52nd Street were a British R&B\jazz-funk band from Manchester, England. The original line-up consisted of guitarist Tony Henry, bassist Derrick Johnson, keyboardist Desmond Isaacs, drummer Tony Thompson and singer Jennifer McCloud.
But within six months, singer Rose Williams and saxophonist Eric Godden came & left the band before the line-up finally consisted of keyboardist John Dennison (who replaced Desmond Isaacs) and singer Beverley McDonald (who replaced Jennifer McCloud).
52nd Street played gigs around Manchester while also recording demo tapes in local studios. Local funk DJ Mike Shaft became the band’s mentor and played their demos on his Piccadilly Radio shows.
In mid-1981, soul DJ Richard Searling and ex-Sad Cafe manager Derek Brandwood put the band in Revolution Studios to record their debut single. While the band recorded demos for MCA Records, they were also put into Strawberry Studios to record trcks for Warner Bros. Records A&R scout\club promotions manager, Erksine Thompson.
With both major labels increasing the pressure to talk to 52nd Street (who didn’t have a manager yet), Derrick Johnson contacted ex-DJ Rob Gretton (who was the co-owner of Factory Records) and Rob went to see the band play at a jazz venue in Manchester called The Band on the Wall. Soon after that, Rob and his partner, Tony Wilson added 52nd Street to their roster.
In 1982, 52nd Street released their first single on Factory Records called “Look Into My Eyes”. Although the single received approval from journalist Paul Morley (who made it his “single of the week”), it didn’t get a lot of attention.
Near the end of 1982, the band began experimenting with electronic sounds & drum machines after being influenced by productions from New York City’s hip-hop community and Bill Laswell’s work with jazz keyboardist Herbie Hancock.
In 1983, 52nd Street released a new single called “Cool as Ice”. The song wasn’t released in the UK even though BBC Radio 1 DJs John Peel and Janice Long played the track from white label pressings made available by Factory Records.
Bootlegs of the song started popping up in the United States and after Michael Shamberg (who was the head of Factory Records’ office in New York City) stepped in, the band was signed to a major U.S. record deal with A&M Records.
The song peaked at #29 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Music\Club Play Singles chart (along with the song “Twice as Nice”). A&M Records flew 52nd Street to the United States to promote the song and they played live club dates mainly on the east side of the country.
After the success of “Cool as Ice”, A&M Records demanded a new follow-up single. 52nd Street started becoming restless and started to implode. Major record labels (including A&M Records in the United Kingdom) were starting to show interest, but certain band members felt loyal to Factory Records.
There were discussions that lead to Tony Wilson’s ex-wife, Lindsay Reade becoming 52nd Street’s manager. Once she became their manager, Lindsay put together a strategy to hasten productivity. Later on, Beverely McDonald left the band and was replaced by singer Diane Charlemagne.
For the band’s third single “Can’t Afford,” New Order’s Stephen Morris was called into help produce the song and he also worked on two other tracks “Look I’ve Heard It All Before” & “Available” which were supposed to appear on a later EP. Both songs were later re-recorded and released on their debut album.
After eleven months without a follow-up single, the band became impatient with the unprofessionalism of Factory Records and Lindsay mailed copies of the new single to A&M US, but it was rejected, which left the band to negotiate with other interested parties.
After Profile Records heard “Can’t Afford” on constant rotation in New York nightclubs, Lindsay negotiated with them to release the single on their label. The song peaked at #16 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Music\Club Play Singles chart in 1985.
Lindsay Reade’s business dealings caused tensions with not only Tony Wilson & Rob Gretton, but Michael Shamberg as well and the band ended up being caught in the middle of it. In December of 1984, a Factory Records management meeting took place at which Lindsay was fired and told to leave the offices without 52nd Street.
If that wasn’t enough, loyalties within the band were also being tested; Derrick Johnson worked for Factory Records and was a session guitarist in music act Quando Quango with his brother, Barry. In January of 1985, the band & Lindsay Reade left Factory Records, but Derrick ended up staying behind.
During that same year, 52nd Street released their debut album “Children of the Night” which peaked at #71 on the U.K. Albums chart and #23 on Billboard’s R&B Albums chart.
Their song “Tell Me (How It Feels)” peaked at #14 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Music\Club Play & Maxi-Singles Sales chart and #8 on Billboard’s Hot Black Singles chart (staying on the chart for 14 weeks) in 1986. It also peaked at #54 on the U.K. Singles chart.
Another single “You’re My Last Chance” peaked at #49 on the U.K. Singles chart and #67 on Billboard’s Hot Black Singles chart (staying on the chart for only 5 weeks).
The last single from the album “I Can’t Let You Go” peaked at #57 on the U.K. Singles chart.
In 1987, 52nd Street released their last album “Something’s Going On” which didn’t appear to make a lot of impact on the charts, failing to chart at all on the U.K. Albums chart.
The single “I’ll Return” peaked at #79 on Billboard’s Hot Black Singles chart, staying on the chart for 7 weeks.
The follow-up single from the album “Are You Receiving Me?” failed to make any impact on the charts.
In 1988, 52nd Street released their last single “Say You Will” which didn’t make a lot of impact on the charts.
In 1990, the band re-emerged in the music scene under the name “Cool Down Zone”. They released an album and two singles before disbanding in 1993.
Diane Charlemagne was the lead singer of music act Urban Cookie Collective and provided vocals for various artists including Moby. In October of 2015, she passed away from kidney cancer at the age of 51.
Former vocalist Beverley McDonald sang with Quando Quango. It’s unknown what she’s up to these days.
Derek Johnson worked with artists such as Swing Out Sister and the Flamingos. John Dennison worked with artists such as Blondie, East 17, Juliet Roberts and Rozalla. It’s unknown if they’re still active in the music business.
After 52nd Street broke up, Tony Henry formed music duo FR’ Mystery in 1991 along with artist Lorna Bailey.
Tony Bowry went on to be a session artist and worked with artists such as Steps, Michelle Amador and Melanie Williams. Tony Thompson provided vocals for music act The Clint Boon Experience.
To see a fan-made video for “Look Into My Eyes,” go to:
To see a fan-made video for “Cool as Ice,” go to:
To see the music video for “Can’t Afford,” go to:
To see a fan-made video for “Tell Me (How It Feels),” go to:
To see the music video for “You’re My Last Chance,” go to:
To see the music video for “I Can’t Let You Go,” go to:
To see the music video for “I’ll Return,” go to:
To see a fan-made video for “Are You Receiving Me?,” go to:
To see a fan-made video for “Say You Will,” go to: