Reaching Out

I Jabulani Tafari in Reggae Report Vol 7 # 1

January 1989

Steel Pulse in 1984 (left to right): Alvin Ewen, Steve Nisbett, Phonso Martin, David Hinds, Selwyn Brown [pic Tony Reid].

Steel Pulse is both reaching out for more markets to entertain and reaching up for new heights to rise above. Accordingly, the Birmingham based supergroup is now in the midst of a new thrust to capture the attention and appreciation of reggae lovers in the UK and the rest of Europe. Over the years Pulse has released many classic LP's including Handsworth Revolution, Tribute To The Martyrs, True Democracy, Earth Crisis (which earned a Grammy nomination) and the Grammy-winning album, Babylon The Bandit. By numerous tours to Reggaeland and all over the world, Steel Pulse have endeared themselves to reggae lovers from Manchester to Munich, to Miami, to Montego Bay. It is all this hard work over the past decade which has earned Pulse a place as one of the three UK-based reggae supergroups. In the last quarter of 1988, the group began directing its attention once again to live gigs and t'ings on the European side of the Atlantic. The rhythmic rotation coincided with the release and promotion in England of the new Steel Pulse LP, State of Emergency. The video of Reaching Out, the single from the album, is of course a major part of the renewed Pulse thrust. The first stage of Steel Pulse's European drive kicked off during mid-November in England and took the band on through Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Germany and France, ending just before the Xmas holidays. Obviously the band's extensive touring in North America last year, refreshed and recharged the band members in preparation for the hard-work and new heights awaiting them in Europe.

After opening 20-odd shows for INXS in a month-long tour of Canada and the USA in May/June 1988, Steel Pulse did a 3-week stint with Robert Palmer before performing on five dates with the legendary Bob Dylan. Then on September 22, 1998 Pulse played in Miami, Florida at the start of their own tour...a tour they headlined until October 15. The group was also involved in reaching out a helping hand to Jamaican victims of the devastating Hurricane Gilbert and donated their time and talents to the Hurricane relief drive. While in Miamai, Steel Pulse visited Earthman Studio where they laid backing tracks and vocals for the relief record, Help Us Send A Message. And in October, Pulse performed at the State of Emergency relief concert at the Warner Theatre in Washington DC, and at a similar benefit at Harlem's Apollo Theatre in New York City.

All in all therefore, Steel Pulse has proved itself capable of reaching out to and entertaining audiences ranging from the young exciteable teeny-boppers (of the INXS tour) to the more laid-back, but no less appreciative older crowds on the dates with Bob Dylan. The group also put on a series of shows in Hawaii before enthusiastic crowds. According to Phonso Martin, the Hawaiian people "know all the reggae artists...It's a really nice place to play and the people are in tune to reggae music. They love it." And just like the people out in the islands, the people on the US mainland also loved seeing and hearing Steel Pulse live! Phonso explained that "I was surprised to see the (good) response we got, because I wasn't expecting it (in the US), especially when you're playing in the South." The 1988 North American tour proved that Steel Pulse have maintained their cutting political edge and their dramatic stage presentations. The band used to stir up controversy when members appeared on stage dressed in white sheets mimicking the KKK while singing their popular song, Ku Klux Klan. Throughout their 1988 US tour, Pulse repeatedly performed an equally controversial song...a new one called Let Freedom Ring, which ends with a recording of Martin Luther King Jnr, delivering his famous speech. Asked about crowds reaction to this particular selection, Pulse keyboardist Selwyn Brown replied, "It's been different everywhere we play. Some places seem really into it. And some places, obviously, like South Carolina and all them places deh, they were very quiet. And Memphis, Tennessee, that was the quietest, because that's where Martin Luther King Jnr was killed."

Steel Pulse signed to MCA in the spring of 1988, but according to band members, MCA wasn't sure how to market their music and initially put the State of Emergency LP into the wrong market. However, after re-evaluation, the record company began repromoting the single Reaching Out. Nevertheless, Steel Pulse isn't about to sit down and wait for the record comapny to do all the work. Selwyn puts it like this; "A record company is a record company. All we're doing is keeping on plugging and keeping on pushing ourselves as much as we can. So that if a record comapny sort of slack off, we can still carry on, on our own!"

Text copyright Reggae Report 1989, used without permission.

Home : Steel Pulse : Articles Index : E-mail

The contents of this website cannot be reproduced or copied without permission of the site author. (c) Andy Brouwer 2004