing on her using the jigsaw method.
In 2011, Steps reformed and appeared in their own reality series called 'Steps Reunion'. It followed them as they rebuilt their friendships following the group's acrimonious split in December 2001. Following the huge success of the first series, a second series followed the group on their first arena tour in over ten years, airing in 2012. Both series were aired on Sky Living. Following the series' success, ITV2 decided to bring back 7 pop bands of the late 90s and early 00s in a 9-part series entitled The Big Reunion.
- Step One Tour (1999)
- Next Step Tour (1999)
- Steptacular Tour (2000)
- Steps into Christmas (2000)
- Gold Tour (2001)
- The Ultimate Tour (2012)
- Christmas with Steps (2012)
- P, B (10 August 2012). "Steps head into recording studio". Ultimate Steps. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
- "Steps Reunion on Sky Living HD - Here the band reveal how they got together at the first audition - Sky Living HD". Skyliving.sky.com.
- "The Original Steps". generationsteps.co.uk.
- BRIT Award Winners Brits.co.uk
- Ball, David (1 April 2009). "Steps 'eyeing future reunion tour'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
- Holmwood, Leigh (11 February 2011). "Steps are reforming for TV show". The Sun. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
- RTE (9 July 2011). "No Steps reunion on the cards for Richards". RTE. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
- Eames, Tom (21 July 2011). "Steps to reunited for Sky Living documentary series". Digital Spy. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
- "Steps talk reunion and chart success: 'There's definitely a gap for us' - Music News - Digital Spy". Digitalspy.co.
- "Steps announce first arena tour in ten years - Music News - Digital Spy". Digitalspy.co.
- "Saturday 25 August - Steps at Newmarket Racecourses". Newmarketracecourses.co.
- "Nineties pop group claims number one album spot ten years after they split". Daily Mail. 17 October 2011. Retrieved 17 October 2011.