Hitting the right reggae notes – South London News


It is now a bakery on a Tooting shopping street, surrounded by cafes and gift shops.

But the building at Mitcham Road was once the recording studio for a litany of some of Britain’s biggest pop groups – and international reggae stars.

Historian GEOFF SIMMONS tells the story of its creation and some of the legends that surround it.

A colorful yellow, green and black Caribbean bakery officially became a music sanctuary on Saturday, when a plaque was unveiled marking its pivotal role in reggae history.

Mixed blessings in Mitcham Road, Tooting, now has a permanent reminder of the beautiful sounds created in this special place.

The Blue Plaque outside the Mixed Blessings Bakery

Its walls have seen famous names of reggae, pioneers of synthpop, funkateers, glamrockers.

Bob Marley is believed to have visited and signed his name on a wall.

Nobody thought of keeping him when the studio closed.

Many people have passed through what was commonly known as TMC Studios (Tooting Music Center) but its reggae visitors left the greatest legacy: Aswad, Maxi Priest, Dillinger, Black Slate, Sly and Robbie, Toots and The Maytals, Dennis Brown, Frankie Paul, Errol Dunkley, Mikey Dread, Osibisa, Leroy Smart, the list goes on and on.

Rock lovers, trailblazer Dennis Bovell – who unveiled the plaque on Saturday – and Matumbi met up with Wandsworth school friends Nick Straker and members of New Musik.

Mud in 1974

The engineers who worked there went on to collaborate with some of the biggest names in the music industry.

The studio was started by Bernie Proctor, a former merchant seaman who turned to show business by setting up a record and music store there in the 1960s.

His main claim to fame was an appearance as a harmonica player in the 1962 WWII film The Password Is Courage with Dirk Bogarde.

Tooting Palaces in Granada and Wimbledon and pubs like The Fountain in Garratt Lane have hosted names such as The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Beach Boys, The Supremes, Mott the Hoople, The Faces and Status Quo .


Bernie wanted a bit of the action and in 1971 he tried to run a recording studio.

One of the first to visit was Errol Brown’s hot chocolate. Other big hitmakers of the 1970s, Mud and The Glitter Band followed, then a procession of punk rockers, synthpopsters and rockers – The UK Subs, The Slits, Girlschool, The Mobiles, Captain Sensible, The Lambrettas and The Piranhas.

In 1971, Euel Johnson – who now runs the music specialty store at Tooting’s Broadway Market – Earl Martin and Pat Rhoden founded a new independent label, Jama Records, with an eight-track studio downstairs in the store.


Mr Johnson opened his shop in the market in 1972 and Bernie was a regular visitor most Saturday mornings, coming in to listen to demo records or new releases.

Euel said: “We would bounce from one track to the next while making some beautiful and awesome sounds.”

And soon they added a 16-track system with all the available adjustable features needed for a modern studio.

“Word quickly spread across Europe about this exceptional sound from Tooting which could rival any world-class recording sound,” he said.

His reputation quickly spread.

Sensitive Captain

Scottish engineer Andy ‘McEdit’ Geirus said: “There was something about the studio that reggae artists really liked – they even called it Channel Two. [Jamaica’s most famous studio is called Channel One]. The construction was solid creating great sound quality so it became a favorite place to record.

There were frequent sessions throughout the night – preferred by most reggae artists.

With reggae kings like Sly and Robbie on the other side of the glass for a two hour session, the pressure was on.

Chris Lane of Dub Vendor remembers recommending him to UB40 for their debut album and by mistake they ended up going to another TMC, The Music Center in Wembley.

Mikey Dread in 2003

Another engineer, Pete Hammond, went on to work for Stock, Aitken, Waterman and produced hits for Kylie Minogue.

Safta Jaffery has become a big name in the management of the music industry, working with The Stone Roses, Coldplay and discovering Muse.

A resident, pregnant at the time, remembers being run over in Mitcham Road by a member of Mud.

The group ran up to her pursued by a crowd of screaming schoolgirls.

Les Grays apologized profusely. A favorite in the sports world, masked wrestler Kendo Nagasaki recorded his entry music there wearing his full costume, terrifying buyers.

Costa, who has the shoe repair shop next door, remembers fixing a pair of boots for Gary Glitter.

Tragically, one of Bernie’s sons was killed by a drunk driver and TMC Studios was closed around 1987.

When the bakery moved in, the builders removed a temporary partition to reveal a wall covered with signatures.

Among them clearly stood out the name of Bob Marley – based in Notting Hill in the early 1970s and regularly playing football in Battersea Park.

There were also rumors that he had a nursing girlfriend at St George’s Hospital.

Tragically, the wall was smashed and loaded into a dumpster.

Nothing silly about Dennis Bovell

Dennis Bovell is a guitarist, bassist and record producer who conquered the heights of pop without compromising his reggae vision.

He first heard Janet Kay at Tooting Music Studios and turned her into a star with Silly Games.

He created the soundtrack for the cult dub film Babylon. And he wrote the music for Linton Kwesi Johnson’s Forces of Victory.

Born in Barbados, Mr Bovell moved to south London and formed the flagship group of Brixton Matumbi in the mid-1970s.

He was jailed for six months for using a sound system, in pre-trial detention, but released on appeal.

He was friends at Spencer Park School in Wandsworth with future rock musicians including keyboardist Nick Straker and record producer Tony Mansfield, with whom he later worked.

Mr. Bovell also worked as an engineer at Dip Records, the precursor of the Lovers Rock label – he was a key figure in the early days of the rock-loving genre.

Dennis Bovell speaks at the plaque unveiling

He said he wrote Silly Games for the sole purpose of making it a hit song. He has produced albums of the “great poet” I-Roy, The Thompson Twins, Bananarama, The Pop Group, Fela Kuti, The Slits, Orange Juice and Madness.

He collaborated with Linton Kwesi Johnson for much of his professional life.

In the BBC’s Reggae Britannia, Mr Bovell said that at the John Hassell Recordings studio at 21 Nassau Road, Barnes made cuts with such finesse and understanding that the studio’s release was to feed sound systems throughout. UK.

In 2012, Bovell produced the album Mek It Run.

In Steve McQueen’s 2020 movie Lovers Rock, the second in his five-part anthology series Small Ax, Mr. Bovell has a cameo role.

His song Silly Games is at the heart of the film. Mr Bovell was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2021 Anniversary Honors for service to music.

Main picture: Dennis Bovell, center, outside the Mixed Blessings bakery where TMC studios once stood, before the Blue Plaque unveiled

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