To accompany Neil Kulkarni's Fashion Records article in The Wire 421, reggae writer and historian Noel Hawks selects some key releases
“Too Late To Turn Back Now”
(Fashion) 12" 1982
At this stage of his career Jamaica’s most soulful singer Alton Ellis was residing in London. Originally sung by The Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose in 1972, Ellis’s first version of this song for Clive Chin at Randy’s was released the following year, and became one of the most in-demand revival records of the decade. Ten years later this moving update, where Ellis felt he’d finally been given the time to do the song justice, proved very popular.
Laurel & Hardy
(Top Notch) 10" 1982
A wry look at life on the streets of South London during some particularly turbulent times, where the seriousness of the situation was satirised by some deadpan, not slapstick, humour. Alton Ellis’s “English Talk” and I-Roy’s “Point Blank Observer Style” had sent up Cockney accents before, but Battersea based Reverend Tony and Pope Paul were, to the best of my knowledge, the first deejays to actually chat in genuine London accents. A change of name to Laurel & Hardy, the addition of bow ties and bowler hats and their audacious debut release “You’re Nicked” on a Fashion sublabel caused a storm of media interest and resulted in an appearance on the influential UK TV show The Tube.
“Woman Deh Yah”
(Fashion) 12" 1987
Jamaican mic-man Professor Nuts provides further evidence of the international language of deejay music, voiced in the old A-Class studio on a brief London stopover. Chris Lane played the 12 bar bassline and Ewan Robinson, from South London’s One Blood, provided the riveting rock ’n’ roll piano in a Jerry Lee Lewis style; the professor’s highly humorous approach was not a million miles away from Jerry Lewis without the Lee.
Winsome & Frankie Paul
“Let’s Start Over”
(Fashion) 7"/12" 1989
A complementary combination of Kingston’s most accomplished – and prolific – male vocalist of the 80s, Frankie Paul, and Battersea’s best, Winsome, whose style and uncompromising stance belied any notions that lovers rock was performed solely by simpering schoolgirls. Originally a smooth, slow burner from Miles Jaye, it’s transformed into a dynamic duet that sounds as if both participants really do want and need to stay together for the sake of “the little ones”. The swinging rhythm track is supplied by North London’s very own Mafia & Fluxy, performing as the Fashion house band popularly known as The A-Class Crew.
“Request The Style”
(Fashion) 7" 1993
In 1970 Duke Reid, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and the wonderful Dave Barker (of Dave & Ansel Collins) took “Lock Jaw”, one of the most exciting and innovative records ever made, to the top of the Jamaican charts. Nearly a quarter of a century later Fashion sampled the rhythm – I won’t say updated because it was still years ahead of its time. After an introduction from the 60s TV show that the BBC renamed Boss Cat, the affable Top Cat, who had carved out a redoubtable reputation deejaying on the South London sound system circuit, goes for it like there’s no tomorrow.
Read Neil Kulkarni's Fashion Records feature in The Wire 421. Wire subscribers can access the full article via the online archive.