SunPalace – Brit-Funk Connection

Picture shows Mike Collins in his music room around 1989.

SunPalace was strongly connected with the Brit-Funk music scene back in the early 80’s. We socialised with, went out to watch gigs with, wrote songs with, and often played or jammed with most of the leading musicians at that time in bands such as Central Line, Imagination, Freez, Incognito, Beggar & Co. and Light of the World.

Keith O’Connell played his Fender-Rhodes electric piano and (my) Hohner Clavinet on “Chase The Clouds Away” for Incognito and played Fender-Rhodes on “Somebody Help Me Out” for Beggar & Co, and Keith and I were co-opted to record handclaps with Breeze and Kenny when we called in to the studio where they were recording their album for RCA.

I wrote and produced “Ride The Love Train”/“Get On Board” with Keith O’Connell featuring Gee Bello and Nat Augustin from Light of the World on vocals and instruments, and this was released on EMI Records, selling around 40,000 copies in late 1981.

I recently came across this rehearsal tape of “I was watching one of those TV Shows” made while we were working out ideas for the studio recording of “Ride The Love Train”! I also found a demo of another song we wrote with Gee Bello that summer; “Hollywood Nights” and  a demo of “No. 1 Girl”  that I produced with Keith O’Connell at Rockfield Studios in Wales in the summer of 1981.

In or around November 1981 I recorded a ‘live’ version of “Ride The Love Train” for broadcast on Radio 1, I believe, at BBC Maidavale Studios. I played guitar, Keith O’Connell played keyboards, Mel Gaynor played drums, Nat Augustin played bass and sang backing vocals, and Gee Bello played congas and sang the lead vocals.

I also co-wrote “Famous Faces” and “No. 1 Girl” which were both released as singles from Light of the World’s 1982 EMI album ‘Check Us Out’.

In 1982 I co-wrote a song with Camelle Hinds from Central Line and demo-ed this for Chappell Music with DC Lee on vocals. Later on, in 1983/4 I co-wrote and demo-ed 4 songs with Breeze McKreith and Kenny Wellington for Beggar & Co that, sadly, were never released. Then from 1984 until 1986 or thereabouts, I worked on many recording sessions with Roy Carter from Heatwave who had produced tracks for Central Line.

In 1984, Keith O’Connell and I collaborated with ex-Average While Band sax player Malcolm ‘Molly’ Duncan. I produced demos of two of these songs for SunPalace at Guerrilla Studio in December 1984, “I Just Need Love” and “Better Say Goodbye”. For me, the most successful track was “Keep It Up”, which I recently finished off as a SunPalace track.

Debut Records released a version of “Hollywood Nights” by Marcel King in 1985. Also in 1985, Phonogram Records asked me to produce some TV sessions for Kurtis Blow that were later cancelled. While I was working on the Kurtis Blow tracks, I recorded myself playing guitar on “If I Ruled The World”!

In September 1986, I produced a cover version of Trussel’s “Love Injection”, featuring Chicago ‘house’ stars Daryl Pandy on vocals and Farley Keith on Roland TR808/707/727 drum machines. I played bass synth and guitar, my friend Balis Zhuraitis played keyboards, and the Beggar & Co. Horns (Nat Augustin, trombone, “Baps”, tenor sax, and Steve Sidwell, trumpet) played the brass riffs, with some sax improvisations from “Baps” in the end section. I made  two rough mixes, “Love Injection – Reverb Mix” and “Love Injection – Dry Mix” at the end of the recording sessions, but these were never released as Daryl and Farley suddenly went back to the US and never pursued the project any further.

In 1992, I produced a cover version of the 80’s Loose Ends hit, “Hangin’ on a String” on which I played all the instruments. I also made an instrumental version – “Hangin’ On A String (Instrumental)”.

Plans for future recordings and releases:

Last year, I re-discovered many of my old 80’s demo recordings while searching for material in my archives to find the tracks for my BBE and MIC releases. Since completing those projects, I have discovered several more of interest, so I am planning to clean up and prepare the best of these for commercial release and to record new versions of those that cannot be rescued – for example, the 4 songs mentioned above that I wrote with Beggar & Co. I am also planning to overdub new material and make new mixes of “Keep It Up”, “Love Injection” and “Hangin’ On A String” to finish these off – ready for commercial releases.

I recently started working on a new SunPalace project to re-record the best of the Brit-Funk recordings that were released commercially back in the 80’s, including “Ride the Love Train”, “Famous Faces”, “No. 1 Girl” and “Hollywood Nights”. I am also planning to record versions of “Chase The Clouds Away” and “Somebody Help Me Out”.