Anyone who has been a passenger in my car or listened to one of my DJ sets over the past 12 months has likely heard a singular slice of Nigerian pop magic that I am OBSESSED with — Steve Monite’s 1984 single, “Only You.”
What is it about this track that I find so captivating? In a word – everything.
Let’s start with that Moog Bass guitar synth line. Once you hear it, it’s impossible to get out of your head. And that beat — it’s driving, insistent and unusually fresh sounding for a track released in 1984.
Then there are those tantalizing Fender Rhodes guitar chords, which seem perfectly married to the Moog Bass synth. Why can’t every band pair these sounds together?
The icing on the proverbial cake is the devastating voice of Steve Monite himself. There’s an irresistible cool to his delivery, but also a palpable wink and a smile. As he sings “Only you can put out this fire,” you can tell he’s not just seducing someone, he’s having fun.
As someone with a natural predilection for odd and unusual sounds, my ears immediately gravitate to the idiosyncratic beeps and swooshes that punctuate the song’s rhythm. “Only You” is catchy and appealing enough to please the masses, but just odd enough in its nuances to keep fans of more left-of-center sounds smiling ear to ear.
How did a track like “Only You” get made? Context is key — around the early 80s, African artists were drawing inspiration from electronic sounds making their way over from Europe. When combined with the funky sound of Nigeria, the result was some truly dazzling creations — the height of which is arguably “Only You.”
Interestingly, “Only You” was largely rescued from obscurity thanks to Frank Ocean, who performed a cover of it at 2017 FYF Fest. More recently, Theophilus London teamed up with Tame Impala to cover the song.
Before those covers, Soundway Records helped raise awareness of “Only You” by including it on its superb “Doin’ It in Lagos” compilation from 2016. The comp collected Nigerian pop and club culture tracks from the late 70s and 80s.
The strength of the original version of “Only You” is a tribute not only to Steve Monite, but Nigerian music producer Tony Okoroji.
The track first appeared on the album bearing the same name on EMI Nigeria in 1984. The record is extremely rare — if you are lucky enough to come across an original pressing, it’s going to cost you. It has fetched as much as $1,300.
To unearth a track as singularly brilliant as “Only You” is indeed a rare thing. It makes you wonder — what other lost Nigerian treasures are waiting to be rediscovered?