Freeez, and John Rocca, were part of the musical backdrop of my run through South London, escape, and return. They formed in the late 1970s, around the core of Rocca, Andy Stennett, Peter Maas, and Paul Morgan. Pulling in Jazz players David Allison, Laurie Brown, Gordon Sullivan, and Geoff Warren, for the Fusion of their 1980 debut LP. When I was in my mid-teens and locked to pirate radio. Their hits, Flying High, and Southern Freeez, would spin as I “barrel-rolled” on a Thursday night at Streatham Ice Rink. When hockey boots, and the ability to skate backwards were essentials in finding a “date”. We`d single them out, those girls that wobbled, and screamed as they trundled around the edge. Scared to let go. Offering them a helping hand. Making them go too fast, and scream louder. Southern Freeez remains one of the sexiest records ever made.
The “Chelsea Boys” at school would carry copies of that debut LP, under their arms, like a badge. Along with those of Incognito, Level 42, and Pig Bag`s Dr Heckle and Mr Jive. These were the flasher kids, with decent Saturday jobs. Dressed in Lacoste, Lyle & Scott, and Pringle. Leather hunting jackets. Leg warmers and Italian shoes. Woven, or crocodile, or ostrich. Haircuts 100. A look which evolved into Fila and Sergio Tacchini. A uniform that for most of us was out of reach. My knitwear was stolen. Shoplifted. Or off the back of a lorry. Bought round the back of a pub. Lemon and pink always seemed to be all that was left. And always at least a size too big.
We`d drink in the Jolly Sailor. Move on to a club called Easy Street. Where, at fifteen, the women just laughed. While we were obvious targets for the psychos whose night had to end in either a fuck or fight. We self-consciously shuffled to music by Greg Henderson, Indeep, and Toney Lee. Hi-Voltage`s Let`s Get Horny. Howard Johnson`s So Fine. Stone`s Time. Took a chance and joined in the line to Candido`s Jingo.
For me, the music morphed into Dimples Dee, Man Parrish, and T.Ski Valley. Anything on Sugarhill and Tommy Boy. And although weekends were still wine bars, and road trips to Dartford`s Flicks, I spent all my free time breaking. By then Freeez had hooked up with New York producer Arthur Baker. The man behind Afrika Bambaataa`s Planet Rock. A record which did just that. Rocked the planet. With Baker, Freeze made I.O.U., and its Pop Electro was everywhere. Together with Flashdance, and Hey, You The Rocksteady Crew, introducing Hip Hop culture to the U.K.`s masses. When Rocksteady were brought over for the Ideal Home Exhibition (?) in Olympia, we were in the front row for every performance. Trying to cop moves.
Another of our “study aids” was the video for I.O.U. Filmed at the venue of Maurice & Noel Watson`s legendary Battlebridge Road parties. It was one of the bits of TV that we`d tape, pause, and go through frame by frame. As we practiced in someone`s living room. Bunking off school to do so while parents were at work. Kicking coffee tables, and ruining carpets.
I quit breaking when I got tired of being “taxed”, or simply beaten up, by the gangs that any kind of gathering would attract. Violence appeared impossible to avoid. I packed up my lino, signed on, and took up residence in Croydon College`s library. Copying out A-Level text books. Committing them to memory. Leaving London for university, and hitting The North. When I came home after three years away, I looked up my old crew. Two were married. But one dressed the “Cold Sweat” and truly shone to The Funk. He was missing his front teeth. Punched out by another, who was into House, and dealing E.
Freeez had spilt in `84, with John Rocca going on to a solo career. Releasing the “Proto-“ classic, I Want It To Be Real. Which became House proper in `87, when remixed by Farley Jackmaster Funk. Rocca`s Move having been huge with Farley and the other DJs in Chicago`s Hot Mix 5. In `89 he released the Afrodelic, Bang-The-Party-esque, The River Must Flow.
Still soundtracking the times, in 1990, as Midi-Rain, with the mighty J. Saul Kane – of Depth Charge fame on the remix – Rocca issued the seminal melancholy Rave of The Crack Train. Honest and brave, it made me cry then, as I rattled down that cliched track, and makes me cry now in remembrance.
Between Freeez and House, there was Pink Rhythm. A project stripped back to Rocca and Stennett, that yielded three singles in 1985. Where smooth, synthetic Boogie replaced the frantic energy, the Confusion, of the songs co-produced with Baker. Taking it`s cues from Larry Levan / The Paradise Garage and mid-tempo`d Italo. The likes of Mike Francis, Loui$ and Byron`s Too Much. The Saint`s Morning Music.
Be With Records will reissue Pink Rhythm`s Melodies Of Love on the 16th of March. Watch carefully and you might still catch me dancing.
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