Their name was based around a simple marketing gimmick. Each of their music videos were carefully choreographed, and the dance steps were included with most of their single releases.
The group, consisting of Claire Richards, Faye Tozer, Ian Watkins (known as H), Lee Latchford-Evans and Lisa Scott-Lee, formed on May 7, 1997. They were seen performing by producer Pete Waterman (formerly of Stock Aitken Waterman) and signed to a recording contract on his EBUL label.
Waterman's stated intention was to try to recreate the sound of ABBA and blend it with a more modern style, however their first single "5,6,7,8" was a techno line dance and though not typical of what would become their style, it became their first hit, and later find its way onto a game called "Dancing Stage Euromix 2," the "foreign" version of the popular Dance Dance Revolution Series.
The hit singles continued, with their cover version of Bananarama's "Last Thing On My Mind", and the most ABBA flavoured of their singles, "One For Sorrow", reaching the UK Top 10. Their next single, a cover version of the Bee Gees "Tragedy" became their first number one single in January 1999.
Over the next year they hit the top 10 several times, with songs such as "Better Best Forgotten", "Love's Got A Hold On My Heart", "Deeper Shade of Blue" (originally intended for Tina Cousins) and a double A sided single of "Say You'll Be Mine" with their version of Kylie Minogue's "Better The Devil You Know". Their second, and final number one single Stomp reached the number one position in October 2000. They continued releasing singles and reached number two with both "It's The Way You Make Me Feel" and "Chain Reaction" (originally recorded by Diana Ross) before disbanding on December 26, 2001.
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 perfomed at the Brit Awards. The other artists singing were Tina Cousins, Cleopatra, B*Witched, and Billie. In the same year, Steps were at the centre of a controversy surrounding the 'Best Newcomer' gong at the Brit Awards. Pete Waterman, the mastermind behind the group, 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 amount 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 organisers of the Brit Awards. In 2000, Steps were handed a special Brit Award for being the both the best selling tour act and albums act of 1999.
Steps received some criticism for their tendency to cover other bands' tracks rather than develop original scores.
More seriously, Lee Latchford Evans was criticised for the following allegedly racist remarks in an interview: "Foreign people and people from ethnic minorities should all go home so that there can be more jobs for proper English people." Steps responded that the quote was taken out of context.
In 2001, following their shock Boxing Day split, the group were heavily criticised by their own fans. Many UK tabloid papers published the fans' disgust on their frontpages, displaying quotes taken from Steps messageboards. After the group spent much of 2001 strongly dismissing claims of a split, fans were furious and accused the group of capitalising off the success of a host of merchandise released in the lucrative pre-Christmas market.
Since disbanding, Ian Watkins and Claire Richards (billed as "H and Claire") released three top 10 UK singles and a poorly performing album, which led to the duo being dropped from their record label in 2002. Ian Watkins subsequently took the lead role in the 2003 London production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Claire Richards got married to finacee Mark but the couple has since split. Faye Tozer reached #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 just finished touring the UK as a cast member of the musical Love Shack. Lee Latchford-Evans has appeared on UK reality shows The Games, The Match and Celebrity Fear Factor. He is also in a low-key band called The Latch, whose sound deviates greatly from the sound of Steps. 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 have commissioned a reality show following Lisa in the same vein as The Osbournes and Newlyweds. 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 British Top 10 after her previous singles peaked at 6, 11, and 23 respectively. If she did not accomplish this, then she would have to quit the music business. Unfortunately, 'Electric' peaked at #13, falling to #41 the second week. According to her manager, Nathan Moore, Lisa will continue singing and promoting her music in countries such as Japan, Australia, and South Africa. She will return to the UK someday.
- Step One (Jive/Sony-BMG1998) #2 UK
- Steptacular (Jive/Sony-BMG1999) #1 UK
- Buzz (Jive/Sony-BMG2000) #3 UK
- Gold - The Greatest Hits (Jive Sony-BMG2001) #1 UK
- The Last Dance (Jive Sony-BMG2002) #50 UK
- "5, 6, 7, 8" (1997) #14 UK, #1 Australia
- "Last Thing On My Mind" (1998) #6 UK, #6 Australia
- "One For Sorrow" (1998) #2 UK, #15 Australia
- "Heartbeat"/"Tragedy" (1998) #1 UK, #9 Australia
- "Better Best Forgotten" (1998) #2 UK
- "Thank ABBA For The Music" (with Tina Cousins, Cleopatra, B*Witched and Billie) (1999) #4 UK
- "Love's Got A Hold On My Heart" (1999) #2 UK, #25 Australia
- "After The Love Has Gone" (1999) #5 UK, #29 Australia
- "Say You'll Be Mine"/"Better The Devil You Know" (1999) #4 UK, #20 Australia
- "Deeper Shade Of Blue" (2000) #4 UK
- "When I Said Goodbye"/"Summer Of Love" (2000) #5 UK
- "Stomp" (2000) #1 UK
- "It's The Way You Make Me Feel"/"Too Busy Thinking About My Baby" (2001) #2 UK
- "Here And Now"/"You'll Be Sorry" (2001) #4 UK
- "Chain Reaction"/"One For Sorrow" (2001) #2 UK, #42 Australia
- "Words Are Not Enough"/"I Know Him So Well" (2001) #5 UK
- "Baby Don't Dance" (2002) Release Cancelled
In total Steps have sold over 25 million records, including 15 million albums worldwide.