Number Ones: #101


  • SLY AND ROBBIE Boops (Here To Go) (Island)
  • Week Ending 2nd May 1987
  • 1 Week At #1


For reasons that will become obvious in due course, it’s a pity in some ways that the 101st chart-topper on my personal Top 40 was this, and not the latest by a certain other band. Not so much a case of hindsight required, but foresight. Less Boops, more oops.

But we crack on!

Lowell “Sly” Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, a couple of cool dudes and an even cooler rhythm section, had been around since the late 70s; a Jamaican double act who became the de facto session men for Island Records (and Compass Point studios) with their dub and reggae prowess. All of the classic Grace Jones albums from the early 80s have their imprint on them, as well as early Black Uhuru releases.

The first I probably heard of them in their own right was 1985’s Language Barrier, an attempt to turn S&R into proper recording stars which met with minor success and, notably, a feature on Miami Vice with the album track Bass And Trouble. Its biggest hit on the UK chart was a #83 entry for Make ‘Em Move.

Language Barrier had seen them collaborate with producer Bill Laswell, fresh from turning jazz legend Herbie Hancock into a contemporary electro artist with the groundbreaking Future Shock and Sound System albums. The union continued for the next Sly & Robbie set, for which Boops (Here To Go) was the lead single.

Around 1985 and 1986, I became more than partial to the various hip-hop and electro music emerging from the US. I would also, sometimes to the detriment of other records that were more traditional pop, rock and dance, latch onto tracks which had gimmicks, or played with song structures, or stuck some crazy samples in, or just mashed things together in ways that hadn’t necessarily been done before.

This explains why Doug E. Fresh’s The Show caught my attention more than, say, Bring On The Dancing Horses by Echo & The Bunnymen in late 1985. And why Bang Zoom (Let’s Go Go) by The Real Roxanne ft. Howie Tee overshadowed Suzanne Vega’s Left Of Center the following summer. Or how, in album terms, I prioritised the new Mantronix opus Music Madness in December 1986 over the Kate Bush retrospective The Whole Story!

Which brings us to late April 1987 and this ker-razee slice of…well, what was it exactly? Elements of dub and funk do battle with some toasting/rapping (a “Boop” is Patois slang for an older man who spends money for the benefit of younger ladies….thanks Wikipedia!), while the “Space….the final frontier” meme from Star Trek: The Original Series gets spoofed and Bootsy Collins comes along for the ride. It’s a bit spooky, a bit sinister, yet kind of silly too.

Did it deserve to go all the way to #1 on my chart? Aside from the outgoing Living In A Box, toppled after just one week, the rest of the Top 10 from that period are mostly singles on their way up the chart and not quite at their peak (Big Love, Twilight World, Sheila Take A Bow, Why Can’t I Be You?). Luther Vandross’ pleasant but not really classic See Me had just reached #3, so you can get an idea of where my tastes might have been. The 2019 me would possibly have Dame David of Bowie on top with Never Let Me Down‘s first 45, Day-In Day-Out (up 5 to #10), but that’s the danger of revisionism!


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