I don’t know if this’ll be of interest to anybody but me, it might not be fascinating to all Spillers but there are some that may find it interesting. Ali’s recent question about ‘best moment ever’ was not an easy one for me to answer, I stumbled and mumbled something about SF Immigration etc but that event was not really memorable. That’s maybe because mine are not ‘moments’, they’re more long term, After thinking about it for a while I realized that mine fell into what you might call ‘events or achievements’, and they take time. I’d say that my 3 month trip to Jamaica was probably one of the most significant events of my life and so after thinking about it a bit more I came up with another that’s been on my mind in one form or another lo these many years. I’ve scribbled notes about it and collected photos in files but I’ve never gone beyondthat, here’s that story.
Back in the day or whenever, when we used to read real newspapers and magazines, there always seemed to be articles titled ” The Gardener’s Notebook” or whatever, it seems to me that we should continue that concept, the Spill needs a gardeners column. So here’s what occurred to me as I sat in my garden enjoying the late afternoon sun this evening.
I’ve long felt that the Spill could be more than it is, there are so many more topics of interest here besides pop music that we could share and discuss. One of mine has been a lifelong interest in film and the way both it and the public’s perception has changed in the last half century, so I started scribbling some notes, here’s some of what I came up with.
OK, this post is like Seinfeld, it’s about nothing. There’s no music, you don’t have to create playlist based on letters, there’s no pictures, no questions to answer, there’s really nothing more that a couple of minutes of my usual meaningless blather.
Sometime, right about now, there’s an important date at hand for my beard. I’m not sure what caused this revelation but it’s very close to it’s 50th birthday. For 50 years now it’s been there every morning when I’ve been forced to look at myself in the mirror. The only change has been from brown to gray to white though there were a couple of short episodes when I let it get a bit excessive but I didn’t really like the Z Z Top look.
It all started in 1964 when I was a student at a Southern California university, I was enrolled in a design class where the instructor was a total asshole, he was ex-military, clean shaven with a crewcut, the whole redneck image, but that wasn’t the worst, he was constantly making comments about ‘the god damned, long haired, bearded hippies’, ‘faggots’, and the VietNam war resistors and other assorted ‘communists’, all groups that I felt an affinity towards. So I decided to initiate my one man campaign by letting my hair grow and quitting shaving, he didn’t like it at all and made regular comments about me that were supposed to be funny. I remember that I used to go to the ‘Barber College’, to get cheap haircuts, I quit in 1964 and have not had a haircut since, my hair seems to have found it’s natural length and it never goes beyond that.
But it became a way of life for me, I’d never enjoyed shaving so that was a positive and long hair became the fashion so for once I was with the ‘in crowd’. It’s not something that I’ve thought about at all, in fact I’m quite curious what prompted me to start scribbling this.
So, Happy Birthday beard. it’s been nice having you around.
I heard this on the radio this weekend, she’s talking about her high school,it made me chuckle.
I was recently thinking about my record collection when out of the blue a question popped into my head. I have a fairly sizable collection of both LP’s and CD’s accumulated over 50 odd years and the question was “Which of all these is my favorite album?” I had to think a bit, what did I mean by favorite etc? but it came down to which one had given me the most pleasure, which was the most played, which had affected me the most?
The answer came fairly quickly – “Graceland” of course, and I decided “Yep, that’s the one’.
But then suddenly another thought intruded, “What about Bob? Surely BMW has given me more pleasure and was more life changing than Graceland, That’s true, OK, then it must be “Catch a Fire”, and at exactly the same time in 1973 I also bought “The Harder they Come”,
the movie soundtrack, that one exposed me to many other reggae groups and both got major playing time and both started me off on a life changing path; the music of Jamaica.
And then there was another, Duke Ellington, what about Duke? Can’t have a favorites album without considering at least one by Duke. I have more albums by him than any other artist and “Ellington at Newport 1956″ immediately sprang to mind,
I did a post on that album here some time back and moviegoers will recognize it as the key piece of music in the current film American Hustle. I heard it live on shortwave on Voice of America lying in bed in Suffolk in 1956 and dozens of times on vinyl since then.
Suddenly more albums started flooding in and at this point I decided that there’s no way I can pick a single favorite from all those, maybe it has to be a list, but how many?
So lets change the rules, I arbitrarily decided on a dozen and went back to remembering the pleasures of essential LP’s.
Dylan was huge in the 60′s but nothing was bigger than “Highway 61″, ditto The Beatles with “Sgt. Pepper”, I clearly remember the excitement when those two were released, everyone was waiting for the new Beatles album and ditto the new Dylan in ways that just don’t happen anymore.
Whoops! what about Mahler? I’ve got ‘em all so how about where it all started for me in about 1964, “Mahler’s 1st with Lenny Bernstein and the NY Phil”, I bought that LP at a yard sale on impulse and it rapidly became an endlessly played favorite that led to another lifetime obsession of collecting and playing. Now I regularly start the day with Mahler dvd’s on youtube.
And then there was the “Lionel Hampton All Stars at Pasadena Civic in 1947″, the all time greatest recording of Stardust and I’ve often been tempted to do a post here at the Spill on just that one tune.
I must include Louis. he started me off in the right direction back in 1947, my favorite Louis album is “Louis plays W C Handy” from about 1954 which is about when I saw him twice in London with this band, the high point of my adolescence.
Right from the start Count Basie has been very significant in my collection, maybe second only to Duke numerically, it’s hard to pick only one but it would have to be “The Essential Count Basie vol 2 – 1939″. Goin’ to Chicago, the classic Basie blues with Jimmy Rushing.
We’re getting close, the last one could get tough, but it springs to mind quickly, it’s from 1955 “Sarah Vaughn – In the land of Hi Fi”, Sarah with a great jazz group with Cannonball Adderley soloing right behind her.
There you go, I can live with that list, they’re all memorable LP’s that have been played endlessly and have given enormous pleasure over the years. It would be very easy to play the RR guru and to continue with the B list, there’s so many deserving albums that didn’t make the A list, but that’s for another day.
But If I were to think about a B list there’s dozens of names that should be considered: Joni Mitchell, CSNY, Springfield, Astor Piazzolla, Dennis Brown, Toots, Christy Moore, Charlie Parker, Burning Spear. Dozens of African artists, Ella, Lester Young, Billie, Miles, Nina, Bechet, Ray Charles, Tommy! and many, many more.
So this could be the current version of the old EOTWQ, those rules look fairly simple and I know there’s many here who are as musically obsessive as I am, so have at it, your dozen all-time favorite albums with maybe a sentence with each and a favorite cut.
Here’s my list, in no particular order, if I had to choose one it could be any of these.
Graceland – Graceland.
Catch a Fire- No more trouble.
The Harder they come – Rivers of Babylon.
Ellington at Newport – Diminuendo & Crescendo in Blue.
Highway 61- Desolation Row.
Sgt. Pepper – A day in the life.
Mahler 1st – 3rd movement – the hunter’s funeral.
Hamp at Pasadena – Stardust.
Louis plays W C Handy – Yellow Dog Blues
Count Basie – Goin’ to Chicago.
Sarah Vaughn – How high the Moon.
Lately I’ve been poking around at WordPress trying to understand their obscure system for posting multiple photos, I think I’ve finally got it, or at least enough to get started. I’d like to do an occasional post devoted to photography rather than music. I’ve always thought of myself primarily as a photographer, I wore all sorts of other hats but generally speaking, wherever I went I was always carrying a Nikon F or an F3. But not just a Nikon, often/usually I also had my camera bag on the other shoulder, that contained another Nikon with a different lens, plus both of them had motor drives. A Nikon F with a 180mm, f2.8 lens, with a motor drive with 8 AA batteries in it and loaded with a 36 expo roll of Ektachrome 200 weighs about 5.5 – 6 lbs. I carried two of those plus several spare lenses, spare batteries, plus a lot of various misc. photo gear and lots of spare film. I’m not complaining in the slightest, it was a chosen way of life. Generally speaking, wherever I went, that’s what I carried, particularly whenever on ‘holiday’ or at a musical event.
So I was walking along a rural lane in the village of Todos Santos Cuchumatan, It is situated in northeastern Guatemala in the the remote Sierra de los Cuchumatanes mountains at an elevation of about 8,000 ft. My fiend John and I had driven there in the VW camper van when we visited Guatemala in the late 70′s. The population of Todos Santos is predominantly indigenous, of Mayan descent, most of whom still speak the Mayan language of Mam. The town is one of few places in Guatemala where the indigenous population still make and wear their traditional clothing.
As I walked along that lane that morning I glanced up and saw a young boy walking towards me, my Nikon was in my right hand at about thigh level, the lens must have been pointing forward.
When he was about 10-12 ft from me he suddenly bent over from his waist to look directly level into the camera lens, I suspect that he’d never seen a professional camera with a long lens before. Instantly I dropped to one knee to be at his level and fired one quick shot and as I did so I remember saying to myself “That’s probably the best photo I’ve ever taken” but at the same instant I knew that it was out of focus. I straightened up and instantly fired another but the magic had passed, he was no longer looking into the lens. There was no auto-focus in those days, every shot had to be manually focussed. I should mention that the reason for using a motor drive was because the film was instantaneously advanced whenever a shot was made, the camera was always ‘cocked’, always ready to shoot, a huge advantage.
This is the first shot I took that day, to the non-critical eye it might look OK but if you look carefully you’ll see that it is out of focus.
This is the second shot, it’s OK, it’s in focus but something’s missing.
Here’s a selection of photos of people from that village, notice the similarity of their clothes, the women make them on primitive looms in their cottages and every family has a different traditional design. This is not uncommon in Guatemala and you can often tell where a person’s from by the design of his/her clothing. I’ve read that the design of these clothes originates with the Spanish conquistadors who came to Guatemala in the sixteenth century, check out the codpieces, the shoes and the elaborate collars. I started buying examples of their clothes and came home with a large collection. They were not dumb about selling them, I recall at one cottage paying about $440 for several items, a huge amount considering that the men usually worked at seasonal agriculture for less than $1 per day! The women were the only ones who made and sold the clothes and these were not tourist items, there were no tourists, these were the clothes that they wore. They’re absolutely beautiful. I have them hanging in the house.
I very rarely asked permission to shoot photos, had I done so the moment would have been lost, instead if I saw a shot I’d point my camera and smile and a return smile was my OK. I can only ever remember one time where someone was upset at my shooting, it was in this village and I was standing against a wall at the edge of the market shooting with a 300mm lens, suddenly there was a ‘whack’ up the side of my head, a woman had hit me with a stick; I took the hint and quit for the day. Generally speaking most people were happy to have their photos taken.
Today Bob would have had his 69th birthday, I have a hard time imagining Bob being 69. He was always so young and vigorous and he always had so much to say. And what he said touched so many people around the world, everywhere I’ve travelled there was always evidence of Bob Marley, on posters, T shirts, murals on walls, his music coming out of doorways and from radios, he was and is everywhere; the universal man. His music will last forever.
Bob literally changed my life, everything changed when I bought his first album, ‘Catch a Fire’ in 1972. To that point I’d been listening to jazz and pop, I suddenly discovered reggae and it was infectious. I spent the next decade always looking forward to his next album and his next tour. I saw him four times and the highlight was the 1976 Roxy show in LA, a small club packed to the gills and Bob was onstage about 10ft from the table where I was sitting. It was the most amazing and intimate musical performance ever. I’m including the encore of that performance in the playlist, if you haven’t heard it you should listen, I never heard the Wailers play that way again and I have most of his concert aircheck tapes.
Here’s a selection of his music, some spiritual, some Rasta, some love songs, some everyday life songs and a couple of cuts that some might not have heard, first the Roxy encore, ‘Get up, stand up’ and an acoustic set of Bob sitting on a hotel bed in Sweden playing a medley for his own enjoyment with just an acoustic guitar. When I had a radio show I did at least one special every year devoted to Bob, either on his birthday or the anniversary of his death, let’s continue that tradition.
And give thanks to Ari for her tech support.
Here’s the playlist.
1. One Love.
2. I’m hurting’ inside.
3. Waiting in vain.
4. Natural Mystic.
5. Time will Tell.
6. Is this Love.
7. I’ll be forever loving Jah.
8. One Drop.
9. Rastaman live up.
10. Give thanks and praises.
11. Jah would never give the power to a baldheaded.
12. Acoustic Medley.
13. Get up, stand up, Roxy encore.
The photos are of some of the featured artists, they are: Lloyd Parks, Junior Marvin, Bo Peep, Dean Fraser with the Ras Brass, Burning Spear, Pablo Moses, Mutabaruka, Puma Jones, Joe Higgs. They’re supposed to get larger if you click on ‘em.
Over the years I’ve been tempted many times to post reggae playlists here but somehow apathy seemed to get in the way. Reggae was an obsession with me for about 20 odd years, basically throughout Bob’s musical career, consequently I accumulated a fairly large collection plus I visited Jamaica regularly, sometimes several times a year. I was always involved with Jamaican culture and music throughout this period. After I retired and moved to northern California I became a DJ on the local NPR radio station, every Saturday night from midnight ’til 2am for 7 years. I had a total free hand to play anything that I wanted and I’d mix it up with jazz, reggae, blues, African etc. I taped every show, labelled ‘em and tossed ‘em into a box with dozens of others, there was never any attempt to organize them or even to listen to them.
However, I recently got the urge to reorganize the upstairs room where anything and everything had been pushed out of sight over the years, therein I found dozens of boxes of tapes, literally well over a thousand, so I installed about 40 ft of shelves and started organizing them plus all the other media up there. The results have been wonderful! I’m now replaying not only my airchecks but also the results of obsessively having a recorder with a blank tape in it attached to my radio at all times; I’ve got the cultural history of the last half of the 20th century on tape and it’s amazing listening to it all again. I listen on earbuds in the early hours when I can’t sleep, it’s the best time of the day.
Last week I played a cassette of my radio program from the 90′s, my show was called ‘The Heart of Saturday Night’, and this one was a reggae program. I enjoyed it so much that I thought I’d play it here for anyone who’s interested, it’s almost two hours, I edited out a couple of PSA’s that were of no interest and split the program into two sections.
So call it a playlist, a blog or a radio program, take your pick, use it as background while you do the dishes or whatever. I hope you enjoy at least some of it.
Here’s the playlist.
1. Sharpville by ‘The Reggae Philharmonic’.
2. What a Joy by ‘Black Uhuru’.
3. Iron Sharpeneth Iron by ‘Culture’.
4. Freedom Song by ‘Third World’.
4. A Song by ‘Pablo Moses’.
5. War inna Babylon by ‘Max Romeo’.
6. Country Boy by ‘The Heptones’.
7. Roots Train by ‘Junior Murvin’.
8. Flashing Whip by ‘Jah Lion’.
9. Coming on Strong by Prince Jazzbo’.
10. ‘Skank in Bed by ‘Scotty & Lorna’.
11. The Existance of Jah by ‘Dennis Brown.
12. Love and Devotion by ‘Jimmy Riley.
13. There’s a reward for me by ‘Joe Higgs.
14. Marcus Garvey by ‘Burning Spear.
15. Peace, Love and Justice by ‘Ras Michael.
16. The Same Song by ‘Israel Vibrations.
17. I am that I am by ‘Peter Tosh.
18. Jump Jump by ‘Bunny Wailer.
19. Redemption Song by ‘Dean Fraser.
20. The System by ‘Mutabaruka.
21. White Man Country by ‘Mutabaruka.
22. When you Remember by ‘Mutabaruka.
Last week’s positive Earworm response to Diblo Diala sent me off to the vinyl archive to sort through my Congolese collection, consequently I spent quite a few hours digitizing vinyl. Lovely way to spend a day. [or two]
Sometime in the early ’80′s I saw an ad for a concert by M’Bila Bel to be held in west LA: of course I was going to go plus I invited my friend Sean, the son of a friend, to come with me; he was about 10-12 years old, Jamaican and black and with no experience of African music. I thought he’d enjoy it.
It turned out to be held in a municipal auditorium and whoever the organizers were they had no idea how to present an African concert. The hall was filled solid with rows of very uncomfortable folding metal chairs, whoever heard of an African audience sitting and listening to a Zairian performer on metal chairs?
Everybody should be on their feet and dancing, and they were, but sadly between rows of seats!
We got there early enough to get front row center seats, right in front of the main microphone. The program started. Almost all Zairian bands of that era comprised 4-5 guitarists including 1 ‘superstar’ plus a bass gtr, a horn section comprising several saxes and trumpets, several drummers including one with a traditional drumkit and 3 female backup singers and 3 male singers; the male singers typically sang the lead and performed dances throughout. And of course the star of the event, in this case M’Bilia Bel, one of the most popular female singers in Africa, she’d been the lead singer with the Afrisa International orchestra.
At some point when the entire room was rocking M’Bilia, in the middle of a song where she was also dancing, pointed directly at me and said “Come and dance with me!” I gave her every verbal and non-verbal response that there wasn’t a chance in hell that I was going to embarrass myself before several hundred Africans by going on that stage but she wouldn’t take no for an answer, she insisted and so did I. I sat tight.
She was wearing white elbow length gloves, she removed one, rolled it up and hurled it at me, Sean caught it and immediately held it to his nose, he was in ecstasy, I copped a smell and it was wet, saturated with perfume, Sean took that home and tacked it to his bedroom wall, it was his prize erotic possession!
Over the years I’ve accumulated quite a collection of Congolese music and specifically that of M’Bilia Bel, she sang for years with the most popular band in Africa, Tabu Ley Rochereau’s Afrisa International in Kinshasa and they toured extensively.
This one’s called Belle a Terre, the lead guitarist is Rigo Star.
OK, for the addicts, here’s another: Franco with Sam Mangwana,
I have a question that I suspect someone here can answer.
My question is how did someone like Beethoven write his symphonies? I don’t mean him specifically but any composer of that or any other era. Did he write the notation of what he heard in his head or his imagination. Obviously without the benefit of any recording devices or even the possibility of an orchestra to say ‘Let’s see how that sounds’ Was what he was writing the orchestral sounds that he heard in his head? If so, once he’d laid down the basic theme/melody etc, did he then think ‘Lets put the strings/brass/percussion whatever, just here and see how that sounds’ How did he write it so that someone 200 years later could see it and say ‘Oh, This looks interesting, let’s try it with the 100 piece London/Berlin/Vienna symphony.’ So, are we hearing it as he did?
In other words are we hearing what Beethoven heard in his head as he wrote, the full orchestral score or was it just an outline? He was deaf so that was obviously a problem for him, but how about List, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert etc. How did they write their music?
Someone here must have some thoughts on this or at least know of the website or book that has the answers, please respond.
Is this what he was hearing?
Probably the most interesting, significant and readable book that I’ve read in the last decade or so is A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. It’s fairly hefty at 500 odd pages but even so I’ve read it throughout twice and have listened to the book on CD version also, I like to listen in bed in the early hours. When I acquired the CD’s I inadvertently loaded them into my computer which resulted in them being installed into iTunes and consequently whenever I listen to iTunes on shuffle I get an occasional chapter on some aspect of the history of science sandwidged between Dylan and whoever. I don’t mind that one bit.
He’s a fabulous humorous writer with enormous curiosity which he uses to investigate and explain basically the history of almost everything we know and how and when we discovered it.
I’ve always loved the way he begins the book, by describing us in a most unique but totally complete fashion, I just found that introduction at youtube and I’d like to share it with you; it’s well worth the listen.
Back in October 2010 I posted a piece ‘First Listen: Bob Dylan, ‘The Witmark Demos 1962-1964′. Out of the blue I just got a response that I thought you might enjoy. The lady is confused in thinking that the Spill is my blog, here’s what she said.
Wow, marvelous weblog structure! How long have you been blogging for?
You made blogging glance easy. The full glance of your site is magnificent, let alone the content material!
There’s only one reference to Jesus in my iTunes folder. that’s Jesus on a Greyhound by Shelby Lynne, whereas there’s 29 where the first word is Jah. Jesus is not of any interest to me musically or otherwise but when I became involved with reggae I quickly realized that it was a socially conscious music with a strong Rasta religious component. I’m very interested in the music and in Rasta but I must say that I have a hard time with the Selassie/Jah reverence but I accept it and I enjoy the music as much as I enjoy a lot of European religious music, in most cases having no idea what the songs are about but appreciating the overall sounds, case in point, Faure’s Requiem.
Having said that let me offer a sample of alternate variations on the theme of Jesus et.al. Jah is Jehovah, Jehovah is Yarwey from the Hebrew old testament, many Rasta believe that Selassie is the second coming of Christ and they accorded him the name Jah Ras Tafari. Here’s some Jamaican songs of praise.
1. Jah Live – Bob Marley
2. Rivers Of Babylon – Ronnie Davis
3. Nyah Bingi – Jimmy Riley
4. Hold On To Jah – Reggae George
5. A Yah Weh De – Barrington Levy
6. Give Thanks – Johnny Clarke
7. Jah Jah Give Us Love – Cornell Campbell
8. Give Thanks And Praise – Bob Marley
9. Have Faith In Jah – Michael Palmer
10. Praise Jah With Love And Affection – Don Carlos
11. Jah Praise – The Maytones
12. Jah Oh Jah – The Viceroys
13. Forever Loving Jah – Bob Marley
I just came across this excellent short film online, it’s worth seeing. The cities you see are LA and SF, beautifully shot, edited and to the perfect piece of music. Hit play, HD and full screen, raise the volume.
Ray Manzarek died last week, he was the keyboard player with the Doors. I never met him but living in LA for 40 odd years I was always conscious of who he was, he was frequently on the air or being interviewed in the music press.
Around 1966 I applied for admission to the graduate program of the UCLA film school and was accepted. At approx. the same time, the Doors who were well known around town as the house band at the Whiskey, released their first album which became a huge hit and was played constantly on the radio. At the film school it was common knowledge that several members of the Doors were using the facilities after hours to edit a film. I never saw them but those in the know had tales of their nocturnal presence. Upstairs in the dept was a long corridor, 60 – 80 ft long, every 6 ft on each side there was a door to an editing room, which was about 6ft by 10 ft with only a 16 mm. Movieola editing machine, a film bin, a chair and a shelf: very basic, very primitive, though from those tiny rooms emerged many works of filmic genius. The word around the department was that there was a student who was a friend of the Doors who regularly signed up for an edit room and then gave them the key. We used those rooms day and night, I was editing one of my films with the radio on the night that Robert Kennedy was shot at around midnight at the Ambassador hotel only a couple of miles away. Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison were the two who were most frequently mentioned as being the film editors; I’ve never seen or read anything about the film they were working on but as usual whenever they’re mentioned, as in this week’s obituaries, there’s usually a line that states they were UCLA film students, I don’t think that’s actually true.
That first album ‘The Doors’ was released in 1967 and became a huge success in the US once the single “Light My Fire” scaled the charts, the album peaked at #2 in September 1967. “Light My Fire” was the first song ever written by Robby Krieger and was the beginning of the band’s success. The other standout hit from that album was ‘The End’, Coppola, another film student at that time used it for the finale of Apocalypse Now.
Here’s a clip from a 1998 recording of Ray Manzarek talking about the origins and the musical evolution of ‘Light my Fire, it’s very interesting how it came to be, particularly John Coltrane’s contribution, the boogie boogie influence and the Bach component, well worth a listen for Spillers.
Here’s a piece of music that’s been haunting me for some months now, ever since I saw the film last year. This is just a short selection, it seemed to run throughout the film. I left the the theater with it running through my head. There’s a fair bit of information at Wiki so I won’t bore you with it here. It’s well worth a listen.
Some time back I spent a day digitizing a lot of vinyl, most of which I hadn’t played in years, it was basically much of what we on the west coast were listening to through the late sixties and into the seventies. Finny, another westcoaster, just posted the Youngbloods on Earworms and and that was enough to send my off to my iTunes file to find some of those vinyl cuts, always loved the Youngbloods. So here’s a short playlist, I suspect that many of them will be familiar, but you, like me might not have heard them for a while.
I think it’s what those square DJ’s call ‘A trip down memory lane’ or ‘A blast from the past’.
A good way to start a week?
There was a post here recently concerning famous people that you’ve met etc. It made me think about lots of reggae personalities but Toots Hibbert in particular. I’ve seen Toots perform dozens of times over the years and we became friends, he’s an amazing guy and probably rates as my favorite musical personality. Here’s a couple of anecdotes that’ll give you some insight into the man.
1. I bumped into him in Kingston one day and we stood there chatting, he told me that he was going into he studio at Federated records the next day to start recording his new album and if I’d like to come I’d be welcome. I arrived mid morning and Toots and all the guys were sitting outside on a bench in the sun, I asked him ‘What’s happening’ and he told me that his drummer had just received in the post one of these new electronic drum machines [this was early '80's] and he was trying to figure out how to program it; we all just sat and waited. This went on and on and finally about 3pm I told him that I had to leave, too bad, I didn’t get to hear any of the new tunes but I had lots of conversation with Toots and many of the musicians and the Maytals.
2. I often found myself in Toots dressing rooms either before or after shows, there was one occasion, I think it was an all-day reggae festival at the UCLA Pauley Pavillion, Toots was the headliner and was due to go on last. It was about 10.30 pm and one of the promoters stuck his head in the door and said ‘Toots, you’re up next’, Toots replied ‘You need to talk with my manager, I’m not going on until I get my money, and I mean in cash, no cheques!’
The promoter didn’t know what to do, he said ‘We don’t have that sort of cash’, Toots said ‘Talk to my manager.’ The word came back to us that they were frantically counting out the money from the 5 box offices at the stadium, the figure I remember was $30,000 and the were counting it out in fives, tens and twenties. About midnight the manager came in and said ‘OK, we’re all set’ and so Toots went on and did his usual great 90 minute set. Been burned too often.
3. Another time I was in his dressing room before a show and it was fairly crowded, probably twenty odd people there, all talking, drinking and smoking. At some point his manager stood on a chair and said ‘We’re going to have to clear this room, Toots needs to get ready and he’s on in half an hour’, I was sitting on a settee next to Toots and I stood up as everyone streamed out, Toots put his hand on my arm and said ‘No, not you, you stay’, so I sat back down and we continued talking. At some point he said ‘OK, I need to get dressed’ and he stood up and stripped down to his shorts. His clothes were laid out on a table and he picked up the trousers, a pair of very fine, very thin black leather, ‘Give me a hand with these’ he said, they were very tight fitting and had a lace-up down the back, ‘Pull that as tight as you can get it’ he said. Next on was a matching leather sleeveless vest that was open down the front, he then put of a metal belt that looked just like one of those that are awarded to boxing champions and finished it all off with a gold pendant. He then put on a pair of tight black boxing boots that I laced for him ‘cos with those tight pants he could no longer bend down far enough. Now he was ready!
Toots is not a big guy but he’s very fit and very athletic, he looks about like a bantam weight boxer and that’s what came next. The room was a decent size and there was a table in the middle, Toots started jogging around that table dodging and weaving and throwing punches just like a boxer in training, he kept this up for maybe 5-10 minutes until the sweat was pouring off of him. About then the door opened and the stage manager said ‘Mr Hibbert, you’re on’ and Toots without breaking his step went straight out of the door, down a corridor and up some steps to the side of the stage with me running right behind him. The stage door was open, the band were playing his opening number and the announcer was doing his ‘Give a warm welcome to Toots and the Maytals routine’ as Toots raced to the mic and into his opening routine.
I posted this youtube video a couple of weeks ago but I’ll post it again here and you’ll recognize the outfit that I just described and also the energy level that Toots brings to his performances.
There was a piece last week in the Huffington Post, it was about the house that Bob Marley grew up in in Nine Miles in St. Anne parish and how it influenced his music. They published a picture of it, here’s their picture.
The guy in the picture told me about when Bob lived there and that the painted stone is the one mentioned in Talking Blues.
Compare the two buildings, look at the slope on the ground in the Huff pic, look where there doors are, look where the outside toilet is, look at the stonework, it’s a total fraud and Huffington makes it impossible to contact them to point out the fraud. Take Huff Post with a pinch of salt.
Here’s Talking Blues, and here’s the lyric:
Yeah, oh yeah, no!
Cold ground was my bed last night
And rock was my pillow too
Cold ground was my bed last night
And rock was my pillow too, yeah
Lloyd Parks, one of Jamaica’s hottest bass players and leader of ‘We the People’, the onstage group backing many of the artists in this playlist. I became obsessed with reggae in 1972 with the release of Bob Marley’s first album, ‘Catch a Fire’ and the almost simultaneous release of the Jimmy Cliff film, The Harder they Come. It was not easy to find reggae in California in those days but the audience slowly built so that by the early 80′s there was a decent sized group of us that had become friends as we’d regularly met at the various reggae events. Tom, one of that group ran a travel service and he had the brilliant idea of offering a group price for those of us that would like to go to Jamaica for the new event there, ‘Reggae Sunsplash’ in Montego Bay. The price included airfare and hotel plus a 2 day stay at a luxury beach resort in Negril, we grabbed at it so fast that he had a planeful in no time. It became an annual event. Sunsplash was a four day event, it ran from Wednesday through Saturday, theoretically from 8pm ’til midnight at Jarrett Park, a cricket ground. On my first day there I was walking in town and I saw a sign over the door of an outer office at a hotel, the sign said ‘Sunsplash Media Office’; I decided to take a look. I’d always photographed every reggae event and I gave my friends who ran a small LA based magazine called ‘The Reggae Beat’ free access to any they wanted plus I wrote an occasional piece for them. There was a lady sitting at a desk in the media office, when she saw my Nikon plus my camera bag she asked ‘Who are you shooting for?’ I said ‘The Reggae Beat’ in LA and that was all it took, she filled out a form, added my name to her list and handed me one of those ‘All Access’ passes that you hang round your neck plus a dozen free tickets! The best part of all was that I was now on their books and known and for the next 10 years I always had an ‘All Access’ pass without even asking! And I returned every year through the ’80′s. As I mentioned Sunsplash ran four nights, never from 8-12 but usually from 11-12 until past dawn, usually about 7-8am! With six to eight acts per night times four, that equals approx 50 per year, times ten, well you figure it out, but what it came down to was that over the decade I probably saw 99% of all of Jamaica’s reggae artists and as a result of all that back stage access I got to know many of them! And I have literally thousands of photos to show for it. I started out to do this as a podcast with a narrative track but the way I edited the music it would be intrusive so instead I’ll treat it as one long playlist.
Here’s a list of the artists in sequence.
1. John Holt – Sweetie come brush me,
2. U. Roy – Wear you to the Ball tonight.
3. Big Youth – Every Nigger is a Star.
4. Toots and the Maytals – Pressure Drop.
5. Judy Mowatt – Black Woman.
6. Gregory Isaacs – Oh what a Feelling.
7. Eric Donaldson – Sweet Jamaica.
8. Alton Ellis – I’m still in Love.
9. Dennis Brown – It’s Magic.
10. Big Youth – I Pray Thee Satta Masagana.
11. U. Roy – Rule the Nation.
There’s quite a few videos of Sunsplash ’82 at youtube, if you go to the one of Toots and pause it at 28 seconds, the handsome chap with the red, gold and green cap slapping hands with Toots, that’s me!
I mentioned in El Blimp’s EOTWQ that I am dismantling my RV, yesterday as I was taking out the radio I found a stack of tapes that have sat hidden for about 20 years, there was one I used to play a lot. John Cale’s ‘Paris 1919′ on one side and Procol Harum’s ‘Grand Hotel’ on the other, haven’t listened to either in years. Thank god for youtube.