Anna Arnone’s pictures of UK sound systems, great to see Jessos and Fatman followers, from the NME, 24 March, 1984.
It was still a year ’til Sleng Teng dropped.
After a couple of reggae smashes that the nation took to it’s heart: Cockney Translation and Police Officer, the NME, 2 February, 1985 has a feature on Smiley Culture.
This poem by Anthony McNeill (1941-1996) mourns Skatalites trombonist Don Drummond.
for the D
‘To John Coltrane: the heaviest spirit’
from Black Music, LeRoi Jones
may I learn the shape of that hurt
which captured you nightly into
dread city, discovering through
streets steep with the sufferer’s beat:
teach me to walk through jukeboxes
and shadow that broken music
whose irradiant stop is light,
guide through those mournfullest journeys
I back into harbour Spirit
in heavens remember we now
and show we a way into praise,
all seekers together, one-heart:
and let we lock conscious when wrong
and Babylon rock back again:
in the evil season sustain
o heaviest spirit of sound.
Cockney Translation was a pivotal record. Reggae had been big in London from back in the ska days of the mid-60s. Smiley Culture sprang from a firmly British reggae, not as angry as the roots from the likes of Steel Pulse and Misty but for all it’s cheek one that said ‘we’re black, we’re British, we’re here’. This record was loved by all sorts of people across the country through 1984. A year that needed a laugh and a bit of togetherness.
The Xmas NME, 22/29 December, 1984 illustrated the lyrics to several big records of the year, and Cockney Translation was rightly one of ’em.