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MUSIC PETER SPENCE : Notes of Love : Reggae crooner has plenty to say about romance.

May 09, 1991|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"All You Need Is Love" sang the Beatles. "Love Stinks" sang the J. Geils Band. Reggae crooner Peter Spence is much more of a peace and love kind of guy, and thus, is much closer to the Beatles' position.

So imagine you're sitting in that restaurant so swanky that you had to hock your baseball card collection to mingle for even a magic moment with that dream date. Spence is the soundtrack for romantic moments just like this, or even melodramas much mushier.

Spence is into a whole lotta love. He is loquacious about love. He's in the same ballpark as Maxi Priest, Dennis Brown and Luther Vandross.

Spence, from Birmingham, England, will be touring with I.R.S. label-mate Tippa Irie. They will perform sets separately and together with bass player Mikey Tuff, doubtlessly spotlighting tunes from their new joint album. Irie is a noted English toaster, which has nothing whatever to do with breakfast, but rather is someone who plays a hybrid of reggae and rap. Spence, who also plays guitar, will be the one doing the slow, soulful stuff.

In a recent telephone interview from Seattle, Spence discussed the tour, the new record and all that.

How's the tour, the album and all that?

Not too bad. We're in Seattle right now and are off for Bellingham tomorrow, then to Vancouver, British Columbia, then to California. The album, so far, is not doing too bad.

How does the show work with Tippa?

Well, we each do a set--Mikey Tuff plays bass and I play guitar. It's a pretty good idea that somehow just developed that way.

How did you get started in the music biz?

The usual way--singing in church. Then I played with a sound system as a deejay, and I joined a band when I was 16. I began playing rhythm guitar, but decided that my future was in my singing and I began to take it very seriously. In 1985 or 1986, I had my first record deal.

Who were some of your musical influences?

I grew up in Birmingham listening to original, full-rhythm reggae in the love vein. Then when I got older, I listened to Freddy Jackson, Luther Vandross and a lot of the Motown singers.

How would you describe Peter Spence music?

It's soft, palatable, listenable, mostly love songs that cross all borders.

Who goes to your shows?

In this country, a good mixture; a lot of it depends on the age limit for the show. Mainly we attract young people, but last night in Seattle, it was an older crowd and I'm not sure why.

What's the difference between American and English audiences?

The audiences here are a lot more accepting of our music, and they seem to appreciate us a lot more here. In England, we attract generally black audiences who tend to be much more reserved. They hold back their emotions a lot more.

What's the Birmingham scene like?

It's pretty good, very varied. You know, a lot of super groups have come from Birmingham--Duran Duran, ELO, Dexy's Midnight Runners, UB40. There's so much talent there on tap.

Do they still have speedway motorcycle racing there?

Oh, sure. I used to go all the time and I still watch it on the telly.

Is J. Geils right, does love stink?

No, that's not right. Love is a truthful thing, a universal thing that everyone can understand.

Can music change the world?

Well, I think many a famous singer has been trying for years. And yet, I think many an important message has been put across by music. And love, without a doubt, can change the world.

What's the best and the worst thing about your job?

The best thing is the performing and the recording part. The worst thing is driving eight, nine or 10 hours between gigs. This place is so big.

What was the worst advice you've ever been given?

Once, an old girlfriend told me not to sing. She wanted all of my attention--she had to go.

What would be your dream gig or your nightmare gig?

Dream gig? That's hard to say because playing with any band is a dream gig. I played with Steel Pulse, another Birmingham band, and that was a dream gig. Maybe the ultimate for me would be to play with Whitney Houston.

* WHERE AND WHEN

Peter Spence and Tippa Irie at Felix's Cantina, 525 State St., Santa Barbara, Friday, 7:30 and 10 p.m., 18 and over. Ten bucks at the door.

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