Peter Tong from Dartford turns 60 years young today, and to celebrate this momentous occasion we wanted to honour and applaud the man. We also wanted to share some memorable, rare and representative broadcasts from him, and to wish him a very happy birthday.
As reported by James Hamilton in Record Mirror at the time, Tong won a ‘Young DJ competition’ in Southgate in March 1978 [a few months before his 18th Birthday] since then, the South East Soul Mafia alumni has skillfully and successfully played in clubs across the planet. In the early 80s they had colourfully peculiar names like the Canvey Island Goldmine, the Circus Tavern in Purfleet, Bealeyheath Greens, Streatham Chaplins, Brands Hatch Kentagon and the Pink Toothbrush in Rayleigh.
Back then, during the first flushes of the Jazz-Funk/ Brit-Funk movement, alongside DJs like the legendary Chris Hill, Pete put the work in, and when listening to examples of his early broadcasting career, it’s evident he was well suited to it from the jump. He was affable and charming back then, and remains the same to this day. We’re not gonna delve into his career in too much detail, we’ll leave that for the more electronically minded amongst you. But if you aren’t from the UK, or you don’t recognise his name, he is a true pioneer, you should investigate his output further: his work at FFRR from 1986, tearing the roof off clubs across the World, or the effect on youth culture his BBC Essential Selection radio show show had on generations of British kids from early 1991.
In chronological order we have:
- Oct 1982 – Caister Soul Weekender
- Apr 1985 – Caister Soul Weekender [W/Lenny Henry]
- 1985 – Pirate station Invicta
- May 1987 – 1st BBC Nite FM show
- 4th Jan 1991 – 1st Essential Selection on BBC R1
- 2nd Jan 1992 – Rap Selection of 1991 on BBC R1
We wanted to highlight his long and diverse history, granting listeners old and new, young and not so young, a trip through some restored and remastered digital transfers. As you’ll hear, Tongy [as he’s also known] has always had a down to earth style and approach, with a continuously friendly and accessible on-air persona. This very British Mr Everyman standard opened the minds of a generations on how club music was recognised, and how the soundtracks to dancefloors across the UK were welcomed, recognized, anticipated, and inevitably bought and sold.
If you are unsure where to start, and have fond memories of Lenny Henry sketches or characters from Tiswas and Three of a Kind etc, kick things off with what is effectively a Lenny Henry Essential Mix from Spring 1985. ‘Lenny Raymundo’ takes time out from recording an upcoming TV show called ‘The Lenny Henry Show’ cos of a dispute at the BBC, bringing his characters David Bellamy, the Charlady and ‘Delbert Wilkins from station WBRIX’ to life. He brings a selection of his own vinyl into the Radio Caister studio for ‘Jeff Tong & Pete Young’ to play. He discusses things like Summer seasons in Blackpool and comedians Cannon and Ball, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor and Steve Martin. For Gold School UK Hip-Hop heads, expect goosebumps when Lenny mentions Groove Records, the art of scratching, and what DJs in the scene were doing at the time. NB: Kurtis Blow & Davy D in Feb 1983.
‘I go into Groove and they get sick of me. No I dont want any Electro…The DJ is using the decks as a musical instrument, very positive that. Apparently Davy D was down as Gullivers and wiped everybody away. Also I saw Grandmaster DST with Herbie Hancock and I thought he was masterful’.
Or you could start with an incredibly inventive show from Spring 1987, his first ever ‘Power Nite FM’ show during his short-lived stint at BBC Radio London [He’d joined Capital by September that year]. He mixes versions of I Know You Got Soul from Bobby Byrd & Rakim, plays It’s Time to Chill by T La Rock, and a ‘radio exclusive’ of the extended edit of Miracles by the Jackson Sisters. In a resourceful display, to layer up the mix, he uses snippets from Monty Python, Madness, Beastie Boys, Lenny Henry & Frankie Goes to Hollywood [Chris Barrie].
We usually cover Hip-Hop and Rap here at RRR but along with his old buddy Jeff Young with his Big Beat Show, Pete was and still is a crucial figure in the cultures and scenes that care about music. He was instrumental in bringing Rap music to masses of people, kids and adults alike that may have not have heard it outside the biggest cities up and down the British Isles.
Huge shouts to Mark Devlin and Justin Winks.