Bad Brains and Death – Discuss

Last year I watched a BBC documentary called Imagine – The Seven Killings of Marlon James.  Marlon James had won the Man Booker Prize in 2015 with his violent fictional version of the assassination attempt on Bob Marley.  In this documentary, Alan Yentob talked to him about experiences as a writer.  It is a great documentary and worth watching if it ever comes to a screen near you.  In some shots, Marlon was wearing a band t-shirt.  A tweet from a writer I follow, who had been watching the programme at the same time as me, revealed the band to be Bad Brains.  Of course I immediately sought them out.  The album above is their first and eponymous record released in 1982.  It is a furious hardcore punk reggae fusion – I like it for certain occasions although admit to preferring a later album called I Against I, mainly because it’s slightly more accessible and appropriate to play around children, but Bad Brains is an awesome racket.  I love the dub and reggae tracks interspersed between the noise as a bit of relief.

So last week, I was minding my own business, reading an article that referred to Bad Brains and in the same breath name-checked this other band I’d never heard of as being better than Bad Brains and making this kind of music much earlier.  What? Much earlier than 1982? The band is called Death.  I know very little about them other than they were a band made up of 3 brothers from Detroit, they made this album called For The Whole World To See in 1975.  When the record company wanted them to change their name, they refused, so the album never got released; until it was rediscovered in 2009.

Yet again I come to you, ‘Spillers to fill in my gaps and educate me.  What do you know about all this? Are there any other bands like these two I should check out?

Discuss…

 

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS.

Once I’d been bitten by the reggae bug I started buying anything with that word on the label, LP’s, CD’s, Singles – 7″ 12″,  whatever, I wasn’t usually concerned with who the artist was, I just wanted the music. So I quickly accumulated a sizable collection and playing ’em was a total learning experience, I helped that along by making mix tapes which I played at work, at home and in the car. So that collection also grew and in later years I’d use them on the air, nowadays I listen to ’em in bed in the early hours, it’s such a treat to hear long forgotten pieces that I once knew intimately. Such is the case with this lot, I came across them at 3am a couple of nights ago, I played ’em twice, I thought they’d make a nice treat for the Spill in these hard times, so here we go. Listen to the lyrics, they really relate a lot of what was happening in Jamaica in the 60’s through the 80’s.

What the world needs now is a lot more reggae, Brexit, Trump, Climate change, Drought, Flooding and the burning landscape, and all the stress that comes with it,

Lighten up, move your legs, dance!

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PETER TOSH

                                                                                                                          PETER TOSH

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I see there’s a piece about Peter Tosh on page one today.

When I drove my VW camper to Jamaica in 1982 I took loads of cassettes, mostly reggae. I found a beautiful beach in Ocho Rios  where the fishermen lived and worked and that place became my home for 3 months. I had outside speakers on my van and everyday the fishermen would congregate and we’d talk and play tapes. There was one tape that was requested literally EVERY day, it was the 1978 Peace Concert. I had a bootleg copy from the soundboard. After Bob had played and brought the 2 prime ministers together, Manley and Seaga shaking hands onstage, [remember, this was at the height of the bloodiest election ever]. Peter took the microphone and spoke directly to the 2 Prime Ministers and their government officials, the chief of Police was sitting next to Manley. He berated them in the most extreme manner for the way they treated black people and Rasta particularly in Jamaica, they could do nothing but sit and take it. Peter was later arrested and had his arm broken.

Whenever the fishermen congregated they always requested that tape and when it was finished they’d say ‘Play it again mon”, So I did. They couldn’t believe that anyone could speak to a politician like that and of course that tape was never available in Jamaica.

Courtesy of YouTube here’s a portion of that speech.

HEART OF SATURDAY NIGHT – INTERNATIONAL REGGAE.

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Funny thing is that when I had my radio show I never wanted to hear the air checks, as soon as they were done I labeled ’em and filed ’em and never gave them another thought. Now 20-30 years later I’m going through them and listening to every one and they’re wonderful, that is the music is wonderful and it brings back so many memories. I usually listen in the early hours and frequently I find myself thinking ‘This would be great for the Spill’ but often lethargy strikes and I wonder how many would listen to them anyway, I played lots of jazz and blues, Ah to hell with it.

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SONGS OF JAH


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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

TOOTS HIBBERT

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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.

Sunsplash 1982 – Montego Bay, Jamaica.

lloydLloyd 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.

Sunsplash 82

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!