Urban Industry

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Friday Tunes: Kid Creole and the Coconuts ‘Tropical Gangsters’

February 21, 2014

Growing up with the 2-Tone explosion, synth pop lighting its LEDs and Hip-Hop lacing up its Adidas and Pumas was pretty fantastic. As a 10 year old, with a Sister 8 years older already going to gigs, my interest in music was pretty advanced. So for my first concert I was super excited. That gig was Kid Creole and the Coconuts! Now, I would be lying if I said I was not more excited about seeing the support act Musical Youth but in the end, they had too much school homework to tour so KC&C were the first band I saw live. I will always remember it and, although I knew their songs from the charts but had never really loved them, I thoroughly enjoyed the occasion.

For old times’ sake, I picked up their '82 "Tropical Gangsters" album, put it on the turntable at home, turned it up and really got into it. Kid Creole (real name August Darnell) always fused Salsa and Funk but, on the orders of his record label, he made this LP a bit more commercial. This fact never sat well with him or his long-time collaborator and friend 'Sugar Coated' Andy Hernandez (also known as Coati Mundi) yet the LP, which was known as "Wise Guy" in the US and Canada, became their most successful with 3 hit singles. Listen carefully you can hear that Darnell was just as careful crafting his lyrics as he was the sound, with cutting quips as "If I was in your blood, you would not be so ugly" in "Annie I'm Not Your Daddy". Even the non-single tracks stand out (like my favourite "The Love We Have"). For what most would see as a throwaway, 50p carboot LP, "Tropical Gangsters" is really a well worked concept – go get a Pina Colada and your Salsa shake on!