As the first of an infrequent series of guest posts I asked my friend Peter Darlington to offer up a few words and sounds. The idea of these posts is that there is no idea – the writer has a free forum to say whatever they like about whatever they want as long as it relates to this blog’s loose theme: music.

The only curation offered by me is that the writers are people who I think have extraordinary musical taste. Thus…..

———–

Recently, my 17 year old son Tom and I have started a radio show on Nelson’s community station Fresh FM. The show is called Generation Beats and aims to join the musical dots between our generations. Our house has always been filled with music and for a long time my tastes have ventured towards funk, soul and reggae, including dub and various electronica. Tom’s tastes veer more towards big house, electro, drum and bass, and dubstep, but as he’s gone on his own musical journey he’s picking up on the musical roots buried inside the newer tunes he listens to.

The first time he came to me about this was when he heard me playing Max Romeo’s I Chase the Devil.

This song was part of the War Ina Babylon album, one of the classic Lee Scratch Perry, Black Ark Studio produced albums that came about in the early 1970’s. Released in 1973 it displayed great tunes and the kind of deep, warm, overdubbed production Perry had perfected at Black Ark. Coupled with the righteous anger of Max’s voice it was a real winner. The tune opens with a startling vocal pronouncement before proceeding with a now famous (and much borrowed) rhythm laid down by Perry’s house band The Upsetters.

My son had been listening to the Prodigy, namely this tune, called Outta Space:

It’s not a reggae purist’s cup of tea for sure, but he was surprised to hear the classic opening refrain in a different context from what he knew, especially as it was the original, and from so long ago. I guess in that moment the concept of the remix was born for him. Having that introduction, he ended up copying large swathes of my Max Romeo collection and this led him on to more esoteric Jamaican fare such as Bob Marley (smiley face) and Lee Scratch Perry. He also began spreading it around his friends who started to become quite reggae friendly.

It’s not a one way street though, I might hear some Topcat or Tenor Saw, James Brown or Etta James sampled in his tunes and can point him to the originals. This is a long way of illustrating that music has become quite circular for us and I find myself happily playing High Contrast, Netsky, j Majik and Wickaman alongside Mad Professor or Scientist.

Back to Maxie though. We’re planning to mine a lot of remix action on our show and Chase the Devil is a perfect example. From a rare Lee Perry version, messed about, echoed out and overdubbed to high heaven, Disco Devil…

…to Mad Professor’s “Pabloesque” version…

One of my favourites is Dreadzone’s Iron Shirt from the album Once Upon a Time

…which featured in the movie Fire in Babylon

…in a scene where the West Indies are dishing out dangerous physical payback to an arrogant 1970s Australian cricket side. It’s a perfect piece to symbolise the birth of one of the greatest cricket sides of all time, reflecting the heat and intensity of that series, and of course Max Romeo was originally singing about throwing off one’s inner doubts and negativity (the Devil) by building up an armour of positivity (the iron shirt) and casting the badness out of your mind (to Outer Space). Max talks about it here.

It doesn’t end there though, how many rap fans would have known about Max when Jay Z added “Lucifer” to his classic “The Black Album”?

I’ve even tracked down white-boy rock versions of the song which I don’t care to share here.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Max Romeo is still alive and kicking. He’s about to play as part of the Jamaica 50th Anniversary of Independence celebrations in London from 26 July to 6 August 2012 which fills me with great joy. I’d read a few years ago that Max was living in a caravan with his extended family on the outskirts of Kingston, suffering like many of his contemporaries from a lack of financial reward for his labours. Hopefully the pay packets are still coming though, looking at the above you’ve got to say that the man deserves it, and if you’re still not convinced, I’ll leave you with one more stone cold wonder. Max and Scratch and a tune called One Step Forward

Peter Darlington

 

Tagged with: