Most American listeners didn't read much into the lyrics, but according to Eddy Grant, "Electric Avenue" carries a serious message about race and equality. 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 was outbid.
"Electric Avenue" is far and away Eddy Grant's biggest hit, was the biggest hit, but he made showings in the Top 40 internationally with several British singles, and in the US he charted at #26 with "Romancing The Stone" in 1984.
Grant filed a copyright lawsuit against the Trump campaign in 2020 after the song appeared in one of President Trump's campaign videos
. In the animated ad, the tune plays as a high-speed train bearing the "Trump-Pence" logo zips past rival Joe Biden, who is creeping along in an old-fashioned handcar. Said Grant's attorney: "Eddy stands for peace and justice and this ad is not consistent with the ideals Eddy has stood for and sung about for years."
This song features in a 2022 commercial
starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Salma Hayek as Zeus and Hera. They retire to Florida, but Zeus gets frustrated - he can't figure out how to use appliances and friends are always asking him to charge their devices. Hera makes it better by getting him an electric BMW. The spot end with them singing along to "Electric Avenue" as they take a ride. The commercial ran during the Super Bowl in 2022.