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"Electric Avenue" is a song written, recorded and produced by Eddy Grant, who released it from his 1982 album Killer on the Rampage. In the United States, with the help of the MTV video he shot for it, it was one of the biggest hits of 1983. The song's title refers to Electric Avenue in the south London district of Brixton which was the first market street to be lit by electricity. According to Grant, he first became aware of the street's existence during a stint acting at the Black Theatre of Brixton. The area is now known for its high population of Caribbean immigrants. At the beginning of the 1980s, tensions over unemployment, racism and poverty culminated in the street events now known as the 1981 Brixton riot. Grant, horrified and enraged, wrote and composed the song in response; a year afterwards, the song was playing over the airwaves. Grant had left the UK shortly after the riots to live in Barbados: his most recent batch of songs had been lost in baggage transit, and "Electric Avenue" was one of the songs he wrote immediately afterwards to make up for the lost material.
The video was the crucial element for this song to go mainstream in America. It was filmed in Barbados. The song was already a hit in the UK. When MTV ran music videos on its network, the producers put the song into rotation to add some racial diversity. MTV in their early years played videos by white artists almost exclusively and were criticized by famous musicians like David Bowie for not having black artists on the network. After "Billie Jean" aired and was successful, MTV was soon scrambling to get other black artists into their rotation. Once "Electric Avenue" aired, it did not take long for the song to climb up to the no. 2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
Other release information
The original B-Side to this song was a non-LP track titled "Time Warp". The 45 sold more than one million copies in the United States, earning a platinum certification. It was later re-issued with "I Don't Want to Dance" as the flip side.
"Electric Avenue" was re-released in 2001. The single featured the "Ringbang Remix," and reached number 5 in the UK Singles Chart in June 2001, as well as reaching number 16 on the US dance chart.