Revealed:  the Queen Mum’s love for The Desperadoes

When Steel Talks - News Reboot -- From | 2011

Global -  It comes as no surprise to me that the recent revelations about the record collection of the late Queen Mum has indicated the royals spend their evenings behind palace doors ‘grooving’ to black music.

Your record collection says a lot about who you are, where you’re coming from and how you throw down. What the Queen Mum’s record collection says is that she got by with a little help from her musical friends in the Caribbean and Africa.

Queen Mum

Back in 1999, when the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh first invited me to supper at their place, I bumped into an old steelband player from the BT (Melodians) Steel Orchestra. He asked me what I was doing there, and I confessed that I didn’t know. When you get an invite from the Queen you don’t ask, “How come?” I asked him what he was doing there, and he acted as if he and the Queen were spars.

“I’ve played calypso for the Queen five times here at Buckingham Palace,” he confided. “And I’ve played for Prince Charles six times at Highgrove. The royals love their calypso, trust me.”

Somehow, it didn’t ring true. The hype that surrounds the royal family would make you think there ain’t no black in the Union Jack. So I was totally gobsmacked when the Queen entered the ballroom and, completely ignoring Gary Wilmot and Linford Chrtistie, came over to chat with my man of the steelpans.

Her Majesty exchanged pleasantries with him such as ‘How’s the missus and the kids?’ before moving on to greet her other 800 guests.

HRH didn’t show any of her boggling skills that night, but I understand that in private she can boogie, twist or rub-a-dub with the best of them.  

So, the idea of the Queen Mother squirreling away an album by Trinidadian steel pan orchestra The Desperadoes amongst her collection of Highland yodel music and Goon comedy albums, doesn’t sound so unbelievable. It puts a whole new spin on the nation’s all-time favourite centenarian. And to see Paul Simon’s album of South African jive, Graceland, featuring chanting from the Zulu male choir Ladysmith Black Mambazo, was in the Queen Mum’s jukebox has completely changed my opinion of the royals.

South African jive is not for the weak-hearted – even at the age of 100 you have to tap your foot along to it.

The Desperadoes Steel Orchestra - “Don’t Leave Me This Way” | Gamble/Huff/Gilbert

As for the rest of the royals, we already know that Prince Charles had a ‘special relationship’ with The Three Degrees back in the seventies, and that Prince William loves his hip hop and grime. Kate Middleton’s musical preference has been kept a closely guarded secret, but I have been reassured that it includes Bob Marley.

But the royal whose record collection I would like to take a peek at is the Queen. It would be much appreciated if the content of the Queen’s iPod was disclosed also, just to see if Smiley Culture was telling the truth when he claimed in an interview that when he met the Queen she told him that she danced to Cockney Translation behind closed palace doors.

Desperadoes at the Apollo
Desperadoes at the Apollo - Photo by WST © 1987

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