Monday, October 31, 2011
I hope the Halloween Spooktacular has added a bit of holiday spice to your October and for those of you who have provided comments and thanks, I sincerely appreciate it! I would do these mixes for myself if I didn't have an audience but I'm grateful that I have this space to share them with all those who love Halloween as much as I do! Happy Halloween everyone!
Here it is... in its entirety... the complete Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2011!
Yes I've got a busy night of transportation duties for my kids again as we prepare to get some serious trick or treating done and to be honest, I couldn't be happier! I don't mind the walking, the costume repairs, or lugging the costume accessory which may become too cumbersome or heavy as the night progresses. I have fond memories of Halloween when I was a kid and I always delight in seeing the smiles on my kid's faces and their looks of accomplishment when the piles of accumulated candy hit the kitchen table. I always hope that my over-the-top enthusiasm for this holiday rubs off on them and helps encourage the kids to carry on the Halloween traditions that make this holiday something to truly anticipate and enjoy.
But enough about that, let's get to the final track in the Spooktacular! This one is called "Duppyman Skank" by Larry Marshall and it comes from a 1996 7" on Harry Mudie's Moodisc label. This tune is actually a tribute to a long list of reggae artists who are no longer among the living and a fictional dance with their duppies which would really be something to behold. Listen to this line-up... Slim Smith, Jacob Miller, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Jeff "Free-I" Dixon, General Echo, Lee Van Cliff, Lui Lepke, Tenor Saw... with King Tubby at the control? Yeah, where do I get a ticket!? Oh, and remember this... "We make music not noise!"
Enjoy and Happy Halloween everyone!
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Lord Jellicoe is one artist whose background information remains illusive. I originally included his version of "Zombie Jamboree" in 2007's Spooktacular and couldn't give you any background info. then and four years later... I'm still coming up with nothing.
To me, this is the definitive version of Zombie Jamboree! It probably has a lot to do with the fact that it was the first version I ever heard years ago and anyone else's tends to pale in comparison.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Lord Kitchener (born Aldwyn Roberts, 1922, Trinidad) was one of those calypso artists who achieved success when he moved to England, via Jamaica in 1948. There he recorded a great wealth of material on the Parlophone, Melodisc and Lyragon labels, most of which was exported back to the West Indies and even to West Africa where he had a rather large following. Years later, Lord Kitchener had begun recording in the emerging soca sound before his death in 2000.
"Love In The Cemetery" is one of my all-time favorite Halloween songs and its influence was felt in Jamaican music during the early 80s when DJ combo Clint Eastwood and General Saint used the song for the basis of their recording, "Talk About Run."
Friday, October 28, 2011
At the ripe age of 13 and under the auspices of Coxsone Dodd, Delroy Wilson (Oct. 1948 - March 1995) began his recording career at Studio One. He cut his first track "Emy Lou" in 1961 and emerged in the ska era as the first line of offensive armament in a feud amongst rival record producers Duke Reid and Prince Buster.
By the time rocksteady rolled around Wilson's voice had matured and he had a string of hits including "Dancing Mood," "Riding For A Fall" and "Conquer Me." Around that time he left Studio One and went on to record for Bunny Lee, Joe Gibbs and others. But that's going far beyond where we need to go today.
This tune, "Voodoo Man," which is actually the b-side to the Lee Perry penned attack on Prince Buster "Spit In The Sky," was produced by Dodd in 1963 during ska's heyday and released on the Island Records UK subsidiary Black Swan.
In the tune, Delroy Wilson basically addresses the belief the some Jamaican's have about the benefits of voodoo. Whether it involves a cure for medical ailments or repairing a broken heart, Wilson concludes that the only thing a Voodoo Man is good at taking away is the heft of your wallet when he robs you blind.
At the top of this post you'll see a poster for the 1957 film Voodoo Island. Now I've never seen this film but came across the trailer when I was putting together this years mix and it worked perfectly to establish our thematic change from yesterday's tune. Judging by the synopsis of Voodoo Island on IMDB...
"A wealthy industrialist hires the renowned hoax-buster Phillip Knight to prove that an island he plans to develop isn't voodoo cursed. However, arriving on the island, Knight soon realizes that voodoo does exist when he discovers man-eating plants and a tribe of natives with bizarre powers."
...it definitely sounds like the kind of bad film that I would absolutely love! Besides, with Boris Karloff in the starring role how can it be as bad as the reviews have suggested?
Have a great weekend and I'll see you again on Halloween for the final track!
Thursday, October 27, 2011
The next song in our mix is a bad-ass roots tune by Barrington Levy called "Deep In The Dark," produced and arranged by himself and off a 1979(ish) 7" on Levy's own, short-lived B.L. Sounds label.
Though this is technically far from being a directly spooky tune, it has a feel to it that just emotes a dreamlike and longing quality that verges on the uneasy. I believe the mournful sounding saxophone just has a late-night desperation to it that casts a moon-lit cold shadow on what may be considered an everyday love song.
secrets are unfolding,
things I only dreamed of,
happening to me.
Deep in the dark,
messages are reaching me
strange and sweet sensations
are tantalizing me."
As you can see by the lyrics, "Deep In The Dark," had it been coupled with an upbeat Roots Radics backing and a healthy dose of bright horns, it might not seem to shadowy... but as it stands, it can't help but reflect a sense of desperation and unattainable longing that nearly verges on the deranged thoughts of a jilted lover.
There's an old adage that says "Nothing good happens after midnight." And "Deep In The Dark" may just confirm that!
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
The story of five friends spending a weekend at a cabin in the woods, playing around with black magic, releasing the evil spirits and fighting for their survival as one by one they are possessed and killed... The Evil Dead just had me on edge the entire time and I remember, though I hate to admit it now, that I was relieved when it was over. To this day it remains one of those scariest film experiences I've ever had!
Doctor Alimantado (born Winston James Thompson, 1952, Kingston) got started like the majority of DJs from the era by getting in his licks with the soundsystems. Alimantado honed his skills with Coxsone Dodd's Downbeat and Lord Tippertone. He began recording for Lee Perry and Bunny Lee using a wide variety of names; Winston Price, Winston Cool, Ital Winston, or Youth Winston. In 1976 he recorded the DJ portion of Devon Irons' "Ketch Vampire," and continued cutting tracks and accumulating an impressive string of solid singles.
Greensleeves records compiled those singles into one collection and released Best Dressed Chicken In Town in 1978. The album enjoys the distinction of being the first LP the company ever produced and the song we're going to hear "I Shall Fear No Evil" was taken from the aforementioned set. Originally released as the b-side of the Ital Sound 7" "Poison Flour" in 1976 which was in essence two different DJ variations of Horace Andy's killer "Quiet Place," often referred to as Man Next Door riddim.
Subject matter is pretty self-explanatory and in fact very Halloween appropriate!
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
It is with those statistics in mind that we hop along to the next tune in the Spooktacular. The seventeenth track is courtesy of Karl "Cannonball King" Bryan and it's called "Thunderstorm." This blazing baritone sax tune, released in 1968 as a 45 on the Upset label is in my opinion one of the coolest tunes in this years mix! What makes it even cooler is that there are already thunderstorm sound effects thrown into the original mix so additional embellishments were only icing on the cake!
Bryan began his career in the late 50's, joined the Carlos Malcolm's Afro-Jamaican Rhythms in 1964 and even went on to play with the Lyn Taitt's legendary Comets before going solo in 1967.
Monday, October 24, 2011
I think a lot of this modern popularization of the genre began with 1987's The Lost Boys and it has been rolling steadily downhill ever since. To be honest, when The Lost Boys was released, I was in high school and my obsession with horror films was in full swing, and I found the movie absolutely unwatchable. It was trying so hard to be hip and modern that it absolutely bored me to death. But regardless of how I felt it was sadly and inexplicably on the list of people's top horror films.
Regardless of the fictional bloodsuckers cinematic demise the "real" vampires from folklore are still adept at inciting nightmares. Especially in Jamaica, where the vampire in reggae serves as a metaphor for the evil, corrupt bloodsuckers in the places of power that bleed the defenseless and the "sufferahs" dry. Take for instance the next tune in our Spooktacular... this one is by Trinity (born Wade Brammer, 1954, Kingston)and it's appropriately called "Vampire." This one was originally released on 7" circa 1980-81 on Trinity's own Flag Man label. And on the surface this appears to follow dead-on with that preconceived theme... but if you dig a little deeper, I may be going out on a limb here so correct me if I'm wrong, this is actually an "attack tune" on fellow DJ Errol Scorcher. You know, reggae DJs have been going about these verbal wars long before the East Side and West Side feud in hip hop.
Much like a vampire, Trinity starts off by going straight for the jugular by insulting the belief that Scorcher didn't have proper education about the bible or that his mother was negligent in not teaching him to be a good, god-fearing person. He therefore draws the conclusion that his bad upbringing and belief in obeah (black magic) makes him disregard human beings as mere insects; "You shouldn't call the people dem roach." Trinity makes reference to three of Errol Scorcher's popular records from the era by giving him grief about using the human/roach metaphor in his 1979 hits "Roach In A De Corner" on the Aries label and his follow-up "Roach In De Toilet" on the Scorcher imprint from 1980. Brammer's third reference in "Vampire" to Errol Scorcher's purported belief in obeah is "Frog Ina Water" also released in the same era on the Tippa label.
I could go on and give you more on my argument but I've got five more blogs to write for October and I'm starting to run out of steam... give it a listen!
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Mighty Sparrow (born Slinger Francisco, 1935, Grenada) is known as the "Calypso King of the World" was one of the artists credited with spreading calypso throughout the world during the 1950s and in fact helped popularize the genre. Sparrow is well known for incorporating social issues in his music but "Witch Doctor" is just a fun rant, perfectly suited for the Halloween season!
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Interestingly, Lord Melody embraced Rastafari in the late 70s and released the single, "Rastaman Be Careful" soon after. Unfortunately, Lord Melody died in September of 1988 from cancer.
Friday, October 21, 2011
One of the first horror films I remember sneaking to watch on late night television as a child was the Amityville Horror and I'm quite fond of this one but it wasn't until I got to college that I came to appreciate some of the haunted house films that came before and are still give me the creeps today.
The Haunting, 1963, is without a doubt my all-time favorite. Based on the 1959 novel "The Haunting Of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson, its the story of a paranormal investigative team coming to investigate the eerie Hill House mansion. Many say that Psycho was the first film to break the bonds of "subliminal" horror with its notorious shower scene and I would tend to agree. But what amazes me about The Haunting, released 2 years after Psycho, is that director Robert Wise reverted back to the classic formula of implied and unseen horror that makes a haunted house movie so much fun to begin with!
I first watched the Haunting in a college film genre study class... I was a film major in college and as luck would have it I just happened to take this course when the genre was horror, I probably would have detested this class if I had been stuck with it the previous semester when the genre of contemplation was musicals!
Anyway, the course description was simple enough... come to the auditorium, watch a horror film once a week, spend the rest of the week waxing poetically about camera angles, direction, screenwriting, artsy implied theories about intent, genre mirroring societal beliefs and concerns, etc. and deliver an 8-10 page paper the next week. I was always enthusiastic about Film Genre Studies and had no problem consuming the pictures with a scholastic eye and a purely unconscious huge smile on my face.
When we got to The Haunting, the scholarly half of my brain grabbed his textbooks and ran screaming from the theater! I was completed engrossed in the story, the characters, the creepy goings on inside Hill House and the nervous sweaty palms they induced.
When the lights came back up I was ready to just hop out of my seat and make my way toward the exit... because I had enjoyed the film so much I had forgotten that I was in class and this was required viewing for an actual grade. I was unable to contribute anything to the post-film analysis and discussion because I had inadvertently watched the entire movie with my "film-maker eyes" tightly shut!
Needless to say, I had to desperately seek out a VHS copy of the film at the local artsy video store because when I needed to write about The Haunting on an analytical level. Actually I had to watch it two more times and pay the late fee because I got wrapped up in the plot line again during the second viewing in my dorm.
I also love 1973s The Legend Of Hell House based on the same Shirley Jackson novel and 1976s Burnt Offerings based on Robert Marasco's 1973 novel of the same name and whose trailer is attached to the next track in the Spooktacular, which we'll get to immediately because I know but you're not here to listen to me ramble!
This one comes from the Dynamites and the legendary King Tubby and is borrowed from the Pressure Sounds LP Sound System International Dub. The song is called "House Of Darkness," and it works brilliantly with our theme here! The album itself is phenomenal! Pressure Sounds' website sums it up nicely by saying this about the release...
‘Sound System International' is a Clancy Eccles produced dub set featuring ten thrilling King Tubby’s deconstructions of a selection of Dynamites rhythms where Tubbs spins the tunes around and comes up with something very, very special. as he takes these straight forward reggae songs, turns them upside down and on to somewhere completely different.With the haunted house embellishments throughout I'm sure you'll enjoy the end result of "House Of Darkness." But just like me years ago with The Haunting, repeated listening may be required in order to properly analyze this one! Have your papers on my desk Monday morning and have a great weekend!
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Here it is!! The 2011 Non-Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular and I've gone with a theme this year in honor of Vincent Price's Vincentennial!
1. Messer Chups - Vincent Price Is Coming To Russia
2. Hypnomen - The Pendulum
3. Lou Lou And The Guitarfish - The Tingler
4. The Aldermen - House Of Wax
5. The Brimstones - It's The Amazing Vincent Price Shrunken Head Kit
6. Mad Tea Party - Dr. Phibes
7. Kenny & The Fiends - House On Haunted Hill
8. Brioles - Madhouse
9. Misfits - Return Of The Fly
10. The Moon-Rays - Bat
11. Zombina & The Skeletones - Vincent Price
12. The Route 66 Killers - Masque Of The Red Death
13. Thee Merry Widows - Theater Of Blood
14. Frankie & The Poolboys - The Raven
15. Forbidden Dimension - House Of 1000 Dolls
16. The Special Agents - The Tingler
17. Playboys - The House On Haunted Hill
18. Messer Chups - Vincent Price Bible
Lots of trailers and other cool audio thrown in for good measure! Thank you Vincent Price for all the scares, thrills and chills you've given me throughout my life and I hope this small labor of love does you justice!
Eric "Fish" Clarke was born in 1960, the younger brother of long-time reggae star Johnny Clarke. Fish got his training on the drums at the renowned Alpha Boys School and under the tutelage of Sister Ignatius. He got his first real gig playing for Prince Far I's Arabs in the 1970s and later with the Roots Radics eventually cutting some solo material of his own. I think you will agree, he's got a pretty good voice!
This track ranks right up there as one of my favorites in this year's Spooktacular and I hope you will enjoy what I've done for the background; keeping the witches cackling to a minimum but having some fun re-creating a visit to a late-night coven complete with bubbling cauldrons, hooting owls, crows and the ever-present wind that has swirled around so many of these tunes over the last 6 years!
Now here's where I ran into a minor problem... I couldn't find this record anywhere to get a clean picture of the Black Magic Woman label so I had to go online and find a picture of what was the A-side, "River Jordan" by Little John. I have torn apart my shelves looking for this record since July and dammit, I can't find it! I'm more than convinced that it's either in one of the multitude of bins over at my sister's house or in the bin over at my parent's house in the closet upstairs, or maybe this is just a good indication that my record collection has gotten out of control when about half my records are now residing in plastic tubs outside of my own house. Luckily my sister has a lot more room than I do and thankfully she's not charging me a monthly storage fee! Thanks Ang!
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Here is another wacky/moogy sounding track complete with a pretty heavy bass-line that has all the feel of a real-life UFO encounter... if you believe in that sorta thing. This one is "U.F.O." by Geoffrey Chang & All-Stars from 1972, produced by the legendary Harry J and appropriately enough pressed on the Harry J label.
I added some elements into the mix from the trailer to 1951's The Day The Earth Stood Still... which is without a doubt my favorite of all the atomic-era 50s Sci-Fi films. It's about a visitor from outer space who comes to warn mankind that if they can't live in peace they'll be destroyed - probably a message that was already clearly understood with the dawning of the Cold War. I love this film and make an effort to include it in my month-long Halloween film fest every year.
Also, I threw in a couple short clips from my second favorite 50s scary-monsters-from-outer-space film, Invaders From Mars from 1953. This one deals with a kid who witnesses the Martian invasion and can't get the adults to believe him due to the fact that most of the rationale adults in the town have already been brainwashed by the evil men from the Red Planet... a great film and another of my must-watch Sci-Fi thrillers!
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
In 1970, Eddy Grant, of incorrectly filed in the reggae bins at the record store and "Electric Avenue" fame, along with UK producer and sound system operator Lambert Briscoe, founded Torpedo Records in an effort to highlight and showcase British-made reggae.
The Hot Rod All-Stars were one of those bands... and their single "Ten Commandments From The Devil" fits rather nicely into our creepy little mix!
Though I couldn't uncover who was actually in the band I was definitely able to ascertain that the Hot Rod All-Stars were prolific in the early months of Torpedo... appearing in some capacity on all six of the labels first releases. To be honest, the band went kinda nuts in 1970 releasing 17 singles on 4 different labels; Torpedo, Duke Records, Trojan and their own Hot Rod imprint.
Eddy Grant eventually sold Torpedo Records in 1971 and shortly revived it again in 1974/75 but by that point their sound had moved away from reggae and Eddy Grant had moved on to other projects.
I ripped this tune from a 2007 various artists compilation LP on the Spirit Of 69 Record label out of Germany called The Skinhead Reggae Singles... I had been looking for the "Ten Commandments From The Devil" single on Torpedo for a couple years now but this album satisfied that urge well enough.
Monday, October 17, 2011
I'm going to do something different - I'll give you a little background about the four individual films and in italics I'll give you a commentary about what it would be like to watch this fantastic quartet of films at a luxurious drive-in theater. If you've ever been to a drive-in I think you'll understand the scenario I'm setting here... if you haven't, you're in for a treat. Let's begin now!
The first of the films is Blood Demon from 1969 featuring Christopher Lee as Count Regula a man who is drawn and quartered for killing twelve virgins in his torture chamber. Thirty-five years later, he come back to life to seek revenge on the daughter of his intended thirteenth victim and the son of his prosecutor in order to achieve eternal life.
At the conclusion of Blood Demon you probably have 3/4 of the popcorn left, some of your soda and a Clark bar that you stashed over the sun visor. The feigned interest in the film is starting to give way to more important tasks like steaming up the windows.
The second is Blood Doctor (AKA Mad Doctor of Blood Island) from 1968 starring such big screen luminaries as John Ashley and Angelique Pettyjohn! Wow! A man travels to an island where an insane doctor is creating zombies. Blood and guts ensue but the thing that most fans find endearing is Ms. Pettyjohn's zeal for removing her clothes.
After the credits roll on Blood Doctor, I'm not going to get too graphic here but the make-out session has given way to snuggling. Your girl/boy friend is next to you, the temperature inside the car is about 138 degrees and aside from the sweat beading up on your forehead and your partners arm feeling like a soggy sandbag flopped around your neck, the rolled up windows are probably cracked just enough to give you a chill. Popcorn consumption has resumed by you as you desperately fighting the urge to fling your girl/boy friend's arm off of you and bursting from the car frantically gasping for air. You probably feign an urgent need to run to the bathroom just to leave the confines of the car long enough to catch your breath and get back to the Buick-brand sauna waiting for you just as the opening credits roll...
Blood Fiend from 1967 is the third in this ghoulish cacophony of blood and guts. The story goes like this... There's this theater in Paris that specializes in acts of the macabre, a police coroner gets infatuated with one of the performers in said shows and soon after bodies start showing up all over the place drained of their blood. Christopher Lee makes another appearance in yet another Oscar nominated film as the evil Philippe Darvas; the guy who runs the joint and is subsequently killed right after the cops think they've got their man. Vampirism and necrophilia ensue...
By this point in the show the snacks have all been consumed, the necking has been concluded, the urge to use the bathroom again is becoming serious, the bench seat in Dad's Buick Riviera is starting to numb your ass to the point of actual concern and your girl/boy friend is either sound asleep; facing the complete opposite direction of you or complaining that they've had enough of the Carnival of Blood and that they want to leave. You promise that you only want to stay for part of the last movie and that you'll get going in a little while. The temperature in the car has gotten comfortable again and you don't want to get out of the car again... but you declare to yourself that you'll be able to hold it. You start to see the sky getting lighter as early morning works its way toward dawn as Blood Brides flickers on the big screen.
Blood Brides from 1968, is the final film of the morning. Again you're back on a tropical island with a group of natives battling with man-eating animals and plants caused my nuclear radioactivity. Virgin sacrifice and scary jungle creatures run amok... that's about the gyst of it.
When this film ends you're both sound asleep, the headlights from another car awaken you... begrudgingly you wake up well enough to drive home with the suns rays breaking the horizon and your full bladder keeps you uncomfortable enough to keep from dozing off. Instead of doing this again you decide to go bowling the next weekend.
I kinda went off there... now where the hell were we? Oh yeah, today's song; embellished with the trailer for the Chiller Carnival Of Blood of course, is from Steve Stanley and it's called "Sudden Death." This nifty 7" from 1977 was pressed on the Aquarius label where Stanley had been working as the apprentice engineer for two years. I think you're gonna dig the funky organ/moogy sound on this one - it's one of those tunes that's really grew on me when I was picking out the tunes to use this year.
Steven Stanley went on to record with the 80s new wave group Tom Tom Club, co producing their debut album in 1981. He also worked with Black Uhuru, Sly & Robbie, Sean Paul, Grace Jones and the B-52's and now owns a studio of his own in Kingston called Steven Stanley Recording Studio.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
The tune you're going to hear, "Annie Palmer" was featured in last years Spooktacular but not in the same form. Last years song was a ska version Gloucester "Danny" Hill cut in 1964 for producer Neville Foo Loy, this one is a mento version recorded years later and featured on an LP called Rose Hall Calypso from the 70s. Not technically calypso but close enough!
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Friday, October 14, 2011
We are going to get into the hell I had to go through to get this song for this years mix! The song you're about to hear is the missing piece of a puzzle that has nearly driven me insane since February. I learned of "Ghost Hour" a couple year back and after confirming it was in fact another of King Horror's schlocky, late night horror-host themed records, I knew I was in for an uphill battle trying to track this one down.
My struggle was going to be two-fold... first of all, "skinhead reggae" records usually sell for large sums and I'm definitely not in a position to be shoveling out stacks of cash for a 7 inch slab o'vinyl. Secondly, the record, originally pressed in 1970 on a white labeled 7" by Reggae/Doctor Bird records, was going to be virtually impossible to search for online. My only chance was to find it clearly identified and clearly priced beyond my budget.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that I would lie in bed at night wondering where I might be able to find this record and I came up with nothing. I went online and pleaded for an MP3 of the song on reggae forums, I posted it here hoping someone would be willing to send me the file, I even got my hopes up a couple months back when I heard that the b-side (or is it the a-side?) of the illusive record, "Leave Pum Pum" by Pama Dice, had been repressed. Unfortunately, "Ghost Hour" wasn't the flip!
I was just about to throw in the towel when the miracle of the modern internet finally allowed me to get some sleep! If you ask me where I got the MP3 for "Ghost Hour" I'll reluctantly have to plead the Fifth and refuse to answer on the grounds that I may incriminate myself...;)
Regardless ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I present to you this years Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular's Tenth Track, King Horror's "Ghost Hour!" Have a great weekend and if you're in this for the long haul, I guess I'll see you tomorrow!
Thursday, October 13, 2011
I think a lot of this unease comes from the slightly "off" tone that music performed on a pipe organ has. The upbeat songs, regardless of their tempo and subject matter, have the tendency to just come off as teetering on the brink of insanity. The perception would also suggest that the man feverishly pumping those pedals and digging his way around those layers of keys is one wrong-note away from a straight jacket. I imagine a lot of my fears have not been helped by films such as The Phantom Of The Opera and Carnival Of Souls.
Now on the opposite end of the spectrum is the Hammond electric organ… regardless of the subject matter or the intended tone, the Hammond always sounds smooth and cool. Whether it's Jimmy Smith smoothly skipping his way through "I Cover the Waterfront," Booker T. & The MG's fluidly rocking their way through "Green Onions" or my all-time favorite Hammond organist, Jackie Mittoo, killing it with the super hip tune "Henry The Great," it always sounds good!
And unlike the pipe organists, the guys rockin' the Hammonds seem like the kinda guys you'd love to hang out with after their sets and have a few drinks. They seem less likely to savagely murder you in a pipe-organ-fueled, blood-soaked orgy of uncontrollable rage when they miss a breath-mark on their sheet music. I think hanging out with Jimmy Smith, Booker T and Jackie Mittoo may end with one hell of a hangover the next day but hanging out with a pipe organist may end with your dismembered body being buried in a shallow grave beneath their basement crawlspace.
Which leads us to today's Spooktacular tune… this one is called "Midnight Organ" by a Hammond organist named Jackie Taylor and released as a 7" in 1978 on the Solar label. Believe me, "Midnight Organ" has an evil and foreboding overall feel but with Taylor's style of play and with the Hammond itself, you can't disguise the hipness underneath!
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Impressive as they are, they make ones mind wander to the bigger question... is there really a gateway to hell? I would say the front door to my dentist's office is pretty damn close to the portal of eternal suffering and misery but that's just me. Now I'm not going to get all biblical here and the thought of even addressing the topic of religion that makes the belief in hell possible turns my stomach, so I won't go any farther.
Regardless of what you believe, the purported inscription above the gate to hell will serve as a nice segue into today's track. The inscription, "abandon all hope ye who enter here," is not exactly welcoming... but still appropriate above the dentist's office's entrance way if you ask me!
But I'm going to give you a piece of sound advice with today's tune that I want you store away in the back of your mind should you ever find yourself at the gates of eternal damnation. It's a simple two word antidote to the brimstone and fire that surely awaits you on the other side of that molten threshold... the word is Ken Quatty.
This is all speculation because it seems like every song I picked this year seems to be from artists who don't have biographies... Ken Quatty was a DJ in the mid to late 70s who recorded sparingly for a handful of producers. Quatty did some work with the vocal group Well Pleased And Satisfied but his alleged need for sleep put him at a disadvantage. Jerry Baxter, one of the founding members of Well Pleased, had this to say about Quatty in an interview on the website reggae-vibes.com...
"Yeah well, Ken Quatty was a friend, just a friend. First I and him we start to sing along with a guy called Dion, we called him Lester. And we start together, the three of us. But every time I call Ken Quatty to really do like try sing the harmony for a song, he always says he's asleep - his older brother tell us that he's sleeping, so every time I go to his yard to pick him up to go to rehearsal, he's always sleeping. So I just say forget it, y'know."You know... on second thought, you may want to disregard what I said about remembering his name at the gates of hell... Ken Quatty will be too busy sawin' logs to help you!
Anyway, I'm not here to judge the man I'm here to give you kind people another spooky tune...
So without further ado, here is a rather slick tune from Ken Quatty from 1978 called "To Hell And Back." This comes from a 12" on the Heart & Soul label... enjoy!
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
This version of Zombie Jamboree isn't from mento's golden age in the 1950s it was in fact released in the late 70s. Not surprisingly, Mento records continued to be produced in an effort to appeal to older Jamaican tourists who probably found the undercurrents of struggle and strife in reggae music detrimental to the illusion that life outside their hotel or private villa was all picture perfect sunshine and smiles... but I digress.
"Zombie Jamboree" (AKA "Jumbie Jamboree" or "Back to Back") is the tale of a swingin' cemetery party for the undead and all the jovial merriment that ensues. By today's "Walking Dead" standards the idea of a civil zombie gathering seems absolutely ridiculous but regardless, it still makes for one hell of a tune! The original calypso song was titled Jumbie Jamboree, credited to Conrad Eugene Mauge, Jr. and originally recorded in 1953 by Lord Intruder... and for me to document all the various cover versions of the songs over the last 58 years would be grounds for another blog in itself. Maybe next year I'll do a mix with nothing but versions of Zombie/Jumbie Jamboree... or maybe I won't.
The Joy Makers, a band comprising of Abraham Lewis on lead vocal, Cyril Beckford on banjo, Zephiniah Taylor on rumba box and Count Moodie on guitar and harmonica, released this single from their album Jamaica Calypso Souvenir on the Sound Of Montego Bay record label.
Monday, October 10, 2011
You see that sweetly sinister looking sweetie over there on the left? Her name is Black Aggie and the frightening folklore surrounding this charming little grave statue started here in Baltimore Maryland in 1926 when it was placed on the grave of Civil War General Felix Angus in the Druid Ridge Cemetery. Sculpted by Maryland artist Augustus St. Gaudens, who allegedly named it Grief, the mournful looking figure didn't look out of place with the rest of the ornate gravestones and markers that surrounded her during the daylight hours... it was after dark when Black Aggie took on a supposed "life" of her own.
Quoting directly from the website Prairieghosts.com...
"The legend grew.... and it was said that the spirits of the dead rose from their graves to gather around her on certain nights and that living persons who returned her gaze were struck blind. Pregnant women who passed through her shadow (where strangely, grass never grew) would suffer miscarriages.
A local college fraternity decided to include Black Aggie in their initiation rites. Not really believing the stories, the candidates for membership were ordered to spend the night in the cold embrace of Black Aggie. Those who remember the statue recall her large, powerful hands. The stories claimed that the local fraternity initiates had to sit on Aggie's lap and one tale purports that "she once came to life and crushed a hapless freshman in her powerful grasp."
Other fraternity boys were equally as unlucky.... One night, at the stroke of midnight, the cemetery watchman heard a scream in the darkness. When he reached the Angus grave, he found a young man lying dead at the foot of the statue.... he had died of fright, or so the story goes. Just another legend that grew over the years into a ghost story? Maybe, and then, maybe not.
One morning in 1962, a watchman discovered that one of the angel's arms had been cut off during the night. The missing arm was later found in the trunk of a sheet metal worker's car, along with a saw. He told the judge that Black Aggie had cut off her own arm in a fit of grief and had given it to him. Apparently, the judge didn't believe him and the man went to jail.
However, a number of people did believe the man's strange story and almost every night, huge groups of people gathered in Druid Ridge Cemetery. The public attention gained by the news story brought the curiosity-seekers to the grave and the strange tales kept them coming back."
In 1967 the amount of visitors who gathered nightly at the cemetery grew to be a problem and the statue was removed and now resides at the Federal Courts building in Washington DC.
Did you ever hear the Bloody Mary myth? You know... you stand in front of a mirror in a dark room and repeat the name "Bloody Mary" three times and the ghost will shockingly appear and proceed to kill you in a gruesome and/or gory way? When I was a kid the name we never dared to speak into a darkened mirror was not that of Bloody Mary but that of Black Aggie... I guess the legend had been localized over the years.
But now onto the music... in the spirit of Black Aggie and cemeteries in general, I present the next tune in the Spooktacular... this one is by the group called the Three Tops and it's called appropriately enough "Bone Yard." It is lifted off a 70s era 7" on the Atomic label and showcases rather nicely the group's harmonizing skills...
if you dare...
Sunday, October 09, 2011
Saturday, October 08, 2011
So during the month of October, in keeping with the goal of 31 days of blogging as set forth, I present for you a few weekend calypso sweets to fill your trick or treat bags. These tunes are completely separate from the Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular but I think you will enjoy them by themselves.
Instead of just taking the lazy route and throwing up a link to download the MP3s, I've posted them as videos so you can listen to them while browsing for more exciting content than my incessant droning.
We're starting it off with "Jumbie Jamboree" from the Brute Force Steel Band hailing from the island of Antigua. This one was pressed on Stanley Motta's MRS (Motta Recording Studios) label circa the late 50s... for those who don't know Motta was thee pioneer in the creation of the Jamaican recording industry by releasing a large batch of mento records to the outside world.
The Brute Force Steel Band was one of the first steel band to travel outside of Antigua to New York in the early 1950s and were stopped at customs upon their arrival. US Customs held them up because they had no clue that the steel pan instruments they were carrying were in fact instruments. In order to prove it Brute Force set up and performed an impromptu concert for the assembled customs agents and upon their completion were allowed to enter.
These sounds, for the most part, are definitely not Jamaican... but they are enjoyable and seasonally appropriate nonetheless!
Friday, October 07, 2011
What's that got to do with the Spooktacular you ask? Really not much but I'm gonna use it as a segue to the next song!
Coming up next is another tune with no discernible artist background information... this one is by a guy named Boy Wonder and the song is called "Cold Blood" which was released as a 7" on the Attack label in 1975. A smooth piano and bass call and response start it off before the horns kick in; a real nice upbeat tune! Produced by Sydney Crooks; on and off again member of the vocal trio the Pioneers and eventual producer for artists such as Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs and Dennis Alcapone, Crooks knew his way around a reggae record!
Also... the Monsters A Go-Go audio sampled throughout was one of those odd pieces of audio that I found on one of my external hard drives... I would assume that this was originally an ad for a late-night "spookshow" from the early 60s judging by its flagrant hawking of pop culture selling points... the Beatles mystically transformed, the materialization of James Bond and even Hollywood's Golden Go-Go Girl Pat Collins, could you ask for anything better than that?
Have a great weekend and I'll see you again on Monday!
By the way... I forgot to mention... pull out your trick-or-treat bags this weekend because I've got some extra musical treats lined up! I'm tryin' to keep the festivities rolling all month and not just during the week!
Thursday, October 06, 2011
With the evil visage of my all-time favorite Dracula, Christopher Lee greeting us, we move along to the fourth track in our mix...
"When The Vampire (Come To Your Neighborhood)" by the man called Moses, is from a 12" on the legendary New York based Wackies label, circa 1980. I have tried to do some background research on who the artist Moses was/is and have come up with nothing... I have seen this record incorrectly credited to Pablo Moses but it definitely ain't Pablo Moses. And since I can't correctly identify or give you background information on the artist I'll give you a little history about Wackies itself...
Wackies House of Music, a combination record store and production studio was founded in New York during the heyday of reggae during the 1970s by Lloyd Barnes who still runs the business to this day. Wackies is considered by many to be the first significant reggae label to be founded in the United States and many also give it credit for paying a roll in the burgeoning genre of hip-hop in the early 1980s.
Wednesday, October 05, 2011
Bob Skeng sang and played keyboards for a string of UK based reggae bands in the 70s and 80s. He eventually recorded under his given name Desmond Craig but was encouraged by an early producer to go with Bob Skeng because he felt the name Desmond was too bland.
Eventually Desmond Craig/Bob Skeng went on to form his own band in 1983 called Camajia, which Craig explained was an anagram for Jamaica...
Jack the Ripper reached number 9 on the British reggae charts in 1977 when the 12" was originally released on the Jah Lion label out of England. Mr. Craig... or Mr. Skeng plays the hell out of the melodica on this record which makes for some rather spooky/foreboding sounding reggae!
I had been vaguely aware of this record for a couple years now and thankfully added it to my collection when the tune had been re-pressed as a 7" on the Archive Recordings label.
Tuesday, October 04, 2011
Now, you may be asking yourself why am I posting the Jamaica Star article about the Font Hill duppy again... if you recall, a couple years back I shared the story of the purported real-life haunting that took place in the rural village of Font Hill during the summer of 1974.
I'm not going to recount the entire story again but if you want to give it a read you can check out the verbatim article here... it does make for some fine spooky reading.
Count Lasher's telling of the tale on the Bongoman label quickly became one of my favorite "duppy tunes" because with the article (thanks once again to Luke Ehrlich) I was finally able to disseminate the back-story and it made it all that more enjoyable.
Well rewind to last October... I had seen online that there was a 7" record on Phil Pratt's Sunshot label by someone named Tammie Lee called "Copie Duppy" - I learned that Tammie Lee was probably who wrote this song but the vocalist was none other than Max Romeo. I immediately set out to locate this record and tried unsuccessfully for months to acquire it! But as you'll soon hear, I eventually did!
Unlike Count Lasher's lighthearted take on the ghost story, Max Romeo's telling is a little more sinister... not only will Copie make you sweat, earn your respect and break your neck he'll also induce flatulence! And there ain't nothing scarier than that!