Voice of the Beehive, Sisters from L.A. Who Have London All Abuzz About Their Stinging Pop Songs
The girls of Voice of the Beehive take the stage in mile-wide crinolines and knee-high black boots, blazing rhinestones from elbow to wrist. Their harmonies are simple and upbeat, but the lyrics are so raw that in Britain, where the girls make their home, some of their songs have been censored by the BBC. The buzz around the beehive is that their music is “bubble gum written in blood.”
Second-generation bubble gum, to be exact. For Tracey Bryn, 26, and Melissa Brooke, 23, the American sisters who broke onto the British charts with their latest album, Let It Bee, are the daughters of Bruce Belland, a member of the ’50s group the Four Preps, whose “Twenty-Six Miles” was an early bubble-gum standard. They had to abandon their surname in London, however, when they discovered that “bell end” is British slang for a part of the male anatomy. Even Beehive isn’t that raunchy, though lyrics such as “I get it every night” are a far cry from the syrupy love songs of the Preps.
Nevertheless, the elder Belland, now a writer in L.A., declares himself proud. “At first some of their lyrics disturbed me in their crudeness,” he says. “But then I realized that’s exactly what they intended—to shake you up and make you listen. There is a line in a song of theirs, ‘We used to go to Beverly Hills, and the price of shoes would feed families, but what we have is enough.’ The girls were raised in great opulence; they had a maid and a swimming pool. They really turned their back on the Valley Girl syndrome.”
Not that they had much choice: Belland—divorced from Tracey and Melissa’s mother, now Brenda O’Flanagan—made a lot of money as a Prep and he spent a lot too. When the group disbanded, “It was up and down,” says Tracey. “We were used to selling everything.” When Tracey moved to London in 1985, “I worked in a pub making £7 [$10] a day,” she says. “My father couldn’t send me much, but my grandmother, Ruth Morley, for three years sent me half of her wages as a manicurist.” The sisters were paid for their first recording sessions in hot meals; for their second album, on London Records, they’ll get $150,000. “It’s hard to realize you did anything right as a parent,” says Belland, “but I did try to impress on them that the only thing worse than striking out is not getting up to bat.”