Soul Limbo – Split Rivitt (Part 1)

We respectfully dedicate these pages to the friends and family of Barney Jeffrey 1958-2008


Split Rivitt - Soul LimboThe Good Doctor found himself in San Francisco, the morning after England had pulled off their 2009 Ashes victory against Australia at The Oval. For those unfamiliar with this particular competition, we will go no further than to say it is a bi-annual cricket tournament played exclusively between two great Commonwealth rivals. Poms against Ozzies.

On a world scale, the patriotic fervour runs disproportionately high. On a local level however, thousands of cricket fans tune their radios in and will every ball to swing their way. To partake is a birth-right. To draw is acceptable. To win is sublime.

Split Rivitt - Chris Warren, David Lyttelton, Dave Wilgrove, Barney Jeffrey, Mark HughesFrom his hotel bathroom, the Good Doctor could be heard preparing for the day ahead, humming Soul Limbo by Booker T. & The MGs. For years it had been the iconic theme music to the BBC’s evening Test Match Special programme.

In the olden days, all summer long and across the nation, mothers were inadvertently swaying their hips to its tropical rhythm from behind their ironing boards. Meanwhile, fathers switched on the telly, then took to the settee with their pipe, slippers, a bottle of pale ale and an innate comprehension of cricketing’s complexities. Today of course the domestic scene is very different. Fathers vape to Sky Sports, while mothers limbo under the ironing board, swig craft gin and surf Netflix.

Rinsing his toothbrush and still humming, the Good Doctor’s thoughts were arrested by the memory of a school mate slapping a shiny sliver of black vinyl onto the common room turntable, then grinning ear to ear as a raunchy harmonica version of Soul Limbo belted out through the stereo speakers. It was an irreverent piece of R&B; punky, zestful and hip.

The Good Doctor hurriedly took out his laptop and started googling, the memories adding a smirk to his face. In hyperspace the mists of time lifted partially, revealing only that this quirky version of Soul Limbo, recorded at the famous Rockfield Studios, had been a minor hit in 1980 for a band called Split Rivitt on Red Lightnin records. And that was pretty much it.

Extensive combing of the virtual landfill revealed no further clues about the band,  nor its harpmeister, other than his name. Which was Mark ‘Harpdog’ Hughes. Mercifully the track is still downloadable, and it is strongly recommended you buy a copy to fully appreciate this prime example of raw 1980’s, Brit-style R&B power harping.

Split Rivitt NME Listings Dec1978
Split Rivitt NME Listings Dec1978

How did Harpdog Hughes do it?
Grab your C harp, download the track and let’s check it out. We’re playing cross harp in the key of G. The track comprises two repeated sections, a middle eight and an outro section. Think Pub Rock power blues harp, think Caribbean rhythm, think live at The Hope & Anchor circa 1980, dig in and get ready to groove.

And don’t fret over the tone or any inflections on the recording. As Peter Shertser of Red Lightnin’ records explained, the harp track was multi-layered in a bid to achieve a new ‘wall of sound’ for UK R&B. Here’s the opening section.

Opening Section

1D..1D   2B..2D   2B..2D

1D..1D   2B..2D

4B   3D.. 3D’  3D..4D..3D..2D..2B   1D   1D   1D   1D

1D   1D   2B..2D   2B..2D   3D’…………………..

1D   1D   2B..2D   4B   3D..3D’..3D   4D..4D..4D   4D..4D..4D..5B

~3D   4B  ~4D  ~3D   4D..3D   2D   1D   2B   2D”  2B   2D”..1D   2B

~3D..2D..2B  ~3D..2D..2B   4B….3D..2D..2B..1D..2D

2D  ~3D   4D   5B   6B

If you’ve enjoyed the start of our trip down memory lane, use the following links to continue the journey. You can also find out more about the band in our bonus archive pages.



And there’s more…
For more information about Split Rivvit, visit our unique Split Rivitt Archive here.

9 thoughts on “Soul Limbo – Split Rivitt (Part 1)

  • January 2, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Couldn’t download it from Amazon in the UK (regional restrictions), but I opened an account with and downloaded the trick. GREAT.

  • August 17, 2020 at 8:24 am

    I was The Split Rivitt roadie throughout- and have loads of photos of the band on the IS tour and more- I’ll find a way of posting them up

  • August 17, 2020 at 10:59 am

    Charlie, thank you for getting in touch. Anything you can contribute will be amazing. I’ll email you separately to help organise this.

  • September 5, 2020 at 11:16 pm

    Hey Wilf…I’ve also got some pics, 2 or 3 set lists from various gigs etc and a few other bits…would love to post pics if anyone is interested…saw Charlie last night and we were talking about the band…if anyone out there has a recording of ‘Houseparty’ with Mark ending the song with a harmonica rendition of a police siren, I’d love to hear it.

  • September 6, 2020 at 6:59 pm

    Wilf, I’ve also got various bits of Split Rivitt memorabilia, if there’s a way of uploading them to this site…some press pics, various set lists and other bits. If anyone has a recording, audio or visual, of SR playing ‘Houseparty’, I’d love to se it….used to love the way that Mark used to emulate the sound of a police siren on his harmonica at the end of that song….

  • March 2, 2021 at 8:54 am

    Hi all and in particular Charlie, how are you doing?
    I would love to see some of those photo’s of yours, I have very few from my Rivitt days. If you can get them to me it would be great and really appreciated.
    Take care

    Dave Wilgrove

  • June 9, 2023 at 8:40 am

    I’m Mark Hughes’ sister Isobel. It’s been over 20 years since he died, and there is still rarely a day that passes without me thinking of him. Today would have been his 65th birthday. It’s heartwarming to read about Mark and the rest of the the band, bringing back the happier memories. My siblings and I have only a couple of photos of Split Rivitt, so I was excited to read that Charlie has lots (hi Charlie!) – it would be wonderful to have some copies. I hope all is well with you, Dave W, Chris and Dave L. It would be lovely to hear from you. Isobel x

  • June 9, 2023 at 8:57 am

    Thanks for your message Isobel. We’ve added something to our homepage for you and others to enjoy. Sending you all our love today and remembering Mark. XXXXX

  • June 12, 2023 at 12:17 pm

    Thank you so much Doc! The in memoriam that you’ve posted means a tremendous amount to me. I’ve just watched the 1981 BBC footage and it’s filled me with sweet memories of the remarkable musician that my brother Mark was.
    Isobel x

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