Record Review: Eddy Grant – Electric Avenue 12

Eddy lived in the UK but emigrated to Barbados after the 1981 Brixton Riots

Eddy Grant was a performer who seemingly came out of nowhere to have a huge, platinum hit with “Electric Avenue” in 1983. Of course, we didn’t know it at the time but he had a career of over 15 years already in the UK. His band The Equals, hit number one with “Baby Come Back” in 1967. Though I’ve never heard it, I cherish the Elektric Music [Karl Bartos] cover of it from 1992. I could say the same for another of The Equals songs from ’67. I’m sure most of us are familiar with “Police On My Back” as famously covered by The Clash on their “Sandinista!” album where it should have been a [hit] single. Obviously, Eddy Grant can write some great songs.

In 1982, he penned “Electric Avenue” so named after the street in Brixton where 1981 found horrible rioting taking place amid a depressed economy and hostility between the police forces and the population; largely Caribbean immigrants. Having emigrated from French Guyana to the UK where he grew up, this was disturbing enough for Grant to emigrate to Barbados, where he has been established ever since. Some of his luggage en route was lost along with some songs he had written for his next album. Needing more material, he wrote “Electric Avenue” as a reflection on the social conditions and violence that ended with him leaving England for a return to the Caribbean.

Timing, as with much in life, is everything. In the immediately post-“Thriller” era, MTV was still smarting from accusations that the channel discriminated against black artists and they discovered that – oh my goodness – white people would not change the channel when a black person was on MTV for four minutes. All eyes were on Michael Jackson by early 1983 and MTV started looking for other artists to feature because the optics weren’t good. Enter Eddy Grant with a great song that straddled funk, reggae, and rock like a pro.

I remember liking “Electric Avenue” back in the day. I must have seen the video hundreds of times that year. I never changed the channel, though it really didn’t make a big impression on me. But any song that you heard hundreds of times over a half of a year without being especially annoyed had to have the goods, right?

<flash forward 32 years>

Portrait ‎| US | 12″ | 1982 | 4R9-03574

Eddy Grant: Electric Avenue US 12″ [1982]

  1. Electric Avenue [special extended dub mix]
  2. Time Warp [special 5:56 domestic mix]

It was a few years ago when I began hearing the song for the first time in decades on the sound system at the gym where I exercise. Time had been especially kind to the tune! In the 21st century the song really struck a chord with me and I thought to myself, “I really, really am enjoying this now. A lot. I need to do something about that.” So I bought the 12″ last summer and it’s been playing for days on my iPod touch.

The 12″ version is not radically different to the hit single version of the song. the sound was reggae performed electronically on synths with maybe a drum machine with plenty of dub style space in the mix. Bass was played on a synth. Guitars were relegated to a single slashing chord used rhythmically. The husky vocals of Grant stood out beautifully against the revving mototcycle synth hook that I never tire of. The production and arrangement worked like a charm with the lyric and it was a tough, no-nonsense hit song that found a home in the top ten around the world.

In the UK and America it hit the number two slot. But in America it was number two for five weeks straight [it couldn’t best The Police juggernaut that was “Every Breath You Take”] and that meant this it was awarded a RIAA platinum single for over 1,000,000  in sales. Hundreds of plays later and it still sound welcome to me. The 12″ maintained the same arrangement as the 7″ mix until the middle of the song where it was followed by nearly three minutes of dub coda. In spite of the intelligent use of dub aesthetics in the song, the mix on the 12″ is kind of perfunctory. It would have been more interesting to have heard a real dub pro like Groucho Smykle or Adrian Sherwood get their hands on this.

The B-side was another matter entirely! “Time Warp” existed in a completely different universe from its A-side. First of all, this was a Eddy Grant song from the B-side of a 1977 single credited to The Coach House Rhythm Section! Five years can be an eternity in pop. This was completely different to the reggae/funk mix of the A-side. This was space disco. Motorik drum machines and synth pulses laid down the unwavering rhythm while primitive drum machines kept white noise “hi-hats” popping throughout this one. The lead melody was a meandering monosynth and disco divas offered up all of the “doot-doots” needed to hold it together. The six minute electrodisco instrumental must have sounded completely out of its time when pulled into service as a B-side again, five year later, but today there are a lot of bands trying their best to emulate this sound! I call it a win showing how far a musician like Eddy Grant had traveled in the 15 years of his career at the time. Memo to self: pick up a copy of “Killer On The Rampage” the next time I see one!

– 30 –

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13 Responses to Record Review: Eddy Grant – Electric Avenue 12

  1. I “inherited” a copy of Killer On The Rampage last year but I haven’t listened to it yet! Some of The Equals stuff is massive – like this funky number: (even better is the live version that’s nearly impossible to find unless you want to pay $350 for a five-song EP!).


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Jeremy Shatan – Well, I’m here to say that the massively overplayed hit single sounds even better to me in 2019. Give it a try and report back with your findings. Good to know The Equals were not just a fluke hit.


  2. Tim says:

    Great song and, I know, I know, your opinion is that mashups are a social thing so socially speaking there are some killer mashes that use this as an A or a B.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – Speaking of mashups, something perverse occurred to me the other day. Has anyone ever done a mashup of “Vienna” and “ Shaddup You Face?” I’d give it the old college try except that it would mean actually hearing “ Shaddup You Face” and ignorance, as I often proclaim, is bliss.


      • Tim says:

        I was really lucky, I VERY accidentally found the mashup community around 2007 and it was really about genre clashes and real seat of your pants stuff. Now people use stems and make these things that are incredibly professional sounding. Either that or one of the sources is some unlistenable modern autotuned Taylor Perry Bieber track. I still check out a few places but where I used to find a few things a month that blew my jaded Robert Gordon-esque mind now I find a few a year.

        Tangent. Just learned around Christmas that there are deluxe Tindersticks reissues out there. After the financial orgy of spoiling my family for Christmas I could only afford the deluxifed “Simple Pleasures” which after the delayed gratification of waiting three weeks for arrived from the UK yesterday.
        Jeez this is beautiful.
        Affordable, not too much, not too little, just what a market friendly SDE should be.


  3. diskojoe says:

    “Baby Come Back” also made the US Top 40 in 1968. I remember the song when I was a lad & around 10 yrs. ago I Equals compilation for $1.99 @ a FYE bargain bin (the one thing that I miss about mall record stores were the bargain bins)


    • postpunkmonk says:

      diskojoe – Tell me about it! Were there any finer bargain bins than the cutouts sections that every Camelot Music had? Some of the best music you could buy in that store – for peanuts! I remember $1.00 CDs when even used discs were $7 easily.


  4. diskojoe says:

    We didn’t have Camelot Music up here in New England. I do remember Strawberries, Popcorn Records (where you actually got a free bag of popcorn), Sam Goodies & FYE. The ultimate bargain bin purchase that I made was purchasing the Jellyfish box set on Not Lame for $0.25 in a FYE


  5. SimonH says:

    25 cents! That is pretty incredible when you think what that box set ended up being worth!


  6. diskojoe says:

    Yes, it was $0.25 & I have a semi-famous witness to prove it. In fact, it was my friend Barrence Whitfield who first noticed it & suggested that I buy it.

    I have another great box set story. About 9 yrs. ago I was at my local Borders when I spotted a Deutsche Grammophon classical music box set that was on sale for $24.99. It had 56 CDs. I picked it up & I realized that it purchased it @ a fraction of its true worth. It was actually the price for the 2 CD version. I was actually struck by conscience & I returned it to Borders & explained the situation to a clerk. He replied that according to their computer that it was the correct price & so I kept it. That’s probably one reason Borders went under.


  7. SimonH says:

    I consider myself pretty honest, but I’m wondering whether I would have been as honest as that:) Great story!


    • postpunkmonk says:

      SimonH – Honesty is not only the best policy, it’s the only policy! And the universe will often take care of its own. I had bought a 12″ single of Visage’s “Pleasure Boys” when it came out and shortly afterward, I was driving around with a friend with a VCR in the back seat for music video trading as we were going to her house to do this. A squirrel ran out in front of her car and she swerved quickly to avoid it. The VCR shifted in the back seat and broke the Visage single! I was at Record City and had had bought 3-4 import 12″ singles shortly after “And That’s No Lie” 12″ from Heaven 17 was out. At the same time, they had a new copy of “Pleasure Boys” in stock and I purchased another copy. I got home and checked the receipt to find that I had pulled four 12″ singles to buy, but had only been charged for three. I went back and pointed out the discrepancy on the receipt [hey, I shopped there frequently and didn’t want any difficulties] and the clerk waived any concerns and said it would not be anything I’d have to pay for.


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