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Johnny Wakelin

Singer Johnny Wakelin traversed the oddest of paths from the seaside cabarets of Brighton, to the top of the British charts. An unassuming, mustachioed white gentleman with a droll humor that sat well within his taste for R&B, reggae, and African rhythms, Wakelin was one of the more surprising of Britain's entries into the mid-'70s disco movement. His hits, after all, might have condemned him to be remembered as a mere novelty artist, but he was also capable of some surprisingly effective rhythm and beat.

Discovered by Pye Records producer Robin Blanchflower, the man who launched Carl Douglas to the top of the charts with "Kung Fu Fighting," and working with Steve Elson and Keith Rossiter in addition to Branchflower, Wakelin set about writing songs that would, he hoped, "catch people's eye." His first release did just that, diving into the socio-political arena by way a tribute to boxer Muhammad Ali, "Black Superman (Muhammad Ali)"; the pugilist was making his much-heralded comeback at the time, and "Black Superman" effortlessly rode the wave of attendant interest.

Credited to Johnny Wakelin & the Kinshasa Band, the song appeared in late 1974 and, by January 1975, was making its U.K. chart debut. The catchy tune would eventually peak at number seven in Britain, while it reached number one in Australia and spent a staggering six months in the U.S. charts. 1975 brought a further single, "Cream Puff," backed by "Gotta Keep on Going"; it flopped, but both songs would be incorporated into Wakelin's March 1976 LP debut, Reggae, Soul & Rock'N'Roll.

Abandoning the Kinshasa Band, Wakelin returned to Muhammad Ali for his next release, and promptly scored another major hit single in July, 1976. "In Zaire," replaying the famous "Rumble in the Jungle" fight, surpassed its predecessor, climbing to a stunning U.K. number four. And, while it was to prove Wakelin's last hit, the remainder of the 1970s would be just as fruitful for him, on a musical level, at least. The next three years brought a further three albums to the racks, African Man, Double Trouble and Golden Hour, respectively. All were accompanied by a fresh crop of singles, including the radio hit "Africa Man" in 1976, "Afro Afrique" and "Doctor Frankenstein's Disco Party" in 1977, and "Lay down and Rock Me" in 1978.

Wakelin continues to write and perform in England. ~ Amy Hanson
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: 70s Disco Hits

Disc 1

1. D.I.S.C.O.

2. Funkytown

4. A Walk In The Park

6. Disco Bouzouki

7. Automatic Lover

8. Trojan Horse

9. I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper

10. Dear John

12. I Can't Stand The Rain

13. Rock Your Baby

16. Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel

17. You To Me Are Everything

Disc 2

2. Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

3. From Here To Eternity

4. Que Sera Mi Vida

5. Knock On Wood

7. In Zaire

8. It Takes Me Higher

9. Kung Fu Fighting

10. Queen Of Chinatown

12. Y.M.C.A.

13. Black Is Black

14. Feels Like I'm In Love

15. I Love To Love

16. I Feel Love

x

Track List: Sounds Of The Seventies

Disc 1

2. Young, Gifted And Black

3. Indian Reservation

4. In The Summertime

5. Lola

6. Rainbow

7. Give Me Just A Little More Time

8. You Can Get It If You Really Want

9. Me And My Life

10. Band Of Gold

11. Double Barrel

12. Banner Man

13. Black & White

14. Let Your Yeah Be Yeah

15. The Devil's Answer

16. Mouldy Old Dough

17. Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron

18. Dancing On A Saturday Night

19. The Man Who Sold The World

21. Kung Fu Fighting

22. Sad Sweet Dreamer

23. Everything I Own

24. Streets Of London

Disc 2

3. Girls

6. Oh What A Shame

7. I Believe In Father Christmas

8. You To Me Are Everything

9. In Zaire

10. Now Is The Time

12. Fanfare For The Common Man

13. Egyptian Reggae

14. Uptown Top Ranking

15. It's A Heartache

16. Matchstalk Men & Matchstalk Cats & Dogs

17. Jilted John

18. Knock On Wood

19. Hersham Boys

20. Love's Gotta Hold On Me

21. One Day At A Time

22. Rapper's Delight

x

Track List: The Trip: Curated By Jarvis Cocker & Steve Mackey

Disc 1

2. Release The Bats

3. The Rubber Room

4. Just Drifting

5. The Lady With The Braid

8. Sock It My Way

9. Feel Flows

11. I'm Going Home

13. Jukebox Babe

14. Waiting For The Man

16. The Villain

18. Lost In Music

Disc 2

1. Jet Boy, Jet Girl

2. John, I'm Only Dancing

4. In Zaire

5. Anonymous Face

6. Egyptian Reggae

7. Pour Man

8. Flashing Lights

9. Beasley Street

10. Rock On

12. Pammie's On A Bummer

13. I Wonder If I Care As Much

14. Purple Haze

15. Going Nowhere

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