Project Description

THIS IS LOVERS’ ROCK

Lovers’ Rock is London’s great contribution to reggae music. By the mid 1970s the children of the Windrush generation were coming of age, and, encouraged to sing at home and in church, ready to display their vocal talents. Brought up on a mixture of their parents’ record collections and Top Of The Pops, the generation found its voice first through singing competitions popular across London, often promoted by the sound systems of the day. Sir Coxsone used his residency at the Four Aces in Dalston to host a singing competition across many heats which was eventually won by a very young Louisa Marks from Shepherd’s Bush.

Her prize was a one-record recording contract which produced the single held to be the birth of Lovers’ Rock Caught You In Lie produced and arranged by Dennis Bovell, late of the Sufferer sound system and the godfather to, and creative hand behind, Lovers’ Rock. He even played the bass on the tune. Likewise to give another example Cassandra (Harris) from Lewisham won a competition at the Bouncing Ball in Peckham promoted by the Ital Rockers sound system. Her prize was to record at the Eve studio, underneath a record shop in Brockley Rise, again under the aegis of Dennis Bovell.

Tunes from Eve were put out on a label called Lover’s Rock (where the apostrophe sits is a matter of personal choice) and the music being created by the second generation had a name. Following time honoured traditions in Jamaica, the tempo and themes of Lovers’ Rock collided with the pleasures of hip-hug dancing and soon demand for this London variant of reggae music knew no bounds.

It could be said that an entire musical scene, away from the High Street clubs and the no-go West End, was created from Lovers Rock – blues dances held in flats, empty houses and basements across inner city London (and elsewhere of course) in the late 1970s and 1980s. The genre – and name – was also exported back to Jamaica with many JA artists – Errol Dunkely, Sugar Minott, Gregory Isaacs and Dennis Brown to name but four – cutting tunes aimed squarely at the UK lovers market.

Household names, not least from the odd break-through track like Silly Games were created by Lovers’ Rock – Janet Kay, Carol Thompson, Sandra Cross, Tradition, The Investigators – these artists are still carrying the torch into advanced middle age for the children of the Windrush generation.

My memories of Lovers’ Rock are getting ready for parties held in rather dark rooms that went on until the next morning, very close dancing, the heat and perspiration, shrinking afros, singing along to popular tunes of the time and dancing (very close), smiling, happy, being with friends from school and looking forward to the next one.

“That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”

STEVE WAX - Deptford Dub Club, Deptford