Released today in 1986: Human

Virgin VS880

Virgin VS880

Jam and Lewis (Jimmy ‘Jam’ Harris and Terry Lewis) emerged as a song writing and production team in the 1980s, and have gone on to become of the most successful in chart history. Their biggest hits have been in America, where they are based and where they have producer credits for no fewer than 16 #1 singles, starting in the decade mentioned and continuing in the 1990s and the 2000s. However, while they have had dozens of Top 10 hits in the UK in this period, a chart topper here has eluded them, despite them working with some prominent British artists.

Jam and Lewis started their partnership as members of funk/R&B band Flyte Tyme in the 1970s, playing keyboards and bass respectively. They took this name for their production company when they began their careers as writers and producers, as by the time they left the group it had been renamed The Time. Through their manager, they were introduced to the boss of Tabu records who invited them to provide songs for the next album of an established act signed to the label, The S.O.S. Band. Among the songs that Jam and Lewis wrote and produced for this group in 1983 was Just Be Good To Me, which was an R&B hit in the States and a Top 20 single in the UK. The following year, one of The Time’s former lead vocalists, Alexander O’Neal, was signed to Tabu and Jam and Lewis began writing and producing for him, along with another Tabu signing Cherrelle. A duet between these two artists, Saturday Love, was recorded in 1985 and it was this song that enabled Jam and Lewis to properly cross over from R&B hit makers to mainstream chart draws.

Tabu enjoyed several hits around the world in 1986 with Jam/Lewis material in the US, with some most notable achievements in the UK: The S.O.S Band had another Top 20 hit here with The Finest, and when Saturday Love made the Top 10, Alexander O’Neal’s debut album re-charted and reached its Top 20 peak and Cherrelle’s High Priority album followed it there. But it was another label, A&M, that had the greatest success with the Jam and Lewis sound, particularly in the US. Janet Jackson’s Control, an absolute tour-de-force and her breakthrough album, yielded several hit singles including When I Think Of You, the first #1 for her and for her producers. The latter wouldn’t have to wait long for another #1 on the Hot 100: five weeks later, The Human League (whose US record company was A&M) were at the top with Human. Human was a Top 10 here too but didn’t go all the way to the top, despite The Human League being based in the UK. Another Brit who had a US #1 with a Jam and Lewis (co-)produced song was George Michael, whose Monkey stalled at #13 here in 1988.

The last Jam and Lewis #1 in the US for the 1980s was another Janet Jackson single, Miss You Much, from her 1989 album Rhythm Nation 1814. By then, they had had more hits with O’Neal (Criticize was Top 10 in the UK; a second duet with Cherrelle Never Knew Love Like This made the Top 30 in the UK and the US), post-Bobby Brown era New Edition, and even A&M boss Herb Alpert, who invited the duo to produce his 1988 album Keep Your Eye On Me, evidently delighted with the chart placings they had delivered for the artists on his label.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Aug. 11
1986
The COMMUNARDS (Jimmy Somerville) Don’t Leave Me This Way (London LON103)
DEPECHE MODE A Question Of Time (Mute 7BONG12)
The HUMAN LEAGUE Human (Virgin VS880)

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