Archive for the ‘WITR’ Category

Burning Spear

Friday, November 28th, 2014

Listen: Lion / Burning Spear
Listen: Lion / Burning Spear

Most consider MARCUS GARVEY and the accompanying dub version, GARVEY’S GHOST, both from ’76, to be the ultimate introduction to Burning Spear. Not me. The ’77 followup, MAN IN THE HILLS, takes the prize hands down.

Blame it on the compilation THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC (Volume 3). Howard Thompson sent a copy with a bunch of Island punk and reggae releases in his very first mailing that began our friendship. It was known as a care package in those days, the kind you’d load a new pal up with when you worked at a record company. Just go over to the cupboard and pull one of anything remotely good, then ship it off. And the cupboards at Island were bursting with good stuff back then.

I dare call it life changing. Sure, that sounds way over dramatic. But no, it’s actually not. The records in that big box did just that, not only to me, but to my closest friends and Corinne as well. She for one, dove head first into a reggae addiction from the get go. Took her years to shake, to find a normal balance between it and everyday life, but not before up and going to London to see Burning Spear and Aswad at the Rainbow, with Karen. I think they had some unfinished Eddie & The Hot Rods business on that particular journey as well.

The box. Yes. I can still recall every record in it:

Various Artists THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC (Volume 3)
The Upsetters SUPER APE
Toots & The Maytals REGGAE GOT SOUL
The Heptones NIGHT FOOD
Derek & Clive LIVE
Max Romeo & The Upsetters WAR INA BABYLON

Eddie & The Hot Rods ‘Writing On The Wall’
Eddie & The Hot Rods ‘Wooly Bully’
Eddie & The Hot Rods ‘Teenage Depression’
Lee Perry ‘Roast Fish & Cornbread’
Dillinger ‘Cokane In My Brain’
Aswad ‘Back To Africa’
Aswad ‘Three Babylon’
Junior Murvin ‘Police & Thieves’
The Heptones & The Upsetters ‘ Sufferer’s Time’
The Heptones ‘Book Of Rules’
Justin Hines & The Dominoes ‘Fire’
Justin Hines & The Dominoes ‘Carry Go Bring Come’
Kevin Ayers ‘Falling In Love Again’
Sparks ‘Big Boy’
Sparks ‘I Like Girls’
Ultravox ‘Dangerous Rhythm’
Max Romeo & The Upsetters ‘One Step Forward’
Max Romeo & The Upsetters ‘Chase The Devil’
Trevor White ‘Crazy Kids’
The Dwight Twilley Band ‘I’m On Fire’
Fay Bennett ‘Big Cockey Wally’
Leroy Smart ‘Ballistic Affair’
J.J. Cale ‘Travelin’ Light’
The Jess Roden Band ‘Stay In Bed’
Rico ‘Dial Africa’
Agusutus Pablo ‘King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown’
Burning Spear ‘Lion’

Might as well get this over with now: the 7′s were all promo copies. Sorry.

Yeah, go ahead. Take a breather. I tell you what. There was no preparing for that package in real life either. I wasn’t expecting a box, maybe a few records, but not a box. Howard had rung me from his office shortly after receiving a letter I’d sent off to Island, written on WITR stationary. We talked for a bit, he filled me in on Eddie & The Hot Rods, who were my original reason for writing, suggested we trade some records and that we should stay in touch. Little did I know both his package and that phone call would change my life forever.

A week or so later, I just found this large box from Island Records UK in my apartment building’s lobby. Cost something like £40 to ship, a fortune in ’76. Hoisted it upstairs and into our place, could not open it fast enough. Fuck me, a shock to the system indeed, like my heart froze. Yet somehow I’ve lived to tell.

We poured over these records, the bunch of us, for weeks. You couldn’t wait for whatever was playing to end, so you could begin another. Corinne worked nights back then, and I vividly recall staying up until dawn, those first two days in a row, eating white crosses and just playing them, waiting for her to come home. Wow, what a fantastic flashback.

Every track on THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC became anthems to us, every one a badge of honor, knowing we’d found some of the best music of our lives, suddenly a whole new world opened up, and that album did it.

Burning Spear was little known to me at that point. Saw the US copies of those first two albums occasionally, but hadn’t heard either, or even tried to. Reggae had not entered my life. Once this compilation arrived, I became insatiable for it though.

‘Man In The Hills’, the title track, opened Side 2 of the comp. It was instant. Immediately tore through that pile of 7′s, sure I’d seen a Burning Spear single amongst them. The whole day was a blur, it was hard to process this all at once. Yes, there it was. ‘Lion’ / ‘Door Peep’ by Burning Spear

‘Lion’ defines my very favorite style of reggae, where the chorus keeps getting sung over and over and over. Just a lazy, hypnotic swirl that’s hard to fight. The genre has many a unique voice, but Winston Rodney’s, well it’s one of the greatest.


Sunday, February 1st, 2009

Indian Summer / Audience

Indian Summer / Audience

Listen: Indian Summer / Audience
Indian Summer / Audience

It Brings A Tear / Audience - US

Listen: It Brings A Tear / Audience
It Brings A Tear / Audience

Listen: You’re Not Smiling / Audience
You're Not Smiling / Audience

AudienceStandUKA, Audience, Charisma, Howard Werth

You're Not Smiling / Audience UK

You're Not Smiling / Audience - UK

Stand By The Door / Audience

Listen: Stand By The Door / Audience
Stand By The Door / Audience

I really shouldn’t like Audience. I’d have done a lot better in school had it not been for them. I could have been a doctor or something. Instead, I spent seemingly an entire Fall semester possessed by their album, THE HOUSE ON THE HILL. It wasn’t just me. My two room mates Larry and Stewart caught the Audience sickness as well. We would literally listen to this album over and over and over. Lights low, candles, pot, huge Audience poster hanging squarely above the turntable (still have it – neatly folded and slid inside the album with the label bio and 8×10′s). We were all entrenched at the college radio station, WITR. We pretty much ran the joint. I was both the music director and program director, not to mention concert chairman. It was English bands and only English bands. If you didn’t like it – transfer out. Every night we’d come back to the apartment with the latest promos that had arrived from the labels. We weren’t in the dorms – we had a proper apartment with very little furniture, lots of mis-matched pillows, orange shag rug and a low coffee table covered in music magazines and drug utensils. Mattresses on the floor in each bedroom – no beds, cardboard boxes for dressers. The records were everywhere, cinder blocks and clapboards constructing many makeshift shelves. Emergency suitcase record players in each bedroom for late night listening too. So we would whirl through the latest offerings: Greenslade, Byzantium, Atomic Rooster, Colosseum, Chicken Shack, If, Family, Juicy Lucy, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, just endless titles. But THE HOUSE OFN THE HILL would start and end the sessions, with a few plays during as well. You could really justify fucking off to it, nothing was more important, it was that good.

I’d heard ‘Indian Summer’ on the radio just before school went into session, must have been late August. Wow – what was that?!? It stood right out and was getting that suspicious two week window of play at Top 40. They called this being tested, and if good results came back, then they’d really hang you out for payola. Isn’t American radio great!!! This sophisticated British sounding song in between Andy Kim and Lobo, or whatever. Yes, I paid attention. I remember the single charted briefly on the Billboard Top 100 too.

During the following winter, I made one of my life’s biggest mistakes. I missed Audience live on their brief, and only, US tour. Gasp. They were opening for The Faces. It was a Sunday night, in Buffalo, about 80 miles away. I had no car, no one did, and no money to get there and certainly no way to get home. I watched the clock that evening, knowing they were playing so close yet so freaking far away. Why didn’t I just hitch hike? Risk being murdered – no brainer. But I didn’t and they never returned. Still bothers me to this day.

Such beautiful music. I know that sounds well corny but just listen. Howard Werth’s shivering vocals, Keith Gemmell’s signature sax that years later The Psychedelic Furs would unknowingly coin, just the right touch of baroque classical trimmings, not stuffy or overdone. The Strawbs, Amazing Blondel and ELO were klutzy klompy plodding wannabes next to Audience. Mind you, Audience had a wonderfully sloppy feel as well. But it was a magical balance and no one ever came close to matching it.

I’ve posted a bunch of Audience mandatories above. That first US 7″ is a classic double sider, and the promo only UK sleeve that housed ‘You’re Not Smiling’ is a prized possession. Isn’t even in the price guide. ‘Stand By The Door’, their final single is simply a perfect masterpiece.

Eddie & The Hot Rods

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008


Listen: Power And The Glory / Eddie & The Hot Rods

Either you have it or you don’t. Eddie & The Hot Rods always did, despite little commercial success in the US pointing otherwise. When they returned to tour during summer ’08, it was made clear their cult rep was well in tact, with a sizable audience of very young kids freaking out up front. And live, well as powerful as ever. Those that will remember can verify they could tear apart a stage in the late 70′s.

I stumbled on them during ’76, pre-punk. One of the Canvey Island bands that included Dr. Feelgood and Ducks Deluxe, their lightning speed attack was a huge attraction. I was the PD of WITR, Rochester Institute Of Technology’s radio station at the time. I dropped a quick letter to Island UK about the reaction we were getting from the band’s EP, LIVE AT THE MARQUEE. It landed with Howard Thompson who’d signed them. We became close friends as a result, and he eventually hired me at Elektra. I’d still be stuck in upstate New York had it not been for him and that letter.

As for Eddie & The Hot Rods, I became a bit of a stalker. Happy about that too as it meant getting to see them many times, at BBC sessions, UK TV shows, in the studio. Great guys and Barrie Master is still a pal. The great news being their power on stage has never waned. That hasn’t changed, and oddly, neither has Barrie. Not one less hair on his head nor one pound more on his bones. Voice as strong as in the day. He even wore the same pair of white jeans as he did at CBGB’s in ’77. Amazing.