Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Timex Social Club - A Place Where 'Rumors' Start

The R&B trio Timex Social Club weren’t around for a long time, but did experience a brief time during 1986 as one of the higher profile R&B groups on the popular music scene.

Timex Social Club actually started life as a social club (no seriously it did). It was founded in 1982 by then high school student Marcus Thompson who initially came up with the idea to form a club name for he and a group of friends to be known by. The club was originally called ‘Timex’ but by 1983 ‘Social Club’ had been added to the moniker. The original members were Thompson himself, with friends Michael Marshall, Craig Samuel, Darrien Cleage and Gregory Thomas. Following graduation Marshall Thompson wrote the lyrics and a sketchy musical arrangement for a song titled ‘Rumors’. Thompson worked with his fellow Timex Social Club buddies Michael Marshall and Alex Hill to round out the song over the next couple of years.

By 1985 the trio were confident enough to start shopping a demo tape of the song around in search of a recording deal. Through Thompson’s brother Darryl, they came to the attention of producer Jay King in December 1985. King liked what he heard and on January 3rd 1986 the trio of Thompson, Marshall and Hill recorded a finished version of ‘Rumors’ at Starlight Studios in Richmond, California. Michael Marshall handled the lead vocals, with Marcus Thompson on backing vocals, and Alex Hill assigned to drum programming and keyboards.

‘Rumors’ was originally released on King’s own ‘Jay Records’ label, even though apparently the group had not officially signed with the label. In April the group were offered a recording/distribution deal with Danya Records, which they signed to, and subsequent copies of the single were released on the Danya label. Initially ‘Rumors’ met with resistance from radio stations, perhaps in part due to its cutting edge hybrid mix of rap with synth-driven R&B and hip hop rhythms. A local radio station in Dallas first caught on to the potential commercial appeal of ‘Rumors’ during May 1986, and word of mouth soon had ‘Rumors’ added to playlists across the U.S. In June ‘86 the song debuted on the U.S. Hot 100, and within a few weeks had reached #1 on the Billboard R&B charts, also peaking at #8 on the mainstream Hot 100. It was later released in the U.K. and peaked at #13 on the British charts late in 1986.

Timex Social Club set about recording a full length album, and during the same period began touring with the likes of LL Cool J, Run DMC and the Beastie Boys. Another friend and songwriter Kevin Moore also officially joined the group during this period. Frictions were already starting to surface within the Timex Social Club, surrounding Michael Marshall reportedly pushing via his personal manager for a bigger cut of the money, as he was the lead singer. Understandably the other members of the group found this to be less than sociable and two opposing camps formed. Thompson, Hill and Moore on one side; Marshall, his personal manager and Danja Records CEO David Lucceshi on the other.

Meanwhile the album they had recorded, somewhat appropriately titled ‘Vicious Rumors’, had hit the stores, and performed creditably by reaching #29 on the U.S. R&B chart. The follow up singles ‘Mixed Up World’ and ‘Thinkin’ About Ya’ both received solid airplay, with the latter peaking at #15 on the U.S. Hot R&B charts later in 1986. Interestingly some copies of Timex Social Club records featured a retitled group name of ‘The Social Club’, presumably under legal advisement to avoid potential litigation from a certain high profile manufacturer of time pieces.

The dispute between Marshall and the other group members reached an impasse, following which the trio of Thompson, Hill and Moore hired a new vocalist in Fred Busby to complete the tour commitments. Marshall then apparently started up another group calling themselves ‘The Real Timex Social Club’, and one time producer Jay King was also adding fuel to the fire in the press. It seemed a pretty acrimonious split all round. What had started out as a friendly social club who decided to make good music, had seemingly ended in a bitter legal dispute between group members, producers, managers and record labels.

Without any immediate income from their recording endeavours, the Timex Social Club (Thompson, Hill, Moore, Busby) continued to play shows with the likes of Jermaine Jackson, New Edition and Midnight Star. Sadly though time had run out for Timex Social Club so far as their recording career was concerned, and the group officially disbanded during 1987. The group’s work is credited in some circles as being a pioneering influence on the whole ‘new jack swing’ movement of the late 80s/early 90s (the likes of Soul II Soul). Meanwhile producer Jay King soon went on to form another group called Club Nouveau who would have a huge hit in 1987 with ‘Lean On Me’- but that’s for another post.

No comments: