What a dream to be joined by one of the most successful UK soul artists of all time on the Paul Weller Fan Podcast. Junior Giscombe has had a long and varied career – singing from the age of fourteen in the early 1970s to working as a performer, songwriter and within various areas of production, demonstrating his wide-ranging talents as a musician.
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EP78 – Junior Giscombe – Soul Music Legend – The Council Collective – Red Wedge – ”There’s brother against brother, there’s fathers against sons, Let’s change that, let’s fight back!” – Desperately Seeking Paul : Paul Weller Fan Podcast
A true pioneer of modern UK soul and pop music – Junior is one of the first British R&B artists to have achieved success in America. Best known for his transatlantic hit Mama Used To Say, which reached the UK Top 10 and Billboard Top 30 in 1982 and propelled him to that year’s Billboard ‘Best Newcomer’ award, presented to him by the iconic James Brown!. In the podcast, we chat about the making of that smash-hit single, the follow up “Too Late” and his debut album ‘Ji’ which went Top 30 in the UK.
We also hear the brilliant story about the creation of “Do You Really Want My Love” from the 1984 movie and subsequent soundtrack album for Eddie Murphy’s “Beverly Hills Cop” which sold over 100 million copies – and resulted in his Grammy Award too!.
Junior was also on the line up of my very first gig – Michael Jackson’s Bad Tour in 1987 – where he performed another huge single – “Another Step” with Kim Wilde.
For Paul Weller connections – there are plenty.
In 1984, Junior was invited to join The Council Collective – a band made up of The Style Council (Paul Weller, Mick Talbot, Steve White, Dee C Lee) along with Jimmy Ruffin, Leonardo Chignoli from Animal Nightlife, Rapper Dizzy Hites and Vaughn Toulouse for the release of the fundraising single Soul Deep. Recorded in September, the one-off venture was designed to raise money for striking miners during a long-running industrial dispute, and subsequently also for the family of David Wilkie – a Welsh taxi driver who was killed during the strike, when two striking miners dropped a concrete block from a footbridge onto his taxi whilst he was driving a strike-breaking miner to work.
To quote the sleeve: “The aim of this record was to raise money for the Striking Miners and their families before Xmas but obviously in the light of the tragic and disgusting event in South Wales resulting in the murder of a Cab driver, some of the monies will also go now, to the widow of the man.
We do support the miners strike but we do not support violence. It helps no one and only creates further division amongst people.
This record is about Solidarity or more to the point – getting it back! If the miners lose the strike, the consequence will be felt by all the working classes. That is why it is so important to support it. But violence will only lead to defeat – as all violence ultimately does.”
The song got to number 24 in the UK charts and was performed on various TV shows – including Top of the Pops and The Tube (videos below).
We also talk live performances with Paul and The Style Council. Kicking off in October 1985 with a huge benefit gig at Hyde Park, under the banner, ‘Human Race or Nuclear Race – Britain can make a difference. The line up featured Paul, Steve, Junior, Billy Bragg, The Communards and Gil Scott Heron (who Paul would later cover for Studio 150 LP for a track called The Bottle). Over 100,000 people turned up for the free concert!. A few months later, Junior was invited to appear with The Style Council at Wembley Arena for 3 very special shows (later released as the VHS called Showbiz).
A large part of our chat deals with Red Wedge. Summed up by this quote from Billy Bragg ” I think the guy I was most pleased to see on the bus was Junior [Giscombe], because he was the one with the most to lose. Musically and socially he came from a different background than the rest of us, so it was great that he came.”
A huge risk for Junior, it was something that many (including his label and manager) tried to change his mind about, and there was clearly a perception that a young black man would not have an idea about politics or be capable of talking about these issues. It’s terribly sad to hear about the incidents of racist chanting at some of the gigs but also amazing to hear how all of the artists stood up for Junior in those scenarios.. We hear how everyone left their egos at the door and just mucked in for a remarkable series of concerts and day events, real grass roots events featuring the likes of Lloyd Cole, Lorna Gee, Madness, Blow Monkeys, Heaven 17 etc.
The list of acts that Junior has written and produced for is pretty impressive to say the least, from The Lighthouse Family, Sheena Easton, Maxi Priest to Warren G, Philip Bailey and Heavy D and The Boyz.
It was a real delight to have Junior as a guest on the podcast and to hear about his incredible career – right through to his tenth album ‘Everyting Set’ which arrived in 2021. You can hear / buy the album right here.
On his website, Junior notes “This album is dedicated to and in memory of my beloved daughter, Jenique Louise Giscombe, 20/1/1985 to 1/5/2017 who inspired me to make this, her last wish, a reality. R.I.P. Dad Loves You…”
At the height of his fame, when he was touring with Michael Jackson, Junior’s long-term partner and ‘soulmate’ Nardia developed Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Tragically, she lost her fight with the degenerative neurological condition in 2008. The same year their daughter, Jenique, was also diagnosed with the same aggressive form of the disease and 9 years later, Jenique sadly passed away.
In 2019, Junior created a video with MS Society to share his experience of MS. I have added the video below and would ask you to please donate to the Stop MS Appeal at mssociety.org.uk/jenique
You can follow Junior on Facebook here for music news and live dates and keep an eye out for the bands that we talked about too – A-P Connection from France and The British Collective – who he records and performs live with – another Weller connection with Omar – plus Don-e and Noel McKoy.
1982 – Ji
1983 – Inside Lookin’ Out
1985 – Acquired Taste
1988 – Sophisticated Street
1990 – Stand Strong
1992 – Renewal
1995 – Honesty
2005 – Oceans
2011 – Prisoner of Hope
2021 – Everyting Set