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The Equals

Notable as one of the U.K.'s first interracial bands, the Equals stormed through the mid-'60s and beyond with songwriting chops, potent live shows, and a sound that fused pop, blues, maximum R&B, and elements of ska and bluebeat. Original vocalist Eddy Grant would go on to a healthy solo career after the Equals splintered in the early '70s, but various versions of the band led by co-founding member Pat Lloyd soldiered on as their early material was discovered by new generations of fans. While 1995's Roots was the last album of new Equals material, cover versions of their '60s singles by the Clash, the Specials, the Detroit Cobras, and others kept interest in the band alive, and multiple collections of their early tunes showed up intermittently, including 2021's revisitation of early songs All the Hits Re-Recorded. The Equals formed in North London in 1965 when schoolmates Lincoln Gordon (guitar), his twin brother, Dervin Gordon (originally the vocalist), Pat Lloyd (guitar, then bass), singer Eddy Grant, and drummer John Hall started working on music together. The band began gigging around London, amazing audiences with their apparently limitless energy and infectiously catchy original songs. By 1965, the Equals began doing dates in Europe as well, and released their first single on President Records. Though "Hold Me Closer" didn't perform on the charts, DJs began playing the flip side, and by 1967 "Baby, Come Back" had hit the top of the charts in Germany and the Netherlands. One year later, the single hit number one in Britain as well, and brushed the charts in America. Subsequent singles lacked the immediate punch of "Baby, Come Back," however, and the Equals landed only two more Top Ten hits: "Viva Bobby Joe" and "Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys," the latter an apt message track from one of the few racially mixed bands of the era. In 1969, the entire band was involved in a highway accident in Germany, and Grant was seriously injured. He initially stopped touring with the band to take time off to heal, but he ultimately left the Equals for a solo career in 1971. Though the group never charted again, they remained a popular live act, and their style began to bring elements of reggae and funk into their established gritty pop sound on 1976 album Born Ya! They released 1977's Mystic Syster as punk was being born and a new wave of musicians were discovering the band's earlier hits. The Clash covered "Police on My Back" on their 1980 album Sandinista!, and various garage, rock, and pop bands would offer up their takes on the group's tunes as time went on. The Equals released Roots in 1995, and it would be their last album of new material, though they continued to play live with various lineup changes into the next several decades.
© John Bush & Fred Thomas /TiVo


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