The original version of the song was recorded by Motown group the Velvelettes in December 1964. An alternate version recorded in October/November had been discarded. Produced by Norman Whitfield, the Velvelettes' version was released on Motown's V.I.P. label on December 27, 1964, and was a minor hit for the group in early 1965. "He Was Really Sayin' Somethin'" peaked at number 64 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and at number 21 on the then recently reinstated Billboard R&B Singles chart. The single was the second most successful release for the Velvelettes, a minor Motown act which never released a full-length album.
"Throw a Farewell Kiss", composed by Whitfield and Holland and produced by Whitfield, had been recorded in October 1962 and was issued as the B-side of "He Was Really Sayin' Somethin'". Six years later, Whitfield had the Temptations record "Farewell Kiss" for their 1971 album Sky's the Limit.
The 1982 single became the second consecutive top-five hit for both Bananarama and Fun Boy Three, peaking at number five in the UK singles chart. It also received heavy play on the then-young MTV network in America. "Really Saying Something" was both groups' second chart entry in Australia, peaking at number seventy-four. The B-side, "Give Us Back Our Cheap Fares", has been issued on CD for the first time on the 2007 UK reissue of Deep Sea Skiving as one of five bonus tracks.
In late February 2011, Siobhan Fahey's current band, Shakespears Sister announced that they were releasing their own version of "Really Saying Something", as a special anniversary single, celebrating 30 years since Bananarama recorded their first single. The single is available exclusively on Shakespears Sister's web site as a digital download and a limited edition CD single. Copies of the CD single are no longer in production, and it is now one of Shakespears Sister's rarest collectibles to date.