Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Smiley Culture

The reggae man Smiley Culture died today; he was a real proper Londoner in the mid-1980s meaning of the word.
I remember during the time when I worked at the Peckham Settlement running a Sunday morning music workshop, I took some reggae musicians (one was called Philip Leo: I wonder what happened to him? great voice, great songwriter) to the recording of a TV programme that Smiley hosted. I can't remember the name of the show, but it was an incongruous evening with Smiley, very unaffected, presenting artists like Cleveland Watkiss to a TV studio audience that was being bossed around unceremoniously by some very rude stage managers who commanded us to GET UP AND DANCE and then SIT DOWN AGAIN.
They were rude to Cleveland Watkiss as well, who I think was just starting out. He has a fantastic voice and each time he sang they treated him as though he was a vinyl record: DO IT AGAIN! without a please or thank-you. He was remarkably patient amongst such churlishness.
I think Smiley became a bit of a bad lad, which is a pity, because back then he had a lot of cheeky charm and he was like an ambassador for all those young guys on the Sarf London estates; he definitely laid a bit of a pathway for Dizzy Rascal, Tiny Tempah and Tinchy Stryder even though there was a massive gap in time between them all. Perhaps you could say he was a man before his time.

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