The band was formed by Wendy Robinson (vocals) and Polly Hancock (vocals, guitar), initially with a drum machine, and a girl called Emma on bass guitar. This line-up recorded their debut "Don't Go Back" EP (released on Big Cat records in August 1988). They then recruited Dana Baldinger, who replaced Emma, and signed to One Little Indian, releasing the "Perfect Dream Home" single. Baldinger left, to be replaced by Anne Rogers. In December 1989, the British music magazine, NME reported that the Popinjays, along with others such as Power of Dreams, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine and The Charlatans, were their pick as 'stars of tomorrow'.
Their debut album Bang Up To Date With The Popinjays was issued in April 1990. 1991 saw further line-up changes, with Rogers being replaced briefly by Emma Newton, who was subsequently replaced by ex-Airhead bassist Ben Kesteven, and with drummer, Seamus Feeney, ousting the drum machine, remaining until the band split up in 1994.