Originally published on AltReading on 2nd June 2016
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again that Club 20 is the best venue in town for hosting the best dance and urban music events, and this was recently acknowledged by being shortlisted for the ‘Venue of the Year’ category for the 2016 AltReading Awards.
This weekend the Hoiser Street venue will be welcoming one of the country’s well known urban music connoisseurs back to Reading for the first in over a decade. The award winning Trevor Nelson will be playing classic R&B and soul tunes from across three decades to an anticipated mature and appreciative audience. And a friendly warning to anyone goes to request the likes of Rhianna, Beyonce or Reggie and Bollie from any of the DJs on Friday night, then be prepared to be greeted by a stunned silence like I experienced the first time I walked into The Royal Oak pub in Tilehurst, and the darts stopped in mid-air!
I first met Trevor Ricardo Nelson (with his first two names being the first names of my two eldest siblings) whilst doing a work placement at Kiss FM when they were on the Holloway Road in North London many moons ago. He collected vinyl when he younger and had no intention of becoming a DJ. His love of music won him over and he got a job as a Record Importer and was instrumental (no pun intended) with importing music from the likes of the cult hip-hop group ‘Public Enemy’ as well as early house music tracks into the UK from the States. He also deejayed for Jazzie B at the iconic Africa Centre in London for Soul II Soul.
He also started up the ‘Madhatter’ soundsystem in the mid-eighties, and whilst deejaying at a party he was spotted by a gentleman called Tosca who was one the founders of a pirate radio station at the time called Kiss FM, and he invited Trevor to join. The station ran as a pirate for three years with the likes of Judge Jules, Tim Westwood and of course Trevor ‘Madhatter’ Nelson to name a few on the schedule. They voluntarily came off-air on New Year’s Eve in 1988 to apply for a legal licence, and the rest is ‘Kisstory’ in true sense of the phrase.
The legendary pirate station won a legal licence and was relaunched in 1990 as Kiss 100 FM Britain’s first legal dance music station. I should explain that the term ‘dance’ back then spanned a large musical spectrum which included soul, rap, house, garage, techno and many other underground rhythmic genres which the new station played around the clock. During their first weekend on-air Kiss held a free launch party at Highbury Fields in North London which featured performances from LL Cool J, Beats International, Soul II Soul, and many others credible acts at the time. “We were expecting 20,000 people to turn up, but the figure turned out to be in the region of 250,000 with 500 people pouring out of Highbury and Islington tube station every two minutes”.
As well as being offered a weekday daytime show and various other slots on the new station, Trevor also became one of their Board of Directors. After five years at Kiss Trevor joined BBC Radio 1 in 1996 who let’s be honest were playing extremely little dance or urban music at time, until Matthew Bannister dragged the station kicking and screaming into the future. The Rhythm Nation show with Trevor Nelson propelled him to new heights spreading R&B music across the country, and then two years later was offered two MTV shows called ‘The Lick’, ‘The Lick Chart’, and then ‘The Late Lick’ which was shown in 43 countries, and it became the longest running show in MTV’s history and ran for 11 years.
The Lick held some of the biggest R&B parties that this country has ever seen, and it stopped off in Reading back in January 2000 at The Matrix in London Street for a memorable event. The one memory that sticks in my head was when my younger brother (I can’t really call him a little brother) got very star-struck grabbed Trevor Nelson by the shoulders as he walked past the large queue outside. Ironically Trevor turned round to shake hands with my little sibling, whilst I tried my attempted to comically get him barred from the event.
Anyway, whilst inside the venue which I remember was very hot, the tunes of the era were blasting out from the speakers, and everyone in attendance was in good spirits, and it was an impromptu reunion for most people as well. There were rumours flying around that Mariah Carey was going to make a special surprise guest appearance, however there was a stunned silence when out on stage walked out what I thought was a Rusty Lee tribute act, but turned out to be a new act from the States called Angie Stone, my bad. Don’t get me wrong she was a good singer, but she could of picked a more uptempo number to perform, rather than the funeral parlour melody she bellowed out.
So what can we expect on Friday night from Sir Trevor Nelson MBE? As it’s billed as an old skool night I look forward to hearing tunes from perhaps to defining decade of R&B music where it embraced and worked alongside hip-hop — so expect some gems from Biggie, TLC, Blackstreet, Dru Hill, good vibes, great people, and hopefully this time my younger sibling won’t approach Trevor Nelson unsurprisingly, or we won’t see Trev DJ in Reading for another 16 years.