“Forget your sorrow let’s start livin’ for today” those are the sublime spliced verses that kick off this monumental piece of house music. Before such a word “house music” even existed only a few people were hip to the possibilities inherent somewhere deep in the mind of English soul band Imagination. Night Dubbing was the sound of Imagination stretching to the outer limits the expanse of their pioneering slinky electro-soul, using the techniques of dub and post-disco, and coming out the other end with something far more unexpected and intriguing. And in doing so, inadvertently, tapping into a gestalt simply waiting to be formed.
Imagination, named en homage to John Lennon’s titular song, was a trio consisting of heartthrob lead singer/keyboard Leee (yes, that’s with three e’s) John, Ashley Ingram guitarist/bassist, and Jamaican ex-pat drummer Errol Kennedy. Originally, in 1981, they began as a boogie band that wanted to create a ‘slinky, sexy and erotic’ group that could ride The Isley Brothers “quiet storm” tip. Somehow, their demo landed on the desk of producers Jolley & Swain (two ex-Muppet Show camera men) and the rest, as they say, was history.
Under Jolley & Swain’s tutelage, they move away from their overt American-influenced sound and into one more indebted to the more minimal electronic European disco and Pop music from their mainland. Couple that with an acceptance and promotion of an exotic self-image (dressing up in Roman tunics, performing in overtly flamboyant androgynous ways, and toying with gay imagery) together it brought them acceptance from both underground and overground record buyers thirsting for a different soul sound. Those two shifts allowed them strike it big with two huge hits from their debut album Body Talk: “Body Talk” and “Flashback”.
Huge sell-out tours and multi-unit selling records in the UK and Europe, accompanied by knockout performances on English TV programs gave them the clout to do the rare thing that eluded most UK soul groups: release a record and tour America.
Touring on the strength of their debut, they arrive in America, while back home they release their sophomore album In The Heat Of The Night. Selling out show after show in America they somehow found time perform both at Studio 54 and on Soul Train. It was there appearance on Soul Train that struck a young Larry Levan (and his young friend Frankie Knuckles). On stage they were seeing the future, young black men, just like them, interested in combining the American with the European, and the soul with the electronic. In short time, at Larry Levan’s request, they would don his stage, becoming the first English band to light up his place. Months later, Night Dubbing would be the fascinating culmination of this American chapter.
You see, one night Larry asked Imagination if they would be willing to let him remix one of their tracks. They all agreed to let him do “Changes”. That remix, a brilliant extended piece of house music, spurred the band to devote themselves to do an entire album using that same technique and irreverence. Choosing the four tracks filled with most potential from Body Talk and In the Heat Of The Night, Imagination tasked producers Jolley & Swain (plus engineer Richard Lengyel) to ignore all semblance of propriety and remake/remodel whole tracks, for the sole purpose of leaving them molded for the maximum amount of dance floor impact.
With huge cues from their British Afro-Caribbean community, sounds were minimized, reverberated, and granted space to expand through pinpoint probes meant to amplify the most danceable elements of those songs. From the African-American community’s influence, they stretched out, compressed, and repeated whole joyful tracts that spoke of wonderful gospel underlying the best soul music. So, why Night Dubbing now? In the end such an album still presents an ideal species of dance music, one that exudes intense body heat capable of melting all semblance of worldly illusion. “Forget your sorrow let’s start livin’ for today” – dig that.