I WONDER how much of the bedhead-hairstyled, YWCA-rejected, Pete Waterman-despairing hopeful still exists of Keren Woodward.

I’m keen to know if the spirit of the slightly shambolic 18-year-old who left cosy Bristol behind to live in a Sex Pistols’ rehearsal studio has survived 41 years later, the teenager who seriously disappointed her middle-class mother on declaring her desperate desire to become a pop star.

Well, Woodward managed that with Bananarama. (And would later go on to marry half of Wham!) But the question on the edge of my tongue is how much of the group’s record successes (30 chart hits and sales of over 40m) was down to clever music business construction?

And how have the band managed to hold it together for an incredible 36 years, with a new album out this week and a national tour underway?

The dark-haired former pupil of St George’s School For Girls was a classically trained pianist and one-time choral singer who declared to her teacher parents that she was abandoning her Radio 3 world, lured to London by the arrival of punk.

“My dad was fine, but I have to say my mum was upset when I said I was leaving home,” Woodward recalls, smiling, from her home near a Cornish beach.

“But she actually got me the room at the YWCA in London’s West End. It was when I told her I was leaving the job [office work with the BBC] and declared I was going to be a pop star, well, she was even more upset at that.”

Woodward wasn’t alone in scary London for long. Her best friend from school Sara Dallin joined her at the YWCA. Together the pair hit the bright lights. Nightly. And into the morning.

“And then we were asked to leave,” she grins, recalling the exit from her first lodgings. “We were keeping too many late nights and dragging the YWCA porter out of his bed.”

She laughs: “Well, we were in the West End. What else would an excited teenage girl do?”

Have fun. Start a band. Call it Bananarama (The ‘rama’ part came from Roxy’s Pyjamarama).

After the inglorious YWCA exit, the girls lived in what had been the Sex Pistols’ rehearsal studio for a while.

Soon joined by Dallin’s fashion journalism student pal Siobahn Fahey they took to the stage at every opportunity, singing backing vocals for the likes of the Jam.

Before long, they made their own demo of Aie a Mwana, sung in Swahili, which saw them land a record deal.

However, the big breakthrough came in 1982 when they teamed up with Terry Hall’s Fun Boy Three and recorded It Aint’ What You Do, which reached Number 5 in the charts. From there the hits, such as Really Saying Something and Shy Boy, kept on coming.

All of that suggests cunning strategy. But Woodward maintains the group were as unplanned, uncontrollable and unpredictable as the changing music scene.

“We never came into the business with a plan beyond the next three months. It’s all been a natural thing for us to go off and travel and then maybe record an album. We just did what we felt like at the time.”

She pauses to add; “If we’d had a Svengali manager and done what we would have been told, maybe we would have had a bigger, more hugely successful career. For a while. But I doubt it would have lasted though because we’ve never wanted to be told what to do.”

Pete Waterman of Stock, Aitken and Waterman, whom the band signed with in 1987, agrees. “They were the only people, apart from my mum, who ever called me Peter. It was their way of telling me they were the boss.

“The girls once set off a hotel fire alarm and told the police I was their dad. They would get me out of bed in the early hours to pick them up from a club if they couldn’t find a taxi.”

Woodward enjoyed the SAW pop production line experience but Fahey hated the Kylie and Jason connection. And even though hits emerged such as Love In The First Degree, in 1988, Fahey announced she was for the off.

But Woodward, who married Wham’s Andrew Ridgley (the couple have now split) and Dallin carried on. They’re still carrying on.

But Bananarama will play smaller spaces. “The shows will be a huge departure from Sarah and I standing in a field somewhere at a festival,” she says.

The new shows, “old songs played in a new style, plus new material” will take on an audience with format. “Every time we do gigs there is so much banter with the audiences we’ve decided to build it in. They will be up close and personal, right in at the deep end stuff.”

How personal? She laughs. “Yeah, who knows what questions the audience will throw at us. But I suppose we can always say, ‘I’m not answering that!’”

What emerges from talking to Keren Woodward is she hasn’t changed too much since she took off to live in the YWCA. She still has a zest for life. She has a grown up son (Tom) and she manages to combine her love for the pop world with a private existence.

Just back from a drizzly walk on the beach with her dog she explains: “This is a calm world. I love being up there on stage but for me celebrity and fame is my least favourite thing. I’ve always been quite uncomfortable with it. I think that’s why I choose to live where I do, where I am part of the furniture and the locals couldn’t care less.

“I can walk around wearing a bobble hat and no make-up and I’m anonymous. It’s great.”

She adds; “And the last decade has been the busiest since the mid-1980s.”

What about her mum? Did she come round eventually to the idea of her daughter becoming a pop star?

“No,” she says sharply, revealing great comic timing. What about when she saw you on Top of the Pops singing the likes of Shy Boy? Woodward laughs; “She probably just switched it off.”

Bananarama will play St Luke’s in Glasgow on May 2, their new album In Stereo is out now.