Lost in the ’80s: Shalamar

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ShalamarShalamar began life as a studio project by Soul Train booker Dick Griffrey, but after the success of their first single, “Uptown Festival,” Griffrey had to put some faces with the voices quick. Looking to the Soul Train dancers, he recruited pop/lock empresario Jeffrey Daniels and the runway-ready Jody Watley. They were soon joined by singer Howard Hewett, and Shalamar began a decent run on the American R&B charts. The story was different overseas, where the trio crossed over with regularity on the U.K. pop charts. They’d score a U.S. pop hit here and there, but with the exception of the #8 peaking “The Second Time Around” in 1980, major crossover success eluded them.

1983’s The Look was concocted to solve this problem, with a slick sound that fused the funky r&b Shalamar typically traded in with the New Wave zeitgeist. The result was the band’s first significant crossover hit in years as “Dead Giveaway” (download) (here in its single version) became a bit of a hit, thanks in no small part to its blistering rock guitar solo and New Wave-y synth line on the chorus. The single’s video was also an MTV favorite, Shalamar being one of the first African-American acts to make that channel’s formerly tightly segregated playlist. Keep your eye on Watley (like you can’t anyway) – she spends the video posing and vamping, occasionally deigning to pretend to play the synth. She looks so entirely over the proceedings, it’s a hoot to watch:

“Dead Giveaway” struggled a bit up the charts, stopping just shy of the Top 20. The band was unable to capitalize on this for a follow-up until a few years later, when the even more New Wave “Dancin’ In The Sheets” hit the Top Ten. By that time, however, Watley and Daniels were a memory, replaced by two ringers while Hewett became the focus. Jody Watley went on to bigger mainstream success than Shalamar ever enjoyed and Shalamar called it day in the early ’90s.

The Look is currently out of print and fetches some decent dollars on Amazon, but there are tons of Shalamar compilations out there to fit the bill if you’re not a hardcore fan.

“Dead Giveaway” peaked at #22 on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart and at #18 on the Club Play Chart in 1983.

Get Shalamar music at Amazon or on Shalamar




  • JohnHughes

    I should mention before about thirty of you smarties do, that Daniels' replacement in Shalamar was the androgynous Mickey Free, made famous to an entirely new generation as the punchline in the Chapelle's Show Prince sketch.

  • Keilani Goggins (not Kenny)

    Loved Shalamar! If you watch the Best of Soul Train reruns, you can sometimes catch the Jeffrey Daniel/Jody Watley ones. They were always dressed alike, and doing random routines.

    It's rumored that Jeffrey Daniel taught Michael how to moonwalk.

  • http://music.consumerhelpweb.com/blog Mike

    Shalamar was definitely a mainstay in my house growing up. I had an aunt that was absolutely infatuated with Jody Watley, and that (the Shalamar fandom, not the Jody infatuation) trickled down to me. I own several Shalamar albums (not to mention much of Jody and Howard's solo work).

    Check out Jeffrey Daniel doing a routine to the song “A Night To Remember”, which heavily featured moonwalking…about a year before MJ's “Billie Jean” performance on “Motown 25″.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ImkBve8OW8

    If I can be kinda nitpicky, it should also be noted that “Dancing in the Sheets” hit only about a year or so after “Dead Giveaway”. It was featured in 1984's “Footloose” movie and soundtrack.

    Nice write up. I actually just got “The Look”, coupled with their 1984 album “Heart Break” off of amazon.com for about $15.

  • http://www.myhphs.com My hmphs

    After the success of “Dancing in the Sheets,” my hit-seeking radar found their follow-up single, “Amnesia,” in the record bin and I immediately bought it.

    It peaked at #74.

    Dave, I hope we'll see this in “The Ass End of the 80s” once we get to the letter S.

  • http://playitandbedamned.blogspot.com Rob

    Here's what redeems Shalamar and gives them the edge over all the similar 80s bands.

    Not Jody Watley. But Howard Hewett, who absolutely idolized Jackie Wilson, one of my personal favorite artists.

    I remember him singing a pretty decent cover of Jackie's “A Woman A Lover A Friend” on “American Bandstand” when he could have instead gone with the latest Shalamar claptrap.

    And oh yes, he finally did get a chance to play Jackie Wilson for a day: You'll find him playing Wilson and performing “Lonely Teardrops” during a brief cameo in “La Bamba.”

  • http://playitandbedamned.blogspot.com Rob

    My mistake. For once, my pop trivia mind failed me.

    A quick check of Google and Wikipedia reveals that I'm confusing 80s r&b groups with lead singers named Howard.

    Howard Huntsberry was the lead singer of the lesser known group Klique. And he was the one who covered “A Woman A Lover A Friend” and then went on to “La Bamba” fame.

    A bonus to make up for my grievous error: Remember that final scene in “Ghostbusters II” when the Statue of Liberty is rocking out to “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher?” That was the other Howard on the vocals, not Jackie.

  • Pete

    I had forgotten how much I enjoyed this song (and video). Thanks for sparking an interest in getting acquainted with their catalog.

    I had also only seen the Chappelle/Rick James bit but not the one with Prince before, so I looked it up. Hilarious!

  • :::theroux

    “Make That Move” was probably their best stuff. I saw Jody live last summer, and it was the only Shalamar tune to make her set list. Draw your own conclusions.

    The post-Jody Shalamar was fun to look at. I vaguely recall an album cover with a lot of skin-tight white pleather pants. Hewett fans may want to google-pic that one. I just did.

    I gave up on them when they unleashed “Circumstantial Evidence” on us. Weird song with cumbersome chorus…the video was an exercise in 80's excess (think: black patent leather orgy.)

  • http://retro-remixes.blogspot.com Retro_Remixes

    Shalamar, hey ! Granted, I came to enjoy this group only I after I fell in love with Ms. Watley as the divine solo artist that she was and is. I believe all of Shalamar's albums are available on CD so anyone whose into them should be able to get all of their prime stuff.

    And you can “take that to the bank !”

  • Ray

    Shalamar is the bomb dot com! Lots of great singles and great grooves!

  • IFS

    YOU DUMMY. THAT WAS HOWARD HUNTSBERRY IN klique.

  • JohnHughes

    Huh?

  • JohnHughes

    Huh? Read the comment directly below before you sling the “dummy,” dummy.

  • JohnHughes

    Huh? Read the comment directly below before you sling the “dummy,” dummy.

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