If there’s one track off the Big Beat/Atlantic album, “Reggae Dancer,” that epitomizes Inner Circle, it’s “24-7-365.”
They work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
At least it seems that way.
“We’re always touring; we’re always on the road somewhere,” keyboardist-vocalist Bernard “Touter” Harvey said recently during a brief stop at the reggae quintet’s studios in north Miami. “We haven’t been calling Miami home in a while, it’s more like a rest area. ’24-7-365′ fits us best because we’re trying to keep reggae alive – all the time.”
That ardent work ethic comes from Inner Circle’s humble beginnings in their native Kingston, Jamaica. The founding members, brothers Ian and Roger Lewis, hooked up with Harvey and singer Jacob “Killer” Miller in 1975, and after a few lineup changes and emphasis on original material, they developed a big following.
A short deal with Capitol Records followed, along with a spot in the Jamaican Peace Festival (playing to 40,000 fans, later captured in the concert film “Heartland Reggae”). They landed on Island in ’78 and had several major hits in Europe.
By 1980, they were charting a course to worldwide success when tragedy struck: Miller was killed in a car crash. Inner Circle’s spirit was broken. Some members stayed in Jamaica, others – Harvey and Ian Lewis – moved to Miami and opened a recording studio. Roger Lewis joined them six years later, and the band was reborn.
With a new lead singer, Calton Coffie, and drummer (Lance Hall), Inner Circle was circulating again, building steam in Europe. Sweden, of all places, was the first country to latch on to “Bad Boys,” Inner Circle’s global breakout hit last year.
“They heard the song on the (American) TV show ‘Cops,’ because it’s on cable there,” Harvey said. “It’s the same thing with here in America. We recorded that song four years ago and it’s been on the TV show ever since … I just can’t believe people would wait that long for a song.”
Another example of Inner Circle’s impact: “Reggae Dancer” was shipped gold in Japan. “I already have the plaque on my wall,” Harvey said with a sharp laugh. “The Japanese are very much on the ball.”
Finally everything’s come around full circle.
“You play for the love of music, and what else comes, comes,” Harvey said. “If we were thinking about making hit records (in ’75), I don’t think we’d have this success now. It was more a matter of just playing the music for playing’s sake, and letting everything happen naturally.”