In the late ‘80s, a wave of British musicians raised on ‘70s UK pop, Caribbean sound system culture, reggae, lovers rock and Motown/Philly soul music fell in love with synthesisers, drum machines and 8-track recorders. The street soul generation had arrived.
Originally released as a white label 12” in 1989, ‘You’ve Gone’ is the sole release from Bassline, the studio project of Southeast London-raised musician Tony Henry, not to be confused with Tony Henry from Manchester jazz-funk/R&B band 52nd Street. Featuring the singer Lorraine Chambers, it’s one of the true jewels of the UK Street Soul scene. As Lorraine’s heartsick soul vocal glides over sunrise synths, dusty drums, elegant electric piano figures and a reggae indebted bassline, ‘You’ve Gone’ captures the optimism and strength of the era perfectly.
‘You’ve Gone’ was championed by Choice FM UK (now Capital XTRA), Kiss FM, and DJ Trevor Nelson. Tony went from selling white labels out the trunk to booking in Live PAs for Lorraine with London sound systems like Rampage and up north in the street soul loving cities of Manchester and Birmingham. “When Lorraine did PAs up there, she went out on stage like she was Beyoncé.”
The son of a Jamaican father and an English mother, Tony grew up around the London sound system scene. He taught himself bass guitar, keyboards, and production, before playing in the reggae band Chakwanza (Swahili for “the first”). In Chakwanza, Tony rubbed shoulders with Aswad, Barry Boom, Steel Pulse, Maxi Priest, Gregory Issacs, Dennis Brown, Ghettotone and Saxon Sound, before focusing on a career in banking over music. “Music was my first love, but it couldn’t have afforded me the sort of level of – let’s be blunt and pragmatic about it – financial success that would have allowed me to support my family.”
Outside of office hours, Tony continued to work on music at home, sometimes serving as a session bassist with local bands. In the late 80s, a work colleague mentioned her sister Lorraine Chambers was a singer. Tony and Lorraine recorded “You’ve Gone” over two sessions. “Lorraine went into the booth, put her headphones on and got into the song. My daughter turned to me and said, ‘Daddy, she can really sing!’”
Despite the success of ‘You’ve Gone’, they never recorded together again. “The world changed, and for me, it changed as well. My younger kids were born, and work started getting more intense. I got a bit more successful and was living a mad, kind of crazy life.”
Thirty-two years on, ‘You’ve Gone’ finally receives an official reissue comprising the lauded original mix, an alternate version and Tony’s Back to Bass-ics remix. Fittingly, in recent months, Tony and Lorraine have re-connected in the studio writing new material.