Starlight and Hawkeye Records

Support your local Reggae shop!: From dozens to two Reggae shops in Harlesden

Colour photographs of two shopfronts in Harlesden, ‘Starlight Records’ and ‘Hawkeye Enterprises Ltd’.
Starlight Records (left) and Hawkeye Enterprises Ltd (right), Craven Park, Harlesden, 2021. Photographs by Lucy Parker

There are two shops important to celebrating the history of Reggae in Harlesden. Starlight Records, established in 1976 and Hawkeye, established in 1977.

Starlight Records established by a trio from Trojan Records, including Cleveland ‘Popsy’ Deer, in 1976, after Trojan Records was folded; and Hawkeye Records established in 1977 by Roy Forbes-Allen (a.k.a. ‘Hawkeye’) and Gerry Anderson.

There were many others, including Pama, as well as record labels such as Lightning and Jetstar in the area. Trojan Records was not far away, in Neasden, at 12 Neasden Lane, from 1968-1975.

Starlight Records

Cleveland ‘Popsy’ Deer spoke to Brent 2020, The Mayor of London’s London Borough of Culture in 2020, about his time in Brent.

Colour photograph showing record shop owner Cleveland ‘Popsy’ Deer, of Starlight Records, behind his shop counter. There are records on the wall behind him. He is wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt, a black hat, and he has a grey beard. He is smiling, with his arms folded.
Cleveland ‘Popsy’ Deer, of Starlight Records. Photographed by Nadia Nervo. Brent Museum and Archives, 2018.14

Popsy explains the history of Trojan and Pama record labels in the area, and his role in selling their records. He talks about the music he listened to growing up, including jazz and R&B. Growing up he lived in West Hampstead, and grew up with musicians, listening to jazz. Later he came into the Reggae scene, around the age of 20.

The first record he purchased was a Nina Simone record from a Reggae shop, in Portobello Road. That shop belonged to Music City (Trojan Records) at the time, which was run by one of his cousins. Two of his cousins worked for Trojan, and together they started Starlight – taking over one of the shops that used to belong to Trojan Records when they folded in 1975. In terms of his recommendations for a new generation, he says ‘Natural Mystic’ by Bob Marley made a big impact on him.

Popsy grew up in Jamaica with his cousin Allan Cole (also known as ‘Skill’ Cole, a footballer, who played for the Jamaican national team). Skill later became Bob Marley’s tour manager. When Bob Marley signed with Trojan records, and Island records, they came on tour. Then Popsy became friends with Bob, and was very close. Popsy served as Bob Marley’s ‘road man’ or personal assistant when he was touring in London.

Hawkeye Enterprises Ltd.

As part of Harlesden Trailblazers, Creative Researcher, Reggae Nagra, went to Hawkeye to speak with owner Gerry Anderson about the history of Hawkeye records. Gerry did not want his conversation recorded, so Reggae wrote down what he told her.

Shop front for Hawkeye Enterprises. The sign reads, ‘Hawkeye Enterprises Ltd: Records & CD Store; Bakery & Take away’. Caption: Hawkeye Enterprises Ltd, 2021. Photograph by Lucy Parker

About Hawkeye:

Hawkeye is a black-owned business established in 1974. They started as a record label.

The first record they released was Dennis Brown ‘Whip them Jah’. The label was established three years before the record shop opened. They had the first version of Dennis Brown’s track, ‘Slave Driver’.

How the shop opened and why in Harlesden:

Gerry’s parents came from Jamaica to the UK in 1949 and Hawkeye (Roy Forbes Allen)’s parents came in 1955-56. Hawkeye himself came in 1961. Hawkeye (who had a degree in economics) imported 7-inch records from Jamaica to the UK, distributing to around 30 record shops. Over three years he managed to make enough money to open his fully stocked record shop, Hawkeye, in Harlesden, in 1977.

Gerry and Hawkeye both lived on Tubbs Road (in Harlesden) and Daddy Ernie lived the road beside. They all went to school in Harlesden and so of course the record shop had to be opened in Harlesden.

How do people know Hawkeye:

People describe Hawkeye as not just a shop but an experience. Over the years Hawkeye have worked with: Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Desi Roots, Beres Hammond, Sly and Robbie, Carol Thompson, Dean Frazer, Franklin (Bubbla), Nambo Robinson, Earl Chinna Smith, Clive Hunt, Robbie Lyn, Rickey Barnets, Tamlins, Sugar Minott, Augustus Pablo, Big Youth, Mighty Diamonds, Culture, Yellowman, Freddie McGregor, Errol Dunkley, Abysinnians, Johnny Clarke, Leroy Gibbons, Pioneers.

When artists came on tour to England, Hawkeye used to book artists to perform at Bridge Park, in Stonebridge. Artists who performed there included: Morgan Heritage, Freddie McGregor, Yellowman, Pioneers, Abysinnians, Mighty Diamonds, Michael Prophet.

Hawkeye Enterprises

There are other parts to Hawkeye’s business. Gerry explained Hawkeye’s strategy of diversification had enabled them to survive all these years. Hawkeye owns a sports shop in Harlesden called Hawkeye Sportsworld, and they even used to have a football team, who played at Wembley (which, Gerry explained, they had to close because of increased fees/rent). They also own an Ackee farm in Jamaica which stocks to America. They have a food shop in Harlesden as well. The food shop was originally called ‘Pepper pot’ but is now called Hawkeye.

As a black-owned business in the 1970s in England, Hawkeye faced extreme racism. They were raided multiple times illegally by police. They were also refused [business] loans [from banks] for the purchase of records.

Gerry’s top 5 record recommendations for the next generation:

⦁ Bob Andy, ‘Lots of love and I’

⦁ Dennis Brown, ‘Visions’

⦁ Dennis Brown, ‘No man is an island’

⦁ Bob Marley, ‘Catch a Fire’

⦁ John Holt, ‘Best of John Holt’ (produced by Prince Busta/Buster)

Gerry also offered the following advice:

'We can do it, all we need is a level playing field'

More about music in Harlesden

Colour photograph of a tree planted in a London street. The leaves are showing some autumn colours, and are a mixture of greens, yellows and dark brown/black.
The ’Reggae Tree’ outside Hawkeye, planted on International Reggae Day, 2019.

On the 1 July 2019, a tree was planted outside Hawkeye Records to celebrate International Reggae Day, and Brent’s part in the history of Reggae. On this day, Popsy and Roy Forbes-Allen were also awarded for their services to the Reggae industry in the area at an event at the nearby Tavistock Hall.

With thanks to Popsy, Gerry Anderson, and Reggae Nagra.

Find out more

Read more about the Reggae Tree here

Find out more about International Reggae Day here

Listen to General Levy talk about music in Harlesden, including Hawkeye Records

Listen to Popsy and others talk about music in Brent, including Starlight Records

Find more interviews from the ‘No Bass Like Home’ project, on music in Brent here

Read Brent 2020’s The A-Z of Brent’s Black Music History (based on Kwaku’s ‘Brent Black Music History Project,’ 2007)

Please also see Brent Museum and Archives webpages for more information on the history of Harlesden and Brent.