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!