Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Talented Ocean From The Caribbean

Leslie Sebastian Charles or Billy Ocean, as he is better known to music fans, was born on the West Indian island nation of Trinidad before moving to London with his family as a child. He worked as a tailor in his teenage years and turning to music released his first single 'Nashville Rain' in 1971 under his own name Les Charles. He assumed his new name in 1975, Ocean coming from the name of the East London estate in which he lived. Success soon followed with the 1976 hit 'Love Really Hurts Without You' (UK#2, OZ#3, US#22). The upbeat Motown style number promised big things for the diminutive Ocean but for a time his success was restricted to a string of British hits ('Stop Me' #12 in '76 and 'Red Light Spells Danger' #2 in '77).

He relocated Stateside in the late 70s but it took until 1984 before the flood gates opened and Ocean unleashed a torrent of hits upon the world. 'Caribbean Queen (No More Love On The Run)' spent two weeks atop the U.S. charts in late '84 (UK#6, OZ#2). Interestingly the song was originally released in Britain as 'European Queen' but only reached #82 (June '84) and as 'African Queen'. A wave of success followed with the early '85 hits 'Loverboy' (US#2, UK#15, OZ#7), 'Suddenly' (US#4, UK#4, OZ#15), and then came one of the defining hits of the 1980s. 'When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going' (US#2, UK#1, OZ#1) was the feature track to the hit film 'The Jewel Of The Nile' and was backed by a hugely popular promo clip featuring Ocean onstage with backup singers Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito (stars of the film).

Two more international #1's followed with 'There'll Be Sad Songs' in 1986 and 'Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car' in 1988, but the tide of hits receded thereafter. Ocean's commercial appeal went the way of other talented R&B artists such as Lionel Richie, Atlantic Starr and Whitney Houston, swept away by the grunge, techno and Brit-pop movements of the 90s. Ocean has continued to record his own albums and produced an album for Jonathan Butler, but whilst the likes of Lionel Richie have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity of late, Billy Ocean for many years faded from the pop scene. However having returned with his family to London, an older and wiser Ocean now offers his wealth of music experience as a valuable teaching asset for local music schools and in October 2007 he took to the road once more on a British tour and has an album of new material in 2008 titled 'Wilberforce'. In October 2010, the much respected Mr. Ocean added a MOBO Lifetime Achievement Award to his list of accolades.

Though I really like a number of Ocean's major hits from the 80s, my personal favourite track is his first hit from 1976, 'Love Really Hurts Without You'. I remember seeing the clip for the first time on Australian TV's 'Countdown' at the time it was a hit and the song has stuck with me as a favourite track ever since.

Enjoy watching Ocean and the some Hollywood superstars having a blast on the promo clip for 'When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going' (and I noticed watching this version of the clip that the sax solo in the middle features the actual saxophonist playing rather than the version I recall where Danny DeVito played the 'airsax'):

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