Most American listeners didn't read much into the lyrics, but Grant claims this is a serious song. It refers to a real place in London, and tells the story of a poor man who beholds the things in life he could never achieve.
Electric Avenue is a shopping area in the Brixton section of London, named because is was the first street in the area to get electric lights. Brixton was the setting for riots between police and protesters in 1981, which Grant refers to in the opening line, "Down in the street there is violence."
This is one of the highest-charting reggae-influenced pop songs ever. Grant, a native of Guyana, had many pop and ska groups in England and Barbados. His first band, The Equals, had three Top 10 hits in England in the 1960s. They were the first multiracial band to find success in the UK.
Some interesting chart timing on this song: It made #2 in the UK in January 1983, but didn't reach that position in the US until July. The difference was MTV, which popularized the song when they put the video into rotation not long after Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean
" made the network much more accepting of black artists.
Many artists, including the Rolling Stones, recorded at Grant's studio in Barbados. A keen businessman, he tried to buy the rights to Bob Marley's songs in 1991, but he was outbid.
This was the biggest hit Grant ever had, but he still made showings in the Top 40 internationally with several British singles and "Romancing the Stone" in the US (#26, 1984).