The story of Paul Hardcastle is rich with retrospective. While working in fashionable Chelsea as a hi-fi salesman, he decided to swap his beloved video camera for a friend's small synthesizer. After tinkering around for 3 months, he managed to convince a band, which had advertised for a keyboard player, that he was their man.
He first emerged in 1981, when he appeared on "Don't Depend On Me", a single by British soul hopefuls Direct Drive, which is more noted for its b-side, "Time Machine". With vocalist Derek Green, Paul appeared on another Direct Drive single in March 1982, "Time's Running Out"/"I'm The One". The domestic soul cognoscenti gave this pair of releases a knowing nod, but Hardcastle and Green already knew enough to branch away and form their own group.
Teaming up with fellow Londoner, Green, they formed First Light and quickly gained the attention of Oval Records. In an era when British dance music was coming out from under the jazz-funk umbrella, and trying some new grooves, Charlie Gillett of Oval heard the uninhibited and upbeat approach and released their first single. It was a surprising update of America's early 1970's anthem "A Horse With No Name," in June 1982. In November of that year came the "Sixteen Minutes Of First Light" 12-inch single.
The 12-inch single became a substantial club success, but Paul's first scent of pop chart action came in May 1983 when the single "Explain The Reasons" reached #65 nationally. This was followed by "Wish You Were Here" which reached #71 in early 1984.
Paul now decided that it was time to take control of his destiny and formed his own label Total Control Records. He released a medley of "Daybreak" and "A.M.", with a version of James 'D-Train' Williams' seminal dance workout "You're The One For Me". Running his own label bought Paul to street level, literally. "The first 3,000 copies of "You're The One For Me" I took around in my car, saying 'have a listen to this'." Narrowly thwarted by BBC Radio One's refusal to have anything to do with such new-fangled dance music, the single unluckily peaked at #41, but hit the #1 spot on the dance charts.
Hardcastle's name was now a byword for quality among students of British soul. He released the hypnotic instrumental "Rainforest" for the Bluebird label and despite hitting the #1 spot yet again on the nation's dance floor charts, but Paul's wretched luck saw the single stop at the "graveyard" position of #41 again. Nevertheless, the hard part was almost over.
As the year ended, Paul released his first material for Chrysalis Records' emerging Cooltempo label. "Eat Your Heart Out", with vocals by fellow traveler Kevin Henry leveled out at #59, but across the Atlantic something was stirring. Profile Records, who worked the record to urban radio, had snapped up "Rainforest". "Rainforest" reached #1 on the 12" sales chart in the USA by knocking Madonna's "Like A Virgin" from the top spot as well as place half way up the Billboard Hot 100. A further Top 40 R&B single with "King Tut" followed and this was just the beginning of a breathtaking year.
Paul's next release was on Chrysalis and he decided to try a different approach. Staying true to the dance floor genre that had got him this far, he perfected a dramatic, arresting semi-instrumental composition based on something he'd heard about the average age of combat soldiers in the Vietnam War. The production values of the resulting track have given "19" a place in the all-time dance music winners enclosure.
By the time the single became commercially available at the end of April 1985, the buzz about "19" was deafening. The song crash-landed on the British chart at #4. The next week saw "19" at the #1 spot, where it stayed for a solid five weeks. In Holland it stayed put at the #1 spot nationally for 16 weeks solid, proving not only Paul's staying power, but also his international appeal.
"It sold 4 million copies around the world," Paul recalls. "I remember it sold 65,000 copies here in the UK on the day it went to number one. It was great, because it went to #1 in 13 different countries and it's one of the records I still hear on the radio and I feel proud. I feel proud because I received the IVOR NOVELLO award for the best selling single of 1985."
After "19" had completed a 16-week tenure on the bestsellers, Hardcastle released a self-titled album for Chrysalis in November 1985. He went down another avenue of experimentation with the follow-up single "Just For Money", which ironically entered the UK Chart at #19. The actors Sir Laurence Olivier and Bob Hoskins both appeared on the track about the St. Valentines Day Massacre and the Great Train Robbery.
In March 1986, and again changing direction, Paul recorded "Don't Waste My Time" featuring Carol Kenyon. It went to #8 and it was the first time Paul had used a female vocalist. It worked well.
Another Top 20 success was to become part of the lives of millions of British TV viewers. Late in 1986, he released "The Wizard", granted immortality as the theme for "Top of the Pops". Since his last British chart appearance under his own name with "40 Years" in the summer of 1988, Hardcastle has continued his musical crusades in a less public way, but with more satisfactory results. Paul is one of those few artists whose musical personality is so concrete and distinct that his music survives changes in trends while his early recordings sound as fresh today as they did when he recorded them.
From 1988 to 1990, Hardcastle experienced a good deal of success and won many awards as a remix producer on tracks by Barry White, D-Train, Hiroshima, Ian Dury, Phil Lynott and Luther Vandross' original band, Change, among others. He also composed some 10 other TV themes, including "Watchdog", Ben Elton's "Saturday Night Live", "Holiday", "The Late Late Breakfast Show" and the award winning "Supersense" TV programs.
Due to contractual reasons, Paul was unable to release music under the Hardcastle name. So, in October 1990, under the pseudonym The DEFF BOYZ, he released a 12" single entitled "Swing", which crashed in at #4 on Billboards 12" sales chart and was a massive hit all over Europe. Another project under the name LFO also saw massive sales. Even though he was making records that were resulting in millions of sales, Paul had still not found the true direction he had been looking for.
Early in 1991, Paul signed to Motown in the USA and released his first project called Kiss The Sky. The track "Livin' For You", which featured UK Vocalist Jaki Graham, began to make an impact with the urban listeners and did Paul's credibility a great deal of good, but this was the time of Boyz II Men; and Kiss The Sky was not very high on Motown's importance list. Even with all these things happening, Paul started working on yet another project. It was one that he believed to be his true direction and he named this new project "The Jazzmasters".
With the release in Japan of Paul's "The Jazzmasters", he once again created a work of pure inspiration as he had done with "19" years earlier. With the help of vocalist Helen Rogers and a variety of saxophone and flute players, Paul introduced the world to a new hybrid of jazz and dance music. The response to his new sound was so overwhelming that American radio stations were playing Japanese imports and music buyers were scrambling to find a recording.