It’s easy to look back at Hip Hop in the eighties with rose tinted glasses. It was such a great time. But to be able to watch it back like a show reel of the best in class is special. Electro Rock is that show reel; a film of the seminal Hip Hop event held in 1985, it captures the cream of Hip Hop talent from the era.
Held at the London Hippodrome and presented by the then Capital Radio DJ Mike Allen, Electro Rock was a raw and energetic event, captured on film and released through Polygram. The film features a host of break dancing, body popping, beat boxing and rap acts from the UK and a few from the States. These include the legendary Afrika Bambaataa, London All Star Breakers, Broken Glass, Rock City Crew, Family Quest and the slightly odd Loose Bruce!
Backed by Polygram, some of Hip Hop’s leading lights set off on a promotional tour of the UK. How they ended up at the St George’s Hall in Exeter in the mid-eighties I have no idea; an out-of-towner obviously did the booking. The hall is a last vestige of the kind of venue that would have hosted wrestling in the eighties.
But that evening St George’s Hall was full of b-bays (Devon b-boys) in their finest Fila and Tacchini tracksuits, and Shell Toe and Trimm Trab trainers. Oddly juxtaposed against the Hip Hop, the hall’s stage was more suited to amateur dramatics and the worn wooden floorboards country dancing. But the Cookie Crew got up there and rocked the house and Nottingham’s Rock City Crew shook the floors. Without a touch of arrogance, the Rock City Crew provided a master class in breaking, whilst the Cookie Crew mingled with the crowd. I’m probably looking back with a glow a sentimentality though – they must have all been questioning at the time how we yokel bays doozles it in Devon.
In the end St George’s Hall finally won out: the evening ended with a raffle. The hall’s antiquated charm and the memory of a thousand WI meetings proving too much. But I wasn’t complaining as I won the star prize: a VHS copy of the Electro Rock film. I bowled on stage to be presented my prize by Sipho (RIP) who is pictured opposite, one of the defining moments of my eighties. (Sad, I know, to have a defining moment that is winning a raffle, but Sipho was a legend.)
I still have that VHS copy. Watching it back, I’m struck by the battle finale (London versus the rest), sound tracked by Automation’s Electro Rock. It’s a fantastic exhibition of the style and sheer athleticism of breaking and popping. And it’s topped by body popper, Basil Pepperpot, completely decimating someone in a one-on-one body popping battle. I’m unable to recount how many times I’ve watched that one moment. The best 10p I’ve ever spent on a raffle ticket, easy.
Listen to: Electro Rock by Automation
Watch the Electro Rock battle finale here: