SOLID SOUL  

Muscle man from the opening sequence

Juliet Roberts and Chris Forbes

Juliet Roberts, David Grant, and Garth Crooks

Total Contrast

Camelle Hinds with Dee C Lee

On British television in the middle of the 1980s, there were very few if any programmes which presented black music to it's fans. In America, viewers had enjoyed the delights of Soul Train for almost 25 years, and they had the relatively new BET (Black Entertainment Television) cable channels which would also cater to their needs. In the UK, seeing the odd black act on Top of the Pops who happened to reach the upper-most regions of the national charts was just about all one could hope for. That was until Channel Four decided to redress things somewhat. They had previously made a British version of Soul Train under licence from it’s American creators, but that series was short-lived. At that time the channel was run under a different ethos than it is today. Programme makers were encouraged to take risks with their ideas, as Channel Four was continually hailed as the alternative to the other three stations. The channel undertook the ambitious step of producing a black music series of 26 weekly editions, as a replacement of their successful run of Soul Train. It was to be called Solid Soul, and although seemingly radical in it’s approach, it was in fact quite conventional except for one respect; the black origins of the music featured. The first programme was transmitted on Friday the 11th of April 1986 at 6.30 pm, and the series was made for Channel Four by the independent production company Action Time. Much like Top of the Pops there were live performances, chart rundowns, promo videos, and guest appearances. But most of the music on the show would probably never have received exposure anywhere else, as in the main they were nightclub hits.

Chris Forbes a DJ with Capital Radio at the time, and Juliet Roberts an experienced young singer from London, were called upon as presenters during it’s unusually long first run. Another member of the production's team, was a young researcher called Jonathan Ross. As was befitting the times, shoulder pads and silky shirts were de rigeur on the show, and this was not just as far as the presenters were concerned. Many of the most successful British soul acts of the day made appearances on the show including David Grant, Jaki Graham, Princess, Dee C Lee, and Loose Ends. American acts also took part among them, Booker Newbury III, The SOS Band, Alexander O’Neal, Roger Troutman & Zapp, rent-payer Gwen Guthrie, and Chaka Khan was unforgettable in her skin tight leopard print mini dress, and matching thigh-high boots.

A short best of series was shown during the summer, and a compilation LP of featured tracks was also made available.

A second series was commissioned for 1987, but the presenters were absent. The programme now resembled The Chart Show which was another Channel Four creation, and meant that there were no longer any links between acts or any interviews with them, just information about the artists flashed onscreen. This diminished the lively atmosphere which the previous series had so greatly achieved, and was to be the last one produced.

 

Silky shirts and shoulder pads. Essential kit.

Woman of fire Chaka Khan

The late great Gwen Guthrie

Take a piece of Booker Newberry III

Mary Davis from The SOS Band