Each of these three had been a lead vocalist in his own right. Chandler fronted the 70s funk band The Olympic Runners who had a number of minor hits in the US and the UK before splitting in 1979. Helms and Chambers has briefly been label-mates at Cube records in the 70s, although Helms had the greater success: so pleased were Cube with his 1973 Top 10 hit I’m Gonna Make You An Offer You Can’t Refuse, they issued it a further two times. The singers also had in common that although resident in the UK, none was born in Britain: Helms and Chandler were American and Chambers was from Trinidad. They had worked together as session singers on many occasions, most notably with Evelyn Thomas on various recordings from 1978 to the mid-80s (her 1986 single, Cold Shoulder, featured Tony Jackson as well as the three future Londonbeat vocalists). But from 1987 they began to formalize their working arrangements, becoming available for hire as a vocal group. The following year, the trio could be heard on the debut album from Fine Young Cannibals, The Raw And The Cooked.
Londonbeat was finally formed with the addition of multi-instrumentalist, writer and producer William Henshall. On the sleeve of their first single, There’s A Beat Going On (on which Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart was thanked for “his great help and enthusiasm”), they were credited under the following names: Jimmy Chambers as ‘Chirpy Chambers’, William Henshall as ‘Willy M’, Jimmy Helms as ‘Helmsey’ and George Chandler as, um, ‘George Chandler’. They also provided a helpful guide to ‘Londonbeatspeak’, which included phrases such as ‘BEAT Jockey’ (someone who has “got all the moves, can dance”), ‘Fast Boy’ (“got all the moves, can’t dance”) and ‘BEAT Street’ (pertaining to having a “Friday night frame of mind”). (Speak was the title of their debut album, hence ‘Londonbeatspeak’.)
Some minor success was almost immediate: 9 A.M. (The Comfort Zone), their third single, made the Top 20. But it was second album In The Blood that yielded their biggest hit early in 1990, when I’ve Been Thinking About You made #2. Subsequent long-players Harmony and Londonbeat sold poorly in comparison. The group entered A Song For Europe in 1995 with their single I’m Just Your Puppet On A … (String!), but with Chandler already part-time the members were ready to go their separate ways. Helms and Chambers formed a new Londonbeat some years later.
NEW SINGLES on sale from Feb. 25
ROMAN HOLLIDAY (Steve Lambert) Stand By (Jive JIVE31)
SOFT CELL Numbers (Some Bizarre BZF17)
ULTRAVOX (Midge Ure) Visions In Blue (Chrysalis CHS2676)
The POWER STATION Some Like It Hot (Parlophone R6091)
ROMAN HOLLIDAY (Steve Lambert) One Foot Back In Your Door (Jive JIVE83)
UB40 I’m Not Fooled So Easily (DEP International DEP16)
Paul YOUNG Every Time You Go Away (CBS A6300)