– Please Chris, introduce yourself…born in the Angel, Islington, London 13th January 1956. Always lived in London, grew up in the West End (Marylebone) now residing in South East London.
– How did you first got involved with reggae?…. like most ordinary kids at the time, I got into reggae as a young skinhead in 1968/69. Apart from the ‘pop’ hits like Desmond Dekker and Johnny Nash, the first ‘real’ reggae tune I remember hearing was ‘Mama Look Deh’ (The Reggae Boys) – my best mate’s big brother bought it from the Muzik City in Kilburn and we all sat around playing it over and over again trying to work out what it was they were singing about!
At that time, we were all into soul and Motown as well as reggae…. If you went to a youth club or disco you’d hear everything all mixed up (pop records too!)… people try and rewrite history to say that only reggae was played in those days, but that’s just not true. The other thing was that you’d still be hearing records that were three, four or five years old being played, so if you were interested in music you would look for ska and rocksteady tunes as well as the latest Upsetters or Pioneers.
The music went with the clothes, it was all around us. The difference with me (and a very few others!) was that I didn’t stop liking reggae when everyone grew their hair (and started wearing flares!) in 1971/72….
– what was the first record you bought?…. my family didn’t have a record player until Christmas 1969, that’s when I went out and bought Tighten Up Vol. 2 and Motown Chartbusters Vol. 3….. In January (with my birthday money) I bought ‘Liquidator’, ‘Vampire’, ‘Reggae Pressure’ (Tony Blackburn used to play this on Radio 1!), Elizabethan Reggae’, etc. I had two paper rounds and a Saturday job, and all my money went on records and clothes (in that order).
– Tell us about your first trip to JA, how did that came about?… I had just started writing the reggae column for ‘Blues & Soul’ magazine, and when I interviewed Lee Perry (amongst others) in London, he said “anytime you came to Jamaica, you can stay at my house” – so I saved up some money (I was still at school then) and went in December 1973. I stayed for nearly a month, just when Scratch had started recording in his own Black Ark Studio in his back garden. It was a dream…. I was sitting around in a studio, or travelling into downtown Kingston, and meeting and interviewing (nearly) all of my musical heroes…..
– Lee “Scratch” Perry: Genius or Madman?… When I first met Scratch at Trojan’s office in London he struck me as a nice bloke… he was serious about his music, and obviously enjoyed what he did – he had a good sense of humour, just like on his records. When I stayed with him he was very kind, very hospitable, and he and his family made me feel very welcome… it was only a few years later that his slight ‘eccentricity’ became more pronounced and he started behaving strangely. I’m sure that having the studio at home put a lot of pressure on him, and this was what eventually changed him……
– Your best experience music-wise (can be a gig as a DJ or at
a concert)… I’ve never really been one for concerts – I’ve always preferred the records… but I have to say I enjoyed the 1970 Wembley Reggae Show (the one that is featured in the film ’Reggae’ by Horace Ove), James Brown’s 1972 show at the Rainbow, and the 1974 New Year’s Day show at the Carib, Kingston (featuring Big Youth, Dennis Brown, Leroy Smart , Augustus Pablo – not a bad line-up!!)
Deejaying is a thing I always enjoy, although I couldn’t do it too regularly… it’s more of a hobby for me than anything! Possibly the best times I’ve had deejaying are either at Coast to Coast and Tighten Up in London – both clubs have crowds that appreciate the music, so you can play records you like (within reason!) and get a good reaction…
– Your Top 10 records + a bit of description for each title….this is too difficult!!… and it will change every day!!……..(and this is just the Jamaican tunes!!)
1…. Queen Majesty – Techniques….. flawless reworking of the Impressions’ ‘Minstrel & Queen’, like so many reggae covers (‘You Don’t Care’, ‘Ten To One’, ‘Keep On Moving’, etc) actually improves on the original by adding a beat and a bassline!
2….. You Don’t Know – Bob Andy….. great rhythm, great melody, great lyrics, great singing – what more do you want? Easily as good as his marvellous Studio 1 material…..and there’s a lovely piano instrumental to it as well!
3…… Less Problem – Sound Dimension…. Possibly my favourite Studio 1 instrumental (and there are so many to choose from!), funky and cool at the same time.
4…… Park View – Ernest Ranglin….. Just ahead of ‘Straight Flush’, this is a fantastic guitar instrumental to Alton Ellis’s ‘I’ll Be Waiting’ (Studio 1 cut). I love jazz – particularly guitarists like Tal Farlow, Barney Kessel, Wes Montgomery, etc and I know that Ernie is a world-class jazz player – just listen to that break!!
5…… Real Cool – Tommy McCook …. I’ve always preferred Treasure Isle to Studio 1, and this gorgeous instrumental (and others like ‘Moody Ska’ and ‘Pink Champagne’) sums up the Treasure Isle sound to me – so cool, so relaxed, with a great solo from Tommy. I always imagine these tunes were recorded on a Sunday afternoon, about an hour after a good Sunday dinner!
6…. Flashing My Whip – U Roy…. Believe it or not, I didn’t particularly like U Roy when I first heard him – I just didn’t get him for some reason. Then I heard this at my local youth club, and it sort of unlocked the door for me – I bought this, borrowed my mate’s ‘Version Galore’ album, and all was revealed!! U Roy has been my favourite deejay since….. (In the same way, I didn’t like James Brown at first – then I heard and bought ‘It’s A New Day’ and all the other tunes (‘Sex Machine’, Ain’t It Funky Now’, ‘Soul Power’, etc) suddenly made sense!
7….. It’s Hard To Confess – Melodians…. Gorgeous rock-steady – brilliant original song (as far as I know!), beautiful singing, great rhythm from Lyn Taitt & the Jets…. Perfection! I love top quality rock-steady like this….’Looking For A Girl’ – Gaylads, ‘Tell Me Baby’ – Delano Stewart, ‘It Comes & Goes’ – Melodians, there’s hundreds of them….
8…. East Of The River Nile – Augustus Pablo…. The original rebel tune!! I bought this when it was a couple of months old in a supermarket that had thousands of very cheap reggae records, and I knew this was something very different straight away…. It’s a shame that in many ways he never really improved on this….
9…. French Connection – Upsetters… have to include something by Scratch as he was a big influence on me…. I always loved his instrumentals from the skinhead days (‘Dry Acid’, ‘Clint Eastwood’, ‘Cold Sweat’), and loved his own individual deejaying style, especially slightly later when he made tunes like this and ‘Bucky Skank’, ‘Cow Thief Skank’, ‘Jungle Lion’ and ‘Black Ipa’. I always looked at this tune as a return to his ’69 days, a great organ instrumental with a bit of talking, with the added bonus of a brilliant Tubby’s dub on the flipside.
10….. Jerk In Time – Wailers…. One of my favourite ska tunes (along with the B-side ‘Sweetest Rocker In Town’), and one of my favourite Wailers tunes (even if Bob isn’t on it!)… great song, and a lovely organ solo, apparently from Richard Ace.
– The most influential Reggae Artist … I suppose I‘ve got to say Bob Marley, not only because he’s recognised and idolised all over the world, but because he wrote so many fantastic songs and sung them with such conviction. He really does deserve all the credit he has been given – my only complaint would be that too many people don’t look beyond Bob to all the other great singers and songwriters……
I think I should also mention King Tubby – although not a singer, songwriter or a musician, his experiments with remixing songs led to modern dance music as we know it…. And even though he didn’t actually ‘invent’ dub single-handedly (there were other engineers doing the same thing, ie Errol Thompson, Sid Bucknor, Andy Capp, Sylvan Morris, etc) he was certainly at the forefront of a radical musical development.
– Djs Anecdotes…. I probably don’t deejay enough to have many good anecdotes – I remember at Coast To Coast being asked if I had any music from ‘Grease’ (and originally thought they said from ‘Greece’ – I said no, it’s all from Jamaica and America!) – then I realised they wanted to hear a bit of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John…. Not quite the thing at a reggae & soul night!
– Future projects? ….. nothing special lined up – if I am asked to deejay somewhere I usually do it if I fancy it, and I still help people compile albums (I often supply original records, label scans, posters, information, etc.)
Now I don’t make records I can enjoy music more – I don’t have that pressure on me to make a living out of it! I’m happy with my life, I’ve got a fantastic family and a good job so I can really enjoy having music as a hobby… it’s much better that way!