Sandra became a huge star in Europe in the 80s and in some countries she was considered the only real rival to the queen herself, Madonna. I have been a huge fan throughout her whole solo career and to celebrate the release of her upcoming album (and Sandra's 50th birthday last May), the Galaxy is taking a close look back at her solo career. Here is Part 1.
Sandra Ann Lauer was born in the German town of Saarbrücken, close to the French border on May 18th 1962. Her parents are Robert, who owned a wine store in Saarbrücken, is French and Karin, who worked in a shoe store, is German. Sandra had an older brother, Gaston, a paraplegic who died in 1995. Sandra showed an early interest in music and dancing. She started to learn classical ballet at the age of 5 and had continued lessons for ten years. When she was 10 years old, she was given a guitar and she took lessons from a school teacher.
In 1975, at the age of thirteen, Sandra went with her mother to see "Young Star Festival", a Saarbrücken talent competition, which sought to discover new performers for the music industry. Although she was not a contestant, but simply a member of the audience, when all the participants finished performing and the jury was discussing the results, she told her mother that she needed to go the ladies' room, then stood up, walked onto the stage, persuaded the DJ to put on the German cover version of a song made famous by Olivia Newton-John, grabbed the microphone and started singing. The recognition gained by the impromptu performance enabled her to gain a professional release for the children's song about a pet dog, "Andy Mein Freund". The single, however, performed poorly on charts dominated by disco mania and she received no other recording offers.
In 1979, now seventeen, Sandra joined Arabesque, a disco group consisting of Michaela Rose and Jasmine Vetter. Soon after that they recorded their second album with Sandra on lead vocals at Europasound Studios in Offenbach. The studio was owned by famous producer Frank Farian, the creator of Boney M, and later Milli Vanilli. One of the musicians there was a keyboardist named Michael Cretu. Sandra and Michael found that they shared the same birthday, albeit five years apart, and became good friends.
With Arabesque a new period in Sandra’s life began. For the first time, she was away from her family, appearing on stage and TV in foreign countries, giving interviews, photo shoots and singing at concerts. Arabesque became successful, and by Sandra's nineteenth birthday she was a star. Arabesque were particularly popular in Japan, dominating the charts, and their outrageous, sometimes daring costumes, dance routines and cheerful music suggested a fun alternative to ABBA and Boney M. They enjoyed success in several other countries and scored a Top 10 hit in Germany with "Marigot Bay" in 1981. Sandra wanted to step away from the bubblegum pop of Arabesque and left in 1983. After nine albums, differences in musical interests and the end of disco's popularity signalled the group's final break-up. Sandra would spend the following years paying various debts that the group left her stuck with.
Sandra and Michael Cretu, now romantically involved, moved to Munich, where Michael created his own music studio, Data-Alpha. They went on to create Sandra's first solo single after leaving Arabesque. It was 1984's "Japan Ist Weit", a German cover of the Alphaville song "Big in Japan", an appropriate way to describe Sandra's fame up to that point. The single did nothing in the charts. But success was just around the corner...
"(I'll Never Be) Maria Magdalena" was released in March 1985 as the lead single from her debut album, The Long Play. It was her first single to be released internationally. The song reached #1 on the official German Charts for four weeks and became a huge hit in Europe. It was also the first song I heard from her, at a school disco back in 1985. I was completely hooked on the melody, the vocals and what I thought was a very, very cool production (I still love these hard sounding keyboards today). The song was produced by Michael Cretu.
Sandra followed up the success of "Maria Magdalena" in November 1985 with another big hit in Europe. "In The Heat Of The Night" became her first official music video, went to #2 in Germany and helped launch the release of her debut album.
The Long Play was released on December 9th. It sold well in Europe and peaked at #12 in Germany.
The final single from The Long Play was "Little Girl", released in January 1986. It peaked at #14 in Germany and became yet another hit in Europe. The ambitious music video was filmed in Venice and is one of Sandra's favorites to this day.
Shortly after the release of her debut album Sandra moved to London for six months. Helena Shenel, a singing therapist who had worked with such artists as George Michael and Paul Young, took Sandra under her wing. She also joined the London Berlitz School for Languages, where she improved her English abilities and took drumming lessons to get a better feeling for rhythm and timing. During weekends she went back home to Munich to work on her new, soon-to-be follow-up album.
To be continued...
To be continued...