Steps

The Steps story

Steps began in the spring of 1997, when 5,000 applicants answered a small advert in The Stage newspaper to attend an open audition for a five-piece line-dancing pop group.

The advert was looking for five young people who were exceptional at singing and dancing, and had bright personalities.

Before the auditions, Faye Tozer had been working at a holiday camp where her duties included bingo calling. Ian H Watkins had been working at Butlins as a children's entertainer. Lisa Scott-Lee was touring the UK as a dancer. Lee Latchford Evans was on the road to becoming a professional footballer. Claire Richards had worked as a receptionist.

The auditions here held in Surrey, and whittling down the 5,000 applicants to the final five took six months.

Steps' manager Tim Byrne already had a catchy song and a dance routine to match it. Now he had found five people who could help teach simple dance steps to the public. Steps were born.

On 7 November 1997, the first single 5, 6, 7, 8 was released. It sent shockwaves through the country.

Although 5, 6, 7, 8 never entered the top 10, the single stayed in the UK top 40 for three months and went on to become the biggest-selling single of the 90s not to enter the top 10. It sold 290,000 copies in the United Kingdom and 500,000 worldwide.

Steps had achieved their first massive hit, and were soon signed to Jive Records, home of the Backstreet Boys.

Next in the pipeline: a succession of line-dancing songs - similar to 5, 6, 7, 8 - each with its own dance routine. But the group was not impressed with the plans and Faye was tempted to leave.

Luckily, the plans were changed when pop producer Pete Waterman (famous for the Stock Aitken Waterman collaborations) became involved. He offered the group his track Last Thing On My Mind - a Bananarama song he had originally written. The track was released on 17 April 1998 and sold 330,000 copies, giving Steps their first UK top 10 hit when it peaked at number six. People took notice. Steps were not just a one hit wonder.

Now that Steps were being taken seriously, plans were made for the group to release its first album. Waterman said that he would "make sure the kids get a good deal - just like the good old days - by rediscovering classic pop music".

Steps unleashed their third UK single One For Sorrow on 31 August 1998. 363,000 copies were sold, and Steps were catapulted into A-list stardom. One For Sorrow entered the UK charts at number two, narrowly being beaten by the Manic Street Preachers, and stayed in the top 10 for long enough to give their debut album a boost.

Step One was released on 11 September 1998 and smashed into the UK album chart at number two. Although Steps were again beaten to the number one spot by the Manic Street Preachers, Step One received fantastic reviews from music magazines. To date, the album has sold more than 2.4 million copies in the UK.

By Christmas 1998, Steps had built a huge following of fans and released a Christmas single on the 6 November 1998.

Heartbeat / Tragedy featured a brand new ballad written by Jackie James, and a cover of the Bee Gees song. The single entered the UK's top 10 at number two, and after three weeks looked set to leave the top 10 before the Christmas Chart was announced...

However, a sudden increase in sales meant that Steps managed to stay in the top 10 for Christmas and the following week the single moved up the charts, and become the first number one of 1999! Heartbeat / Tragedy sold 1.3 million copies.

At the 1999 BRIT Awards, Steps were nominated for the Best Newcomer award, and performed as part of an ABBA Tribute - organised by Pete Waterman - which formed the centrepiece of the awards ceremony. They were joined by Tina Cousins, Billie Piper, B*Witched and Cleopatra.

Controversially, the Best Newcomer award was given to Belle and Sebastian, angering Pete Waterman who claimed he had been told three days before the ceremony that Steps had won the award. Waterman believed an influx of public votes for Belle and Sebastian on the last day of voting won them the award, and since the group had released their first single in 1995, they should not be classed as 'newcomers'.

Steps released their fifth single from Step One on the 8 March 1999. Better Best Forgotten peaked at number two. Epic Records released Thank ABBA For The Music on 29 March 1999 and it entered the UK charts at number four.

In July 1999, Steps released the first single from their new album Steptacular. Love's Got A Hold On My Heart reached number two in the UK chart and continued Steps' successful chart run. Now the time came for the group to sell their music overseas.

In late 1999, Steps toured North America, supporting singer Britney Spears on her ...Baby One More Time tour. During their stay in America, Steps released a remixed version of One For Sorrow, which appeared on the film soundtrack to Drive Me Crazy starring Melissa Joan-Hart. A new edition of Step One featuring some tracks from Steptacular was released in the US too.

Following modest success in the United States, Steps released their music across the world. Steps notched up chart hits in Australia, Belgium, Sweden, Singapore, Taiwan, India, Indonesia, Japan and New Zealand to name but a few.

Returning home to the UK, Steps released After The Love Has Gone. With its eastern-inspired strings, the song was given good reviews and even made the Radio 1 playlist. The single was released in early October and debuted at number five. The single was followed by the release of Steptacular in October 1999. The album debuted at number one and stayed there for over four weeks, keeping popular boyband 5ive from the top spot. The album has sold over 1.2 million copies in the UK alone.

In Winter 1999, the group took another short trip to the US, where they recorded performances for Disney and Nickelodeon. These performances aired in the US in February 2000.

Back in the UK, Steps embarked on the biggest arena pop tour that had ever taken place in the UK. Over 30 dates were played in three months, including a special Halloween performance live on Sky Box Office. Each concert was sold out. The tour firmly established Steps as one of the biggest UK acts since the Spice Girls.

December 1999 saw Steps battle for the UK Christmas number one again. Steps reached number five with their double-A side single Say You'll Be Mine / Better The Devil You Know, although the single later rose to the higher position of number four.

The start of the year 2000 saw Steps return to the United States to promote their new album and single. Gaining worldwide success became a priority for the group, as they travelled around the world to South Africa, Australia and Asia to promote the Steptacular album.

In February 2000, Steps released Tragedy in the United States, and The Disney Channel broadcast the Steps concert to promote the American releases. Fans also saw the premiere of the new Steps video for the next single: Deeper Shade Of Blue. The video caused some unrest among Steps fans, since it was so different from the group's previous videos and presented a more mature look for the group.

In April 2000, Steps released Deeper Shade Of Blue, and in May the group embarked on another huge UK Arena Tour. This was followed with a new single, When I Said Goodbye / Summer Of Love. The video for When I Said Goodbye caused controversy on the Steps message board - since it featured many shots of Faye sitting alone by a fountain, some fans assumed this meant she was leaving the group. Summer Of Love gave fans an exciting first glimpse of the forthcoming new album.

30 October 2000 saw the release of Steps' third studio album Buzz, which took Steps in a new direction as they worked with some of the most popular American and Swedish pop production teams. Stomp was released to promote the album and hit the UK #1 spot, giving Steps their second UK #1 single.

Buzz was a huge hit with the fans, although the album received a mixed response from the media, mainly due to the sudden change in "musical direction". The British pop cheese of their previous albums had been replaced with more professional sounding pop sounds, with contributions from American and Swedish producers. It appeared to be an obvious attempt by Jive Records to try and launch Steps in America once again.

Steps hit the road again for their 2000 Christmas Tour, and followed up the success of Stomp with the Swedish produced It's The Way You Make Me Feel, which was released on 1 January 2001. With a lavish video the single was set to be a huge hit, but some stores accidentally sold copies of the single a week early. Eager fans saw this and snapped up copies ahead of the release date, causing the single to enter the charts at #73! When the single was officially released a week later it reached #2.

Steps then took a long break from the UK music scene as they again attempted to spread their sound around the world. Appearances were made on global TV, including performances in Asia, Europe and the US. The more "global" sounding album helped them become successful in places where they had previously been unheard of. Steps recorded a programmes in America for TeenNick, performing album tracks such as Buzzz, which had never been performed live before. However, these songs were cut from the TV show, much to the dismay of many fans.

The group returned to the UK after five months away with a new single. A poll on their website allowed fanclub members to vote for which Buzz track they wanted Steps to release next. Although Lisa's Never Get Over You topped the poll, Steps' management opted to release Here And Now / You'll Be Sorry instead. The media loved Here And Now - another song from Sweden. Unlike the mellow It's The Way You Make Me Feel, this number was more in line with the popular Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears sound.

Two videos were recorded - one for each song - but the original video for You'll Be Sorry which featured Steps' fans dancing with Steps in a nightclub was never finished. Instead, a new video was made for You'll Be Sorry, which showed Steps dancing against a starry backdrop. The single stormed radio stations and music channels, and the video was constantly requested on music station The Box.

News emerged that Steps' next release would be a Greatest Hits package, and rumours circulated that the group was going to split up after the release of the album and their Greatest Hits tour. Steps denied this in every interview that they gave.

Gold Greatest Hits was released on 15 October 2001 and was promoted with the single Chain Reaction. Fans loved the upbeat cover of the Diana Ross classic, and enjoyed the playful hospital-themed video which accompanied it.

With the Greatest Hits album came three new tracks. The new songs were received with mixed opinions; some loved the new songs - including one that was written by Steps themselves - others hated them but liked having all of Steps' singles on one CD.

The album release meant yet another tour for Steps. The Gold Greatest Hits tour featured a lavish stage set, great lightning, extravagant special effects and even a walkway which was lowered above the audience to give everyone a good view of Steps performing.

The last single from the Gold Greatest Hits album was Words Are Not Enough, written in 1999 and released in December 2001. To the dismay of many fans, the video was almost entirely computer animated - costing £200,000 to make - and barely featured Steps at all. Nevertheless, the single continued Steps' run of top 5 hits.

Unknown to fans, shortly before the end of their tour on 22 December 2001, H and Claire announced to the rest of the group members that they were leaving the band and handed in their resignation letters. The group had an emotional discussion, and then took to the stage.

The last night of the Gold Greatest Hits Tour was broadcast live on pay-per-view channel Sky Box Office. At regular intervals in the show, fans noticed that some members of the group were crying as they left the stage, although many fans assumed the group were just emotional because it was the end of their tour.

On Boxing Day, 26 December 2001, the news that Steps had split was leaked to the press and appeared on the national news. Fans were devastated, and some were very angry that Steps had constantly denied the split rumours. People complained that Steps had only stayed together to ensure that they could sell as many albums as possible before the split, to make more money.

On the Steps message boards, fans blamed Lee and Lisa for splitting the band, since Lee and Lisa had always said Steps' music was not what they would listen to personally. The arguments continued until Lisa's mother, Jan, appeared on the message board to set the record straight - it was H and Claire, not Lisa, that had left the group.

A few weeks after the split, the news appeared that H and Claire were joining up for a new duo project and had signed up to Warner Music. News was also circulating that Lisa and Faye were planning solo careers.

As 2002 progressed, it became apparent that Jive were planning one last Steps album release. Some news items reported that the album would contain new, unreleased songs and exclusive, previously unreleased remixes. The last Steps single, Baby Don't Dance was also to be released.

The Last Dance was released by Jive Records on the 25 November 2002. The album failed to meet the fans' expectations and contained only b-sides and remixes that were already available on other Steps CDs. A week before the release of Baby Don't Dance, Jive Records cancelled the single. We can only speculate that they believed the single would flop, or that the former members of Steps managed to prevent the release.

On 20 July 2011, a television producer revealed through Generation STEPS that the group was reuniting for a documentary. The news turned out to be true and our favourite five were back.

The documentary series Steps Reunion was a huge hit for Sky Living and showed the band getting back together to put old squabbles to rest.

The reunion coincided with the release of the Ultimate Collection album, which incredibly topped the album chart.

In 2012, the band embarked upon a nationwide arena tour, performing their first-ever shows at the North Greenwich O2 arena. The group performed their greatest hits and a cover of ABBA's Dancing Queen, which also appeared on the Ultimate Collection album.

A new documentary for Sky Living, Steps: On the road again, followed the band's preparations for their sell-out tour.

In October, fans were treated to some new music with the release of Light Up The World, a song penned by the hit-makers behind Deeper Shade Of Blue and many other Steps hits.

This was followed by an album of Christmas-themed songs and an intimate theatre tour, in which the group performed some of their most popular songs accompanied by a live band, bringing this era of Steps to a close.

At midnight on 1 January 2017, Steps announced their comeback with a surprise live gig at London's Heaven nightclub.

The group called it a "year of Steps", releasing an album and four singles, each with its own music video.

The Tears On The Dancefloor album peaked at number two on the album chart, just behind Ed Sheehan, while comeback single Scared Of The Dark was added to the playlist on Radio 2 and quickly became a fan favourite.

In November 2017, the group embarked on another sell-out arena tour, performing material from their new album and a selection of their greatest hits.

And in 2018, the group wrapped up this era with an open-air tour of stadiums across the UK.