Three decades since the release of their chart-topping, 4 million selling, Grammy nominated Pass The Dutchie, Musical Youth remains a byword for the misery of childhood stardom.

Less than two years after they were signed (then aged between 11 and 15), the band had split, its barely pubescent members at logger-heads and facing a financial, legal and personal abyss.

Not long after, one of its number, Patrick Waite, would be dead, collapsing due to a heart condition, aged 24, while awaiting a court appearance on drugs charges. Another, Junior Waite, remains in the care of his mother after being sectioned, a third, Kelvin Grant, is a virtual recluse who, after being so badly burnt by exploitative managers, has turned his back on the industry forever.

Michael Grant and Dennis Seaton, after years without contact, reformed a number of years ago and continue to perform, coming to the Millfield Theatre this week.

“There was nobody to say – why don’t you take a break? Why don’t you have a holiday?“ says Michael Grant, keyboard player. “There wasn’t anybody wise enough. The managers just wanted to milk it.

“There weren’t any responsible adults around us and our our parents, unfortunately, weren’t the best people to understand what goes on.“

Fame came fast for the five-piece, formed by two sets of brothers and singer Dennis Seaton, friends from an inner-city Birmingham school. Their debut single was one of the fastest selling of 1982. They broke America too, and were the first black artists to be played on the then fledgling MTV.

“We pioneered a lot of things, as young stars, which was really tough,“ says Michael, aged just 13 when debut album The Youth of Today was certified Gold. “You’re meeting people like Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Donna Summer. But you don’t realise half the people you’re meeting, or why they’re important.“

Michael Jackson, perhaps sympathising with the young stars, invited them to his LA home – an offer they accepted. They recorded the theme tune for Jim’ll Fix It. They duetted with Donna Summer. Far too young to understand the finances, the hottest property of the day were prone to exploitation.

“The reality was a lot of people who said they were trying to make the band more successful were just taking money from it basically,“ adds Michael. “Milking it.“

After two years of recording, performing and living in each other’s pockets, fame began to take its toll. Things came to a head at a show in Jamaica in 1985. It would be their last.

“Before we left for Jamaica, Patrick had had some problems,“ explains Dennis Seaton, the most senior member of the group, then 18. “He’d taken something, drugs, that triggered some reaction in his body and before the end of that tour he’d had another relapse. It was difficult. You’re powerless.“

“We didn’t know what he was on,“ adds Michael. “He started to unravel. He just couldn’t play a song we’d played for five or six years. It didn’t make sense. Luckily his dad came on and played. He literally came on stage and took the bass off him.“

Their popularity faded as fast as it had come to them. The five Brummy boys faced life outside the band, some with drug addiction and mental illness.

“I just said to [Patrick], I’m here for you but I can’t help you if you’re going to be stupid,“ says Dennis.
“That was the last conversation we had. It came from the heart. I think Junior  wasn’t able to cope with the situation.“

“All I wanted was my BMX bike, as long as I had that I was happy,“ says Michael. “Patrick and Junior had bought houses and cars, so it was harder for them. That’s really what sent them off the edge.

“It was hard. I was about 17 when a reporter wrote in an article ‘Michael Grant, has-been’. At an age where you’re looking forward to starting your life, I’m a has-been. How ridiculous is that? How can someone’s life be over at 17?“

Dennis and Michael didn’t speak to each other again for a decade.

Dennis found Jesus the day before his 18th birthday: “I felt there was something missing and that was the key. I felt empty.“ He now runs a car hire company. Michael took up teaching and works at an SEN school.

Now reunited, the pair will present an evening of reggae classics and their own hits, backed by their live band.

“The highs were extremely high, the lows were very low,“ adds Michael. “Did we understand it all? Not really. But I don’t want to make it sound like a sad story because at the end of the day we’re still here, still performing, and still having fun.“

Musical Youth are at Millfield Theatre, Silver Street, Edmonton on October 28 at 7pm. Details: 020 8807 6680