The Equals were Britain’s first successful multi-racial pop group, and one of the few mixed-race bands in that era. The chart-topping Baby Come Back was their biggest hit.
I don’t remember The Equals because their hits were “before my time” but in the late 1970s I used to hang out regularly at Eddy Grant’s home recording studio in Osbaldeston Road, Upper Clapton.
Neither can I remember how Eddy and I originally met but I do recall him showing me how the giant mixing desk worked. All these years later, I partially regret not learning the ropes of music production at the hands of a master.
I also remember Eddy telling me he used to be in a band called The Equals and that they had had a hit with a song called Baby Come Back about a decade earlier.
In those pre-internet days if you didn’t know a song you would have to wait until you heard it on the radio one day, and I never had. So I was surprised when older friends remembered the band, and the song, which was first released as a B-side in 1966 but became a hit in Europe when DJs flipped it over. It was then re-released as an A-side after they had a minor hit in 1968 with I Get So Excited.
I was surprised when I finally heard it to discover it was not a reggae tune, as I had imagined, but a bouncy pop number – and that it had topped the charts and sold more than a million copies.
What I remember most though is Eddy telling me that when it became a hit he celebrated by going out to an Afro-Caribbean hairdresser in Stamford Hill and asking them to dye his hair.
“What colour do you want to dye it?” inquired the barber, sceptically. “White,” replied Eddy. The barber paused, sucked in his teeth, and looked Eddy directly in the eyes before advising him: “Don’t be a cunt.”
The band, who first formed at school together in North London, went on to release an astonishing seven albums in four years, and Eddy would enjoy a successful solo career with big hits like Living On The Front Line, Do You Feel My Love and the anti-apartheid single Gimme Hope Jo’anna.
He also moved to Barbados and opened another studio, used to record albums by supertars including The Rolling Stoners, Sting, Elvis Costello and, erm, Cliff Richard. The Clash, meanwhile, covered one of their old songs, Police On My Back, on Sandinista!