When I look back at the eighties, it was Hip Hop that provided the soundtrack to my formative years. Yeah, ok, throw in the odd filler track too – perhaps something by Duran Duran or Spandau Ballet. But, in the main, it was Hip Hop. And more importantly Mike Allen was the conductor, the architect of this soundtrack. His Capital Radio Show mixes were seminal – and I either listened to them huddled around a radio or on a recorded C90 tape.
Mike Allen’s show set the benchmark. I don’t have anything new to add about Mike Allen, whose legend is well documented: yeah, he wore some of the un-coolest clothes and had some of the most embarrassing phrases (“Troops!”). He also uttered the infamous line on Electro Rock: “Check the one in red, it’s a girl!” And was the MC at Fresh ’86.
Living outside of the broadcast range (remember this was the mid eighties and a world away from digital radio or online listening) it was impossible to receive the show’s broadcast every Friday and Saturday. In conjunction with Soho’s Groove Records he would drop the Hip Hop chart run down, consistently packed with quality eighties’ tunes. It was the antidote to Radio 1’s chart show.
When visiting London it was a sheer joy to listen. I remember cramming around the radio at my Dad’s flat in Cricklewood in ‘85, listening to Allen’s exclusive play of The Show by Doug E Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew. We gathered around in our windcheaters and tracksuit tops, like a five-a-side team huddled for a team talk.
The Show was absolutely massive. It was also a tune that marked both the height of the sounds of the time and the passing of thebaton. It gave a huge, polished and finished feel to that particular tinny eighties sound and novelty cartoon samples. With its Inspector Gadget sample, Doug E Fresh orchestrated a steroid injected tune fired up like Flo Jo. It went platinum and blew Hip Hop into the stratosphere.
Yet, for me, The Show also signalled the height of that style of Hip Hop. Ironically, The Show brought unparalleled commercial success, yet commercialism demanded more, as fast approaching was Def Jam with Run DMC, Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys. These artists were more constructed, they had more than just the odd novelty tune. But I listen back to Mike Allen’s mixes and they’re raw, exciting and pure enjoyment.