March 30, 1985: Special report from Washington DC, Midnight Star, Luther Vandross, Touch Of Class, Mass Extension

HEY FELLAH! What? In the capital of the nation, we were livin’ the limo sensation. Yup, all fired up and ready to go go, Tony Blackburn, Steve Walsh, James Hamilton and Island Records’ Adrian Sykes arrived two weekends ago amidst magnolia blossom and sunny blue skies in springtime Washington DC to be whisked by ludicrously luxurious dove grey and white 1985 Lincoln Town Car (smoked windows, concealed lighting, TV, ice box and push-button liquor dispenser!) to the equally luxurious brand new hotel where the Jacksons stayed, The Regent, a short walk from Chelsea-like Georgetown. The action we were there to observe however took place in seedier surroundings. Our host, Max Kidd, with his brothers runs a computer company in NE Washington, using the back rooms for his independent promotions of labels like Total Experience, his own DETT/TTED go go logos, and as rehearsal space for the go go bands. His concept of time seems somewhat Jamaican, appropriately enough as Island’s boss Chris Blackwell sees the long established but still local ghetto-bounded Washington go go scene as another reggae, and as well as now distributing Kidd’s labels is financing a film about the scene (working titles ‘Movin’ And A Groovin’’, ‘Good To Go’) which won’t start shooting until the summer. This movie cannot help but break go go nationally in the States on a par with hip hop, but in Britain by the time it’s released it’ll have to revive our interest in a music which, despite differences of nuance, is frankly limited in range. Island are carefully staggering release of the best records while other less committed companies have already rushed out whatever product they can get — so, the big question here is, can the best records sustain and increase our interest? It’s hard to get a straight answer as to why DC’s ghetto groups stripped down to percussive African roots, although doubtless lack of finance contributed, as exemplified by the Junk Yard Band, all just kids, caught playing on Saturday in the street outside the downtown American Art And Portrait Gallery Building, beating out their go go funk on cut-off plastic bin bottoms mounted on conical roadwork warning beacons and milk crates. Go go as “found art”? These kids could be huge, incidentally, if marketed like New Edition. That Saturday night there were three venues offering more sophisticated go go, Cheriys with Rare Essence, Pump Blenders and more (none Max’s so unvisited), the sparsely decorated Black Hole in SE Washington with Chuck Brown and Mass Extension, and — miles out in Maryland so visited first — the 121st Engineer Battalion (CBT) Company A armory at Prince Frederick with EU and Trouble Funk. (Typically used as in every community for local music-type events, this particular armory was an all-purpose barn of a building with a basketball net right over the band.) The original Experience Unlimited started out in ’72 as a Jimi Hendrix-style rock group but being all black couldn’t find a market (many of the guys still really want to play rock), switching to go go in the ’78 wake of Chuck Brown’s ‘Bustin’ Loose’ success. Now called just EU they crank on and on in James Brown-ish style while the audience point in turn to the guys they want to solo, but by being disjointed they keep breaking the tension: Trouble Funk in contrast have a harder sound and maintain their groove. Surprisingly, playing a reporter in the movie, an incognito Art Garfunkel was checkin’ the scene there too! We had been joined by Tommy Boy’s Tom Silverman and it really was quite remarkable that on walking into both the armory and then the Black Hole (also patronized by many kids from the earlier country gig) both EU and Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers were singing the slow ‘Tears’ smash by Tom’s hottest act the Force MD’s . . . which pointed up that all the go groups remain “Top 40 bands”, performing current hits as well as their own material. The Soul Searchers were soulful and really tight with lots of space and proper jazzy solos — imagine, all in one continuous medley, a go go treatment sticking close to the original of King Pleasure’s ‘Moody’s Mood For Love’ seguing through ‘Woody Woodpecker’ to (in our honour?) ‘Bustin’ Loose’ and ‘We Need Some Money’! They deserve a UK tour. At both these venues we were “minded” by such enormous Mr T-type characters as Big Al, who are known by all the kids and much respected, although as one of them said, “Go go is safer than the streets — they disarm you before you go in!”

Tony Blackburn flew straight home Sunday dawn to fulfill his Sky cable TV commitments on Monday (and was ill the rest of the week!), so it was Steve Walsh who cameo-ed with similarly sized Big Al being challenged to dance the Jerry Lewis as the climax to Redds & The Boys’ video, shot in the JFK Playground at 7th & O, where the kids have a real jet plane, tank, troop carrier, fire engine, locomotive and two trams to play on. The Jerry Lewis is much like the old Mashed Potato and even older Charleston, and just one of the steps on which possibly go go’s wider success will depend. Unfortunately apart from some formation dancing which looks like fun, most of the associated dances revolve around wriggles and fancy footwork with nothing startlingly distinctive (as in breakdancmg) to latch onto: however, and very important here of course, there is a silly haircut, the Philly, shaved way up above the ears with just a very short crew cut left on top. Hopefully all these elements will still seem fresh when the movie eventually opens here, but as already in Britain there’s a TV ad for petrol which says “We’ll keep you on the go-go” and veterans Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band have returned with a “new go go sound”, it could be hard to hold back until then . . . unless Island’s unreleased go go goodies really are that strong. I hope so. The hotel bill alone cost nearly $3,500!

The guy who “looked after” us most in Washington DC was Vincent Randolph, whose Buddah Productions manages Tyrone Brunson amongst others, and whose incredible limousines — hired out only to showbiz people — were at our disposal. This Wednesday (27) our sharp young driver Eric will have Eddie Murphy riding with him for instance! Sometimes we transferred to Teddy’s similarly fitted but slightly less glamorous dark blue and black ’84 limo, which also boasted a much-used ‘phone, as we did on the Sunday when Eric was driving B.B. King . . . to whose MCA Records hosted pre-gig cocktail party we were invited. Very charmingly, B.B. seemed genuinely to remember my interviewing him twelve years ago. Currently he’s hardly off the radio with his theme song from the John Landis film ‘Into The Night‘, which may be down to masterful plugging by MCA’s regional promotion man Ron White (previously top jock in Detroit before moving on-air to DC in ’75), who got Steve Walsh, Adrian Sykes and myself into that night’s concert by blues veteran Bobby Blue Bland and B.B. King at the downtown Warner Theater (right now Jennifer Holliday is briefly there with ‘Sing, Mahalia, Sing’!). Bobby’s so soulful voice was hard to hear from backstage but thankfully we had seats for B.B.’s half (sadly they didn’t duet), and I’m glad that Steve and Adrian were able to experience the atmosphere. Blues and soul singers, when they were getting through to their audience, traditionally always had an answering response of friendly encouragement laced with testifying shouts and banter (like in a black church congregation), which no matter who has appeared in Britain has never travelled here too, and which is probably dying out amongst the new young noisy generation. The audience that night was primarily middle-aged or older, and they knew how to react. I was actually in tears, it was so good. It was the sort of audience who must have frequented the old Howard Theater, in the days when it was on the same circuit as Harlem’s Apollo, now forlorn and crumbling yet amazingly open for go go as recently as January. Forgetting go go, the best club we visited was the Ethiopian-run downtown Saba, with its dancefloor dramatically on two abrupt levels and looked down on from balconies a floor above, although it was plainly decorated. Another, not recommended, was Georgetown’s foreign au-pair filled Cafe Med playing Hi-NRG pop, while on the Monday night (when I was shivering with the same virus that felled Tony Blackburn at the same time back in England) was The Classics out in Maryland at Allentown, a black version of the sort of disco that here would have palm tree decor but there had a mechanical bull. Everywhere it seemed the jocks mixed more instrumentals than vocals, and the generally familiar (if not now dated) music seemed monotonous. Washington’s urban black radio plays very little go go as it mainly attracts kids, the wrong demographic, and in fact only isolated plays of Redds And The Boys and Mass Extension could be heard on the FM stations (which Max Kidd reckons he can call on when, as then, he has hot new product). Umm, if go go isn’t big on radio or in clubs and is largely unknown outside the ghetto in its own city of origin, that had better be one hell of a movie that Island are making! Luckily there is one station on poorly received Medium Wave with nothing to lose and everything to gain by adventurous programming. WOL 1450MW, which is hauling itself up by featuring several go go sides every hour, and a terrific oldies show at night (going right back to the booting ’40s and ’50s). WOL is owned by Kathy Hughes, whose breakfast chat show was virtually hijacked to enthusiastic ‘phone-in response by Steve Walsh on the Tuesday, and whose son Alfred Liggins (met at B.B.’s party) was our DC club guide. Sweeping along the radio dial there’s a lot of bluegrass and country music, big bands oldies, and I encountered an amazing gospel station full of self-pitying sobbing and encouragements to purchase their “I am a Positive Thinker” stick-pin, while on the Friday night WDCU FM 90, a public service of the University of the District of Columbia, played some great stone blues and mellow vocal jazz. In the main though, and without realising it, I kept coming back to WHUR 96.3FM (“Progressive 96”), whose bland urban contemporary playlist was spiked on the dawn shift by some wailing slowies like the Montclairs ‘Beggin’ Is Hard To Do‘ and Atlantic Starr ‘Your Love Finally Ran Out‘. The only TV of musical note was Philip Bailey singing a sweet slowie on Dick Clark’s still running American Bandstand, and a black video show New York Hot Tracks glimpsed on the limo’s TV. Stocked with a mouth-watering range of every music type imaginable, the vinyl supplier for the visit was the 19th & L branch of Record & Tape Ltd, whose manager Wresch Dawidjan compiles the local (Hi-NRG biased) disco chart from twenty DJs’ returns (Nayobe was top at the time). Otherwise the stuff that was hard to avoid on radio included B. B. King ‘Into The Night’ (concert tie-in?), Gladys Knight & The Pips ‘My Time‘ (due in concert – and our limo!), Mary Jane Girls ‘In My House‘, Ready For The World ‘Tonight‘ (someone please start playing this here!), Luther Vandross LP, Maze LP, Midnight Star ‘Scientific Love‘, Whispers ‘Some Kinda Lover‘, Sade ‘Smooth Operator’, Kool & The Gang ‘Fresh’, Commodores, Prince (anything), Harold Faltermeyer, Shalamar ‘My Girl Loves Me’, Wilton Felder, Steve Arrington, TC Curtis, Jeff Lorber, Julian Lennon ‘Too Late For Goodbyes’, Culture Club ‘Mistake 3‘, Patti LaBelle, Stevie Wonder ‘Love Light In Flight’, New Jersey Mass Choir ‘I Want To Know What Love Is‘, Klymaxx ‘Meeting In The Ladies Room‘, Opus Ten, Animotion ‘Obsession’, Al Jarreau ‘Raging Waters‘, Jeffrey Osborne ‘The Borderlines‘. In fact come to think of it, much of that is through MCA — surely not all Ron’s work?


LARRY LEVAN’s mixing at New York’s Paradise Garage is being taped nightly by Island with the aim (if copyright can be cleared) of releasing the best medley sequences, on cassette only — what an exciting idea (it should have his number one fan Froggy slavering in anticipation)! … Marvin Gaye’s unissued CBS material will be out in May, some of it controversial … Prince’s new LP ‘Around The World In A Day’ is rumoured to be much more musically adventurous than ‘Purple Rain’ (on which incidentally most cuts were heavily edited so they’d fit) … Jeff Lorber has signed with Phonogram for the world outside the USA, Club having him here … WEA did not consider the deal worth it to retain Change here, but Atlantic still have them Stateside — does that clear up your confusion? … The Cool Notes’ management were so short of their hit on 7in that they actually had to buy five copies to service Radio One – and nearly got accused of hyping in the process! … Levert turns out in fact to be a group, containing Eddie’s sons Gerald and Sean (the latter 17 year old previously unmentioned), plus six more musicians … Krystol member Dee Marie Warren’s death was more horrific than previously reported, her car went off a winding road and fell 300 feet down a cliff near Los Angeles … Luther Vandross was available on Dutch import in Britain ahead of the Washington DC stores, who received it Monday, although the whole album was all over the radio there on our arrival the previous Friday … Beverley Skeete may be proving a trick to mix but is good out of Spank … VERY IMPORTANT: with immediate effect all chart contributors and other info senders should note that our new address is Record Mirror, Greater London House, Hampstead Road, London NW1 7QZ (just around the corner from the Camden Palace) — alter your address books NOW! … Tina Turner topped US black LPs, Jenny Burton US Dance/Disco Club Play, while Ray Charles is back with a vengeance — not only does the ‘Uncle’ Ray and Stevie Wonder segment dominate USA For Africa’s ‘We Are The World’ but also amazingly his album of duets ‘Friendship’ and its single (with Willie Nelson) ‘Seven Spanish Angels‘ have topped both respective, wait for it, Country charts! … The O’Jays’ late ’60s sides for Neptune (somehow missed out from last week’s reissues feature) were also recently compiled in PRT’s new Chess series (CXMB 7200) … Big Daddy are well worth catching live by people with wide musical memories: as you may know, they set modern hits to easily recognised rock ‘n’ roll arrangements, their ‘All Night Long (All Night)‘ done as the Jayhawks ‘Stranded In The Jungle’ being especially funny, with its “meanwhile, back in the jungle” segment containing Lionel Richie’s mumbo jumbo chanting … “Meanwhile, back in the States” the ‘Roxanne, Roxanne’ craze has even prompted the re-release of The Police ‘Roxanne’, while Roxanne Shanté’s follow-up is ‘Queen Of Rox (Shanté Rox On)‘ (US Pop Art) … ‘Roxanne’s Doctor’ should be by Dr. Freshh, with a double “h” (of course) … Sparky D of ‘Roxanne You’re Through‘ was with Trouble Funk at Prince Frederick Armory in Maryland last Saturday … Anthony Kenneth Blackburn & Stephen Maurice Walsh take Radio London’s Soul Night Out to the Lyceum for a few Thursdays from next week (4) until moving permanently to Hammersmith Palais, where the security is so good … London’s three soul stations Solar, Horizon, LWR were all back in strength around the clock when last heard — maybe, if they finally get around to playing my favourite record of the last few months, Ready For The World ‘Tonight’, I might bother to tune in to them more … Carl Kingston is now evening man on Leeds ILR station Radio Aire … Kev Hill ‘The Guvnor’ starts a new 18-30 night Thursday (28) at Harlow Whispers … Richard Searling, Pete Haigh & Ellis funk Morecambe Carleton Inn Sat (30) … Gary Crowley lets “April Fools rush in” on April 1st (Monday) at Kensington’s The Park, when Judge Dread hosts the largest “ladies’ sewing evening” ever at Dartford Flicks! … Bob Boardman again jocks the big Bass breakdance final at Sunderland Barnes Hotel Wed (3) … John Myers has actually left Newcastle Upon Tyne Julies to join the team at Walkers Club Café … Keith Anthony souls Bermondsey Tanners Fri/Sun, Grumpy Brown & Russ B bump Billericay Shed Sun, John Rush returns to Basildon New Yorker Fri … Paul French now souls Spatts Mon and still does Kents Tues/Thur, The Avenue Fri/Sat/Sun, all in Gillingham (wot, nothing Wed?) … Ian Robertson’s nightly residency in Dalkeith has changed names from The Paddock to Scandals, with increased capacity and extra soul … Julia Grant reckons she makes more money (and noise!) playing soul at Southport’s Pavilion Fun Pub and the Silver Screen than most male DJs —fighting talk, huh? … Adrian Dunbar has found the addition of full video facilities at Southampton Raffles has helped anything available on video (like DeBarge) to break much faster than usual … “Europe’s number one VJ” Kent Vanderberg has perfected vari-speed running mixes between videos at London’s The Hippodrome — “it’s hard”, he says … Alan Taylor (0745 36757) can present a whole video evening using his extensive promo collection (many unique) if ready-equipped clubs in the North-West are interested … Hill Street Blues’ current series (amongst others) has thankfully been saved from a rudely curtailed unscripted finish following the Writers Guild of America calling off their strike … The Muppets now have a cartoon TV series, which even though fully animated is probably still cheaper than the puppet version (showing in Washington DC on another channel at the same time!), although it does rather miss the point … Mickey Rooney’s current wife Jan somewhat surprisingly writes and roars gospel songs in powerfully rocking style, as witnessed on a religious breakfast TV show — even she admits to being worried about what her hellraising hubby thinks! … I flew back sitting next to Barry Muller, drummer with legendary society bandleader Lester Lanin (sort of America’s Joe Loss) whose band were playing for a ball at London’s Grosvenor Hotel, and who was interested to hear that my discotheque was the first ever to play for Queen Charlotte’s Ball there in ’72 … Disco Mix Club’s postponed trip to New York is now definitely set for Sunday-to-Sunday August 4-11, coinciding with Tom Silverman’s annual New Music Seminar whose tickets will open all the city’s discos, the two-tiered price structure having yet to be worked out … DMC’s mixing contest at the DJ Convention seems to have created much controversy, and frankly as a judge even I was surprised by the result … WHAT IT IS IS WHAT IT IS!


MIDNIGHT STAR ‘Curious’ (Solar MCAT 961)
Their album’s Marvin Gaye-ish monster is rightly the new UK single, a sexually healing 100⅚-100⅔-100½bpm sneaky snapper, flipped by the vocodered whipping ‘Planet Rock’-ish (0-)125¼-124¾bpm ‘Body Snatchers‘.

LUTHER VANDROSS ‘It’s Over Now’ (LP ‘The Night I Fell In Love’ US Epic FE 39882)
With a reputation that if anything has grown here during the wait between albums, Luther now delivers his finest set ever, all apart from its previously reviewed single in mellow mood but tempered by steel amidst its silky soul. Easiest dancer is this familiar 109-114bpm wriggler, while the tapping breathy 103⅔bpm title track, swaying 103½bpm ‘My Sensitivity (Gets In The Way)‘ and Stevie Wonder’s aptly titled 88/44bpm ‘Creepin’‘ have subtle muscle, the 0-55/22½-0bpm ‘If Only For One Night’, 30¼/60½bpm ‘Wait For Love’, 30bpm ‘Other Side Of The World’ are candlelight romancers. Other fast hitting albums this week, which my virus fever left no time to review, include the Jimmy Jam-produced excellent ALEXANDER O’NEAL (US Tabu — note it does not feature his 7in flip’s ‘Settle Down’-ish ‘Are You The One‘), THE MANHATTANS (US Columbia), SECOND IMAGE (MCA). Continue reading “March 30, 1985: Special report from Washington DC, Midnight Star, Luther Vandross, Touch Of Class, Mass Extension”

March 23, 1985: Cashmere, Rose Royce, Toney Lee, Lifesighs, Grandmaster Melle Mel & The Furious Five


Lead singer with Krystol and former member of Alton McClain & Destiny, 32 year-old Delores Marie Warren was killed Feb 22 in an LA car crash — ‘After The Dance Is Through’, indeed … DeBarge’s 12in is as suspected not the M&M remix, which is yet to come … EMI America here too have promoed Jellybean ‘Sidewalk Talk‘ on 12in, in three 115bpm mixes, to plug its old parent mini LP-cum-EP ‘Wotupski!?!’: Madonna’s involvement as writer, vocal arranger and background singer (behind Catherine Buchanan) has prevented the cut’s commercial release on single due to contract conditions … Mary Jane Girls new recruit Yvette ‘Corvette’ Marine turns out to be the daughter of disco diva Patti Brooks … Shalamar ‘My Girl Loves Me‘ has been remixed on import, and while still not great it’s a lot better … Commodores topped US Black 45s, Gap Band Black LPs … Billboard’s current Hot Black singles chart actually contains the likes of Sheena Easton, George Michael, Philip Bailey & Phil Collins, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Madonna, Jermaine Jackson & Pia Zadora, Mick Jagger, REO Speedwagon, not to mention many other decidedly dodgy pop records by black people — though it’s yet to reach the level of whitewash which (obviously a data-collection fault) in fact caused the old R&B chart to hibernate for a rethink lasting more than a year around 1964 … Paul Parker ‘Don’t Play With Fire‘, at 17, is the highest placed import in Billboard’s first brand new US 12in sales chart compiled from specialist stores — TC Curtis (24) and Dead Or Alive (27) are amongst other UK imports selling Stateside ahead of US release — a good effort and sure now to create the sort of record company interest there with which we have long been familiar here (the Patti LaBelle/Harold Faltermeyer double-sider tops the 12in chart as it still does Dance/Disco) … Newcastle-Upon-Tyne’s John Myers, long at Legends Wine Bar but now also funking Julie’s, buys his hot vinyl from Hitsville USA in Old Eldon Square, “the only shop in the area that even tries” … Rayners Lane’s Record & Disco Centre, where by now you should realize I do my shopping, gets many big spenders including one ex-“soul boy” who spent £60 on something like 6 LPs and a 12in, just for home listening that week — which put me in mind of my biggest ever spending spree when on arrival in New York in April 1964 I walked into Colony Records and bought 70 LPs and 60 7in singles, for an extravagant yet to British eyes in those days bargain-like circa $310/£129 (LPs were cheaper there at about $3.60, 7in dearer at 95 cents, $2.40 to £1: the equivalent quantity bought here at import prices today would come to over £740, which may look horrifying but considering the current exchange rate and the rise in the cost of living in the last 21 years seems surprisingly not unreasonable, at 5.7 times the original total cost, everything being relative (it’s the same inflation rate as the cost of a daily newspaper) … Temptations, Sapphires, Sensations, Miracles, Mar-Keys, Mary Wells & Marvin Gaye, Eddie Holland, Irma Thomas, Dionne Warwick, all and more were amongst those 70 LPs … Tricky Dicky Scanes was also at that 1962 Woolwich Granada concert with Sam Cooke and Little Richard — in fact, in the second row, he caught and still has the latter’s tie, thrown into the audience! — while in his own name-dropping binge Dicky recalls at 1968’s San Remo Song Festival night clubbing with Wilson Pickett, smooching with Timi Yuro, taking tea with Shirley Bassey, helping Sarah Vaughan into the casino and saying hello to Louis Armstrong … meanwhile, back in 1985, Mastermind are holding the first ever cut, scratch & mixing competition, using only turntables and records (no drum machines etc), the finals at Hammersmith Palais over Easter but the heats before that at Lewisham’s Paradise Garage (details Max 01-450 5983 or Bert 968 6428) … Steve Walsh has the shirt-tail crews at Peckham Kisses doing the Happy Feet dance to Lisa Lisa … I wonder which Radio London soul presenter thinks Lonnie Liston Smith looks like Andy Peebles? … Gary Oldis, plus a partner, has taken over Scarborough’s 27 room Castle Hotel in Queen Street and converted half the ground floor into the smart over-26s Wed-Sat Mr. Bumbles, with himself as DJ … Edinburgh’s new Move label plans releasing a wide range of black product, soul/disco/Hi-NRG/reggae/gospel/jazz, with distribution via The Cartel, but specialist shops can check direct on 031-225 8518 … John Anderson, whose Big Band is resident at his own Belfast ballroom, is now looking to license his great ‘Glenn Miller Medley‘ to a label here following the buzz created by my review, evidently biggest in the Midlands —which is interesting, as that’s where the last Glenn Miller buzz began in ’75 following my review of the Joe Bob’s Nashville Sound Company ‘In The Mood’ … Spangles Muldoon, of North Sea piracy fame, has long used his real name of Chris Cary as head of the no less piratical but securely Dublin-based Radio Nova: housed in its own £2,000,000 entertainment/studio complex, it’s a US-style station with no restrictions — reaching right through Wales, North-West and Mid-England on 102.7FM/738MW … Shropshire’s less than legal but locally loved Sunshine Radio recently closed down without prior notice, leaving ILR experienced Top 40 mid-morning man Colin ‘James’ Day looking for another radio gig on 0905-353361 … Disco John Leech is currently sitting in on Capital’s early show … Paul Anthony has inaugurated a dynamic new deal in theme nights at Nottingham’s Easy Street this Thursday (21), the toga party including a “Biggus Dickus” competition … Keith Seal’s Friday at West Malling’s The Greenway this week (22) has a marathon PA by David Grant & Jaki Graham, next (29) The Cool Notes … Loose Ends PA Saturday (23) for Tim Guvnor at Harlow Whispers … Sunday (24) Leeds Tiffanys’ 3pm alldayer has Colin Curtis, Paul Dixon, Simon Smith and more with guest hip hoppery … Pete Haigh’s Thursdays are now spent funking The Fever at Blackpool’s Blakes next to the Odeon, with the last Thursday in every month joined by Bob Blackwood for ‘60s/‘70s Mecca/Wigan revival time … Phil Simmons packs High Wycombe Oceans Thursday ladies night with his “superior” mixing, and lofty Simon Harris fills Fridays at Epping Billy Jean’s mixing 100% soul & jazz with Chris Hill and Froggy monthly regulars … Dan Air & Jonathon More’s full Flim Flam Fridays at New Cross Harp Dance Club have added Room At The Top for overflow afro/jazz/reggae … Andy Mac, ex-Manchester Millionaire, funks Fridays at Peterborough Rinaloos … Franklin Sinclair (who from his handwriting ought to be a doctor rather than a solicitor!) still funks Saturdays at Bolton Dance Factory but has also returned under his own soulful terms on Thursdays at Radcliffe Benny’s near Bury … Jerry Green & Big Phil Etgart funk Wembley Stallones Sundays, while Shaun Williams & The Mambo’s hot funk Sundays at Edgbaston Faces International are now somewhat self-consciously called The Trendy Club … Andy Baker funks Buckley Trends near Chester Mon/Thur/Sat — and says “root” to Kim Rathbone (Rhyl Savoy Bistro) …  DEE OH DA DA!

EMI RECORDS have revived their long dormant Stateside logo for a pair of oldies LPs. THE O’JAYS ‘Working On Your Case‘ (EG 2604821) is an excellent soulful set of mid-60’s Imperial & Minit sides, including one of my faves of ’64 ‘You’re On Top‘ and a “live” ‘Stand In For Love‘ that’s almost the same as I cassetted at Harlem’s Apollo in July ’67 (when the crowd screams at “I’m like a shadow in the dark” it’s because all the lights have gone out!). NELLIE LUTCHER ‘Real Gone Gal‘ (EG 2604791) is an interesting selection of subdued late-’40s boogie ‘n’ blues by a legendary if little heard star of her day, sparked by one terrific booting duet with Nat ‘King’ Cole on ‘For You My Love‘. PRT’s new Chess series (CXMB 7200) which includes BOBBY WOMACK & THE VALENTINOS (CXMB 7202), GENE CHANDLER (CXMB 7207), ‘Chess Sisters Of Soul’ (CXMP 2052 — Jackie Ross, Etta James, Mitty Collier etc), ‘Chess Master Sampler’ (CXSP 72501— Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, all the R&B greats, good value), ‘The Best Of New Orleans R&B’ (CXMP 2055 — Eddie Bo, Hawketts, Rod Bernard etc). Less remorselessly “Northern” than might have been supposed, Inferno Soul Club/Skratch Music Productions’ recent set ‘Soul Galore‘ (SINLP 1, via PRT) has many ’60s gems from the Brunswick/Scepter/Wand/Musicor labels plus a bonus 7in EP of Chuck Jackson hits, and now a sequel is due, while from the same Neil Rushton-originated source SMP/inferno have just issued BILLY BUTLER ‘Right Track‘ (SKM 129) on 12in, the 133-135-136½bpm classic being followed by its previously unissued instrumental and flipped by good stompers from The Poppies, Vibrations & Triumphs. Is this in fact the first UK release for ‘Right Track’ on any sort of single? OKeh!


CASHMERE: ‘We Need Love’ (Fourth & Broadway 12BRW 22)
Less overtly “commercial” maybe than ‘Can I’ but already an established sensation with soulful young ladies, this calmly swaying 105-104⅔bpm tripper is cunningly simple and impassionedly crooned in Michael Jackson-ish style, while the flip’s a remix of the perkily skittering 121⅔bpm ‘Keep Me Up‘.

ROSE ROYCE: ‘Love Me Right Now’ (Streetwave MKHAN 39)
Fluidly pumping brightly wriggling and burbling fast 120½bpm chugger infectiously treated as Ricci and the girls repeatedly warble and wail the title line all around the beat, very pleasant but it doesn’t have the lasting substance of a ‘Magic Touch’ — their LP’s old 103bpm “New Philadelphia Remix” of which just happens to be flip.

TONEY LEE: ‘Teaser (Uptown Mix)’ (US Critique CR 8510)
Drily punching steady little 116bpm bonker (not from his usual team) with Toney sounding more anxious as the sneaky tension builds and the backing fills out (synthier percussive Downtown Mix and instrumental flip), quite nagging. Continue reading “March 23, 1985: Cashmere, Rose Royce, Toney Lee, Lifesighs, Grandmaster Melle Mel & The Furious Five”

March 16, 1985: Fatback, Change, Curtis Hairston, DeBarge, Freddie Jackson


My mail deliveries again are up the spout, so much UK-issued hot vinyl has yet to reach me — especially irritating as next week’s reviews will have to be done early as this Friday Tony Blackburn, Steve Walsh and I fly with Island’s Adrian Sykes for the weekend in Washington DC (just call us the Plump Benders!) … Pete Wingfield reveals that “go go bells” are two little cowbells with different pitches mounted together which you hit with a stick (usually in fifths, for the musically minded): doubtless we’ll know that ourselves after two solid nights of live go go (gawd) … I actually attended a music publishers’ meeting on copyright in 1964 at the Library Of Congress in Washington, where I had a privileged tour of the miles of files, then on the way back from a swing through the Southern States with a girlfriend in ’67 we stopped off in DC for a night at Daddy G’s — Daddy Grace’s temple, a church with a nightclub downstairs (also with stained glass windows), the altarpiece being dominated by a huge monochrome photo of this evidently Marcus Garvey-type ‘20s/‘30s figurehead dressed in doublebreasted suit, the congregation all cooling themselves with cardboard fans advertising a funeral parlour while the singers went mad just like in ‘The Blues Brothers’ … Mel Medalie has picked up Spank for new label Champion, remixing ‘Ohh Baby’ for 12in … Motown signed the Emotions and Alfie Silas… Froggy and Simon Harris have megamixed a James Brown medley for Polydor … 3-D’s ‘Tommy Boy Greatest Beats Megamix‘, commercially only on LP, has been promoed by Island on 12in … Disco 85 breakers include Tina Turner, Wilton Felder LP, Gladys Knight & The Pips LP, Process & The Doo Rags, David Grant & Jaki Graham, Temptations (remix), Pump Blenders, Levert, Ohio Players, Tippa Irie … Polydor really ought to release the Direct Drive remixes to satisfy public demand … David Simmons has been delayed here as thanks to mislabelled master tapes it was pressed as instrumental on both sides! … I did so much talking to everyone at Sunday’s DJ Convention that now I’ve lost my voice — luckily not before being called on at the very last minute to talk on the radio panel as replacement for Home Office press officer Roy Sutherwood, who evidently bottled out of appearing despite careful arrangements … Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis winning as International Producers was the only credible “disco” rather than pop award made on a remorselessly commercial day that most observers considered less good than last year’s but by no means bad, the main criticism being that events went on too long — especially a marathon three-part pop quiz with little relevance to disco (Bruno Brooks, Andy Peebles & Adrian John didn’t even know the first ever record played on their own station Radio One was the Move’s ‘Flowers In The Rain’!) … The Hippodrome’s lights fused just as their showpiece display began, which consequently went off at half-cock (and without “spaceships”), following which the finals of the mixing championships saw a Belgian jock do a three minute scratch remix of Paul Anka’s ‘Lonely Boy’ (I mean, bizarre!), the French entrant turning out to be a personality DJ who couldn’t mix: however, sanity did rule, and London’s Roger Johnson won with his funky cut ‘n scratch style (catch him Mondays at Tottenham’s Silver Lady), with Martin McSweeney from Rotherham’s Adam & Eve a well deserved second, Sweden’s Roger Tuuri third … Peter Stringfellow has realised his ambition and just bought the premises for a New York disco, to open in November, at the Gramercy Twin Building on E 21st St/Park Avenue S … Disco Mix Club’s March mixes are again all marvy, Alan ‘The Judge’ Coulthard’s Chaka Khan, early Wham! and current hit medleys, Sanny X’s ZZ Top and “go go” ditto … LWR 92.05FM can usually be counted on to be bright and loud even when Solar 102.45FM or Horizon 94.5FM are faint or off-air, but this time LWR itself has had a full studio bust (they promise to be back this week) … Patti LaBelle/Harold Faltarmeyer topped US Dance/Disco … Hi-NRG’s more general jocks after seeing our recent chart breakdown apparently don’t want to be in the majority any more — fine, but don’t start wingeing now you’ve left the door open for the “Heaven effect”! … Ian Levine’s record to keep a new series of Dr Who instead of repeats for 18 months has turned out less star-studded than planned, featuring the show’s cast and the likes of Bobby Gee, Justin Hayward, John Lodge, Ultravox, Hazell Dean and Faith Brown … Darren, 121bpm … Oscar J Jennings to 208? … DEE OH DA DA!

Looking like an unfortunate example of the embalmer’s art (shoot that lighting cameraman!), DAVID GRANT & JAKI GRAHAM ‘Could It Be I’m Falling In Love’ (Chrysalis GRANX 6) is an otherwise attractively treated 106⅓bpm revival, without any modern frills, of the Detroit Spinners’ 12 years old swayer done as David’s tribute to its original lead singer, the late Phillippe Wynne (edit, and solo subdued 104⅙bpm ‘Turn Around‘ flip) — pure class.


FATBACK. ‘So Delicious’ LP (Cotillion 790253-1)
The new ‘I Found Lovin’ on an outstanding set is the gently weaving 97bpm title track with Ben E King joining its leading ladies and David Sanborn saxxing (as he does of course on the lasciviously funky 102bpm ‘Girls On My Mind‘ hit), although hotter on the floor for less romantic moments is the cloppingly pushing 111bpm ‘Lover Undercover‘, while potentially as hot are the cleanly striding 108½bpm ‘Start It Up‘, Jimmy Jam-ish 107⅓-0bpm ‘Let’s Play Tonight‘ and 88⅓-0bpm ‘Go Out With A Bang‘, soulfully lurching 112⅕bpm ‘She’s A Go-Getter‘, only the percussive talking “live” 127⅔bpm ‘Sequence 96‘ and jittery 125bpm ‘Evil‘ finishing each side in less than essential style.

CHANGE: ‘Mutual Attraction’ (LP ‘Turn On Your Radio’ US Atlantic 81243-1)
Exactly a year after their influential Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis-produced set they return to Jacques Fred Petrus yet retain the Jam sound throughout side two for this purposeful delicate (0-)104½bpm tapper which already sounds like an old friend on radio, the synth chorded brightly strutting 115⅘bpm ‘If You Want My Love‘, starkly jolting 112bpm ‘Love The Way You Love Me‘ — however, initially jocks are falling for the more obvious glibly rehashed ‘Change Of Heart’-like 113bpm ‘Oh What A Feeling‘ (both sides of the single join the lightweight 119⅘bpm title track and 117⅓bpm ‘Examination‘ on side one).

CURTIS HAIRSTON: ‘I Want Your Lovin’ (Just A Little Bit)’ (US Pretty Pearl PPRT 215)
Beefy bass burbled wriggling 119bpm side-to-side swayer, once again sounding like a duet unless that’s really Curtis’s female-pitched voice (dub flip), taking off like a rocket although apart from its bassline it doesn’t strike me as being quite that strong. Continue reading “March 16, 1985: Fatback, Change, Curtis Hairston, DeBarge, Freddie Jackson”

March 9, 1985: Cool Notes, Kurtis Blow, Rah Band, T.C. Curtis, Twilight 22


SUNDAY’S CONVENTION at London’s Hippodrome sees mixing finalists Jeff Cree, Martin McSweeney, Roger Johnson, Lee Reynolds, Ricky Santini and seven European winners compete plus panels on radio and “the biz” with Radio 1’s Stuart Grundy, Wiltshire’s Johnnie Walker, Luxembourg’s Richard Swainson, a Home Office official (pirates can put their case from the floor). Sussex Hillys’ Chris Hill, Plymouth Academy’s Kelly, Bacchus’s Tony Savill, Phonogram’s Jeff Young, EMI’s David Hughes, MCA Music’s Charlie Crane, and much more: Steve ‘Touch The Speaker’ Dennis will take last-minute bookings on 021-351 3217… DMC’s Feb Mixes reached me late but were all marvy, Alan Coulthard’s medleys of Madonna and Boystown oldies, Sanny X’s medley of Melle Mel and remix of ‘1999’, Les Adams’s medley of oldies — incidentally Sanny has remixed Ray Parker Jr’s next commercial single and Jermaine Jackson’s current hit, Alan doing a megamix medley for the latter’s flip and remixing Whitney Houston’s debut single … Kool’s ‘Misled’ Dance Mix is not Mark Berry’s remix but a close copy by the group themselves … Disco 85 breakers include Amii Stewart LP, Manhattans 7in, Robert White, War, Morrissey Mullen, Prince, David Roach, Pink Rhythm, Levert, Jazzy Jay — all of which a few weeks ago with the same support would have hit easily … DJs please always post your charts early enough to reach us by Wednesday morning, but just for your next chart can you get it to us by this coming Tuesday — or give it to me in person on Sunday? … Alan James Jewell is again after excellent mixing showman DJs for high class Hong Kong work: contact Lee Taylor (01-472 5355) — who himself sent me a brilliant fast-cued flowing live megamix to show what jocks not bothering with the contest can do too … Dr Who freak Ian Levine is not only calling on all fans to badger my old school chum BBC1 controller Michael Grade into not suspending the series for 18 months but also, rather than make a good Hi-NRG version of the theme tune, he’s about to produce a Band Aid-style group containing Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Madness, Imagination, Blancmange, Kim Wilde, Hazell Dean, Village People, Alexei Sayle, Slade, Capt Sensible, Limahl and many more to actually raise the money to finance a new series — which sets a precedent for any pressure group now: do any superstars fancy bringing back ‘Juke Box Jury’? The miners’ strike (it’s over in case you hadn’t heard!)? Hanging? … EMI are bringing back Banbarra ‘Shack Up‘ on 12in for the first time, and David Grant & Jaki Graham are reviving the Detroit Spinners’ 12 years old 106⅓bpm ‘Could It Be I’m Falling In Love’ next week … Bruni Pagan ‘You Turn Me On’ was withdrawn for some reason in the States, and David Roach snuck out here in limited numbers by mistake ahead of its late March release … ‘Beyond The Sea‘ is already George Benson’s US follow-up, on 7in … Diana Ross ‘Missing You‘ topped US Black Singles, Chaka Khan ‘This Is My Night‘ replaced Sheena Easton ‘Sugar Walls’ atop Dance/Disco … America’s Grammy Awards were dominated by black stars, Tina Turner (3), Prince (3), Lionel Richie (2), Pointer Sisters and even Michael Jackson for his video — hopefully their pop crossover compromises were worth it to further reawaken white radio (and MTV) to The Sound Of Young America? … 25 or so years ago certain crossover-aimed black pop records were ruined to my mind by then pervasive unsubtle string arrangements, the forerunner of modern compromises, and so violent was my prejudice then that it was ages before I could appreciate much of Sam Cooke’s strings-backed work, which has in fact endured better than most — but will its modern equivalent? … I only ever saw Sam Cooke performing at the Woolwich Granada in October ’62 when he supported Little Richard’s first UK tour (and my first rock ‘n’ roll show!), but then in 1964 while working in New York I met him in Sammy Davis Jr’s dressing room at the Copacabana, following which on separate occasions we really got talking while watching a demonstration of Jamaica Ska dancing at Trude Heller’s in Greenwich Village, and even more memorably drove back to his Warwick Hotel suite together with Lloyd Price after we’d been to see the latter, in his ‘Misty’ phase backed by Slide Hampton’s big band and young Erma Franklin, at the Cuba Cabana — where I also met Miles Davis … Record Mirror, where the name dropping gets shameless! … Little Richard’s documentary on The South Bank Show was essential viewing (find a video): I met him, with Angel Lee, backstage at Harlem’s Apollo where his (briefly glimpsed on Sunday) comeback engagement was 10 rather than the usual 7 days, spent mainly haranguing the audience with quotes like “New York is the world’s capital for sissies — you live here, I don’t” and “Makeup can’t fix up!” —he invited me back to the Park-Sheraton Hotel, luckily not on orgy night, where with his tour managing brother and a whole mixed crowd (including a couple who prompted “I’m so glad you faggots came over tonight,”) we talked till dawn … Esquerita, also called SQ (Eskew) Reeder of ‘Green Door’ fame, used to hang out in a Broadway burger joint I haunted (along with Donald Height and so many more “rare soul” names) — he was into vicuna tied-belt overcoats and camper than Richard … 1984, and “Prince is me in this generation” as (the more talkative) Little Richard so truly says … Jennifer Holliday will play gospel singer Mahalia Jackson — a role originally offered to Aretha Franklin —in the Broadway-bound ‘Sing Mahalia Sing’ … Radio London’s Soul Night Out this Thursday (7) is at Hammersmith Palais in the first of its one-offs … Friday (8) finds the Cool Notes at Bolton Dance Factory, soulful Pete Tong & Jazzy Bob Jones at London Bridge Royal Oak … Second Image start touring Sun (10) Colchester Embassy Suite, Mon (11) Bournemouth Academy, Tues (12) Harrow Weald Middlesex & Herts Country Club, Thur (14) Birmingham Bobby Brown’s … Legear plays Edinburgh Fire Island, Carol Jiani Luton Bolts and Phyllis Nelson Bournemouth Bolts Sun (10), Carol Jiani London Hippodrome Mon (11) … Sacha Vitorovich’s Wednesdays of fashion, makeup, video and live music are an arty alternative at Roxanne in South Kensington Harrington Gardens, something different every week … Rotherhithe’s new club is Bloomers, not Bootles (thanx Graham!), Roy Ayers ‘Running Away’ should be 115½-115-115⅔-115¼bpm … Streetwave/ StreetSounds have moved from their cosy “Hollywood bungalow” in West Acton to nearby 1 Haven Green in Ealing, W5 2UU … DEE OH DA DA!


Lorraine & Heather look and sound cool as they lead THE COOL NOTES ‘Spend The Night’ (Abstract Dance ADT 3, via EMI) through their by now usual 105⅔bpm hot tempo fusion of lovers rock and soul, the true Britfunk, this insistent little jittery tripper really nagging into the brain even if maybe it does seem less strong than their last two on first hearing — and in fact there’s an emptier 108bpm remix of ‘I Forgot’ as flip, with the short 124½-0bpm jazz-funk instrumental ‘Halu (Spring)‘.

KURTIS BLOW: ‘Party Time (The Go-Go Edition)’ (Club JABX 12)
Spliced from the LP by Jeff Young into a marathon new 108¾-108 9/10 bpm version, this classic percussive party jitterer was go go before we realized it in ’83 (listen to the lyrics!), and has filled floors ever since. As well as its 108½bpm inst, the flip has his influential 1980 rap ‘The Breaks‘ —actually 112⅘-113-113¼bpm percussive go go too in all but city of origin.

RAH BAND: ‘Clouds Across The Moon’ (RCA PT 40026)
The one we’ve been waiting for, a gorgeous dreamily drifting 102⅓bpm one-sided telephone conversation in which Mrs Johnson implores her Flight Commander husband to come home … from his star fighter base on Mars, the gimmick that, amidst the subtle banality of her domestic preoccupations, will really intrigue everyone being the procedure and problem of placing an intergalactic ‘phonecall complete with operators and lost connections! Tremendously clever (freaky Super Nova dub and the pirate-plugged original old 102bpm rough mix on flip). Continue reading “March 9, 1985: Cool Notes, Kurtis Blow, Rah Band, T.C. Curtis, Twilight 22”

March 2, 1985: Drop the whop! (Washington DC go go special report) / extended “Hip Hop Hot ‘Uns” review special

If you’ve got to Go-Go, go-go with JAMES HAMILTON

Drop the whop!

ISLAND RECORDS’ purveyor of slackness Julian Palmer last week listed the top tunes that currently get Washington DC’s ghetto kids dancing the Whop and the Happy Feet, as discovered on a recent guided tour (with not one but two Mister T lookalike minders!). Strictly ghetto music, go go is so localised that even in its own home town it’s only stocked by a few record stores and as essentially it’s a live, audience participation music, it’s rarely representative when recorded anyway.

The very young fans who stay up all night for the go go jams (with less violence or drugs than some suggest and strictly no booze, at least as witnessed by Julian) are so much a part of the music created by such favourites as E.U. (as Experience Unlimited’s current line-up is known) that they don’t applaud — they’re performing too.

An incestuous scene as one so tightly knit must be, members of such line-ups as Rare Essence, Trouble Funk (mostly post-graduates in music at Howard University!), and the Soul Searchers swap around on various recording projects, just such a combination backing Little Benny whose UK hit not unnaturally has now caused jealousy at home.

Chuck Brown, now aged 52, hardly ever performs his old ‘Bustin’ Loose’ these days: his current drummer (previously in Trouble Funk) Mac Heary has just recorded ‘The Art Of Drums’ for D.E.T.T. as go go’s answer to the locally popular Art Of Noise! Closely related as go go is with P’funk, it’s no surprise to find that George Clinton is currently recording with Trouble Funk, while other new developments are the “bash anything” junkyard bands of South-East Washington’s ghetto and the jazzier feel of some more recent material — which is not to forget that go go alone is only part of the DC scene, as last week’s chart proved.

The kids are equally into New York rap hits and a fascination with the word “freak” has made Whodini ‘The Freaks Come Out At Night’ currently their biggest fave of all.

TROUBLE FUNK: ‘Drop The Bomb’ LP (Sugarhill SHLP 5554)
1982’s seemingly quintessential go go album doesn’t only feature the usual percussion, brass and chants — on the 102-103⅔-102bpm ‘Hey FeIlas’, 106-104-104⅔-104-104⅓bpm ‘Get On Up‘, 106-105⅓-106⅓-106⅔bpm ‘Let’s Get Hot‘ (plus their current UK single) —but also scores with excellent often soulful, even gospelly, vocals which come into their own on the final dead slow romantic 27½ -54⅓-54⅔bpm ‘Don’t Try To Use Me‘. Also about by Trouble Funk and from ’82, ‘Let’s Get Small‘ (US D.E.T.T. RC501) is a hoarsely chanted more typical lurching 104-105-104-105bpm tapper with harmonica (inst flip), while ‘Spin-Time‘ (US D.E.T.T. DT-7-1005) is a not terribly exciting though stereo separated c113bpm instrumental on 7in off their more recent expensive double LP. Continue reading “March 2, 1985: Drop the whop! (Washington DC go go special report) / extended “Hip Hop Hot ‘Uns” review special”