Eddy Grant: ‘This is my second or third time climbing back out of the morass of stardom – I like the cut and thrust’
In February and March Is Carole King Here?, one of the key tracks from the reissued album, topped the Heritage Chart. Another single, I Belong To You, is currently climbing the top 10.
Speaking from his home in Barbados, it’s clear that Plaisance – named after the village in Guyana where Grant was born – holds a special place in his heart. “It’s the best album, I can honestly say, in terms of songs, production and pure potency because it has what I consider to be some of my greatest songs,” he says.
He now intends to have a play made out of it. “You will find a lot of characters in it. It’s a concept record and it hadn’t been give a chance – as a lot of my records haven’t been given a chance. But...where it does get a chance it’s been a success, I sell a lot of records, and I believe this song (Is Carole King Here?) has already indicated that it can do that job. To get to number one in any radio chart in today’s world, it tells you something.”
Having been around “nearly as long” as Sir Cliff Richard, Grant says he understands what he means when he says that “once you’ve slipped out of the public eye it’s very hard to get back”.
“This is my second or third time climbing back out of the morass of stardom. I don’t mind because I like the cut and thrust.”
He is now planning a comprehensive reissue programme of all of his solo albums. “I’m looking at it,” he says. “I’ve been coerced on many occasions but just never followed through because of other issues outside of my day to day music work. It’s something that I plan to do fairly shortly because we’re getting on, you know?”
Grant, whose solo hits include I Don’t Want To Dance, Electric Avenue, Give Me Hope Jo’anna and Living on the Frontline, plus Baby Come Back with his multiracial 60s group The Equals, has resisted licensing his songs to likes of Spotify and YouTube. He believes much needs to be done to fix streaming so that artists are fairly remunerated for their music.
“I think that artists are already historically paid so little for their work,” he says. “Even the big stars, if they had to be honest, they would tell you of all the tricks that are played on them, it’s a shame that they won’t say something.
“Because I have such a large catalogue of music – not necessarily all my own, but those belonging to other people because I’ve bought their catalogues – I understand the ramifications of what goes on. If these guys who own the (streaming) software can basically make all the money they should give those owners of the copyright a significant interest in their corporations because those guys don’t bring anything to the party. The service that they give you has actually detracted from the value of music. You pay so much per month and they’re playing millions of songs and none comes to the creators.
“People like Universal and Sony have interests in those streaming companies, so if my market share is one per cent then give me one per cent of Spotify, it would be fair.”
Grant was just 17 years old when he formed The Equals in London in 1965. With their multiracial line-up, they were ahead of their time, forming a blueprint for the likes of The Specials, who paid homage to The Equals by covering their song Black Skinned Blue Eyed Boys on their 2019 album Encore.
“It’s indelible in time what happened and how it happened, it’s just a question of acknowledgement that it did happen,” he says. “It would be like any historic event not properly documented, it just makes life a little less easy to navigate because you will always find something relating back to a time that cannot be explained. The Equals as a unit solved a lot of the world’s problems without recognising that they had.
“We all got on very well in The Equals but in photographs (of the band) you will always find me very close to Pat (Lloyd) and Pat very close to me. Quite why only God knows, but we have remained fast friends over a very long period of time. He asked me the question ‘If we were so good, how come we are treated so bad?’ That’s why God has kept me in the forefront of music and creativity, so that when I get a chance, I speak in a learned manner about that which took place but no-one in the music business acknowledges. They always try to put other people in front of us and I can’t understand it, especially in England.
“We did start rough in England. Our first success as a group actually came from Germany, for which I am eternally grateful.”
Fourteen years after climbing to the top of the British charts with Baby Come Back, Grant returned there with his solo hit I Don’t Want To Dance. Achieving that without the machinery of a major label or PR campaign – “they used to call it bribery, now they call it marketing,” he says wryly – was he, feels, a vindication.
“I know there was no oooh involved in its getting there,” he says. “It was darned hard to get radio play. My old boss used to say ‘from the time the needle touches the vinyl you’ve got five seconds to convince the world or else you will not get there’. I hold it as a truth when you put down the needle or turn on the tape you’ve got five seconds to engage the listener’s ear and I operate on that basis.”
Plaisance is out now. www.eddygrant.com