Steel Pulse Biography & History

February 14, 2019

The only reggae band to have ever played at the US Presidential inauguration and the winner of a Grammy Award, Steel Pulse is a reggae music band from Birmingham, England. They burst onto the US reggae music scene on the eve of Bob Marley’s funeral. Their brilliant performance was aired live around the world in 1981. The band, to date, has released eleven studio albums, with Babylon the Bandit, winning a Grammy. In addition, they have been nominated for the prestigious award (Grammy) six times, in total.

The band came into being in 1975 at Handsworth Wood Boys School, Birmingham, England. The original members of the band were Ronald McQueen (bass guitar), Basil Gabbidon (vocals, lead guitar) and David Hinds (guitar, lead vocals). Hinds, is the true spirit behind the success of this band. He as a singer-songwriter established the band in the local music scene of Birmingham. Out of the mentioned original band members, he is only one who still plays with Steel Pulse.

The band’s earliest work was Kibudu, Mansetta and Abuku. It sketched the mindset of the African youth living in cosmopolitan European cities. It was released by a small record label, Dip. The band, like most of the upcoming bands did not enjoy much commercial success in the beginning. They were also refused permission to play in local reggae clubs, due to their Rastafarian values. Shunned by the fellow Africans, the band associated themselves with the punk bands, which, too, were fighting against racism in the British society. Steel Pulse toured with punk bands like XTC, Stranglers and others. As their music started to be heard by more and more people, word got around and they were started to be admitted to the local reggae clubs. This also brought them in touch with their first major record producing label, Island Records.

Ku Klux Klan 45, was their first release under the new record deal. As the name suggests, the album carried message of hope against the evil of racism. While performing songs from this album, the band members would make fun of the racist organization on stage. Round about the same time, the band had started to grow in numbers as well, adding diversity and vitality to their music. The new members were, Mykaell Riley (vocals), Alphonso Martin (percussion and vocals), Steve ‘Grizzly’ Nisbett (drums) and Selwyn ‘Bumbo’ Brown (keyboards).

In 1978, the band’s first major studio album, Handsworth Revolution, was released. This album is considered to be one of the best British reggae albums of all times and the one that changed the course of reggae music in Britain. It won accolades both from fans and critics and enjoyed commercial success as well. With commercial success came independence and the band moved to Elektra Records from Island Records. Island Records reportedly was asking the band to move to more mainstream reggae, something along the lines of Eddy Grant. Steel Pulse refused. The band released more albums under Elektra Records and won more appreciation from fans and critics alike. Their album, Babylon the Bandit, was also released by the same recording company and had unforgettable singles like, “Puerto Rico Bliss”, “Babylon the Bandit”, “Don’t Be Afraid”, “Love Walks Out”, “Blessed Is the Man”, “Kick That Habit”, “Sugar Daddy”, “School Boy’s Crush (Jail Bait)”, “Not King James Version” and “Save Black Music”.

Appreciative of their Rastafarian roots, the band released, Centennial, which was recorded live in Paris. It celebrated the one-hundredth birth anniversary of Emperor Haile Selassie. Not only vocally but also otherwise the band’s activism against racism, where ever it may be, has been commendable. Hinds, sued the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission for discriminating against Rastafarians.

Steel Pulse due to immense international fame, has performed all over the world, namely at Northern California annual Reggae on the River Festival, Japan Splash, Jamaican Sunsplash, and Reggae Sunsplash USA. They have also performed at the prestigious Glastonbury Festival.

The band which has released singles like “Barack Obama Song”, “Babylon the Bandit” and many other hit numbers, now arrives in your town for you to enjoy its creative reggae music. Wait no longer and buy your Steel Pulse Tickets now!

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