The strange, sad, ultimately hopeful tale of Musical Youth, one-hit wonders in '82 with the ebullient "Pass the Dutchie." I love that song.
- Musical Youth's 1982 single Pass the Dutchie sold 5m copies. They broke America. They were the first black artists to be played on MTV - beating Michael Jackson by several months. But their stardom never transcended its era. Seaton's tales are thick with dimly remembered names. They were regulars on Razzmatazz, Tyne Tees's unlamented pop show. They worked on a film with The A Team's Mr T. Irene Cara, singer of Fame and Flashdance, guested onstage. Throw in a commentary by Stuart Maconie and some footage of people wearing deely boppers and you've got yourself a BBC2 nostalgia show.
What started out as a jaunty celebration of multi-cultural British youth ended as a cautionary tale about the perils of naivety in the music industry. Like all tales from rock's dark side, it involved drugs, mental instability, lawlessness, financial wranglings and premature death. In this tale, however, the people who got in trouble, went mad and died had barely hit puberty at the height of their success.
Eating lunch in a gaudy Birmingham leisure complex, keyboard player Michael Grant is aware that Musical Youth has become a byword for child stardom's misery. "Black artists get ripped off, child stars get ripped off," he says. "We were doomed from the start, really."
....Grant was nine years old in 1979, when he and his guitarist brother Kelvin, then seven, joined Musical Youth. They had formed at the behest of a family friend, Freddie Waite, once a singer in Jamaican vocal trio the Techniques. Waite had left the band in 1966, emigrated to England and ended up in Nechells, in inner-city Birmingham. Waite encouraged his sons, Patrick and Junior, to take up bass and drums respectively. When the Grant brothers joined them, they became his backing band.
"We used to do a lot of pubs and clubs with this 35-year-old man when we were between the ages of seven and 12," says Grant. "This old guy next to a bunch of kids! Kelvin's hands were so small they could only just reach around the fretboard of his guitar. It was odd, but we got a favourable reaction. We could play our instruments."