Born in Jamaica, Buster Pearson arrived in the UK in the 1960s (some sources suggest the late 60s, although the first of his children was born in London in 1964) and set about making a living in the music industry. Following the birth of the last of his five children in 1970, his first recordings under his own name started to appear, after which he founded his own label, K&B Records, which specialized in reggae. He released more material under his own name in addition to writing and producing for other artists under the K&B name and that of its short-lived subsidiaries. Pearson also had interests in funk, soul and jazz so his musical output was not just limited to reggae; the influence of other genres could also be heard on his 70s recordings.
By the 1980s, the Pearson family was living in Romford, Essex, and Pearson himself had launched a new label now specializing in R&B called Tent. He had written a track called Problematic for an artist he intended to sign to that label, but his three daughters persuaded him to let them to record it instead. Pearson agreed but only allowed its release if his daughters’ brothers could be involved too. Accordingly, Five Star, comprising all five of Pearson’s children, was formed and Problematic was released in the autumn of 1983: the fourth single from Tent.
It sold few copies, but Problematic did gain Five Star some media attention; as they were a black, five-piece family act who sang and danced they were immediately compared to The Jackson 5 (“Romford’s answer to…”). Most significant of course was the interest from major record companies who wanted to sign them. Pearson said this wasn’t possible; Five Star was already contracted to Tent. However, a manufacturing and distribution deal with a major for Tent itself, together with its artist roster, was available. RCA took this deal and for the rest of the decade, all Five Star’s records would be issued as a joint RCA-Tent venture, the records prominently featuring the Tent logo but the catalogue numbers being RCA ones. (For several years Five Star was indeed the only act on Tent, with no other artists releasing material on the label until 1988; the first three Tent singles were by an “Al Marshall”, who issued nothing further.)
The first release under this agreement was the second Five Star single, Hide And Seek. Both this, and their other single of 1984, Crazy, flopped, despite the quality of the recordings. (Both would subsequently be included on their debut album, whereas the weaker Problematic would rarely be spoken of again and certainly not performed.) In retrospect, this lack of an immediate hit was invaluable: when Five Star did break through with a Top 40 hit in the spring of 1985 (with All Fall Down), it seemed that they had appeared from nowhere already highly polished and professional, the heart of their stage act being their carefully synchronized dance routines and their matching outfits.
Probably most importantly, the slow build to their ‘overnight success’ allowed them to build a song repertoire: the first few singles did not feature Five Star on the B-sides as there weren’t sufficient available recordings by them to accommodate this. Instead, material from the Tent and K&B archives was used to pad the releases out. Problematic’s B-side, although credited to Five Star, was Big Funk, a track of their father’s that he had released in 1973 as Buster Pearson band. Similarly, I’m Gonna Make This A Night You Will Never Forget, on the B-side of Hide And Seek, was the backing track from the single of the same name that Al Marshall had released on Tent in 1983. The next two Five Star B-sides were credited to ‘Five Star Orchestra’, acknowledging that, as they were instrumentals, the group themselves were not performing on them: Crazy’s B-side was I Like The Way You Dance (another Al Marshall backing track; his version, (I Like The Way You) Dance With Me) was the first release from Tent in 1982) ; All Fall Down’s senza voce flip was First Avenue, the first recording to be released with a writer credit for a member of Five Star.
NEW SINGLES on sale from Apr. 27
DURAN DURAN Careless Memories (EMI EMI5168)
Kim WILDE Chequered Love (RAK RAK330)
BOOMTOWN RATS (Bob Geldof) Drag Me Down (Mercury MER163)
FIVE STAR Hide And Seek (Tent RCA399)
Mari WILSON Ain’t That Peculiar? (The Compact Organization PINK8)
Bobby BROWN Girlfriend (MCA MCA1114)
Debbie HARRY In Love With Love (Chrysalis CHS3128)
DEPECHE MODE Strangelove (Mute 7BONG13)
HOLLYWOOD BEYOND (Mark Rogers) Save Me (WEA YZ112)
UB40 Watchdogs (DEP International DEP26)