Twice Grammy nominated and Ivor Novello winner Paul Hardcastle, first emerged in late 1981 when he appeared on ‘Don’t Depend On Me’, a single by British soul hopefuls Direct Drive which was more noted for its b-side ‘Time Machine’. With vocalist Derek Green, Paul appeared on another Direct Drive single in March 82, ‘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, First Light.
First Light first came to attention under the auspices of Charlie Gillett’s Oval label, pairing Paul’s songwriting and playing and the vocals of fellow Londoner Green. In an era when British dance music was coming out from under the jazz-funk umbrella and trying some new grooves, Gillett heard the promise in First Light’s uninhibited, upbeat approach and released their debut single, a surprising update of America’s early 70’s anthem ‘A Horse With No Name’ in June 1982. In November that year came the ‘Sixteen Minutes Of First Light’ 12 inch single, offering Hardcastle’s ‘A.M’ plus ‘I Don’t Care’, co-written with Green, and the trusty ‘Time Machine’
That 12” became a substantial club success, but Paul’s first whiff of pop chart action came in May 83 by which time Gillett had lined up a distribution deal for First Light with London Records and they got to number 65 nationally with ‘Explain The Reasons’. A further number 71 showing came early in 1984 with ‘Wish You Were Here’.
Hardcastle moved on up once again. In March 1984 he released his first single under his own name and via his own label, Total Control Records and 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 brought the artist 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” - Hardcastle reminisced in Record Mirror in 1985. Narrowly thwarted by BBC Radio One’s refusal to play such new-fangled dance music, the single unluckily peaked at number 41. It was followed onto the national survey by ‘Guilty’, a number 55 that summer.
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 cleaning up as usual on the nation’s dance floors Paul’s wretched luck saw the single stop at the “grave yard” position 41 again. But the hard part was almost over.