It all started circa 1983, a Vespa scooter gave me the freedom during my final year of secondary school to visit a local Birmingham record shop during my lunch hour. Back then I was buying Motown and stuff like The Animals and The Spencer Davis Group, visiting the odd Northern Soul and ‘Scooter’ night, and shaking off having been through a big Blondie phase in my earlier years. My earliest musical recollection was debating The Jackson 5 and The Osmonds with my father… he was in to Nat King Cole, whilst my mother enjoyed a little Mario Lanza. We had many records in the house, I still have the “Monster Mash” album… did you know it was a graveyard smash?
I had this urge for something musical that I couldn’t put my finger on. I bought Carl Anderson’s ‘Buttercup’ on 7″ from a department store in Birmingham in 1985 just as things started to fall into place. Out went lots of vinyl and my quest for 2-step and the entire Curtom (Curtis Mayfield) catalogue took hold with ‘Rare Groove’ coming to Birmingham via Tim Westwood (yes Tim Westwood) as he played out an all-dayer with Maceo & The Macks’ “Cross The Track (We Better Go Back)” and The Jackson Sisters’ “I Believe In Miracles” – the crowd paid little notice as they left The Powerhouse but I was hooked. This was it!
Hop skip and jump a day or two and I was spending every waking hour in a record shop. Manchester, London, Birmingham – wherever the groove took me. It was at this time a school friend, Flirty Berty, invited me to join ‘Crush Pack Connection’ sound system to add a little of the so-called ‘Rare Groove’ people were eager for (after they had exhausted the wallpaper music [Lovers Rock]), with Omar’s “There’s Nothing Like This” and Stavue’s “Body Fusion” real crowd pleasers.
But what of the jazz I hear you ask? Well the all-dayers had a jazz room and the likes of Chris Reid were playing unbelievable music with only a handful of dancers at the time. I had not a clue what any of the music was. Even resting the album covers on top of the record boxes for me to see made no difference – I hadn’t heard of any of it.
With no internet, magazines or even friends into this music, I had no chance of finding the music I really dug. Yeah there were endless Robbie Vincent shows and the odd Gilles Peterson gig but without the all-dayers I really was left out in the cold.
It was also in 1990 that I was invited on to Metro FM to do a pirate radio jazz show with my good friend Donald Palmer and together we played Roy Ayers, Jon Lucien, Airto, Tania Maria etc. to the Birmingham black community. This took me off to do a show alone on Power FM and then PCRL (the longest running pirate radio station). From there in 1993 I set up VIBE magazine – our first issue hit the streets on January 1st, but after a few issues we noticed Quincy Jones had launched his own magazine of the same name so added the UK prefix to stop any confusion.. ha!
I’ve added a bunch of my 90s radio shows to http://www.thepiratearchive.net if you fancy a laugh (at my expense).
Just 17 issues later and we had interviewed Archie Shepp, Nnenna Freelon, Carmen Lundy, The Roots, Nana Vasconcelos, Gary Bartz, Terry Callier, Branford Marsalis, Rachelle Farrell… well, you get the picture. I was going to Dingwalls on a Sunday, Mr. Smith in Warrington on a Wednesday, various nights around the Midlands, oh, and Rock City in Nottingham, Manchester from time to time, and the obligatory Brighton Jazz-Bop… But times were difficult. The team were hand delivering the printed magazines to record shops around the country – Tower Records, Soul Brother, Decoy, Same Beat, Soul Jazz, and so on. Yes we had great advertising and no shortage of contributors, but it was all a bit too much. Deadlines, distribution, cash-flow and Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all put a stop to the printing.
Then along came ukvibe.org around 2002. We have added a few of the old articles to the site and growing each day. We are trying to fight off the advertisers – keeping it real, as they say.
I’ll be adding to this from time to time as my fading memory sparks up. The team hope you enjoy our pages. Black music is a colourful place to relax, to dance, to be.
Editor, publisher, loose leaf tea drinker, husband and father.
Steve Williams’ Best of 2015:
1. Charles Lloyd – Wild Man Dance (Blue Note) Review here
2. Afrika Mkhize – Rain Dancer (Private Press) Review here
3. Ibrahim Maalouf – Kalthoum (Impulse!)
4. Zim Ngqawana – Greatest Moments [Best Of] (Gallo)
5. Géraud Portal & Etienne Déconfin – Brothers (Gaya Music Production) Review here
6. Nat Birchall – Invocations (Jazzman) Review here
7. Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet – Family First (Beat Music Productions) Review here
8. Fabiano do Nascimento – Dança dos Tempos (Now-Again) Review here
9. Makaya McCraven – In The Moment (International Anthem) Review here
10. Artyom Manukyan – Citizen (Ghost Note) Review here
11. Lucas Arruda – Solar (Favorite France) Review here
12. Brian Ellis Group – Escondido Sessions (El Paraiso) Review here
13. Sebastian Studnitzky – Memento (Contemplate)
14. Nate Wooley – (Dance to) The Early Music (Clean Feed)
15. Kenny Wheeler – Songs for Quintet (ECM) Review here
16. Gael Horellou – Synthesis (DTC) Review here
17. Emanative – The Light Years of The Darkness (Steve Reid Foundation/Brownswood) Review here
18. Pó de Café Quarteto – Amérika (Private Press)
19. Donny McCaslin – Fast Future (Grean Leaf)
20. Verneri Pohjola – Bullhorn (Edition) Review here