In the summer of 1989, Record Mirror journalist Tim Nicholson and I travelled 450 miles in my black Ford Capri S to follow London Boys — Dennis Fuller and Edem Ephraim — who were high in the charts with the singles London Nights and Requiem, and the album The Twelve Commandments of Dance.
London Boys were performing their acrobatic act in three north of England nightclubs in one night, and Tim and I met up with Dennis and Edem in a dodgy nightclub in York, where the above picture was taken backstage. We joined them again at their Manchester hotel the next morning, where Tim interviewed them and I took pictures.
I was to meet London Boys again a few months later at Dennis's mum's flat in Greenwich, to take some pictures for their record company, East West Records, at Greenwich Hospital after they'd had to cancel performances because Dennis was injured.
In the words of Ralf René Maué from Requiem, performed by London Boys:
Never gonna get enough, Never gonna get enough. And, sadly, we never did get enough. London Boys Dennis and Edem were killed in a car crash in the Alps in January 1996. Eight months later, Tim Nicholson also died, on the cliffs at Peacehaven in the south of England.
As a small tribute, in memory of three nice guys, here is Tim's feature in full as it appeared in the 22 July 1989 edition of Record Mirror:
No one would have believed, in the last years of the 20th Century, that two muscle-men in huge trousers could be flick-flacking their way to the top of the charts. But London Boys are there with London Nights and the new album The Twelve Commandments of Dance, and they look like staying...
They said no one would laugh. They said everyone was dressing like this these days. So when I walked the ancient streets of York on a buzzing Saturday night in search of Keaton's nightclub, I wasn't prepared for the torrent of cat-calls, wolf-whistles and taunting that York's pop kids subjected me to. Hadn't they ever seen a man in roller skates, Cossack trousers, manacle vest and goucho hat (at a jaunty angle with a curtain cord chin-strap), with coconut oil on his chest and shoulders before? Obviously not.
Hiding my blushes beneath the shadow of my hat, I found Keaton's above a snooker and social club and bingo hall. Its pink and black décor set off my all-black outfit nicely. The two or three hundred excited Yorkers who had parted with £5 apiece to get past the muscle-man on the door were here to witness one of the biggest bands in Britain today do what they do best. No. Simple Minds weren't going to be boring, U2 weren't going to be pious and Simply Red weren't going to be ugly. Better than that: London Boys, Britain's long-overdue answer to Boney M, were going to mime to two songs while doing some back-flips.
Six minutes of pop gymnastics later, London Boys were gone and York was left sweating but sated. Still in my full London Boys regalia, I talked my way into their dressing room, claiming to be Dennis Fuller's stunt double for the singing parts.
I find London Boys relaxing for two minutes and 27 seconds before strapping on their skates and rolling down the A64 to Leeds. How on Earth can they cope with the strain of this ludicrous schedule?
'Lots of things help us,' puffs Edem Ephraim, clutching a pint of orange juice. 'Of course, we're fit, though we haven't had time to get near a gym for weeks. Also, it's great fun. You can't help having a good time with all those girls out there looking at you and cheering you on. There were a lot of girls out there tonight, weren't there?'
And that's the way they like it, as both Edem Ephraim and Dennis Fuller are at pains to point out. The orange juice goes down in one, autographs, kisses and photos are doled out to a lucky few female fans in the dressing room, London Boys' glistening muscles are protected from the rain with expensive leather jackets, and it's off to Confetti's in Leeds for engagement number two on this neon-frenzied night.
Confetti's is exploding with people, about 20 times the number in York. Edem and Dennis do their thing to a chorus of screaming girls, then leave them to wonder if they were actually there, or if it was just a dream. Out back, London Boys switch their ordinary skates for four-wheel drive models for the long and dangerous trek across the Pennines to Manchester, where they have their last appointment of the evening at Rocky's.
Having finally tracked down this elusive club, The London Boys give a performance that gives no indication that, in one night, they have just done the sort of British tour that takes Texas three weeks. It's been an impressive feat, and one they have been repeating frequently in an effort to take their art to the people in the only way they know how.
Edem Ephraim and Dennis Fuller are genuine London boys who met at school and became firm friends with a shared interest in dancing. Together, they used to empty their local dance floor with their acrobatic style which was not compatible with a confined space, due to them constantly kicking their friends in the face. The only solution was to rise above the dance floor and take to the stage. So (isn't this just so obvious) they decided to become professional roller dancers and subsequently became very successful.
'We ended up roller skating all over the place,' says Dennis, adjusting his sealed bearings. 'We did well all round Europe. Then one time, when we were coming back from a trip to Germany, we found we were out of fashion. Roller skating was out and we couldn't get any work, so we decided to go back to Germany where we could still do really well. And we never came back, so we've been living in Hamburg for about seven years now.'
It was in Germany that London Boys got the chance to make a record, and two years ago Requiem was unleashed on the world. But the world didn't want to know, save for pockets of Scandinavia, where the pulsating Hi-NRG and throbbing muscles was a welcome antidote to the frosty air and chunky sweaters.
'Requiem wasn't released in Britain till much later,' explains Edem, 'but it took ages for it to chart. In fact, we had given up on it and were ready to release London Nights when it started shooting up again for no reason.'
And that's when London Boys-mania began, flourishing on the Hitman Roadshow and reaching epic proportions with the success of Requiem and their current single London Nights.
But who are the London Boys-ettes? They certainly aren't boys dressed in lookalike costumes, as I found to my distress. They are, perhaps surprisingly, girls and boys of 15 and 16 who, in the words of Dennis, 'are here for a good time. We're not just teen-girl fodder like Bros or Brother Beyond; we're here for the kids to have a great time and to give them a little entertainment.' Touching sentiments, and words that should see them slot nicely into the Stock Aitken Waterman pop philosophy.
'We're not a product of the Stock Aitken Waterman Hit Factory,' protests Dennis. 'Pete Waterman has been enormously supportive and we thoroughly enjoyed being on the Hitman Roadshow, but we are totally independent of those acts.'
Nevertheless, London Boys are limbering up for an extensive visit in October for the Kylie Minogue roadshow, which will take them out of the discos and into the theatres.
'That's going to be really exciting,' enthuses Edem. 'Performing on a huge stage in a concert hall – it's a far cry from all the little clubs we're used to.'
'It'll be a treat to be able to do back-flips without landing on some poor photographer's shoulders,' laughs Dennis.
And so, as London Boys skate off to Ritzy's in Sheffield to prepare for their Sunday night turn, I find a convenient phone booth in which to change from my Saturday night glitz into my Sunday morning shabbiness. A few of Edem and Dennis's Mancunian fans remain hanging around outside their hotel. I ask them why nobody laughs at London Boys. They reply, 'It's showbiz, isn't it?'