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Saturday Love, Flyte Time, Fight Time

by Shaun Smith

 

“Like shite in a field - everywhere”. Jim Royle’s apt description of Chris Evans aired in “The Royle Family” years later could have applied to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis back in the mid-1980s. Except that they weren’t shite. But they certainly were everywhere. In 1987 it seemed that you couldn’t walk into a single kick-to-kill winebar, town-centre pub or club anywhere in the country without hearing one of two albums. If it wasn’t Luther Vandross’s “Give Me The Reason” then it was a nailed-on certainty it would be a track off Alexander O’Neal’s “Hearsay” album playing in the background. This collection of soulful tunes beautifully crafted by the Jam and Lewis Flyte Time production team in Minnesota seemingly formed the original soundtrack to UK socialising ‘87 unless you were one of those trendy hep cats in London getting all dancefloor masturbatory about rare groove.

 

These were inbetween days [post-Heysels, pre-acid house] for a lot of lads who found themselves in a strange limbo. Going out revolved around a simple, hedonistic equation  - 4 x F + 3 x D = Chic tune (football, fashion, fighting, fucking + drink, dance, drugs = Good Times). But times were definitely changing. Maybe it was a sign of impending Victor Maturity I don’t really know but from a personal point of view matchday pugilism was becoming an increasingly less-attractive proposition in comparison to chasing skirt [or half-mast flared culottes as were in vogue that year]. And skirted/culotted minxes wanting to be chased were to be found in abundance in the type of bars and clubs whose musical output seemed to consist of not just Alexander O’Neal but the entire Jam/Lewis production roster. It wasn’t exactly the hardest decision you were ever likely to face. Getting webbed by Spurs or copping for some bobbed beauty in your local Tiffanys? Let me think about that for one second ... her lipstick instead of your blood stains on your Burberry golf jacket and lilac Valentino t-shirt? Trading body fluids as opposed to punches or getting your back cut to ribbons by heights-of-passion, Estee Laudered manicured nails rather than by some balloon with a Stanley seemed an infinitely better caper. And the competition in this foxy-hunting wasn’t quite as daunting as the reception committee waiting at Middlesbrough station. Not when you knew you were up against other young males whose sartorial role model was Charlie Sheen’s Bud Fox in “Wall Street” – the “greed is good” striped shirt, tie and braces, Next storecard-sponsored Hitman and Her brigade. Awaydays were bin-bagged in favour of awaynights in venues like Millionaires in Manchester and Wakefield ’s Rooftop Gardens . The violenza could still flow in some places like the cheap lager that helped induce it but wherever you went, you couldn’t escape the Flyte Time soundscape. Those trademark Roland T808 atmospheric snare drums, as heard in the opening bars of Change’s “Change of Heart”, became akin to Red Indian war signals in gaffs like Rotters in Doncaster . How anyone could kick off as O’Neal and Cherrelle crooned a tune as good as “Saturday Love” was beyond me but I witnessed it in Blackpool ’s Dixieland club by the central pier. Coming up for oxygen as some sovereigned, semi-flared darling from Leigh necked the face off me, a flying Skol Special bottle announced the call to arms for Wigan v Scouse that continued on the promenade outside as the dj segued into Earth Wind and Fire’s “After the Love Has Gone”. Indeed. For at least three months after its release, I actually thought the 12” club mix of Janet Jackson’s “When I Think Of You” carried a mid-song sample shout of “bouncers to the dancefloor”. It might as well have done … 

 

Not that such behaviour impressed all the ladies in the house. While they might put up with the chaps drunkenly changing O’Neal’s lyrics from “I’ve been kissed …” to “I’ve been pissed but I never knew love like this” when out in a club, most femmes deffo wanted slightly more in the way of seduction than just being a standby M*A*S*H unit for the Armani Jeaned Sealed Knot Society. And unless you were very lucky, no girl enticed for post-club pash was likely to be driven into a wild, sexual frenzy listening to the Pogues “Rum, Sodomy and the Lash”. But drop a tune like the SOS Band’s “Weekend Girl” on the turntable, open some chilled Becks or even a bottle of cheap Lambrusco if you had a real classy doris on your hands and you were guaranteed more action than Euston station on a Saturday lunchtime. Certain standards were still maintained though. While the days of the Bunnymen or Killing Joke being a precursor to knickers magically dropping off were now long gone, the noble art of taking the piss wasn’t. A Pernod-and-blacked-off-her-tits lovely singing the title line of “(What Can I Say) To Make You Love Me” to a mate was met with the immortal reply “do you know with ears like that you could pass for the Freight Rover Trophy?” I don’t think he pulled …

 

Little did we know at the time but 1987 was to prove the apex for all of this. Tunes like Farley Jackmaster Funk’s “Love Can’t Turn Around” and Steve Silk Hurley’s “Jack Your Body” broke and went mainstream Mickey Droy huge. Within twelve months, the lads were growing out the Bracewell heads, taking all manner of tablets and dancing to a heavier, rhythmic groove in warehouses. House music  supposedly changed everything - unless you were still partially hooked on football violence. Millwall had been promoted to the First Division and in the same month we travelled there, the Human League released a blinding single “Love is All That Matters” that unsurprisingly went by un-noticed. It had first appeared on their critically savaged 1986 album “Crash” – production credits? James “Jimmy Jam” Harris III, Terry Lewis. It’s safe money to say the League weren’t played over the tannoy at the Den that afternoon but I find rather fitting in a warped kind of way that a Flyte Time produced song acts as a reminder of one of the nastiest holes I ever had the pleasure of travelling to ……….

 

 

10 Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis dancefloor/police cell fillers [1982-1987] 

Cherrelle – I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On

Thelma Houston – You Used To Hold Me So Tight

The SOS Band – Just Be Good To Me

The Human League - Human 

Cheryl Lynn - Encore

The SOS Band featuring Alexander O’Neal – The Finest

Cherrelle – Affair

Alexander O’Neal – Fake

Klymaxx – Heartbreaker

Janet Jackson – Miss You Much

 

 

10 non-Jam & Lewis “clock her/here they are” babes/baddies [1982-1987]

Pointer Sisters - Automatic

Loose Ends – Hanging on String

Whitney Houston – How Will I Know

Cameo – Single Life

Prince - 1999

Luther Vandross – Never Too Much

In Deep - Last Night a DJ Saved My Life

Donna Allen – Serious

Gary Byrd – The Crown

Chaka Khan – I Feel For You  

 

 

 
   
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