The Equals – Police On My Back

Eddy Grant’s multi-racial ’60s beat group provide The Clash with streetwise inspiration.

The Equals – Police On My Back

EDDY GRANT WAS A teenager when he formed The Equals in the mid-’60s. A pupil at Acland Burghley school in Tufnell Park, North London, Guyana-born Grant assembled a band with drummer John Hall, guitarist Pat Lloyd and brothers Lincoln and Derv Gordon (pictured, above). The five-piece were signed to President Records – the label recently set up by Tin Pan Alley legend Edward Kassner, whose publishing company had amassed the rights to innumerable songs including Rock Around The Clock, which he bought for the princely sum of $250.

The band’s first single – 1966’s Hold Me Close backed with Baby, Come Back – showcased the band’s blend of taut rock rhythms, ska-influenced guitars and soulful vocals. It failed to chart in the UK but it topped the charts in Belgium and hit the Top 20 in Germany and Holland: The Equals were up and running.

The band’s overseas success continued and was finally replicated in the UK in 1968 when Baby, Come Back saw them appear on Top Of The Pops and hit Number 1. An album of the same name swiftly followed and included 11 tracks, including Police On My Back – a track which was only ever released as a single in Europe.

Sadly, The Equals split three years later when Eddy Grant left the group following health problems that included a heart scare (he would, of course, return to music and enjoy a hugely successful career). Their last single was the frenetic Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys, a tune that hit the UK Top 10 and whose very title underlined the multi-racial nature of the band during a period where racism was still rife.

The Clash resurrected Police On My Back in 1980 when they emphasized the track’s siren-sounding guitar part and included it on the triple album Sandinista! Pato Banton, meanwhile, emphasized the pop aspects of the The Equals’ sound when he scored a Number 1 hit with his version of Baby, Come Back in 1994, which featured Robin and Ali Campbell from UB40.

This version of Police On My Back from Beat Club captures The Equals at their most uproarious, Keystone Cop routines and all, and serves as a reminder of their unique drive and power.