Canvey Island, Brit Funk and the “Southern Freeez”

Considering we in the UK are experiencing a bit of a heatwave at the moment, this post title sounds a bit ironic but all will soon make sense, so please bear with me. Living up here in the North of Scotland, there are lot of places “down south” that I’ve heard of, but don’t necessarily know much about. One such place is Canvey Island and since starting this blog, it keeps coming up in the research as having spawned an awful lot of bands. But where is Canvey Island, and is it indeed an island? Well technically it does seem to be, but like a few other similar landmasses, it’s separated from the mainland of Essex by a mere sliver of water.

Canvey_Island_OSM_map_2010
Canvey Island off the coast of Essex

The first time Canvey Island came up in the research was when I wrote about Eddie and the Hot Rods (link here) as they came from the place, as it seems did The Kursaal Flyers and the band who came to be known as “Canvey Island’s finest”, Dr. Feelgood. The whole pub rock musical genre flourished there in the 1970s and that part of Essex became the destination of choice for artists such as Graham Parker, Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello.

But it’s not pub rock I’m going to write about here, it’s another phenomenon that found its roots on Canvey Island – A genre of music that came to be known as Brit funk. Again, living in the North of Scotland I would have had no idea such places existed, but in the early ’70s an old coastal Country Club was turned into a nightclub called the Goldmine. The DJ in residence was Chris Hill and the club came to specialise in “soul nights” where only serious and devoted fans came to get their fix. By 1978 however coach loads of soul fans were arriving from all over the country to experience a piece of the funk action and this unprepossessing building on Canvey Island was firmly on the map as the soul, jazz & funk mecca of the UK – Strange but true.

Acts that came to be associated with Brit funk were Light of the World, Level 42, Beggar and Co, Linx and Freeez. These bands enjoyed chart success in the early ’80s making regular appearances on TOTP, but today’s featured song is the one I remember best from that era, and have fond memories of – Southern Freeez by the band Freeez. It reached No. 8 in the UK Singles Chart in February 1981 with the very “cool” Ingrid Mansfield Allman providing the vocals.

Southern Freeez by Freeez:

The reason I have fond memories of this particular song, despite not really knowing anything about the whole Brit funk scene at the time, is because it came about the year I turned 21. I was a student back then and just about every week an invitation to a fellow student’s birthday bash popped through the mailbox. Mid-week venues were plentiful as many a landlord was happy to throw open the doors to their unused function suites, and provide DJs of varying abilities in return for lucrative bar takings. Being a dance record, and having been a hit early on in the year, Southern Freeez regularly made it onto the playlist and the lyrics always made me smile. I don’t think it happens so much nowadays, but back then an awful lot of romances started life on the dancefloor and all down to whether you “liked their style”, “saw it in their eyes” or were driven to distraction watching them “on the floor doing the Southern Freeez” (which it turns out was a dance move – the band dropped out for a bar and everyone froze).

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As someone who (until recently) always had a closer relationship with the whole sound and feel of a song as apposed to the lyrics, I kind of liked how you could tell so much about a person by how they danced. Mr WIAA and I were always the dancers in our social group and because of that we always gravitated towards each other, being “soul” mates of sorts. It seems that nowadays, where relationships invariably start life on Tinder or via some other virtual medium, attraction is down to looks alone and with a quick “swipe” you are out of the picture for good. Such pressure on everyone to look a certain way, and sometimes all very false and unreal. If I could bottle it I would, but when you really immerse yourself in the music on the dance floor, you are showing your true colours – Nothing false or unreal there. (Fervent non-dancers however, will probably choose to disagree?)

Getting back to Brit funk, it seems that many 1980s pop groups such as Haircut 100, Wham! and notably Spandau Ballet tapped into the style and sound to help launch their careers. This scene reduced racial boundaries in the clubs and raised the profile of black and white musicians working together – All down to a converted Country Club on Canvey Island!

Until next time enjoy the sunshine, but if it all gets a bit too much, you could always drop out and freeze.

Southern Freeez Lyrics
(Song by Andy Stennett, John Rocca, Peter Maas)

Love saw it in your eyes
Sensed it in your smile
Boy I like your style
Oh yeah

When I saw you on the floor doing the southern freeez
Then I knew you were the one the only one for me

Love feel it in your touch
In the way you move
I like it very much yes I do

Time time is moving on
Guess it’s getting late
Soon you’ll take me home

People everywhere doing the southern freeez
Laughing all the time this is the life for me

Heartbeat whisper in my ears
Now it won’t be long no
Just you and me my dear yeah
Sweet darling making love so slow
Your so beautiful yes you are
You got me all a glow

When I saw you on the floor doing the southern freeez
Then I knew you were the one, the only one for me

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

20 thoughts on “Canvey Island, Brit Funk and the “Southern Freeez””

  1. I LOVE Southern Freez 🙂 Hated that tit Leee John criticising her performance as boring on one of those Top of the Pops compilation shows a couple of years back. Idiot that he is

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear it and no, she’s not boring, just very cool 😎

      Thanks for dropping by as don’t expect many visitors to this post but definitely one of the tracks of my years.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Very cool indeed, The preening Leee just doesn’t get it. Of course not, with his teensy gold budgie smugglers and his pelvic thrusts and pouts! Incidentally, there was a really good documentary on BBC1 not so long back about Canvey Island and how it is attracting the Hasidic Jewish community of London who are now being outpriced by the gentrification of the capital. The Feelgood’s manager was in charge of community liaison and making the newcomers feel at home.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. You are definitely not a fan of Mr John are you? I had always thought he had just somewhat pretentiously added an extra E to his first name but no, it seems he was born a Leslie!

          You are a font of knowledge Mark – Interesting that about Canvey Island. My other half is in the jewellery business and if in London we always have to head to Hatton Garden which has a high proportion of Hasidic Jews – Sounds as if Hatton Garden might be moving out to Canvey Island? How things change – Dr Feelgood’s manager is the liaison officer.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Those three didn’t come from Canvey Island but because lots of other similar acts did, they all gravitated to the place. On top of that there was the whole soul/funk thing going on. It was all happening on Canvey Island in the 1970s!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Again – you are the font of all knowledge! I perhaps remember the Canvey Island reference now you’ve mentioned it, but what I remember most was that he came from Pinner and perhaps wasn’t good enough for Penny. The sitcoms from that era were so class conscious and it was often the main focus of the humour – Don’t even think we have those same class definitions any more and the humour just wouldn’t work any more.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I used to have a good book about the pub rock scene called No Sleep ’til Canvey Island
    Southern Freez did not feature but it is a top tune

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can feel a new series coming on – Songs by people who come from islands that aren’t really islands! It could be a winner as there certainly are plenty of them. It seems that Canvey Island really was the place to be in the 1970s – Bordered by water on three sides you have to make your own entertainment as not easy to head elsewhere?

      Like

  3. Did you ever see the documentary Oil City Confidential about Dr Feelgood? A brilliant film, well worth a watch if not. Lots of Canvey Island on there as you might imagine.
    As for dancing, I love the way you describe how, once immersed in the music, the true you comes out. I sort of missed out on the whole dancing thing with punk being the first thing I really got into – so, plenty of leaping about and trying to look a bit moronic but not exactly smooth or seductive moves and thus, ever since, I’ve always felt awkward in any other situation that might warrant a bit of dancing (e.g. at weddings). In the privacy of my own living room of course I could – and do – dance away madly!
    Have you ever heard/watched Peter Lovatt (‘Dr Dance’) talk about the psychology of dancing, by the way (he’s from the Dance Psychology Lab at the University of Hertfordshire) ? A very engaging man – interesting stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As for the documentaries, no not seen either – Too many to keep up with it seems but will look out for them.

      As for the dancing, it doesn’t matter about looking smooth or seductive, I just think you can tell a lot about a person by how they approach it all – By the particular songs they choose to dance to (punk in your case), by how conservative/restrained they are (dancing around the handbag or leaping about for example), by their staying power (just how much does the music get into their “soul”), by their moves (how athletic and agile are they), by whether they dance alone or with a partner/group (an individual or a team player), by whether they choose not to partake at all (into the lyrics and not the rhythm quite so much)……. And so it goes on. I know that I’ve never had a serious relationship with anyone who hasn’t loved dancing but sadly not many chances to partake nowadays.

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      1. Yes, I see what you mean – the approach to it all – v interesting. If you have a few minutes to spare you might enjoy this little clip of Peter Lovatt on the Graham Norton Show from a while back (he’s very charming!)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. What a great clip C – I think I’m a little bit in love with Dr Lovatt! After my last reply I realised I’d gone a bit overboard with my theories about dance, but the doctor does kind of back me up. I do think I have a body that is highly attuned to rhythm (if that doesn’t sound a bit wrong) and within any friendship group, I was always the one who broke off to do a bit of exhibition dancing – hopefully entertaining people as well. If out with a group of girls however I was sometimes given the cold shoulder on the way home – My style of dancing apparently put boys off asking us to dance! I didn’t care as I was having a whale of a time, but they did!

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    1. Yes I think we’ve well and truly established that you are not a fan of dancing. A great shame really from my perspective as I can assure you (as per my reply to C above) it can bring great joy. But then again, if you had concentrated more on the “sound and feel” of a song as opposed to the lyrics, you wouldn’t have been able to write all those great blog posts where you pick up on thoughful lines I have never noticed before, from songs I must have heard hundreds of times – Can’t have it both ways it seems.

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  4. I had a cough I couldn’t shake, the heatwave (also in Denmark) has been good, keeping me warm and hopefully healing the chest infection. That and hot elderberry drinks which strengthen the immune system.

    Interesting to read about the Brit funk era. Southern Freeez is new to me but I have listened to the hits of Spandau Ballet (a bit cheesy if you ask me). When I think of funk it’s mainly black US artists.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry to hear that – Hope you feel better soon. The heatwave is everywhere then? Quite phenomenal weather here and shaping up to be one of the hottest summers for decades.

      Brit funk – It was a bit different to US/Soul funk and that club on Canvey Island championed it in the late 70s/early 80s. I always liked Southern Freeez but didn’t know its provenance until recently. Apparently bands like Spandau used to head along to the Goldmine and got inspiration for some of their earlier stuff. I certainly never see them written about around here but massively successful in the early 80s. Started out quite edgy but morphed into something much smoother and pop-based. True – the “slow-dance” song at many a school disco.

      Liked by 1 person

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