uk soul artists in the 80s were not obviously from these shores on first glance. sure, if you listened carefully or read smash hits you would find out soon enough that they were from basildon or wigan rather than minneapolis or atlanta. they didn’t go out of their way to represent britain, maybe because the music wasn’t as distinct as it is today. they dressed like their us counterparts, sounded like them and some even had as much success across the pond.
many of these acts embraced jheri curl soul in all its aesthetic glory, and so visually you probably wouldn’t realise say, that loose ends and midnight star were from different parts of the world. they wore the same metallic suits and piled their hair high on one side (the girls, mostly).
others, well they just did their thing and some endeared themselves to the american record buying public more than the home crowd. critics often believe british artists make cynical attempts to crack the us market by adopting a us-style persona and sound, and that this is the secret of their success. the truth is, they stick out like a sore thumb over there.
what the british acts did have though, despite copycat images and sounds, was a certain sweetness and honesty that shone through their lyrics. most preferred to sing about relationships and avoided the overconfident posturing that captured the essence of the soul glo genre so well.
loose ends – hanging on a string (1985)
loose ends are still held up as shining examples of 80s soul – both here and across the atlantic. this 1985 hit from their second album ‘so where are you’ was one of their many chart successes. one time vocalist trish lewin’s daughter, lisa roxanne, has carried on the family pop legacy in recent years.
royalle delite – i’ll be a freak for you (1983)
not that much is known about this group, although they had several other club hits which I don’t remember but would love to find. great squelchy bass, nonchalant vocals and stop-start percussion.
princess – say i’m your number one (1985)
princess was part of the saw stable…but a million miles from kylie, jason and er, big fun. in 2005 she resurfaced on ‘hit me baby one more time’, miming. vernon kay barely hid his disgust…wish i hadn’t seen it. this was my jam and i nagged my way to a ‘1’ earring like she had in the video. even though it would be another 5 years (of rows) before I was allowed to get my ears pierced.
mica paris – my one temptation (1988)
mica was only 19 when she released her debut album ‘so good’ in 1988 inlcuding a duet with will downing. never quite hitting the big time, her sound heralded a more sophisticated late 80s, like the aural equivalent of a glossy coffee table book, an ideal background to dinner parties and wine bars nationwide. don’t get me wrong, i like mica, but i’ve never been as surprised at her lack of lasting crossover success as she seems to be.
jaki graham – round and around (1985)
jaki was perhaps best known for several duets with david grant. the former ub40 backing vocalist had a long run of solo hits between 1985 and 1988, of which this was the first. i can remember making myself sick trying to recreate the dizzying spinning dance she does in the video.
errol brown – your personal touch (1987)
he is of course, known primarily as the lead singer of 70s soul band hot chocolate, and this track was released from errol‘s first solo albun in 1987. after being somewhat ubiquitous around london in the 90s, charming his way around the club and bar scene, he’s now living a more settled life with long-suffering wife ginette in the bahamas.
cool notes – in your car (1985)
this south london group started life as a lovers’ rock act in the late 70s, morphing via disco to true eighties jheri soul artistes. their biggest hits were this track and ‘spend the night’ in 1985, from their much sought-after album ‘have a good forever’. band couple steve and lorraine mcintosh are the parents of bradley from s club 7. tsk, it’s always a shame when the parents are so much cooler than the kids…
pasadenas – enchanted lady (1988)
the pasadenas were a band that paid homage to 60s/70s soul greats – hence ‘tribute’ in 1988. despite a lot of covers and straight jacking the o’jays, they were decent songwriters, as evidenced by this 1988 track. ok, one of the reasons i like it is also because it featured in the episode of only fools and horses when rodney and cassandra get it together, in the nightclub under the watchful eye of mickey pearce and jevon.
sade – the sweetest taboo (1985)
sade, whilst a respected and successful artists amongst the soul fraternity, was also a favourite of estate agents and dinner party hosts. especially her first album in 1984 ‘diamond life’. if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – she carried this theme through her next five albums. she also invented (or reinvented) the ‘croydon’ facelift’ ponytail . except she looked good in it. she found her work extensively remixed, covered and sampled in the 90s.
billy ocean – caribbean queen (1984)
lazy 80s music journalists labelled billy ocean the uk’s answer to michael jackson. i don’t remember this ludicrous comparison but i did always dance to ‘caribbean queen’ in a line with my friends at school discos after one too many cherryades. hilariously, in current chris rock sitcom, ‘everybody hates chris’, his younger sister tonya is a huge billy ocean fan, and claims that he invented the moonwalk not wacko, who stole it. it would have been great if that were true.