May 10

ASWAD – “Don’t Turn Around”

Popular53 comments • 5,049 views

#605, 26th March 1988, video

Listened to on an overcast Wednesday this sounded supine and dreary: on a shirtsleeve Friday it’s springy and playful. Such is the way of pop-reggae, a genre which more than any other depends on the weather. Aswad’s version of “Don’t Turn Around” is one of a throng of covers – they weren’t the first reggae act to try it, and their reading leads directly to Ace of Base’s later hit. I admit I don’t hear a lot in the song to suggest why so many wanted a tilt at it: I think I’d like it more without the chorus in fact, if the singer’s despair was simply implied, not stated outright. But Aswad do a serviceable job, mostly thanks to Brinsley Forde’s lead performance – nothing revelatory, but charismatic and he reads the song well, getting the right mix of defiance and nervous bluff on “see if I care”, “I’m gonna be alright” et al. The arrangement gets in his way a little at the climax – “Don’t Go! Don’t Go!” he sings, his urgency drowned out by a plasticky crash of drums.



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  1. 31
    AndyPandy on 24 May 2010 #

    Didn’t the “No Charge” thread from 1976 get 250+ posts because it coincided with some major point in punk?

    Well this was Number One in the first week in April 1988 when after a couple of struggling and pretty empty months the hordes started flocking into Paul Oakenfold’s “Spectrum” in London’s Charing Cross.
    So Acid House becoming something significant can be traced to a couple of weeks around here.
    Only about 240 posts to go then…

  2. 32
    AndyPandy on 24 May 2010 #

    “The Double Deckers” another reason why it was good to have tour childhood in the late 60s/early 70s –

    I’d agree that Brinsley Forde’s character would take some beating as far as British telly goes on the black character front (in America they obviously had a few such characters already eg Uhura in Star Trek from 1966).
    But the Double Deckers made in 1969 and broadcast from 1970 may be first in this country.

  3. 33
    Mike Atkinson on 24 May 2010 #

    Pfft, those Johnny-come-latelys at Spectrum… WE started decking out OUR club night (now called “Get Happy”) with home-made smiley-face banners in bloody January! AND we gave away smiley badges on the door! Take THAT, Nicky so-called Holloway!

    (Yeah, yeah, I know: Autumn 87, gym in Southwark, rest is history, etc. Worth a try though…)

  4. 34
    thefatgit on 24 May 2010 #

    As history has it, Phuture released “Acid Tracks” in 1987, played first by DJ Ron Hardy at The Music Box in Chicago. It’s accepted that “Acid Tracks” was the record that begat the Acid House movement. Such is “accepted” history.

    Provenance in the UK is mired in misinformation and mythology. If we’re going for a No Charge monster thread, then I’ll be looking forward to see how the facts can be cleaved from the fiction :)

  5. 35
    Mike Atkinson on 24 May 2010 #

    No argument that “Acid Tracks” started the ball rolling, but the first acid track I heard out was Adonis & the Endless Poker’s “The Poke”, probably mid-to-late 87, followed by Tyree’s “Acid Over”. It seemed like an amusing sub-genre. Little did we know.

  6. 36
    intothefireuk on 25 May 2010 #

    I remember the Double Deckers too – cosy Saturday morning TV IIRC. I was vaguely aware of Aswad throughout the 80’s but this threw considerable light on them. The mix always seemed all wrong with the soulful vocal not sitting correctly with the thin mechanised backing track. A pleasant tune all the same but fatally flawed. 4 maybe 5 on a good day.

    #28 Glad to hear Rosie is ok.

  7. 37
    rosie on 25 May 2010 #

    And along comes a number one for which I can feel a certain amount of proprietorial pride. I don’t think I ever met any of the members of Aswad around Notting Hill but I did know their music teacher quite well because I was now a governor of Holland Park School keeping a benevolent eye on the music department. It was a music department ahead of its time, one that didn’t confine itself to hothousing more orthodox talents but went out of its way to foster the music lying within as many of its pupils as possible. One that invested in large numbers of electronic keyboards, commonplace now but innovative then. Thus was Aswad born – I can’t comment on whether being sprung from the establishment rather than from rebellion adversely affected the music.

    A few years after, when I was no longer a governor but was a member of Kensington & Chelsea’s Education Committee, I was able to cut through a lot of Tory nonsense about Holland Park’s superficially ‘poor’ GCSE results. In music especially the GCSE performance trailed way behind any other school in London. But only because, uniquely, it was putting huge numbers of its students through a notoriously elitist GCSE.

  8. 38
    Erithian on 25 May 2010 #

    Good to have you back Rosie.

    And another story of London pop stars’ schooldays: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/may/22/shazia-mirza-dizzee-rascal

  9. 39
    flahr on 25 May 2010 #

    I wouldn’t go as far as Mike, but I rather enjoy it, on the same level as “I Want To Know What Love Is” or other similar pleasures. The little descending synth just before the end of the chorus is a lovely touch.

    Admittedly the lyric is pretty pathetic, but still worth a 5, I reckon. Possibly just the heat :)

  10. 40
    anto on 26 May 2010 #

    It suddenly struck me that Brinsley Forde starred in the film Babylon granted a (very) rare showing on BBC2 just a few months ago.
    Babylon and the notorious Clash movie Rude Boy are both fascinating for how vividly they capture the disgruntlement of black youth – white youth at the turn of the eighties. In both films inner-city Britain seemed a barren and divided place. These two oddly similar films showcase some terrific music.

    Re 37: Lovely to have you back.

  11. 41
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 26 May 2010 #

    Slightly early film in the same vein (which I just reviewed for S&S, and very much recommend): Horace Ové’s 1975 Pressure

  12. 42
    wichita lineman on 26 May 2010 #

    I met Aswad a few years after this. They were looking for songwriters to help them shake off the pop stigma of Don’t Turn Around and take them back to their roots. It struck me as pretty strange to approach a couple of white middle class kids from the other side of the North Downs with little more a couple of Keith Hudson albums to recommend them as ‘roots’, but we gave it a go. They rejected our attempts and released the rather limp Shine instead.

    Babylon is on dvd now for anyone interested. And Rosie, good to have you back.

  13. 43
    Steve Mannion on 1 Jun 2010 #

    There is one bit in ‘Shine’ I like where after the “stretching my sinews to the bone” line you get the “Ooh!” from the opening hook which re-appears a few times throughout. It’s a nice, gently amusing touch.

  14. 44
    Chris Gilmour on 2 Jun 2010 #

    I own a copy of this even though it’s middling at best, coming in a lucky dip pack of 7″ singles purchased from Our Price in Rochdale a few months later. Reggae, but not as we know it, perhaps Island were trying to exploit the reggae novelty market field plowed by the likes of Boris Gardner and Judy Boucher, or perhaps it was their last chance before being dropped after failing to reflect their critical acclaim with sales. Perhaps both. Who knows, or indeed, cares. Aswad always, ALWAYS seemed to be on the Radio 1 Roadshow after this pushing their latest single which invariably peaked at number 34 or therabouts.
    The last Aswad based straw for me was when they reviewed Boy George’s ‘No Clause 28’ single for Smash Hits, were obviously uncomfortable and said it ‘Wasn’t something they agreed with’. Sadly it was obvious that they weren’t talking about Clause 28.

  15. 45
    DietMondrian on 7 Jun 2010 #

    I heard the Ace of Base version on the radio yesterday and the vocal is just so miserable. Depressed and depressing. I know it’s supposed to be a sad song, but still…at least Aswad’s version (of which I’m no fan) has a bittersweet quality, but with Ace of Base’s version you’re left thinking, “No wonder the subject of the song is leaving – run away from this miseryguts as fast as you can, and here’s hoping you find someone you can have a bit of fun with”.

  16. 46
    lonepilgrim on 3 Jul 2010 #

    re 40 & 42 Babylon is currently available to watch on iPlayer here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00mqc2s/Babylon/

  17. 47
    jacqueline Rhoden on 12 Feb 2011 #

    I read all the comments, don’t understand why everyone thinks that Brinsley sang “Don’t turn around”
    it was Drummie Zeb singing and why shouldn’t groups try different things? We all have to eat and it’s nice music, reggae singers lose out in love too and they sang about all the time.

  18. 48
    Billy Hicks on 13 Feb 2011 #

    For some reason I knew who Aswad were when I was 5, I can only guess because of the popularity of Shine. While watching ‘Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers’ circa 1994, in the section where the rangers called out their animals (“Sabre Toothed Tiger!”/”Pterodactyl!” etc), I thought the Black Ranger was saying “Aswad!” every week and wondered what they had to do with the show. In fact he was saying “Mastodon!” which somehow I misheard.

    …not sure why I consider that important to post here, but hey, you won’t find it anywhere else on the ‘net.

    This song? Pretty unfamilar to me in either this or the Ace of Base version. Slightly *too* heavy production, needs a simpler, more chilled ‘Red Red Wine’ backing rather than distracting hi-hats everywhere, but there’s a good tune buried under it all somewhere. The AoB version suffers from similar problems.

  19. 49

    there totally should have been a power ranger that could into aswad :D

  20. 50
    Patrick Mexico on 20 Dec 2013 #

    This is okay, slightly faxed-in pop-reggae. Ace of Base nailed the melancholy so much better. Tina Turner’s original is a horrendous brutalist mess. I’m guessing there aren’t many songs in history where the second [high-profile] cover is the best?

  21. 51
    mrdiscopop on 24 Nov 2014 #

    I hadn’t realised this was a cover – but I remember being outraged when the follow-up was a reworking of an old Bucks Fizz b-side (for some reason, I still held a torch for The Fizz at the time (in my defence, I was only 12)).

    This sounds so plastic and tinny now, although the vocals give it some heft. I’m with #48 – why has such a mediocre song been covered so many times? Is it just the allure of having “written by Diane Warren” on your sleeve notes ?

  22. 52
    Gareth Parker on 15 May 2021 #

    I must say I’ve always loved this one. I think I’ll be over generous and give this an 8/10.

  23. 53
    David on 14 Jan 2022 #

    I never liked the Aswad version. Though the Tina Turner one shouldn’t have been released, complete mess. The Ace of Base version (Aswad Mix) is the best one. They also did a decent version of Bananarama’s Cruel Summer and of Black’s Wonderful Life.

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