'80s - Junior Giscombe (2010)
'Another Step Closer to Knowing Junior'
Born in London of Jamaican parentage, Junior Giscombe first began singing in a local band at the age of 14, encouraged by the sounds of doo-wop, early Motown, soul and reggae. As the years passed, however, the 'hobby' became a full-time musical career, and Junior realised that his talents lay in writing and performing his own music.
Initially signing to Phonogram Records, 1982 saw Junior hit the chart heights with the infectious anthem 'Mama Used To Say' which became a Top 10 transatlantic hit, prompting Junior's appearance as the first black British artist on Soul Train and gaining him Billboard's 'Best Newcomer Award'.
Junior's second album spawned the US hit 'Communication Breakdown' and whilst traveling throughout the US for promotion Junior teamed up with renowned producer Arif Mardin, who later contributed to Junior's third album which yeilded the R&B charting singles 'Somebody', 'Oh Louise' and 'Not Tonight'. That same year Junior wrote 'Do You Really (Want My Love)?' for the multi-platinum selling 'Beverley Hills Cops' soundtrack album.
In 1987 Junior had his biggest European hit 'Another Step', a duet with Kim Wilde which reached #6 in the UK Singles charts and led to a tour with Wilde - including opening for Michael Jackson on his UK dates.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Junior about the early days, about Kim Wilde, about his recurring dream, and, of course, penguins!
Taking it from the top, and knowing that you were once a backing singer with Linx (1980-1982), what tales do you have of those days alongside David and Peter (aka Sketch)? "I don't think it would be right to tell what I know. I'll leave it to when I've written the book, lol! What I will say is it was a ball being in the BIGGEST BAND at the time in the UK."
When first you began your solo career, you were billed as simply Junior. Why drop your last name? Was it your choice or your record label at the time, perhaps? "I dropped the last name because I knew it would be missed pronounced. It was my choice, but when I left Phonogram Records and signed to MCA Records they wanted to use it. I wasn't happy about that at all as it lead to a lot of confusion for the public."
Pretty soon thereafter you scored a #7 hit on the UK Singles Chart with 'Mama Used To Say' (1982). When that song hit, and the cameras all started to turn towards you in recognition, in reflection were you ready for the fame that was to come? "When it became a hit in the UK, I was ready for the fame, but it was a hit in the US first and to be totally honest I wasn't ready for that. But it helped me and prepared me for what was to come."
Indeed, 'Mama Used To Say' is now stuck in my head from just having written it down! Do you find that most people start singing it around you, the moment that they recognize you? "Hahahaha yeah, it still makes me smile. People always tend to introduce me by saying "This is Junior Giscombe, the man who sang that song 'Mama Used To Say' - then they start singing the chorus, lol!"
Being that your follow-up single, 'Too Late' also made the Top 20 in the UK, you then mysteriously stayed away from recording for five years. Before your brief 1987 return, what happened to you to steer your course away from a successful recording career - and what did you actually do for those five years? "After 'Too Late' and the first album Ji, I recorded my 2nd album in 1983 entitled Inside Looking Out, which was how I was feeling about the industry at that time. I had two hits from it which were 'Communication Breakdown' and 'Tell Me'."
"There was also a song on it called 'Baby I Want You Back' which I was told was a big radio song in New York. It took 3 years after that to record again, as I wasn't truly adapting to having to deal with people who where trying to mould me into something they wanted."
Returning back to the UK charts on a duet with Kim Wilde, 'Another Step (Closer to You), the song also made the Top 10. How did this pop collaboration come about for you and Kim? "Kim and I had seen one another all over the place and in passing would talk. I got a phone call from her manager, who said she (Kim) would like to do a duet. Something R&B. I felt it would be cooler to go down the rock/pop route as no-one in the UK had done that before. Plus, it said a lot more about us and where we were coming from."
In the video, you only get to perform together in the last 30 seconds of the song! What did you think of the final video upon seeing its split screen appearance? "Hahahaha, I was away so only got to see the final edit when I got back. The split screen thing gave it a look, like I had been given a token part. At the time I was pissed!"
As I am interviewing Kim in a month or so, what would you like me to pass on to her from you? Have you a thought, concern, message for her that I can add to my interview, perhaps? "Tell Kim she will always hold a very special place in my heart. She is a wonderful person."
Fun Five - OK, it's now time to fire off some quick questions - to allow those that think they know Junior Giscombe to perhaps think again!
a) Can you remember your very first TOTP appearance? What song/year was it and at what level of nervousness were you at that whole day? "My first appearance, I think was May 1982. The song was 'Mama Used To Say.' The level of nervousness on a scale of 1-10 was a 9. Then, just before going on, Sir Paul McCartney came to the studio. He had heard about the record and wanted to meet me - and stayed to watch! Well you can imagine after that where I must of been, lol!"
b) Is there one of your songs that you look back on and would today change the title to, or a line/lyric from it - and if so, which one, and why?! "No, there isn't one that springs to mind that I would change. I think all at the time of writing them was right."
c) Do you have a recurring nightmare or dream - and if so, how does it usually end? "A recurring dream!!!! The one I can remember, is me going on stage and opening my mouth to sing and there is nothing coming out. I never get to the end of it as it frightens me so much that I used to wake before the end, lol!"
d) What is your guiltiest pleasure (food wise!) late at night? "Rice and Peas and Chicken."
e) If you could meet any deceased celebrity, who would it be - and what would be the first question you would ask them? "Bob Marley and my question to him would be, "What was it like living in the same yard as my two older bothers?", lol!"
Will we see a brand new album from you this year, perhaps? "I really hope so. The album is called Oceans and I'm looking for a home for it."
In 1998, you broke your back in a horrible car crash. With your motto now, 'Live your life to the fullest, you only get one chance,' how has this bad accident changed your life - and do you still suffer any pain on a daily basis? "It has made me stop looking at tomorrow and living each day to it's fullest."
These days it seems you are settled in the role of songwriter. Please tell us some of the songs you have written/co-written that have become hits, and for which artists you are currently working with today. "My songwriting as come a long way over the years. I co-wrote 2 songs for the Lighthouse Family called 'Keep Remembering' and 'What Could Be Better' ... Phyllis Hyman, Ruby Turner, Maxi Priest, Janet Kay, Warren G. Also, 'Do You See What I See' for Richard Blackwood, to name a few. What's new from me in that songwriting mould is KG, a new singer. Her song is called 'A Different Kind of Heat.' It has already started to be played in the States. I think it's HOT!"
It's also been noted that you are a DJ with an internet radio station, Solarradio.com - is that still true, and if so, what kind of music are you spinning and what are your air times? "I have recently left the station as it was taking up too much of my time and I wanted to get back to performing, writing. I had the No-1 daytime show. I was on from 4-6pm Monday to Thursday, so it was nice to leave on a high. I do specials for them, but that's it."
If asked to record one for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today...and why? "James Brown's 'Sex Machine' Why???? Because the kids of today need to hear what the masters of yesterday were doing!"
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine loves Penguins (the flightless bird, not the chocolate bar!) ...do you? "Hahahaha............. I CAN GO WITH THE BIRD!"
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
So, if you would like to win a SIGNED copy of Junior's new CD, 'Oceans,' and you think you know all there is to know about the man himself, just answer this easy question: Junior is the uncle of which UK comedian - who actually covered 'Mama Used to Say' himself in June 2000?!
Send us your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these wonderful CDs! Just send us an e:mail here before July 1st with your answer and the subject title CONTEST: JUNIOR SIGNED CDs to: email@example.com