Electrofied 80s: Essential Paul Hardcastle
Out Feb 4th on Music Club Deluxe
· “As pioneers go, there are few that have had the impact of Paul Hardcastle” Data Transmission
· “An extraordinary career” DMC World
· “Any producer born in the 80s has been undoubtedly influenced by Hardcastle's work in a huge way. Hearing ‘19’ on TV as child sparked my curiosity into sampling and how electronic music was made” Brassica
On February 4th Music Club Deluxe present ‘Electrofied 80s: Essential Paul Hardcastle’, the definitive, double-compilation-album retrospective, which maps out Paul’s hugely successful and influential musical journey.
Paul is best know for the pioneering worldwide mega hit ‘19’, and it’s highly likely that the track was lodged firmly in the conscience of musicians like Radioactive Man, Drexciya, I-F, Aux 88, Cylob, Ali Renault, Dopplereffekt and DMX Krew, when exploring their own take on (the real) electro sound.
However, as ‘Electrofied 80s’ attests, Paul also delivered a huge wealth of equally compelling tracks in addition to ‘19’, which upon listening should go some way to affirm his rightful place in the pantheon, alongside fellow analogue funk greats like Arthur Baker, Cybotron/Model 500, Egyptian Lover, Hashim, Man Parrish, Newcleus, Warp 9 and Tyrone Brunson.
That’s not all though; in addition to straight-up electro, Hardcastle’s output featured here demonstrates his own stamp on that genre, as the man himself explains: “the main sound was electro - I was hugely into Afrika Bambaata at the time - but I added a bit of jazz and a nice melody.”
Tracks like ‘Loitering With Intent’, ‘Forest Fire’ and the killer ‘King Tut’, overlay the crisp drum machines with musical flourishes of soul and jazz, which at the time resulted in crossover capabilities, (winning equal favour with both breakdance and soulboy crowds), and advanced levels of musicality, putting Paul’s output on a more high-brow par with Herbie Hancocks’ jazz- informed ventures into electronics.
This set also features a large element of 80s boogie/soul/dance music akin to the likes of Aleem, Nick Straker Band, D Train and Jellybean, plus all manner of other styles; ‘Moonhopper’ has a mellow summery shimmer, ‘Eat Your Heart Out’ brings to mind both Midnight Star’s ‘Operator’ and Hot Streak’s ‘Body Work’, the cosmic ‘Sound Chaser’ is all eerily-chorded dancefloor moodines, whilst ‘Are You Ready’ has a distinct Italian-house-meets-balearic vibe.
Other highlights include The stealthy ‘Over And Over’, (which wouldn’t sound out of place in a DJ Stingray set), Paul’s loveably quirky remix of Pigbag’s ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag’, and the foray into live drums on ‘Time Machine’.
In the summer of 1985, there was no escaping the music of Kensington-born keyboard sorcerer Paul Hardcastle. It was everywhere – or rather one particular song was: the remarkable groundbreaking dance anthem, ‘19.’ Combining segments of dialogue sampled from a US documentary about the Vietnam War with mesmeric dance beats, the innovative ‘19’ dominated the UK’s radio airwaves and packed nightclub dance floors while its accompanying video achieved heavy rotation on the influential TV music shows, MTV and VH1. As a result of the record’s huge popularity Hardcastle – then an unassuming, 27-year-old keyboardist turned- producer – was firmly ensconced at the summit of the UK pop charts, where he stayed for five weeks. That wasn’t the end of ‘19’s’ success though – it went on to conquer the rest of the world and as a result garnered Hardcastle a prestigious Ivor Novello award. Perhaps more importantly, it also gained the keyboardist a valuable foothold in America, a country where he remains a top-selling artist today.
With its fusion of sampled voices, effects and electronic dance beats, ‘19’ was undoubtedly an era-defining record that set a benchmark for technological-driven pop in the 1980s – and, unlike some ‘80s records, ‘19’ is a track that has stood the test of time, as its presence in the UK Top 40 in May 2011 (when it was reissued) proves. Today, 28 years after it was first recorded, it’s rightly regarded as an iconic track in the history of dance music and remains a keystone in Paul Hardcastle’s repertoire.
But while the importance of '19' cannot be denied, this new retrospective collects together all of Hardcastle's other significant recordings to create a fascinating sonic portrait of a true pioneer of contemporary instrumental music.
Blessed with an innate talent for playing keyboards, Paul began gravitating towards dance music and in 1981, at the age of 23 he joined a six-piece outfit signed to Charlie Gillett’s Oval Records called Direct Drive. The group cut a couple of 45s for Oval and then Hardcastle left to form the soul-funk duo First Light alongside singer, Derek Green, who had also been in Direct Drive. First Light made a lot of noise in the UK soul and club scene with a couple of singles and their self-titled album that married Green’s soulful vocals with Hardcastle’s sequenced, then state-of-the-art, keyboard sounds. But with success on a national scale proving elusive, the duo split up and in 1984, Paul Hardcastle began recording as a solo act.
He soon had a hit under his own name: a seamless three-song medley comprising a souped-up revamp of US R&B act D Train’s 1982 smash ‘You’re The One For Me’ with new versions of the First Light songs ‘Daybreak’ and ‘AM.’ Featuring lead vocals by Kevin Henry and powered by a driving, fat-bottomed Moog bass line the record was released by indie label, Total Control, and peaked at #40 in the UK charts in April 1984. Stylistically similar was Hardcastle’s second UK chart entry, ‘Guilty’ (which reached #55 in July 1984), a fluid electro-soul groove with an infectious chorus featuring Kevin Henry’s emotive vocal. By the time ‘Rain Forest’ (#41 UK) came out in September 1984 on the Bluebird label, Paul Hardcastle was a rising star of the soul/dance/funk scene in the UK.
With the all-instrumental ‘Rain Forest,’ though, Hardcastle found a new audience across the Atlantic in America. Licensed by the Profile label – then a hip and happening company normally associated with rap acts – ‘Rain Forest’s’ alluring blend of fluty synth hooks and pumping electro-beats propelled the record to the #5 spot in the USA’s R&B chart. Its success led to a deal with the Cooltempo label in the UK, which released Hardcastle’s next single at the end of ’84; a pulsating dance floor groove called ‘Eat Your Heart Out,’ which spotlighted Kevin Henry’s vocals and whose musical DNA was undoubtedly indebted to D Train’s ‘You’re The One For Me.’ Given that chart-wise the record didn’t fare as well as some of Hardcastle’s previous releases – it peaked at #59 - what happened next in the keyboardist’s career was totally unexpected. By then it was the late spring of 1985 and then signed to Chrysalis, Paul Hardcastle released what would turn out to be his defining moment in the context of British pop. It was, of course, ‘19,’ a trailblazing recording on which Hardcastle integrated elements from hip-hop, soul, jazz, funk, pop and dance music to produce something dazzlingly different.
Characterised by its famous spoken hook – the stuttering repetition of the word ‘nineteen,’ which referred to the average age of American combat troops in the Vietnam conflict – ‘19’ ignited the public imagination and rose to number one in thirteen countries around the globe. Its phenomenal success proved that instrumental music could appeal to a mass market and it transformed Paul Hardcastle into a household name.
The parent album, ‘Paul Hardcastle,’ benefitted from ‘19’s’ success and included key tracks such as ‘King Tut’ (an R&B hit in the USA), ‘Moonhopper,’ and ‘Just For Money.’ The latter song was significant due to the fact that it featured spoken word cameos from renowned British actors, Sir Laurence Olivier and Bob Hoskins, who voiced a loose narrative about human greed over a propulsive electro-funk backbeat. The record peaked at #19 in the UK but its success was eclipsed by the Top 10 smash, ‘Don’t Waste My Time,’ in February ’86. A strutting slice of electro-funk with a hint of Washington D.C. Go-Go rhythms, it featured the lead vocals of Carol Kenyon (who famously provided the female voice on Heaven 17’s 1983 hit, ‘Temptation’). In its wake later the same year followed another UK chart entry, ‘Foolin’ Yourself’ (#51 UK) and then in October ’86, Hardcastle released a single called ‘The Wizard,’ which broke into the UK Top Twenty (#15). What was especially significant about the track was that it had been commissioned by the BBC as the new theme tune to their long-running weekly TV music show, ‘Top Of The Pops’ (and it remained the legendary programme’s theme music for eight years, until 1994). During the same timeframe, Hardcastle also supplied the theme tune (‘The Voyager’) to the BBC TV programme, ‘Holiday.’
Hardcastle’s newfound fame in the mid- ‘80s resulted in him being offered plenty of remix and production work and recipients of his sonic skills included ex-Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott, Ian Dury, Third World, LW5 (a UK funk band) and many more (also, under the pseudonym Silent Underdog, Hardcastle gave an electro jazz-funk makeover to English band Pigbag’s 1982 hit, ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag’).
Paul Hardcastle’s last two entries in the UK’s national singles chart occurred back in 1988 with ‘Walk In The Night’ (#54 UK) and ‘40 Years’ (#53), the latter featuring sampled speeches from US Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan over a hypnotic dance pulse.
But though the big pop hits seemed to have dried up at the close of the ‘80s, that wasn’t the last that the world heard of the London-born keyboard wizard. In 1990, he was the mastermind behind ‘Swing,’ a sample-heavy hybrid of New Jack Swing, hip-hop and classical music by The Deff Boyz. Later, in 1992, he worked alongside Birmingham-born singer, Jaki Graham, in the guise of Kiss The Sky, whose self-titled album was issued by Motown in 1992 (they recorded a second album in 1994). Paul has been honoured by the music industry – in the States he scooped the Billboard Artist Of The Year award in 2008 for his album, 'Hardcastle 5'.