Sunday, August 10, 2008

Exploring Some Loose Ends

One of the fun aspects of writing this blog is finding out more about those artists who I might have only had a passing interest in at the time that they were around. Among those was a London based R&B/pop-funk trio calling themselves Loose Ends. I purchased a very smooth soul number by them called ‘Mr. Bachelor’ on vinyl 45 during 1988. The song didn’t make the charts at all here in Australia, but was a minor hit in the U.K. I don’t recall hearing any more of their work, and I certainly didn’t realise that Loose Ends had quite a substantive career throughout the second half of the 80s in particular as performers, and into the 90s as songwriters/producers.

By 1981 trumpeter and keyboardist Steve McNichol had already established himself as a noted studio musician, with credits playing for the Jam already on his resume. It was around that time that he met singer Jane Eugene at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Finding they had a musical synergy, the duo soon became a trio when session bassist/vocalist/guitarist Carl McIntosh was added to the mix. They laid down some demos which Virgin Records liked the sound of, and soon found themselves in the studio proper recording their first single, at that time calling themselves Loose End.

Benefiting initially from the song writing talents of Chris and Edie Amoo (formerly of UK pop/funk outfit The Real Thing), the likes of ‘In The Sky’ and ‘We’ve Arrived’ announced that Loose End had indeed arrived on the London music scene in 1982. Soon after they added the letter ‘s’ to become Loose Ends, and released their debut album ‘A Little Spice’ (UK#46/US#46) in 1984. The first single ‘Tell Me What You Want’ (UK#74) hung around the lower reaches of the charts, but the follow up ‘Emergency (Dial 999)’ found itself knocking on the door of the top 40 (UK#41), and ‘Choose Me (Rescue Me)’ maintained their presence on the charts through most of 1984 (UK#59), whilst giving Loose Ends a foot in the door of the lucrative U.S. R&B market (R&B#47).

The sophomore album ‘So Where Are You?’ (UK#13) found Loose Ends firmly inside the top 20 with the hit ‘Hangin’ On A String (Contemplating)’ (UK#13). Driven by the prodigious song writing talents of Steve Nichol (though all three contributed), Loose Ends were moving towards a smoother soul/R&B sound and the song was a huge crossover hit in the U.S. market, reaching #43 overall and #1 on the R&B chart in mid 1985. ‘Magic Touch’ (UK#16) and ‘Golden Years’ (the David Bowie song - UK#59) further consolidated Loose Ends presence as one of the pre-eminent soul/R&B acts on the U.K. music scene, not to mention a serious player in the U.S. market. This was only strengthened further by the 1986 album ‘Zagora’ (UK#15/US-R&B#7), which yielded the hit singles ‘Stay A Little While, Child’ (UK#52/US-R&B#18), ‘Slow Down’ (UK#27/US-R&B#1) and ‘Nights Of Pleasure’ (UK#42).

Whilst continuing to build on their own reputation as performers, the members of Loose Ends were also forging a strong career as writers and producers for other pop-soul artists, such as Juliet Roberts, Five Star (‘Let Me Be The One’), Caron Wheeler and Cheryl Lynn.

Loose Ends re-emerged with a new album in 1988 titled ‘The Real Chuckiebee’ (UK#52/US-R&B#16). The lead out single was the aforementioned ‘Mr. Bachelor’, which though reaching #50 in the U.K., should have been a much bigger mainstream hit in my opinion. ‘Watching You’ gave Loose Ends another top 10 R&B hit in the U.S. (#2) but didn’t cross over to mainstream chart recognition.

A split in musical direction saw a complete overhaul of the Loose Ends line-up during 1989, with only Carl McIntosh staying on from the original trio. Nichol and Eugene were replaced by Sunay Suleyman and Linda Carriere for the group’s 1990 album ‘Look How Long’ (UK#19/US-R&B#28). The album yielded one of Loose Ends’ biggest British hits with ‘Don’t Be A Fool’ peaking at #13, the song also climbing to #10 on the U.S. R&B charts. Two more minor hits followed from the album, in ‘Love’s Got Me’ (UK#40/US-R&B#76) and ‘Cheap Talk’ (US-R&B#28).

An album of remixes in 1992 titled ‘Tighten Up Volume 1’ (UK#40) gave Loose Ends one last foray into the British chart scene, with two remixed singles ‘Hangin’ On A String’ (#25) and ‘Magic Touch’ (#75) acting as a post script to Loose Ends’ chart career at home.

McIntosh continued to produce for other artists during the 90s and beyond, including 2003’s ‘If You Could See Inside Me’ by Lighter Shade Of Brown. 1998 saw a brief reunion of the original Loose Ends trio of Eugene, Nichol and McIntosh when all three appeared on the Pete Rock single ‘Take Your Time’. There appears to be a touring group going under the name of Loose Ends who have been playing across the U.K. and U.S. of late, though Carl McIntosh’s is the only name associated with it, and there appears to be some ongoing dispute with regards the legitimacy of the group’s use of the name.

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