Silly Games

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"Silly Games"
Single by Janet Kay
GenreLovers rock
Songwriter(s)Dennis Bovell
Producer(s)Dennis Bovell

"Silly Games" is a song written by Dennis Bovell that was first released in 1979 as a single by Janet Kay.[1] The single was a hit not only in the UK, where it reached number 2 that summer,[2][3] but throughout Europe.[4][5] Kay's appearance singing on Top of the Pops made it the first lover's rock tune on BBC Television's flagship popular music show.[6][7] The song appeared again in 1990 as a re-recording, billed as by Lindy Layton featuring Janet Kay, which reached number 22 in the charts. A remix version of Kay's original recording spent three weeks in the UK Singles Chart, peaking at number 62.[2]

Song background[edit]

Explaining how he approached the composition, Bovell says: "There was an advert for Memorex where Ella Fitzgerald sang a note and broke a glass, and I wanted a song with a note like that; little girls always try to sing a high note, so when I wrote ‘Silly Games’ and put that high note in there, it meant that every female in the dance would try and sing that note."[8] Now considered an anthem of its genre,[9] "Silly Games" has been called "probably the most popular of the lover's rock songs from the '70s".[10] Bovell has said: " was a song constructed with a verse and a chorus and a bridge and a 'tickling piece' at the end and an intro to catch you so you would have to sit up and listen to what was coming next.... To this day, that song is still on the radio constantly. But that song, it was constructed to be a hit."[10]

Dennis Bovell played guitar, bass and synthesizer, Drummie Zeb from Aswad played the drums and Janet Kay sang.[11]

The song features prominently in Steve McQueen's film Lovers Rock, the second film in his 2020 anthology series Small Axe.[12] As described by The New York Times: "The lovesick kiss-off 'Silly Games' and its indelible high note play a pivotal part" in the film, and Bovell has a cameo role.[13]


The Guardian said, "Everything about "Silly Games" is perfect: its gently rolling rhythm, its beautiful melody, Dennis Bovell's subtle production, Kay's vocal that goes from understated to indelible."[14]

Lindy Layton version[edit]

"Silly Games"
Lindy Layton-Silly Games.jpg
Single by Lindy Layton
from the album Pressure
  • D. Bovell
  • J. Myatt
Producer(s)Martyn Phillips
Lindy Layton singles chronology
"Silly Games"
"Echo My Heart"

English singer Lindy Layton debuted as a solo singer with her version of "Silly Games" in 1990. It features Janet Kay and peaked at number 22 on the UK Singles Chart.


Chart (1990) Peak
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)[15] 65
UK Singles (OCC) 22


  1. ^ Silly Games at Discogs (list of releases).
  2. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 297. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  3. ^ "UK Official charts - Janet Kay". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
  4. ^ "About Janet Kay – Queen of Lover's Rock". itzCaribbean. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  5. ^ Atwal, Kay (12 June 2013). "Janet Kay talks about Silly Games". Newham Recorder. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  6. ^ Baird, Saxon (19 November 2013). "The Making of a Lovers Rock Anthem: Dennis Bovell on Janet Kay's 'Silly Games'". Archived from the original on 28 November 2013. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  7. ^ Bovell, Dennis (19 November 2013). "Dennis Bovell On the making of 'Silly Games'". Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  8. ^ Katz, David, "Key Tracks: Janet Kay’s 'Silly Games'", Red Bull Music Academy Daily, 11 August 2014.
  9. ^ Campbell, Howard (22 March 2015). "Spotlight on British female singers". Jamaica Observer. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  10. ^ a b Baird, Saxon (19 November 2013). "Dennis Bovell: UK Reggae, Lovers Rock, and the Power of Linton Kwesi Johnson". Hip Deep - Afropop Worldwide. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  11. ^ "The Quietus | Features | Baker's Dozen | No Boundaries: Dennis Bovell's Baker's Dozen".
  12. ^ Bakare, Lanre (23 November 2020). "Could Steve McQueen start a lovers rock revival with Small Axe?". The Guardian.
  13. ^ Gordon, Jeremy (29 November 2020). "The Beat at the Heart of 'Lovers Rock'". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Alexis Petridis. "The 70 greatest No 2 singles – ranked!". The Guardian.
  15. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. 8 September 1990. Retrieved 20 June 2021.

External links[edit]