Legends of the UK's homegrown genre of reggae, Lovers Rock, remember lust-filled liasons on the dancefloor... (From Haringey Independent)
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Legends of the UK's homegrown genre of reggae, Lovers Rock, remember lust-filled liasons on the dancefloor...
A Lover’s Rock club circa 1981 and immaculately dressed black youths, the children of Windrush voyagers, are locked in silent embraces on a darkened dancefloor.
“You would meet a complete stranger and have a slow dance,“ remembers Carroll Thompson, whose hits I’m So Sorry and Simply In Love provided the soundtrack to many of these lust-filled liaisons. “You would be so close, in his arms, you don’t know his name, he doesn’t know your name...“
“You don’t even know what he looks like!“ chips in Janet Kay, the singer of the genre’s breakthrough hit Silly Games.
“We took it to another level,“ adds Victor Romero Evans, singer of At The Club, who together with Carroll and Janet is performing in Lover’s Rock Monologues, an unplugged show featuring the songs and stories of the genre at the Dugdale Centre, Enfield.
“Sometimes you’d hardly see any movement, you’d just be locked in. Some tantric dancing was going on!
“At the end of the dance,“ continues Carroll, “you might not exchange another word, no numbers, no names. It would be thank you very much and move on!“
The men turned out in silk shirts and socks, crocodile shoes and gold chains and got up close with the women, who wore long pleated skirts, blouses and gold tipped shoes.
On the streets outside, such intimacy was in short supply if you were young and black. This was the era of the Sus law, the New Cross Fire in which 13 black youths were killed in a suspected racist attack and the Brixton riots. Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech was still echoing in the ears of police and persecuted alike.
“You were stopped for standing, for walking, you were stopped for nothing,“ explains Victor. “It was harrowing, there was a lot of frustration.“
For these children of Caribbean migrants in the UK, music tastes extended beyond their parents’ rootsy reggae. When big-name Jamaican producers relocated to London to ride the growing reggae scene, the singers they worked with had home-grown pop sensibilities – the result, Lover’s Rock, was a smooth, sweet sound the youth could call their own.
“Because we were first generation,“ says Carroll, “as far as we were concerned we were all one. There was no division between islands or cultures or anything like that. It was a very unifying experience.“
“We were of the attitude of we’re not putting up with the rubbish and we’re going to fight to get what we want,“ adds Janet.
“We were more aspirational then our parents,“ says Carroll, “we didn’t see the limitations.“
For the genre’s protagonists, the coming of age music they made marked their own entry from young adulthood into stardom.
Janet Kay was just 21 at the time of her first Top Of The Pops performance, singing Silly Games to the nation.
“As a child it was a dream that I had,“ she remembers. “It was one of my first performances ever. I just had to put my head in a space to actually get through it, to do it as if I’ve done this before as I had done – in my head. In my head I’d done it loads of times!
“You get ripped off along the way but it doesn’t stop you from doing it again.“
“We were exploited as young artists,“ adds Carroll, “but in terms of being creative and getting our creativity out there it was a wonderful time.“
Lover’s Rock Monologues is at The Dugdale Centre, London Road, Enfield until February 18, at 8pm. Details: 020 8807 6680