We can make you feel good promise Ipswich Corn Exchange bound Shalamar’s Jeffrey Daniel
- Credit: Archant
Shalamar’s Jeffrey Daniel is, as they’d say back in the day, a cool cat. As much a fashion pioneer as a music one, he even taught Michael Jackson to moonwalk.
“What I taught him was how to backslide, that’s what we called it at the time. Michael changed the name. I choreographed his videos Smooth criminal and Bad and was creative consultant on the Ghosts movie; I worked with Michel more than 20 years.”
Daniel’s look was part accident. Dancing on the Soul Train show, he didn’t really have much money so had to get in the habit of taking things and putting it together to make it look good.
“If I was in London people would know where to find me because every Saturday I’d be in London’s King’s Road. I’d just pick up a lot of funky fun things, because of that we started becoming fashion icons.
“When I came to the UK and saw the punk movement, the new romantics, all that stuff; I was wearing a lot of Vivienne Westwood at the time, I’d pick up stuff at Kensington market. It was the 1970s and early 1980s, I was hanging out at Camden Palace every Thursday night with Steve Strange and all the people in the music industry. I was breaking out of that shell.”
His forward thinking fashion almost got him in trouble with their record company.
“I had my hair cut in London, I had the big afro and I didn’t know what he was going to do. He permed it and gave me that geometrical type cut. I looked in the mirror and went ‘oh my God’, I was loving it and afraid of it at the same time,” he laughs. “When I got back to America the vice president of our record company said ‘Jeffrey what the hell did you do, you had the most perfect afro’. After the shock, everyone started copying it in America.”
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More to do with making do and expressing what they were feeling than making a statement, it helped Shalamar stand out from the crowd.
“A combination of things came together. It wasn’t like ‘let’s make Shalamar this kind of a group’. It was who we were, that’s what we brought on stage, that’s what we took in the studio.”
It was a smart choice. Shalamar are one of the most successful soul groups of all time, selling 25million albums worldwide. Their hits include Night to Remember, There It Is, I Can Make You Feel Good and many others.
“If Michael had come up with Thriller in 2000 it never would have had the affect it had. Promotion videos were new, MTV was still new; you could show something that’s never been seen before on a platform that’s still new - that’s what gave it that magical effect, the timing. Same thing for Shalamar, that transition from rnb and disco into techno pop, that synth sound coming from the UK.”
Shalamar filled arenas and stadiums around the world, with Daniel leaving at their peak to pursue a solo career as a high profile choreographer and dancer and also as a creative consultant, singer, writer and producer.
“It hits me when we’re putting our shows together, we actually have so many hits to go through - which can we include in the show, which should we put in the medley because the show can only be so long. Even still, people are requesting songs we didn’t do that night. When I’m on stage I’m not performing, I’m up there having a party, I’m enjoying myself. It’s like there’s a DJ playing and we’re out dancing - except we have our own band and just happen to have the singers as well.”
Echoing the title of one of their biggest hits, Daniel says the tour is a celebration of the music that makes them feel good. Sometimes the audience is singing back to them so loud they can’t even hear themselves on some songs.
“They really know the lyrics, which helps out Howard (Hewett) because he forgets sometimes,” he laughs. One-night arena tours aside, Shalamar hadn’t toured extensively since the 1980s. That changed last year when they travelled around the UK.
“The last time some people saw us, they were 19-years-old and now they’re coming back in their 40s and 50s; it’s an amazing experience. The people are there, they’re just singing and dancing with us and it got emotional a couple times, it’s overwhelming,” says Daniel, adding to be part of the soundtrack to so many people’s lives is really gratifying.
British audiences have always been good to Shalamar. Daniel, who will be joined by Hewett and Carolyn Griffey - daughter of Shalamar founder Dick Griffey - at Ipswich Corn Exchange on April 10 promises nobody will walk away disappointed.
“I have just as much fun as they’re having,” he laughs. “The vibe fills the whole room, Everyone is just feeling it man, everyone.”