Frankie Oliver

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b. 1970, Bow, London, England. Oliver’s early influences include Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs and Bob Marley. His initial introduction to reggae was through his cousin, who first played him Marley’s…
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b. 1970, Bow, London, England. Oliver’s early influences include Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs and Bob Marley. His initial introduction to reggae was through his cousin, who first played him Marley’s Kaya. Oliver was instantly fascinated, and persuaded his mother to buy him a copy of the album. Impressed by the power of the playing and songwriting, and influenced by the sound of Jamaica, Oliver decided to pursue a career in the reggae industry, despite lacking the usual credentials, being a white East-ender of Greek/Cypriot descent; however, undeterred, he fought against these obstacles. He began performing in clubs and pubs in the East End of London and neighbouring Essex, where he was spotted by Christine Atkins of Island Records. She asked him to provide a demo, which led to requests for further examples of his work. Unfamiliar with the recording industry, Oliver had no other demo versions, although he was able to overcome this drawback through a chance meeting with Delroy Pinnock. Pinnock had been involved in the UK reggae scene for a number of years in various guises, best remembered for his 1981 S&G hit, ‘I Want To Be’, and became responsible for launching Oliver’s recording career. The second demo arrived at Island when Sly And Robbie were in the office, and having heard the results, they invited the singer to record in Jamaica. The sessions led to his debut single, ‘She Lied To Me’, which faltered, although the b-side, ‘What Is Life’, proved acceptable within the reggae industry. His record company was determined to promote him as Britain’s answer to Snow, following the hapless debut with the heavily promoted ‘Give Her What She Wants’. The release demonstrated a vocal style similar to Ali Campbell of UB40, with DJ vocals provided by Bigga Ranks, but despite all the promotional efforts, his follow-up suffered the same fate. In an effort to increase his profile the label secured a billing at the Essential Festival Roots Day, the Respect Festival and as the support act for Ziggy Marley’s showcase at the Forum in London.