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Kings reign may have been short but in keeping with the accepted rule of great pop groups they delivered cool tunes, looked fantastic, rocked a live crowd and then quit before they out stayed their welcome.

Rising from the ashes of Coventry's 2-Tone era it was perhaps to be expected that some early reviews of King were tempted to paint them as heirs apparent of their hometowns ska fuelled scene.

However apart from their working class roots, a shared appreciation of Doc Martins and love of great reggae, King musically had little in common with The Specials; so to portray them as the natural sons of 2-Tone was a far from accurate picture.

The prodigal pop sons of glam-rock - now that's a different Picasso.


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In hindsight its easier now to recognize the musical influences that infused Kingís sound and style. As a group of the 80's they may share the big production sheen of that decades digital recordings but behind the gated snare drums stands a band that clearly cherished the pop punch of T. Rex, the swagger of the Faces and the stomp along appeal of a Slade anthemic chorus.

But to begin with the seeds of Kings genesis do indeed interweave with the earliest chapters of Coventry's premier black and white record label. In 1979 just as the Specials made their first forays onto the UK's pop charts, Paul King was commencing a 3-year drama course at the cities theatre school. Within months he found himself recruited as lead singer in a ska band and signed to a major label record deal.


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The original Reluctant Stereotypes were an indie jazz rock outfit that had slimmed down to the guitar and electric clarinet duo of Paul Sampson and Steve Edgson. As a fresh-faced punk Paul King had first met Edgson when he worked at Jonathan Silvers clothes store in the towns centre. Steve noted Paul's distinctive style and suggested the young Mr. King had real front man potential.

Reluctant stereotypes Paul King

Inspired by the cities 2-tone explosion Sampson and Edgson decided to demo a ska inspired tune at Coventry's Horizon Studios where The Specials had recorded their 'Gangsters' single. Listening to the Stereotypes session was studio owner and local entrepreneur Barry Thomas. Impressed with the track Thomas promised to seek a deal for the duo's song using his record company contacts. With 2-Tone dominating the airwaves major labels were keen to sign their own rude boy acts and in the Stereotypes WEA records believed they had found a genuine Coventry ska band.


Thomas, now on board as manager, encouraged his new signings to recruit some musicians for a showcase gig to be attended by Warnerís A&R department. Multi instrumentalist Paul Sampson would later enjoy success as an engineer and record producer with acts such as the Primitives, Catatonia and David McAlmont. But he was no lead singer and realized they needed not only a bass player and drummer but also someone to take control of the mic stand. Settling with Colin Heanes on the drum stool and Tony Wall on bass the Reluctant Stereotypes were scratching their heads on who to approach for singing duties when Steve Edgson remembered the charismatic punk rocker from Jonathan Silvers clothes shop.


12 Reluctant soho sq  20 Rel Stereo Album sleeve

Three months into drama school Paul King felt the bands offer to come sing with them seemed like a good chance to perform in front of an audience and if they also made a record then that could be fun. It was kind of lucky for all concerned that he could actually sing as well.


By coincidence the new singer was already on nodding terms with the groups bassist Tony as his older brother Roy Wall had been in Paul's high school class. An up and coming bass player on the local scene the 18-year old Tony Wall had been working as a carpenter since leaving school and playing bass since his early teens. A fun 'jack the lad' personality Tony's easy going approach to life was a good counter balance to the more serious aspects of the Stereotypes musical make up and much appreciated by

Paul. Two years later when the plans for King started to evolve there was no doubt in Paul's mind as to who he wanted on bass guitar.

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Spring 1980 saw WEA records sign the now 5-peice Reluctant Stereotypes. Over the next 18 months the Stereotypes hit the road, released a handful of ska inspired singles, toured with The Specials and Paul Young's Q Tips and produced a quirky album called 'The Label' which received some nice reviews from people like Trouser Press but in the wider world passed by largely unnoticed.


'With prominent horn work, boppy dance rhythms and high musical standards .. The Label is an ace record by a skilled and inventive band' - Trouser Press 1989


The Reluctant Stereotypes constant gigging honed Tony Wall and Colin Heanes into a tight drum and bass team and Paul King into a formidable front man plus, as originally hoped, it had been fun. But WEA were not committed to the group. With the Reluctant Stereotypes enthusiasm starting to wane the band were booked onto the BBC's Old Grey Whistle Test. This lucky break didnít save the bands career but it would have a major impact on the King story.


Appearing alongside Adam & the Ants, the Reluctant Stereotypes filmed two tracks that were videoed by a bunch of music stoners from Folkestone who loved the groupís idiosyncratic performance and insisted their mate Perry Haines take a look.

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05 Mick Japan Mag
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