Bernard White: unsung tastemaker
The late Bernard White once joked “You knew nothing before you came here”, but many a true word is spoken in jest.
White can easily claim responsibility for the education of the original first generation of crate diggers that started in the early 80′s. It’s not incorrect to say that the whole funk 7″ craze that was massive in the 80′s, and an integral part of club culture started with Bernard White in his store, Pop Beat Records.
Underground record junkies (known and unknown) such as Lescelles, Barry Sharpe, Roy the Roach, Greenie, Femi Fem, Charlie Dark, Funky Fly, Norman Jay, Marc B, Nick the record, Jazzy B, Judge Jules, Brother Marco, IG Culture, the Notorious Ratchet and many other musical tastemakers shopped at the now legendary Pop Beat record store in Camden Town.
Back in a time before the internet EBay auction, one had to be at the right place at the right time, and use one’s own imagination to know how to discover a beat. This was mainly due to the fact that all the funk records that are common place nowadays were pretty much still undiscovered.
Friday afternoon was when White brought out the fresh funk 7″s for collectors from all over the capital. There was no favouritism,one had to be on the spot for the first choice of fresh obscure funk records .These records were later unleashed on warehouse party scenesters who were obsessed with the 70′s funk era.
The charismatic and eccentric White, who was also deep with the knowledge of rock psychedelic, bluebeat, rock n roll and 70′s pop, was years ahead in his knowledge of obscure funk and soul. Some of those schooled by him went on to worldwide success and important luminaries in the developement of London club culture.
Bands like Soul II Soul, Brand New Heavies, Diana Brown and the brothers, Push, the Young Disciples, Shake and Fingerpop, and Jamiroquai, were all directly inspired by the musical movement which came out of the Popbeat record store.
‘You’ll all sellout in the end” he would claimed jokingly. But in truth, White was proud of some of his celebrity costumers, and even had pictures of special ones on his wall.
In the mid 80′s at clubs like the Cat In The Hat in Leicester Square, Legendary DJ’s such as Barry Sharpe and Lescelles from the original line up of The Brand New Heavies, would play this rare groove funk acquired from Popbeat. Lockers like Oily and Pat Cesar and funk dancers like Ronnie cold sweat and Fraggle threw down.The music educated the listeners, who in turn spread the word. and for a time the funk sound ruled the London club scene. in the many illegal warehouse parties funky dreads, bboys, and trendys alike appreciated the funk
Maceo Parker’s Across the tracks, The Vibrettes Humpty Dump, Eddie Bo’s Hook and Sling, Bobby Byrd’s Hot Pant’s I’m coming, Lynn Collins Think, and Joe Quartermans So Much Trouble in My Mind, were all made popular by the likes of Norman Jay, and Jazzy B who bought these records directly from Popbeat.
Props must be given to Bernard White for schooling the original generation of collectors and DJ’s on funk and rare grooves, many costumers of Popbeat went on to do massive groundbreaking things worldwide in music and club culture. Sadly Bernard is no longer with us, but his legacy is ingrained in in UK funk history Someone who also deserves a big up is Oisin Little, ex Push band member, and assistant in Popbeat record store.