Tag Archives: reggae

Johnny Was

Blistering Bob Marley single reviewed in Sounds, 1 May, 1976 by Vivien Goldman.

Sounds Star Single
Scoop Goldman’s Single of the Week

Bob Marley And The Wailers:
‘Johnny Was (Woman Hold Her Head And Cry)’ (Island)

It must be boring for Bob Marley to keep on being voted single of the week every time he puts voice to a 45. Strange choice for the single – I’d be surprised if the radio would give airplay to such a savage and pointed political statement. “Woman hold her head and cry ‘cos her son’s been shot down in the streets and died, just because of the system …”
Trying to adjust to her son being felled by a stray bullet (oh irony), the woman can only say “Johnny was a good man …” As usual, Bob weaves a spiders-web of emotions with deceptively simple lyrics. The flip is the basic-sounding ‘Cry To Me’; it’s so easy to dance to … I would have thought that the incredible ‘Want More’ from the new album, ‘Rastaman Vibration’ (reviewed elsewhere in this ish) would have been a better single choice, but there you go.

Peace In The Ghetto

Reggae writer Penny Reel had a poem on the back of Tapper Zukie’s 1978 album Peace In The Ghetto.

Is this a dream or is it something for real?

Peace pon the Rema man corner.
Peace pon the Jungle man corner.
Peace pon the Tivoli corner.
Peace pon the Lizard Town corner.
Peace pon the Betterton corner.
Who seh so?
Brother Claudie seh so!
Who seh so?
Claudie Massop seh so!

Meno see you as no rema man.
Bredda, me no see you as no Jungle man.
Bredda, me no see you as no Tivoli man.
Man, seh me see you as mi black bredda.
And me see mi sister as mis black sister.
Peac pon everyone corner.

Great man step forward and put ‘im foot upon the sand.
Great hero.
Young hero.
Claudie Massop.
Buckie Thompson.
Tony Welch.
Who seh so?
Brother Claudie seh so!
Who seh so?
Claudie Massop seh so!

‘Im are the living hero.
Young black hero, come from the ghetto.
Young black hero, said ‘im grow up in the ghetto.
Said them send ‘im to prison so many time,
And I know ‘im was innocent.
But Lord, Jag give ‘im the victory you know
To get up and come forward.
Such a great hero.
Claudie Massop – the living hero.
Woho seh so?
Tapper Zukie seh so…

Penny Reel

Mr Bassie

Augustus Pablo reviewed in the NME, 24 January, 1981 by Paul Du Noyer. It took ’em a while, the single came out in 1978!

Jimmy Riley: My Woman’s Love (Taxi/Island).
Rockers All Stars: Pablo Meets Mr Bassie (Rockers/Rough Trade).

I only know tow kinds of reggae music: that sort that makes me wish I knew more about it, and the sort which persuades me not to bother. Suffice it to say that both these records are of the first order, however much they might contrast in other respects. Riley’s record I find especially accessible:light and deliciously melodic and produced by Sly and Robbie. Rockers All Stars took a little longer, an instrumental, hard and strident by comparison by melodica maestro Augustus Pablo. Both are beautiful.

I Love I Jah

Bad Brains single reviewed in Sounds, 3 July, 1982 by Garry Bushell

The Bad Brains: ‘I Love I Jah’ (Alternative Tentacles)
How did they do it? I mean, can you imagine this contrary lot who get through more grass per day than Kew Gardens, and who change direction more times than a traffic cop, staying the Bad Brains long enough to actually record something?
I could easily picture them turning up at a gig as a hardcore punk band, playing a matinee as Brains That Ferret (New Romantiques, proprietor J. MacDonald) headlining as Billy and the Brains (Rockabillies, PR Waxy Maxie) and finally seeing the audience off as Pookiebrainieburger (skiffle kids, signed to Stiff).
Pardon the disbelief, chief, but I never thought a band like the Brains who are up and down more often than a whore’s drawers, would ever make it into a studio again. And I was right. These aren’t new tracks, they’re four highlights from that original ROIR cassette – but if you’re into US punk and you’ve never heard the Brains, hear side two of this for instant addiction.
Side two sounds and feels like an atomic bomb. The three tracks herein are staggering pogo-stampedes from the ultimate thrash city rockers that sound something like the Damned on dexedrine, only faster. Instruments have never been played at such velocity before, and HR must wear his lips out keeping up.
Side one features the Brain’s mellow Dr Jekyll side, competent enough reggae but nowhere near as staggering in its field as the Mr Hyde side.

Peel’s Picks

John Peel’s NME Readers’ Poll 1980 selections, from the NME, 24 January, 1981.

Disc Jockey

John Peel


Most wonderful human being: Kenny Dalglish
Event: Birth of my son Thomas James Dalglish Ravenscroft
Creep: Originator of the “Ripper 13 Police nil” chant taken up by Leeds United supporters
Best group: The Fall
New act: Bow Wow Wow
Male singer: Mark E. Smith
Female singer: Barbara Gogan
Songwriter: John O’Neill (Undertones)
Guitarist: Marco Pirroni
Bass: The Shend (Cravats)
Keyboards: The Pig (wife)
Drums: Phil Calvert (The Birthday Party)
Other instrument: Sheena Easton (“Bagpipes, tambourine – she plays on my heart.”)
Single: ‘Totally Wired’, ‘How I Wrote Elastic Man’ (The Fall – joint favourites)
Album: ‘Misty In Roots’
Sleeve: ‘Cravats In Toyland’
Best dressed: John Cooper Clarke
Haircut: Mine
DJ: Allan Dell (Dance Band Days DJ)
TV show: Minder
Movie: Sir Henry At Rawlinson’s End (“Because I work unsociable hours it’s difficult to go to films. I didn’t go all last year, but I’d like to see this one.”)

Dub And Poets

Dennis Bovell and dub poets in the NME, 24 January, 1981.

Dennis Bovell’s Dub Band
Commonwealth Institute

“Dub” said Dennis Bovell, dubmaster “you just – do it. Spontaneous. That’s the effect I wanted to create onstage.”
Looked at as a try-out for an idea Dennis has been harbouring for a while – taking a dub band on the road – the evening was pretty successful. The musicians didn’t know who was going to be playing till they arrived at the Commonwealth Institute, and Matumbi’s new drummer, Erroll Melbourne, arrived in London from Birmingham just before the show began.
As with so many improvised, spontaneous events, there were moments where the music degenerated into self-indulgent, meandering jams. But Dennis in particular is an innate musician who can’t help but make music wherever he goes; seeing him play dub guitar is entertainment and education, gift-wrapped. Perhaps those longeuers are part of the deal.
The musicians -Matumbi and Webster and Jah Blake, plus his 13-year old whizz kid brother Paul who shone on keyboards but faltered when switched to bass and guitar, the eloquent James Paxton on sax, and lanky Julio Finn soaring on blues harp, plus Feyoum Netfa on percussion – with a little more thought , the music could have been far harder.
Regarded as a prototype test, though, the results were encouraging enough to convince Dennis to pursue the idea.
The evening also featured the debut of a jazzy, funky reggae band called Rebirth, whose vocalist couldn’t find his level within the solid playing. While not dramatic as yet, they could develop.
But the most enlightening part of the evening were the poets, Imruh Caesar, journalist, film maker and poet, began with his lively well-delivered narrative poems of Caribbeans arriving in England – his central image is of England as one big cold outdoor toilet in comparison to the warmth of the islands. Then an African poet presented his revival of the celebrated African oral tradition with a very moralistic, anti-women fairy tale featuring a snotty know-it-all vulture who tries to rig a royal love affair via the mean advantage of being able to bring the dead to life. If that’s the oral tradition, I’d stick to sign language.
The last poet was T-Bone Walker, whose cameo part in last week’s ‘Wolcott’ was a gem. His poems were funny and emotional, focusing on domestic details like burning bananas in the frying pan; and homely evocations of the destabilisation of high-rise dwellings brought great applause.

Vivien Goldman