British reggae singer and actress Janet Kay became the Queen of Lovers Rock when "Silly Games" reached #2 in the UK and charted in many other European countries. A song about two people who can't communicate their feelings about each other, it's best known today for the amazing high note Kay hits.
Guitarist and producer Dennis Bovell crafted the track, designing it as a pop-reggae hit. "With a non-conventional drum pattern I invented - it was supposed to be so amazing that drummers everywhere would want to play it, because it was quite intricate, a bit like juggling on the drums," he told Uncut magazine. "It had a kind of Caribbean calypso soca hi-hat and then an Afrobeat snare, and a disco kick drum. Then Janet with this high note that you had to be Minnie Riperton to get to!"
Dennis Bovell produced Kay's recording and played guitar, bass and synthesizer. He hired Aswad singer and drummer Drummie Zeb to man the skins.
After writing "Silly Games" for Janet Kay, Bovell wrote and produced her debut album, Capricorn Woman. However, her acting ambitions got in the way and it didn't see the light of day until 1982. "I was doing all the music for her, all she had to do was sing, though she did write some of the songs," Bovell recalled to Uncut. "She wanted to become an actress and got a part in a program on Channel 4 called No Problem. And that was a problem, because instead of wanting to be in the studio recording, she wanted to be in the TV studio recording a TV program. It meant I had to get other singers to do the backing vocals on a couple of tracks, which she wasn't happy about."
Kay has returned intermittently to recording, predominantly in the lovers rock style. In 1990 a re-recording of "Silly Games," billed as by Lindy Layton featuring Janet Kay, reached #22 in the UK. She's popular in Japan, where her 1977 reggae cover of Minnie Riperton's "Lovin' You
" earned her almost cult status.
The song features prominently in Steve McQueen's Lovers Rock, the second episode in his 2020 BBC/Amazon Prime anthology series Small Axe. It plays during a house party.