Wednesday, December 28, 2005
The Quest For "Smoke Ganja Hard"
Now that the holidays are over, well Christmas is over and we still have this business with New Years to finish up, I thought I’d get back to posting a little early. Sit right back while I tell you the tale of this record…
I first heard this track about 13 years ago while listening to a taped radio broadcast of an unfortunately short-lived reggae program hosted by RAS Records’ Doctor Dread. But on this particular evening former RAS employee and super nice guy Tim Harris was selecting the tunes. I had met Tim at a local record convention and was absolutely floored that while digging through his bins I discovered nothing but reggae music. Usually you’d be lucky to walk away with one reggae record at these conventions and I was nearly at the point where I considered abandoning my fruitless searches and contemplated collecting KISS and Led Zepplin records that seemed to be everywhere (just kidding). I snatched up about 25 LPs and got to talking… I told Tim that I was really looking for early 80’s dancehall in particular rare stuff from Yellowman, he took my address and about a week later sent me 4-5 cassettes full of stuff I’d never heard before – as well as some print-outs from a Japanese catalog that showed his entire discography from that point and showed an album cover of each release and a few Yellowman promo pieces from RAS. I was floored!
We kept up correspondence from that point on and I listened to “Night of the Living Dread” religiously. Then I heard it that one evening in June of ’93… Little John singing over a hardcore rub-a-dub rhythm track that had me near tears… it was one of those songs that just reaffirmed everything I love about Jamaican music! I had to have a copy of this record! I called Tim and asked him what it was, he said it was called “Smoke Ganja Hard,” and he played it from a 10” in his personal collection. He told me it was a hard one to find and that if I ever came across it I should expect to pay some big bucks for it.
Well fast-forward 6 months to December. I had been a regular buyer from a guy out in Washington who used to run a mail-order reggae business called Outernational Records. He used to send you a listing of all the records for sale separated by label and would occasionally list harder to find vinyl up for auction. I made it a habit of scanning the first come first served section and racing to the phone to try for any Volcano or Greensleeves singles he had in the list. This was before early dancehall had gained real popularity and prices were always cheap - $3 - $4 a piece. But while I’m scanning through the latest list I’m listening to the cassette Charley would throw in with your packet that included :30 snippets from all the records up for auction and I heard the familiar strains of my Little John track! I nearly flipped! I ripped through the zeroxed sheets and found it almost immediately… Little John – Smoke Ganja Hard 10” on the Channel One label! I placed a bid for $145.00 – and worried about how I was going to come up with the money when I surely won the auction! But it was all in vain… I didn’t win.
So eventually I figured I’d settle for any vinyl copy of this song, this was long before a lot of reggae was available on CD, and I came across the track on a clash LP with Little John and Frankie Paul called “Showdown Volume 6” that I tracked down and bought from Ernie B’s Reggae. I was satisfied that I now owned Smoke Ganja Hard but a little disappointed I couldn’t groove to the dub version
So about 4 years ago I contacted Outernational again, this time via the web and scanned through his list of first come-first served and saw a 7” record called “Work Us So Hard” by Little John on the Hitbound label. I was quite familiar with the ongoing practice in Jamaican music of giving one song many different titles and I knew I had struck gold! I had finally found the single that I had been searching for for nearly 10 years! The price? Four dollars! I was giddy when the Outernational packet arrived and tore it open at the mailbox and there it was. Not too pretty looking a record but nonetheless I raced to the turntable and dropped the needle… and those familiar strains delighted my ears at long last.
Here it is… From 1982… Little John’s “Smoke Ganja Hard” or “Work Us So Hard” if you prefer, on the Hitbound label.
Unfortunately since the advent of online music the track is now available from Itunes on a various artists compilation. Oh well… their version doesn’t include those nice pops and clicks or the b-side version! Enjoy!
Little John - Work Us So Hard 7"