musicology #381


Modernist #9

(Folks Brothers – Oh Carolina)

Today I’m rolling with another quote from early Mod/ernist Patrick Uden..who as far as I’m concerned has much of value to say on the subject.

“You have no idea how dreary it was. It was really dreary. And then what happened was that the first group of 15 year olds born after the war emerged into a world where they had some money to spend. And at the same time the British economy was being turned around, (other countries had been more fortunate following the war), It was going from what’s called a ‘command economy’ to a ‘demand economy’. This meant that things started to appear that people could buy and there were certainly imports starting to come in. Some of them were ‘grey imports like Levi’s coming through the PX stores in American bases and moving into the black market via, you know, the East End markets and that sort of thing. So very slowly, and then quite rapidly, this purchasing power began to affect what was available. And this blossomed into a kind of early spring, if you like. I’m talking now around 1961/2, and that’s when it started, although you can trace the movement, in terms of things like music and so on, back into the 50’swith the interest in Modern Jazz and those sorts of things. But popular Modernism began to emerge around 1961 and I think that’s the real source of it.”

Reflecting on this and other snippets of knowledge from those who were there at the time crystalises in my mind that the most important and enduring aspect of the nameless thing moved out of the shadows in late 1961 and flowered for almost three years before being rinsed by the establishment for many years to come. All the ‘movements’ that I have had the pleasure to be involved in, (Casual/Rare Groove and ‘House’), lasted for the same duration so I conclude that it’s the nature of such things that the vanguard move on to pastures new once the herd pitches in. Maybe that sounds, and is, elitist but I make no excuse for it. The Elite govern and in some cases dictate all aspects of society and in such matters as trends this is no different. I’m not a supporter of Elitism but in my mind there’s no denying that it doesn’t have the power to exert strong influence on the shifting sands change.

Today’s cut, (courtesy of my uncle), is one that was on the vanguard of the change from what’s known as ‘Shuffle’ to ‘Ska’ a piece produced by ‘The Voice Of The People’…Cecil Bustamante Campbell a.k.a Prince Buster who is as responsible as anyone for Jamaican music shaking off it’s colonial/imperial heritage to stand on it’s own as an authentic language for ‘sufferers’ everywhere. Recorded, (according to Steve Barrow who has it on good authority from Owen Gray..thanks Steve), probably late 1961 but released on BlueBeat in the UK in 1962 if memory serves me right. Not only the year of Jamaican Independence but also the year that Mod arrived. Unique in that it was the first recording to feature Rasta ambassador Count Ossie. DEFINATELY played on the scene back in the day on release making it one of the first Jamaican crossover records to have a universal appeal.

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13 thoughts on “musicology #381

  1. ILOVED this record!!..I first heard it down the Scene, the only other place I remember it being played was Greenwich Town Hall. I had never heard any ‘blue beat’ before this and it sounded so exotic, it was a perfect beat to do the ‘block’ to always an important consideration to me..unlike the dancehalls we could wear trousers in the Scene, I had a pair of off white staypressed mens trousers which I wore with brown n cream canvas moccasons from Roaul’s shoe shop…making it possible to do this dance!

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  2. a correction to my earlier mention about “Oh Carolina”. I have spoken with Derrick Morgan about this track, not Owen Gray…and the recording date: it could have been late 1960, not 1961. It was certainly recorded in the ‘upstairs’ studio at RJR [Radio Jamaica], with Owen G on piano & Count Ossie & his Rasta drummers. Both Buster & Derrick have told me that info – but I have learned to take any information to do with those early days in Ja as ‘approximate’. Derrick said that “£30 Pieces of Silver” was done at the same session and Buster got the idea from Coxsone, who had been the first producer to link up with Ossie at his camp – Coxsone had recorded with them before Buster, but released his tunes after Buster’s [thisd from Buster himself in 1994]….It was also the subject of a lawsuit between John Folkes and Buster after Shaggy did his version in 1993…
    And it was definitely played at the Disc, Flamingo and other clubs a LOT in 1962…

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    1. Thanks Steve, Concerning Ossie and Coxsone I watched a documentary the other night ‘The Studio 1 Story’ in which Coxsone himself discusses Count Ossie’s influence on the sounds Of Ja. Essential viewing but, as you say rightly say, much subjectivity exists in any narrative concerning Jamaican musicology. what is beyond doubt though is Sir Coxsone’s innovation and contribution to it becoming the music that we get so much from. 30 pieces of silver…wicked slice.

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  3. Baba-Boom (if that’s the right right spelling) was another great slice of early Ja. I first heard it played in the Kandy Lounge/club…. a real den of iniquity!

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    1. not exactly early…1967…but definately a great slice of JA rocksteady on the Treasure Isle label..The Kandy? where was it situated?

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  4. There I go again, confusing musical memories. Oh well, better simple confusion than nothing at all.

    The Kandy. Gerrard St….. underneath a very shady Chinese “eater”. No sign to speak of. Down ordinary, narrow, metal steps to a double-vaulted basement late-nighter frequented by the hard-core!!!

    I’d go there with my mob after The Scene closed. It was here I first heard Ska music…. O Carolina (I think?)

    Great dialogue on this theme by the way… I’m loving it!

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    1. I appreciate that it was many moons ago but what time frame would that be? the Scene closed in 1965, (I think !!), if that helps to place it?
      Dialogue…same here and I know that there are many others around the globe who feel the same way even if they haven’t put it in writing !!

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  5. Sorry. I got my “its” a bit mixed up there….

    First, time frames.
    It must have been Oh Carolina I heard at The Kandy not Baba-Boom because, as I”ve already said we’ed head over to The Kandy after The Scene closed.

    Second. The Kandy (and people, please don’t misconstrue my own sexuality on the basis of tis snippet…. The Kandy catered for the “hard-core” night-lifers. Hetro and Homo… got it!).

    Taken from Hayden Bridge’s article… History Of Gay Clubbing In London… posted on the pucker Jack That Cat Was Clean blog.

    “In 1962, David Browne, manager of the Kandy Lounge in Gerrard Street, was hauled into Court because the club had been “visited by plain clothes policemen who observed men dancing the twist with each other.” Browne’s counsel maintained that the men concerned were dancing the madison, in which people of the same sex formed a line. It didn’t wash. Browne was found guilty. The twist spawned several variations – the fly, the mashed potato, the locomotion, the pop pie – whose names were more familiar than their steps. (When Kylie revived the Locomotion in 1988, nobody could be found who remembered Little eva’s original dance). In 1963, despite the continuing success of the twist, its prime exponent, Chubby Checker, turned his attention to the limbo.The next major development was the blues, the first of the “standing still and twitching” dances, supposedly invented by Dave Clark as a publicity stunt for his record ‘Do You Love Me?’ (1963). It became the mods’ favourite dance, and was later “mod”ified into the hitch-hiker and the shake.The latter superseded the twist, but by the end of 1965 it had evolved into the frug, which became the staple dance of the late sixties.”

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    1. nice..
      always been the case that the Hard Core night lifers are made up of people with different tastes..for instance I remember a club, (1985/6) next door to the Astoria run by a raving iron called Phil Salon, The Mud Club which was full of people with different sexual preferences. But a lot of us went there as there wasn’t that much else on at the time that played the music we liked. Also a few years later at the dawn of the ‘House Scene’…Heaven, a full on Gay club, (beneath Charing Cross station), was a BIG night out…..Memorable nights. I often found that the Gay community would let you be, do and wear what you wanted without having to fight for the right, (unlike my manor in deep South), where being ‘different’ was like an excuse to be attacked, (happened many times), by the rednecks. They were always surprised though when I gave better than I got as I was brought up to ‘be first’ while mugs like that are what’s known over here as ‘Giving it the big ‘un’ hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha…brings memories of some surprised ‘boats’ flooding back..digressing here but I have never been afraid to take a dig win or lose. not becoming a victim is what matters to me. of course I would always rather have a ‘straightener’ without ‘tools’ but sometimes circumstances dictate if you know what I mean…

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  6. “Brown’s counsel maintained that the men concerned were dancing the Madison (not the twist.. please note), in which people of the same sex formed a line”.

    The geezer certainly knew his dance-steps!!!

    But on a more sober note… Homosexuality was ILLEGAL in 1962. It was a serious crime. Men (society hadn’t quite cottoned on to the fact that some women might also be “queer”) went to Jail if caught.

    And an even more sobering thought…. Back then, a “good” percentage of the men running our country…. “dabbled”.

    How’s that for hypocrisy? Or compromise and blackmail?

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  7. Yeh, I know what you mean about the Gay scene leaving one alone. Mind you, in the days when I was out and about, it was usually after a “pass” had had to be “loudly” rejected… It really was a weird turn-out pre-Wolfenden!

    As for “rednecks” (lovely term) I most definately hear you. Not that I ever had the same problem… hahahahahaha!

    “boats”? “straightners”? “tools”?

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    1. Iron hoof = poof
      Boat race = face
      (old school), Straightener = a fight without weapons.
      Tool = anything that can be used as a weapon in a tear up. always a last resort but sometimes you have no choice and are forced to meet ‘fire with fire’..
      Like the time a whole pub full of the Shooters Hill crew emptied baying for our blood, there were four, (and a half !!), of us and only ‘Johnny The Fox’ and me retaliated. One kid, (which all of us were), had it on his ‘bromleys’ before it had even begun. the ‘half’ dissapeared while the Fox and Lou, (who wasn’t at all a scrapper), were attacked. Seeing the odds stacked HEAVILY against us I slipped into the nearest garden to get tooled and emerged with the second thing I could find, (two bricks), and came out to see the Fox, my brother, (who I would kill and die for), being laid into. If it wasn’t for the screaming mob descending like a pack of hungy wolves I might have just joined the fray, (old school), but if the pack had descended on us we might not have lived to see tomorrow so I unloaded my weapons square into the side of one of them while screaming “that’s my brother you cuuuuuuuunnnnnntsss”, the other one turned shocked to see his pal crumple to the, rory, (pavement), like a sack of potatoes and the Fox siezed the opportunity and ‘chinned’ the other one at which point we ran like our lives depended on it which it transpired they probably did because within minutes we had motorbikes pulling iron bars and transit vans loded with bruisers on our ‘dailys’…had to lie low for a few months after that and on the strength of it decided that the time had come to seek pastures new…I can look back on it now and laugh but at the time it was heavy like lead..

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  8. This great track deserves a mention for what it introduced. It is significant for incorporating the roots sounds of Rastafarian nyabingi drumming into Jamaican popular music. Though the rest of the song is basically Jamaican R&B in nature and not quite ska, the drumming added a folk roots touch never before heard on Jamaican airwaves.

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