Inner Circle – Sweat (A La La La La Long)

Release Date: May 93
Chart Position: 3

I just want to remind everyone how bloody good the JB Conspiracy’s cover of this was at Jamrock this summer:

For those that weren’t there, Jamrock was our kid Jamie’s reggae-inspired 30th birthday shindig. If Jamrock was Live Aid, then The JB Conspiracy were Queen. And Matt Carson was our very own Neggy Mercury. Their rendition of this song brought back a lot of fond memories for everyone that was there, and kickstarted the need in me to start documenting Neggae for future posterity (so thanks Matt.)
The proof is in the pudding though. This is a pop-reggae classic and a summer holiday anthem all rolled into one. OK, so on the one hand it practically created reggae cheese (or ‘i-brie’) and was therefore responsible for abominations such as Mysterious Girl and Uncle John from Jamaica. But what marks this out from these other cheap facsimiles is the craft and skill of Inner Circle. Friends with Bob Marley, Sly and Robbie and Third World, these boys knew their way around a reggae melody. Dolly Parton famously once said “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap”, and I think a little of that sentiment applies here. There are lots of great touches. I completely forgot about the drumbreak and keyoard glissando intro and outro which bookend the song nicely. The squelchy synth bassline is a delight, and wonderfully compliments the song’s, let’s face it, bawdy content. The chorus is of course huge. And my favourite bit of all is the hint of a dancehall riddim at “A little bit o’ this and a little bit of that“, Coffie and the boys showing they can bring the ruckus if they want to.
This song shifted some serious units in the UK, principally among the working classes. I have a vivid memory of being in the Woking Working Men’s club on a Friday night with my folks, this coming on and the place basically erupting. Bacardi Breezers were tossed into the air, men in with tattoos of Popeye on their biceps bogled and grinded with ladies that wore their necklaces outside their Celtic away shirts. It was a beautiful moment. The floodgates had opened and the Neggae had landed.
The video is basically just an advert for Sandals resorts, aside from a couple of standard Neggae sorts nothing much to report back. So I won’t.
Score: Would have been 7, but because the B-side was Bad Boys (the better song) Im going to give it a VFM 8.

Yes, this is what it’s all about.
As soon as I put this on the sun came out, bearing in mind it’s October in England that’s some serious neggae voodoo at work. I remember this coming out, I was a young man studying specific aspects of Jamaican culture at one of the top technical colleges in the Addlestone area. After a hard morning of Horticulture in the woods we’d climb into my friend’s Ford Orion and make our way to Walton McDonalds with the windows down and this blasting out as loud as Virgin 1215am would allow before the static became unbearable. The first thing I have to do is pay homage to lead singer Calton Coffie, who despite suffering crippling arthritis in his hands meaning they resemble Twiki from Buck Rogers, carries on with a smile on his face throughout, what a trooper.  The video, has white sand, bikinis, sun, the sea, a red, green and yellow flag, a jeep with ‘rubadub’ printed on the side and as a tip of the hat to mod culture, Espressos. It’s basically ticked every box, flawless stuff.
Lyrically I think it’s the most successful song about personal training recorded, at least I’m guessing that’s what the lyrics ‘Girl I want  to make you sweat, sweat til you can’t sweat no more, and if you cry out, I’m going to push it, push it some more’ is referring to. If there were Jamaican remake of ‘Rocky’ with a female lead, this would make the perfect accompaniment to the training montage scene. The music and production is pure, sun kissed goodness (although admittedly I don’t remember the prog intro, I blame the Horticulture studies), tight reggae musicianship combined with some acid tweak effect at the end of some of the lines makes this the blueprint for the neggae formula.
The only slight misgiving I have about this song is that if you close your eyes and imagine the lead singer is your cell mate singing this to you on the first day of a ten stretch it takes an altogether more sinister bent.
Score: 8/10. It’s the musical equivalent of ‘Cool Runnings’, never fails to put a smile on your face.

“Aaahhve been watching yooooou!!!!”
Sweat by Inner Circle is definitely at the happy go lucky end of the Neggae Spectrum. So infectious is the Mario Kart come Simon and the Witch musical arrangement, that most people just hum along contently rather than stop to consider the song’s explicitly graphic sexual content.

Beginning with some standard courtship folly, the song seems friendly enough:
“Standing across the room, I saw you smile (awwww),
Said I want to talk to you-oo-oo, For a little while. ( what a charmer)
But before I make my move, My emotions start running wild (bless him)
My tongue gets tied And that’s no lie…( how sweet)

From there on however the tone changes somewhat…
Looking in your eye, Looking in your big brown eye (Ambiguous).
Girl Im gonna make you sweat ( that’s lewd)
and If you cry out ( this is quite pornographic),
I’m gonna push it, push it some more (good god that’s just down right filthy).

This pure grot is somehow masked by the fact that the song is catchy; it’s a foot tapper. It takes people back to good times. My Mum sings along to it, blissfully unaware of the sexual nature of Carlton Coffie’s chorus. Its like someone playing Let’s Get It On by Marvin Gaye at your Nan’s 60th Birthday Party. A great track but there’s always something slightly unsettling about it once you know what its about. ESPECIALLY if you are in the presence of family.
You need to appreciate Sweat for what it is. A great slice of Sunshine Neggae with a cracking feel good video. Good drums, nice reggae base line and good use of some very cheesy sounding organs. All washed down with some very cheeky lyrics. Its never going to heralded as a pioneering piece of music. It wont incite riots or stop civil wars, but it may well make you tap your feet turn up the corners your mouth and think back to the Summer of 1993. It didn’t change the face of Reggae, but it does deserve its place at the very epicentre of the Neggae hall of fame.
Score: With a little bit of this and a little bit of that… 8 from me.

Now I don’t think we can have the normal debate about whether or not this is neggae, not this week. This is as authentic as neggae gets. Its all there, every bit of it!
The song is out of this world. The synthesizer intro is maybe one or two bars too a la la la la long for my liking, but when it drops we go right into that beautiful chorus that captivates you and immediately you are singing a la la la la long to it without even noticing. The song develops well and we feel his pain as he explains to us how he sees a girl that is so beautiful he struggles to find the words or courage to speak to her. When he finally does and he manages to get the words out, boy is he going to make her sweat and if she cries he’s only going to push it push it some more. Pure romance!
I have no idea how this only made it to number 3 in the UK, no justice at all and I am not sure what else they could have done to make the song better? Maybe made it longer so that we could listen to it for some more?
Does it pass the BBQ test? Put it this way, I went to a friends BBQ that summer where it wasn’t played – we don’t speak anymore. You get my point, you know who you are you berk!
Now what can you say about the video? I beg anyone out there to come up with a video that sums up neggae better than this. Lets tick them off the list shall we?

  • Slow mo of beach babes frolicking in the water (damn right, opening scene Mo Fo)
  • big guys play fighting with beach babes
  • massive dreads
  • colour/B&W/psychedelic combos
  • general happy go lucky islanders enjoying life, open air concert
  • beach party
  • camera tilts
  • big over eager dance moves
  • lots of skin on show
  • chatting up ladies, hands in the air

Finally, booty, booty and more booty. Tick, tick, tick, Boom! This is not shot in a studio in London peeps, Shinehead take note!
Score: it’s a la la la la la 9/10 from me

This is one of the all time classics and is the definition of Neggae in my book. Maybe Treggae (true neggae) No pretenders here. These boys have been at this for a while now and deserve some recognition. Inner Circle have put together a clinical performance and production from start to finish. A true island song that spread globally and is instantly recognizable to this day. It’s the type of tune that if you turn on half way through, you sing along and turn it up.. loud!
The simplicity of it works and works well. We have all the necessary ingredients for this to work: beach, dreadlocks, island ladies, island beats and one hell of a catchy hook; a-la-la-la-la-long-long-long-long-long-long!
The video is light-hearted, chilled and quite amusing. I especially like the opening frames where our lead singer is in the ocean (fully clothed) trying to perform Bruce Lee type roundhouse although I don’t quite think he has Bruce’s technique or training and doesn’t quite pull it off. The rest isn’t overly complicated but it’s effective, not losing my attention and keeping me singing this one long after it’s finished.
I’m pretty happy with this one it’s a nice change from All that she wants.
Score: 9/10. Get me a Malibu and pineapple with a damn umbrella in it… now!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s