Were you also listening to Gilles Peterson at this stage. When did you meet Gilles?
I didn`t know it until later but it was Gilles who used to supply Invicta with their transmitter. In exchange he would do a Jazz show. I recorded loads but they`re all on cassette. I think they`re in my garage. He used to play killer stuff man! I met Gilles in 1984 in Richmond, in a pub called the Belvedere Arms where he used to DJ in the mid `80s, close to where he used to live. The scene was extremely suburban in those days and the best music was played often in the home counties in the south of England. Most of London was a no go zone at night if you were from outside that area. Also it was comforting to find people around your own age group into the same music and lifestyle. I was able to go out and meet likeminded people, and my life was heading into such a great era for the London UK music and club scene. At this time there were still no real Black / Soul or dance music stations, only pirates and they were forever coming off and on air. Yet there was this massive demand for Soul / Jazz music here in London for sure. So you had pirate stations like Jazz FM, Solar, Kiss had started, many others. I would sort out the good shows and listen in.
Where did you start digging once you`d exhausted those basements?
Basically back to about 1982, I started to go to lots of shops, import shops that were emerging all over the place. There was a local shop to me in Greenford called Kings Discs which was a great record shop, so I started buying records there and you know just everywhere really. Suburban shops in Harrow, Greenford, Ealing. There was Beggar`s Banquet in Ealing. I think that might have been their first shop. The first real major record fair I went to was Croydon Record Fair which still goes on today and that`s where I actually met my friend from Brazil. That was in 1985 I was still in school. That`s how I eventually started going to Brazil because of him. I used to dig everywhere really, as soon as I had a free moment from school or college or wherever I was, I used to go out digging. I used to buy a lot of new music at that time, in the mid-80s as well, from places like City Sounds, Bluebird Records. They also had these “Cut-Out” sections. The scene was getting quite big for retrospective music then because a lot of people were dissatisfied with the current records coming out from the US, `cos we were all into American music at the end of the day, but there`d been a lot of changes in production and styles, so a lot of people started looking back and we had a number of trendy scenes in London for that, like the Rare Groove scene, the Jazz scene. The new releases were much more commercialized and the sound was big, maybe too big for my ears. Things had started changing for sure with the music scene, starting in the US.
Counter at Bluebird Records, Church Street, Paddington.
How did you meet Paul Murphy?
I met Paul because basically I started to hang out with a friend, who was playing for Brentford Football Club, and he was really mad into Jazz, and he got me into the Jazz scene. Although I had some idea after listening to Robbie Vincent and Gilles on the radio, my friend was really into that emerging Jazz Dance scene. He was a few years older. He took me to Paul`s shop, `cos Paul had a few shops in the basement of the Record Shack, Fusion Records in Exmouth Market as well, and I used to go with him on Saturday mornings or afternoons, before or after he`d been playing football. Later I met Paul because I started going to The Wag Club with the same friends on Monday nights. I was still in school then and Paul was also doing a club called Sol Y Sombre in Soho, which was on the North side of Soho. The South side was a no-go zone at night. A Mexican place. Paul used to play there on Fridays. I used to go there and get the last train home when I was about fifteen.
All stories would suggest that Paul is a pretty full on character. Creating the Jazz Dance scene in London, and ditching it as soon as the media started to latch on to it. Handing his rider of a crate of vodka out to crowd in Japan.
Yeah Paul`s pretty crazy. But he`s a really nice guy, a really really cool guy. You know it`s weird but I always had a nice synergy (laughs) with him. He was always really nice to me, I think because I was so young. He always used to give me records. I don`t think he used to charge me for some of the records when I was buying in the Record Shack or Fusion. When he started playing at these clubs he knew me because I`d been going to his shops. You say he`s a pretty full on character but he`s always been really sweet with me. He would buy me tequila and orange juice at Sol Y Sombra and I would go home so pissed after two of those. He would keep bringing me drinks. He is a radical definitely. A very alternative guy and again very important for me, even though he probably does not know that.
Paul`s scene was the most fashionable, featuring cool bands, artists, musicians, he was running that bohemian scene in Soho during the early to mid-80s. So he was a bit alternative in that respect. When it got a bit too much for him, in terms of popularity or publicity, he would move on. That`s evident in the kind of musical styles and club scenes that he`s gone through. He was a very important character within that Black music scene in London.
At this time, it was really “cool” to listen to Jazz, it was a cool middle class thing and everyone wanted to be seen in that way. It was status thing if you went to those clubs. People were reading Jack Kerouac books, James Dean was an international phenomenon and his story underwent a huge revival, and fashion was based on the `50s and `60s. Everyone shopped in second-hand stores like Flip on Kings Road and you could hear the coolest Jazz blaring out of shops like Woodhouse and Browns. Paul`s scene was almost an automatic response to that.
At Electric Ballroom did you check out both the Jazz upstairs and the Electro downstairs?
I only ever went to the Electric Ballroom once. Gilles used to do it, well Paul used to do it first. Paul Anderson, who I`m DJing with at the moment, he was the main feature with George Power downstairs, while Paul used to do a Jazz room upstairs. I actually never went there because it was too dangerous. I went there once when Gilles was doing it. But it was just rough man, you know, so I never used to go. You`d get mugged up man. Ridiculous. It was rough in London in those days. So I don`t really know much about the Electric ballroom scene.
Did you know Milton McAlpine? If so do have any idea what happened to him, as he was a key dancer around the time of the Electric Ballroom and is very conspicuous by his absence from the interviews in Snowboy`s book “From Jazz Funk And Fusion To Acid Jazz”?
I remember Milton as he used to be a dancer at Cranford Disco. We used to train on Tuesday or Wednesday and go into Cranford Disco and the DJ Fergi, used to play killer Jazz, Soul and Disco for under 18s. Before my father would pick us up we would go into the hall and dance and Milton was one of the dancers there, also Jerry Barry. That would had been the first time I met him, must had been 1983. I`ve never seen him since but boy he was a great dancer.