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.
Their first single “5,6,7,8.” was a techno line dance song. Though not typical of what would become their style, it became 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 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. It debuted in Australia giving them their first number one in 1997.
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 would often refer 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 went on to become certified 5x Platinum following a run of 50 weeks in the Top 20 alone.
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. However, 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.
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 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“.
2001–02: Gold & 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 own 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 band, 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 £45 million (over five albums).
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.
Steps to the Stars
Steps also 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.
Two Steps group members were criticised for allegedly racist remarks in an interview. *Quoting Lee Latchford Evans saying, “I think there should be more jobs for English people” and fellow-band member Claire Richards asking, “Why are we paying for all these people to come into the country anyway?” in an apparent reference to asylum-seekers. Steps responded that the quote was taken out of context.
– H & Claire – Following the split of Steps on 26 December 2001, H and Claire formed a duo. They released their debut single “DJ” on WEA Records on 6 May 2002. Peaking at number 1 on various club charts, the single debuted and peaked on the UK Singles Chart at number 3, spending one week in the Top 10.
Their second single, “Half a Heart” followed on 12 August 2002, debuting and peaking at number 8. The single dropped to number 29 in its second week of release and fell from the chart the week after. Their third and final single release was a double-A-side of an original song entitled “All Out of Love” written and produced by Steps collaborators Topham/Twigg and a cover of the Disney song “Beauty and the Beast“. The single was released in November 2002 and peaked at number 10, spending three weeks on the UK Top 40. Their debut album, Another You Another Me, followed. It peaked at number 58 in the UK, and WEA Records soon dropped the pair.
Taking a break from singing to plan her wedding, Richards never recorded again with Watkins, and the duo dissolved in 2003. More recently, Richards left a message on a website dedicated to her, stating that she is planning a return to a singing career in the near future. In December 2006, she announced that she would be expecting her first child in the Spring of 2007 and on 8 May, she gave birth to a baby boy, named Charlie. Claire has also taken part in BBC’s Celebrity MasterChef, which aired in May 2008. On 13 September 2008, Claire appeared on the one-off ITV1 show Everybody Dance Now in which she performed Steps classic cover “Tragedy” with 200 dancers performing the associated dance steps. During a promotional interview for the show on ITV’s Loose Women, Claire revealed an attempt to revive her singing career.
Watkins decided to take a musical theatre course at the Royal Academy of Music. He was filmed through the course and it was broadcast as a reality TV series, H-side Story, which followed him as he tries to make a new career in acting. At the end of the course Watkins passed his exam and graduated from the academy. Ian has since appeared in stage productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Cinderella, and Fame. On 3 January 2007, Ian Watkins came out as gay in an interview with The Sun newspaper. His interview was published the same day he entered the Celebrity Big Brother house. He finished in fourth place on Celebrity Big Brother 2007 and was the first contestant to be cheered on exit that series.
In 2010, H appeared in a cameo appearance on the fourth series of teenage comedy drama Skins on UK Channel 4, as a hair stylist.
Claire released a weight loss DVD in December 2008. She was in a documentary about her attempts to lose weight before her wedding. My Big Fat Wedding was broadcast in May 2009.
In July 2009, Claire announced that she was pregnant for a second time with her daughter, Daisy.
Faye Tozer Faye Tozer reached number 10 in the UK with Russell Watson on the track “Someone Like You”. In the same year she married her Danish boyfriend Jesper Irn, and a year later toured the UK in the theatre production of Tell Me On A Sunday. She also toured the UK as a cast member of the musical Love Shack with Noel Sullivan from Hear’Say and Jon Lee from S Club 7. Faye then joined the cast of Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens, which is a futuristic musical; the show began touring on 24 November 2005. Faye and Jesper have now split up. In 2006, Tozer took the role of Sally in the UK tour of Me And My Girl, then went on to play the female lead in the tour of the play Dial M for Murder. She stars as the title role in the movie Lady Godiva, Back in the saddle, which premiered November 2007. At Christmas 2007, she played Scheherazade in the pantomime Aladdin. On 24 February 2009, Tozer gave birth to her first child, named Benjamin Barrington Tozer-Smith.
Lee Latchford-Evans Lee Latchford-Evans has appeared on UK reality shows The Games, The Match and Celebrity Fear Factor. He is also in a low-key rock band called The Latch, whose sound deviates greatly from the sound of Steps.
In July 2006, MTV UK announced a new TV programme called Totally Boyband would involve Lee, the TV programme is based on fellow Steps star Lisa Scott-Lee’s Totally Scott-Lee. Because of disagreements with the other band members, Lee was sacked from the group.
Lee appeared on Never Mind the Buzzcocks on BBC 2, on 21 October 2010, appearing in the line up as himself.
Lisa Scott-Lee Lisa Scott-Lee has released four singles as a solo dance artist. Lisa was dropped from her initial record contract in 2003 after just two singles, with a third single and album consequently cancelled. In 2004, she signed a new record deal, married boyfriend Johnny Shentall, and released the single “Get It On” as a guest vocalist for the dance act Intenso Project.
In November 2004, it was confirmed that MTV had commissioned a reality show following Lisa in the same vein as The Osbournes and Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica. It was called Totally Scott-Lee and it aired in the UK in October 2005. As one of the premises of the show, she was challenged to have her next single, “Electric” debut in the UK top ten. If she did not accomplish this, then she would have to quit the UK music business. “Electric” peaked at number 13, falling to number 47 the second week and by the third week it had dropped out of the top 75 UK Singles Chart. Lisa nevertheless resumed singing and promoting her music in countries such as Japan, Australia, and South Africa. Her debut album, Never Or Now, was finally released in June 2007. It received a digital release in the UK.
Lisa starred alongside husband Johnny in the pantomime “Jack and the Beanstalk” at Derby Assembly Rooms over the Christmas period of 2007 – 2008, and also appeared in the final episode of BBC One sitcom Extras.
In late February 2008, Lisa gave birth to her first child, a boy named Jaden Anthony Scott-Lee.
In September 2008 she was a contestant on ITV2‘s flight attendant-based reality series CelebAir alongside husband Johnny. The pair were eliminated from the show in the fifth week, after abandoning their cabin crew duties to party for two hours at Eden in Ibiza.
- Step One Tour (1999)
- Next Step Tour (1999)
- Steptacular Tour (2000)
- Steps Into Christmas Tour (2000)
- Gold Tour (2001)