Thursday, October 27, 2005

Two Bad DJ and a Duppy

With all this talk of duppies and the Wailers it would have been easy for me to follow up “Mr. Brown” with the classic Wailer’s track “Duppy Conqueror” but I didn’t. I spent the last couple days rifling through the stacks of vinyl looking for one final reggae Halloween track to offer up and in the back of my mind I knew there was another good one I had missed and lo and behold I found it. The song is “Talk About Run” by early 80’s DJ duo Clint Eastwood and General Saint and appears on their 1981 Greensleeves release “Two Bad D.J.” The subject matter deals with a late night encounter with a duppy in a graveyard and though it was never a real hit like “Tribute to General Echo” or “Another One Bites the Dust” it suits this season perfectly.

Jamaican born Clint Eastwood had a few solo successes with British reggae fans in the late 70’s when he teamed up with London’s Front Line International DJ General Saint. The duo became instrumental in introducing Jamaican DJ Style to a wider pop audience and this track should prove why… even if you don’t like “dancehall” I think you’ll dig it! The track was produced by Chris Cracknell and Junjo Lawes and either the Roots Radics or Sly and Robbie provided the rhythm… I really can’t discern because the list of musicians on the back of the cover is surprisingly long. Santa Davis and Chinna Smith also appear in the credits so there is an odd tie-in with the Wailers. How spooky?! Happy Halloween!

Clint Eastwood & General Saint - Talk About Run

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Scary Sounds of Lee Perry and the Wailers

Jamaican society has long been steeped in superstition by way of its aural folklore rooted in ancestral Africa. The concept of the “duppy” or ghost comes from a West African belief that each human holds 2 souls. Upon departure from the living, the first soul goes to heaven for judgment; the second remains here among the living. In order to summon a duppy someone would have to perform an “obeah” or voodoo ritual that involves tossing rum and coins onto a grave. The spirit would then rise from its grave and go out causing mayhem. In Jamaican folklore the breath of a duppy is said to cause disease and its touch causes fits. The duppy is “considered the personification of all the evil found in men.” Often times these evil spirits take the form of an animal, such as a bird.

Now stick with me here, I’m going somewhere with this… in 1969 or ’70 the Wailers who were working with Lee Perry at the time, caught wind of a strange story involving a "John Crow" or what is more commonly known outside of Jamaica as a buzzard. This buzzard was somehow given the name “Mr. Brown” and the story went that he had been observed traveling around Kingston on a coffin on its way to the cemetery. Days later the same John Crow, wearing a shirt and tie, was seen in a courtroom. The general populace was scared stiff thinking that the evil powers of obeah had been unleashed and had even gotten to the point that many were afraid to leave their houses at night. The story was even reported in the Jamaican newspaper the Daily Gleaner and added more fuel to the fire.

The lyrics were mostly written by Glen Adams, the keyboard player in Aston “Familyman” Barrett’s Hippy Boys. Max Romeo of “Wet Dream” and “War Inna Babylon” fame was the Hippy Boys’ vocalist but I digress… The Wailers thought the subject matter would be appropriate material under Lee Perry’s slightly psychedelic control and recorded it. It was originally released on 7” single and because Lee Perry sold the rights to all the material the Wailers recorded over that 2 year period it’s available on hundreds of Bob Marley “Greatest Hits” cassettes and CDs you can pick up at a local gas station near you.

Anyway… I decided to share it because its scary theme works so well with Halloween.
I have also included the instrumental version “Dracula” that isn’t as widely circulated as the omnipresent vocal version… enjoy!

The Wailers - Mr. Brown & Dracula Version

Monday, October 24, 2005

Scientist Rids the World of the Evil Curse of the Vampires

Here’s another reggae Halloween classic! I can’t believe I almost forgot this one! It’s by Scientist, the superstar of early 80’s dub! It was produced and arranged by my favorite dancehall producer the late Henry “Junjo” Lawes and the tracks were laid by the Roots Radics at Channel One and mixed at King Tubby’s by “Scientist at midnight Friday the 13th June 1981,” at least that’s what the cover says! With tracks such as "The Voodoo Curse", "The Corpse Rises" and "Ghost of Frankenstein" to name a few, Scientist has got all your horror bases covered! The classic Tony McDermott cover is alone worth the price of admission!

Scientist Rids the World of the Evil Curse of the Vampires

Monday, October 17, 2005

Yellowman Versus Dark Shadows

I hope I can keep the scary tunes up until Halloween, as you can imagine the list of creepy reggae tracks is a little short. But this one goes well for this time of year… the DJ Yellowman’s response to Lone Ranger’s “Barnabas Collins.”

Yellowman, born Winston Foster in 1959, is the albino toaster that many regarded as the King of DJ’s in the 80’s. He faced a tough road growing up because the albino or “dundus” is virtually an outcast in Jamaican society. In 1978 he won the annual Tastee Talent Contest in Kingston, kinda like Jamaica’s equivalent to “American Idol”, and within a couple short years he became one of the most prolific and popular artists in reggae history.

“Mi Kill Barnie” or sometimes-titled “Death of Barnabas,” was Yellowman’s first single and first major hit. I think you’ll dig it!

Yellowman - Mi Kill Barnie

Friday, October 14, 2005

Peter Touch Slays the Vampire

In a similar creepy vein, if you’ll pardon the pun, I present “Dracula” the 1976 dub version of Peter Tosh’s song “Vampire.” This masterful dub track complete with screams, rattling chains, howling wolves and Bunny Wailer’s sinister cackling was released on Tosh’s own Intel Diplo label. The track was originally recorded at Randy’s Studio 17 and was mixed by Tosh and Karl Pitterson. I’d been looking for a decent copy on vinyl for quite a few years now and was pleasantly surprised when it appeared in the Peter Tosh box-set “Honorary Citizen” in 1997. I think you’ll dig it!

Link has been dead for a long time - suddenly it violates some copyright bullshit!

Be sure to pick-up "Honorary Citizen" if you don't already own it!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Dark Shadows Inna DJ Style

How could I resist any artist who appears on his record jacket sporting fangs, dribbling blood and wearing what suspiciously like a Rat Fink hat on his head? How could anyone ignore a recorded tribute to Barnabas Collins, the vampyric horror host to a supremely tacky psychotronic TV spook hour called Dark Shadows? How could anyone not curl up into a laughing fit after hearing a line like, “Barney, chew your neck like Wrigley’s” come tumbling from the Ranger’s tangled tonsils? Reggae had suddenly decided to enjoy itself.” Edwin Pouncey 1984

After reading this write-up on the back cover of the 1984 Mango/Island compilation LP “Reggae Greats – DJ’s” how could I resist looking for this illusive album? It happened a few months later while on a bi-yearly record-buying trip to Philadelphia with my friend Nick nearly 20 years ago. I was cruising the stacks at 3rd Street Jazz in Philly and I caught a glimpse of the fangs and knew I had scored! I nearly yanked my arm out of its socket pulling it out.

Lone Ranger (born Anthony Waldron) began his career recording at Studio One and had a couple decent hits with “Love Bump” and “The Answer.” He was a top DJ for the then number one sound system Virgo Hi-Fi in 1980. Later he teamed up with Alvin “GG” Ranglin and his first release was what you see here… “Barnabas in Collins Wood.” The album was released on GG’s Wave label and Sly and Robbie and the Revolutionaries provided the rhythms.

Now as for content… with a novelty track like Barnabas Collins on this disc you’d expect the rest of the content to be more mainstream but Lone Ranger didn’t disappoint. Besides Barnabas Collins you also have “Annie Palmer” a chat about Montego Bay’s notorious White Witch of Rosehall, a tribute to everyone’s favorite movie monster “Frankinstine (sp)”, an extra terrestrial encounter on “U.F.O.” and finally a humorous but serious discussion of Black Magic in the track “Obeah Man.”

I know there have been a number of reggae tracks that deal with the topic of vampires, who serve merely as analogies for downpressers, but Lone Ranger’s “Barnabas Collins” presents the real deal… at least the corny bloodsucker that enthralled America’s daytime television audience in the 1960’s. Happy Halloween!

Lone Ranger - Barnabas Collins

Lone Ranger - Annie Palmer

Lone Ranger - Frankenstein

Lone Ranger - UFO

Lone Ranger - Obeah Man