Inner Circle (band)
Inner Circle in 1976
|Also known as||The Inner Circle Band|
|Years active||1968–1980, 1982, 1986–present|
|Labels||Trojan, Capitol, Island, RAS, Atlantic, Big Beat, VP, Shanachie, Soundbwoy Entertainment|
|Associated acts||Third World|
Bernard "Touter" Harvey
Trevor "Skatta" Bonnick
Inner Circle are a Jamaican reggae group. The group was originally called The Inner Circle Band and formed in 1968. The band achieved major success in the 1970s with Jacob Miller as their lead singer, but split up after his death in 1980. They reformed in 1986 and had a major hit with the 1987 song "Bad Boys", which serves as the theme song for the long running Spike (formerly Fox Network) television program COPS. They are also well known for their song "Sweat (A La La La La Long)," a big hit in the U.S. in the early 1990s. The band is known for blending pop and rock with reggae.
The band was formed in 1968 by the brothers Ian and Roger Lewis with then 12-year-old Stephen "Cat" Coore and Michael Cooper. They appeared on record in 1970, backing The Chosen Few on the Derrick Harriott-produced single "Why Can't I Touch You", with the Inner Circle Band credited with the instrumental version on the B-side; This was one of several singles on which they backed the Chosen Few. In 1970 the band was expanded when they were joined by drummer William Stewart, percussionist Irvin "Carrot" Jarrett, and the band's original singer William "Bunny Rugs" Clarke. The band played on Eric Donaldson's hit single "Cherry Oh Baby" and recorded their own version as "Red Cherry".
Jarrett left the band in 1972, with singer Clarke leaving the following year when he moved to New York. Clarke's replacement was Milton "Prilly" Hamilton, but this line-up was short-lived as the band split in two with Coore, Cooper, and Hamilton leaving to form Third World in 1973. Coore and Cooper were then students of the University of the West Indies, studying for various degrees and were soon joined in Third World by fellow Inner Circle departees Clarke and Jarrett. Meanwhile, Inner Circle re-tooled the lineup by recruiting keyboard players Charles Farquharson and Bernard Harvey (aka "Touter"), as well as drummer Calvin McKenzie as a replacement for Stewart (who would also go on to play with Third World). The band played the hotel and club circuit in Kingston, playing a mixture of reggae, pop and soul hits, and released their first album, Dread Reggae Hits, in 1973 on Ian Lewis's Top Ranking label.
The Jacob Miller years
After recording with singer Funky Brown, they recruited Jacob Miller as a permanent vocalist (although he continued to record as a solo artist), and had a hit single with a version of The Stylistics' "You Make Me Feel Brand New". Some of Miller's work with the band was credited to Miller alone, including the "Tenement Yard" single. The band were signed by Capitol Records, who issued the albums Reggae Thing (1976) and Ready for the World (1977). They toured the United States with American guitarist, Ed Elizalde. In 1978 they moved on to Island Records who released the Everything Is Great album in 1978, which included the UK hit singles "Everything Is Great" and "Stop Breaking My Heart", and New Age Music the following year. The band was joined by New York session guitarist Joe Ortiz, dubbed 'Gitzy' by the band; who added the first touches of hard rock, jazz, and blues to the group and to Reggae in general. Ortiz recorded at Compass Point Studios for the Everything Is Great album on Island Records, and later joined the group for their European tour in 1978–1980. He was also lead guitarist on the title track 'New Age Music' on the album of the same name. Lester Adderley joined the group for the New Age Music album on guitar. Also released in the late 1970s were two dub albums based on Miller's solo albums Killer Miller and Wanted but credited to Inner Circle. The band gained further exposure via their performance in the film Rockers, playing a hotel house band. At his peak in the 1970s, only Bob Marley was more popular in Jamaica than Miller, and as a live act nobody equaled their popularity.
Miller's death in a car crash on 23 March 1980 led the band to split up, with the Lewis Brothers and Touter Harvey moving to Miami, where they opened a studio in a warehouse, later opening their own Circle House recording studio, and the band has been based in Miami since then. After Miller's death in 1980, the band had one more American tour, inviting Norman Grant from the Twinkle Brothers for vocals.
Reformation and US success
In 1981, with Bay Area lead guitarist, Mark Castro, they recorded the album Something So Good. Due to the loss of Jacob Miller, the members asked Mark Castro to help them find a new vocalist. Mark brought Rick Hunt to the band. "Something So Good" includes the memorable signature lead guitar solos that only Mark Castro can produce, especially When a Man Loves a Woman and World 2000."Something So Good" was released in 1982. They reformed in 1986 with the Lewis Brothers and Harvey joined by singer Calton Coffie and drummer Lancelot Hall, and this line-up released the Black Roses album (1986, RAS Records). The band's next album, One Way (1987), included one of their biggest hits, "Bad Boys", which was re-recorded for their 1989 album Identified and became the theme music for the Fox TV series COPS that year. California guitarist Dave Gonzales, by Mark Castro's recommendation, joined the band for a tour in 1989. "Bad Boys" was reissued as a single in 1991 and charted in several countries in Europe, but it was its 1993 re-release in the US that achieved the greatest success. The 1992 album Bad to the Bone was picked up by Atlantic Records and reissued as Bad Boys to capitalise on the success of the single. It sold more than half a million copies in the US and more than four million worldwide. The band received a Grammy Award in 1993 for 'Best Reggae Album by Duo or Group' for Bad Boys and the album also spawned the international hit single "Sweat (A La La La La Long)", which was a number 3 hit in the UK Singles Chart and topped the chart in ten countries, selling over a million copies in Europe, while "Bad Boys" peaked at number 52. It was their second (and last) American hit, reaching number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Bad Boys" was used in the 1995 film of the same name starring Will Smith and its sequel Bad Boys 2, and a ringtone based on the song was on the Billboard Hot Ringtones Chart for over 110 weeks. They received a second Grammy nomination in 1994 for the album Reggae Dancer, which included a cover of Joe South's "Games People Play" which was released as a single.
Coffie left in the mid-1990s to pursue a solo career, and they were joined in 1994 by Kris Bentley who made his album debut on Da Bomb (1997), released on the band's own Soundbwoy Entertainment label. In 1999 they released the album Jamaika Me Crazy on their own Eureka label. The 2000 album Big Tings featured guest appearances from Mr Vegas, Beenie Man, Luciano, Anthony B, and Glen Washington. In 2008, Jr. Jazz took over as lead vocalist.
As well as running the Circle Sound studio, the band members also run the Circle Sound production company.
The band's 2009 album State of Da World featured contributions from an array of reggae stars including Luciano, Damian Marley, Stephen Marley, Junior Reid, Mutabaruka, Bushman, David Hinds of Steel Pulse, and members of Slightly Stoopid.
In 2012, the band launched the 'Saving The Reggae Music' campaign with the aim of promoting traditional reggae music over the increasingly US-influenced music coming out of Jamaica.
The band's 2012 album Dubets featured collaborations with Peetah Morgan, Ken Boothe, Marcia Griffiths, Glen Washington, Ali Campbell of UB40, Gramps Morgan, A.J. Brown, and Marty Dread. The group went on to record with several younger singers and deejays, including Damian Marley, I-Octane, Khago, and Chronixx, with whom they recorded an updated version of "Tenement Yard".
- Current members
- Ian Lewis (born 1 November 1953) – bass, vocals (1968–1980, 1982, 1986–present)
- Roger Lewis (born 29 June 1951) – guitar, vocals (1968–1980, 1982, 1986–present)
- Bernard "Touter" Harvey (born 25 October 1955) – keyboards, vocals (1973–1980, 1982, 1986–present)
- Michael Sterling – lead guitar, vocals (1982, 2013–present)
- Lancelot Hall (born 7 February 1960) – drums, percussion (1986–present)
- Trevor "Skatta" Bonnick – vocals (2013–present)
- Former members
- Mark Castro - Guitar (1979, 1981, 1982, 1993)
- Ed Elizalde - Guitar (1977-1978)
- Michael "Ibo" Cooper – keyboards (1968–1973)
- Stephen "Cat" Coore – guitar (1968–1973)
- William Stewart – drums (1970–1973)
- William "Bunny Rugs" Clarke – vocals (1970–1972; died 2014)
- Irvin "Carrot" Jarrett – percussion (1970–1972)
- Milton "Prilly" Hamilton – vocals (1972–1973)
- Charles Farquharson – keyboards (1973–1980, 1982)
- Calvin McKenzie – drums (1973–1980, 1982)
- Funky Brown – vocals (1973–1974)
- Jacob Miller – vocals (1974–1980; his death)
- Lester Adderley – guitar (1979–1980)
- Joe Ortiz - Lead Guitar (1979-1980)
- Norman Grant – vocals (1980)
- Rick Hunt – vocals (1982)
- Calton Coffie – vocals (1986–1994)
- Dave Gonzales – lead guitar (1989)
- Kris Bentley – vocals (1994–2008)
- Jr. Jazz – vocals, guitar (2008–2011)
- Bad to the Bone (1992)
- Moskowitz, David V. (2006) Caribbean Popular Music: an Encyclopedia of Reggae, Mento, Ska, Rock Steady, and Dancehall, Greenwood Press, ISBN 0-313-33158-8, p.148
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- Lane, Sarah (1980) "Florida Challenge for Jamaicans: Top Ranking Sounds Struggling for U.S. Recognition", Billboard, 6 December 1980, p. 27, retrieved 9 September 2012
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- "Reggaepedia / Twinkle Brothers". Reggaelicious.pbworks.com. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
- Walker, Klive (2005) Dubwise, Insomniac Press, ISBN 978-1894663960, p. 203
- Benarde, Scott (1993), "Reggae in music's inner circle: Boys of 'COPS' TV theme start to make it big", Austin American-Statesman, 16 December 1993, p. 14
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- "Top 100 Music Hits, Top 100 Music Charts, Top 100 Songs & The Hot 100". Billboard.com. 21 August 1993. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
- Schneider, Christopher J. "The Ringtone as an Identity Management Device", in Denzin, Norman K. (ed.) (2009) Studies in Symbolic Interaction: 33, Emerald Group, ISBN 978-1848557840, p. 42
- Nall, Jeff (2006) "Inner Circle has unique world view", Florida Today, 24 November 2006, p. G20
- Reynolds, J.R. (1994) "Inner Circle Had "Sweat" Success in Europe Before Copping a U.S. Hit", Billboard, 16 July 1994, p. 22, retrieved 9 September 2012
- Daley, Dan (1998) "When a Studio's All in the Family: Creating the Right Vibe with Inner Circle", Billboard, 25 April 1998, p. 44, retrieved 9 September 2012
- Martinez, Gerald (1999) "Reviews: Inner Circle – Jamaika Me Crazy", New Straits Times, 27 September 1998, p. 13, retrieved 9 September 2012
- Duperly, Howard (2000) "Inner Circle album getting South Florida concert launch", Caribbean Today, 30 September 2000, retrieved 9 September 2012 – via HighBeam (subscription required)
- McCallister, Jared (2009) "'Bad Boys' band Inner Circle comes 'round with new album, 'State of Da World'", New York Daily News, 26 September 2009, retrieved 9 September 2012
- Campbell, Howard (2009) "Inner Circle in a 'State'", The Weekly Gleaner, 2 July 2009, retrieved 9 September 2012 – via HighBeam (subscription required)
- Campbell-Livingston, Cecelia (2012) "Bad Boys to Reggae's Rescue", Jamaica Observer, 21 August 2012, retrieved 1 September 2012
- "HEAR THIS: Inner Circle & Peetah Morgan "Broken Hearted"". Boomshots. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
- Campbell, Howard (2014) "Inner Circle Reaches Out", Jamaica Observer, 4 March 2014. Retrieved 5 March 2014
- "Inner Circle For Rebel Salute", Jamaica Gleaner, 15 December 2014. Retrieved 15 December 2014
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