With instantly recognisable hits such as Stop, Look, Listen to your Heart, You Are Everything and Betcha By Golly Wow, The Stylistics are one of the most iconic groups in soul history. The group still feature two of the original members (Herbert Murrell and Airrion Love) and is fronted by the brilliant Harold ‘Eban’ Brown, former singer with Wilbur Hart’s Delfonics.
The Philadelphia group recorded a remarkable 10 straight top-ten hits during the early 1970s and will being their iconic sound to Porethcawl’s Grand Pavillion on November 26. Andy Howells recently put questions to founder member Airrion Love.
The Stylistics came together in 1968 from two Philadelphia Groups The Percussions and The Monarchs. Did you come from musical backgrounds originally and what made you want to become singers?
As a child I was always singing, but other than The Glee Club and All City Choir in Junior High School, that was my only background.
When did you actually realise you’d become successful?
I still can’t believe it! In my neighborhood coming up a lot of people knew me because of the music, but I lived there all my life so I was one of the lucky ones. There were a few recording artist from Philadelphia at that time.
You cracked the UK chart in 1972 with Betcha By Golly Wow. How important was it to you break into the UK?
Our management thought is was very important to break into the UK market, in fact our first mini tour we came over for free. The first city we came to in the UK was London. We were schedule to do a lot of promotions and we showcased at a club called Gulliver’s.
Two of your hits Stone In Love With You and You Make Me Feel Brand New went on to really define your sound. Did you have any idea how unique they were when you recorded them and do you still enjoy performing them?
Well, working with Tom Bell at the time, he always produced great songs. And yes when I heard You Make Me Feel Brand New for the first time it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I knew then it was a great song.
The Stylistics were a mainstay of the UK charts as well as the US and gained a UK Number One in 1975 with Can’t Give you Anything But My Love. What was the story behind that song and what did it mean to you to get a number one with it?
We had mixed feelings in the beginning. Tom Bell had stopped producing us after a disagreement with the record company and Hugo and Luigi the record company President and Vice President started producing us. We didn’t feel the material was as strong as before and in fact we lost a few fans here in the States because of the change of sound. That album was the first one for Hugo and Luigi so they did a big TV promotion. It did go Gold Stateside, but after that, records sales went down here at home. But overseas it took off not only in the UK but Japan also. From then on it seem the material were written for our overseas market only but we opened two new markets.
You are still touring and performing and have retained a few original members from your 1968 line-up how do you all get on after all these years?
Well like a bad marriage, things start heading downhill, so did our relationship with our lead singer Russell Thompkins. Its been almost 20 years since he left and there’s no communication with him at all.
What can fans expect from your forthcoming Wales show?
We’ve been coming to the UK for quite a few years, and we come to know what our fans expect from us. So we try to give them as much Stylistics Music and we can. We’re not going to feature any other music but our own, so they can expect to have a lot of memories flooding though their minds. They might even find themselves falling in love all over again.
This is a funny story, but a woman wrote to our web site that she came to see one of our show with her ex-husband and ex-mother-in-law. After seeing the show which brought back so many memories she felt like she wanted to remarry her ex-husband again.
Out of all the years of The Stylistics success which would you describe as your best moment?
There’s one that stands out in my mind, was performing South Africa to 65,000 people.
- A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide in November, 2015.
- Visit The Stylistics Official Website