“Can’t You See”: Rare (?!) Wailers

Back in 1966 when The Wailers were three vocalists (and not a backing band for reggae music’s most famous artist), Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer were under contract to Coxsone Dodd‘s Studio One label.  Recently, after re-watching the 1992 Peter Tosh documentary, Red X, I suddenly got the urge to listen to the original 1966 Studio One recording of “Can’t You See” — a song authored by Tosh that sounds completely unlike anything else recorded by the Wailers from 1963-1966, stylistically and otherwise.   So imagine my surprise when I discovered this recording’s complete absence from YouTube.

After a couple well-placed phone calls and a little bit of knob twiddling, Zero to 180 has now made it possible for you [depending on your geographical location*] to hear streaming audio of the song for the first time on YouTube.  Blink and you will miss the percussion intro that kicks off the song (an intro, by the way, that fails to reappear in all future arrangements/recordings of the song — e.g., the early reggae version recorded across town at Leslie Kong’s studio in 1970, or the heavier roots reggae version laid down at Kingston’s Dynamic Sound in 1979, with Geoffrey Chung’s assistance):

“Can’t You See”     Peter Tosh & The Wailers     1966

[*Per email from ‘The YouTube Team’ dated May 15, 2018:  “Due to a copyright claim, your YouTube video has been blocked in some countries. This means that your video is still up on YouTube, but people in some countries may not be able to watch it.”]

Roger Steffens and Leroy Pierson, in the liner notes to the double-disc Wailers retrospective, One Love at Studio One, point out the “beat group” influences (during a particularly creative period for the Stones) that are evident in this standout track:

“Can’t You See” demonstrates Tosh’s early interest in rock and roll, particularly the influence of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, with whom he would sign a dozen years hence.  Peter leads.

A little surprised to see Tosh’s name appear just thrice on the songwriting credits for the 40 songs included on this double-disc retrospective (Bunny Wailer’s name, by comparison, appears seven times).

20-track LP version (1994)      -vs.-      40-track 2-CD release (1994)

In 2010, someone (in Sweden) would pay exactly $213 for a “blank original Coxsone” release of “Can’t You See.”  But wait — two years prior, someone (in France) had paid $256 for a blank original release.

Genre-wise, how do I “tag” this recording?  It’s certainly not rocksteady, despite being recorded the year of rocksteady’s birth.  And calling it reggae makes even less sense.  Zero to 180 may live to regret its (desperate) decision to tag it as “rocksteady” anyway.

Forgotten 1968 UK Rocksteady 45

Thanks again to record collector extraordinaire, Tom Avazian — underwriter of numerous Zero to 180 research initiatives (most recently, Scotland’s The Poets) — who provided a vinyl copy of 1988 UK anthology, 20 One Hit Wonders, an album that includes a strong track from a band of Birmingham musicians, The Locomotive, who began their career playing rocksteady in a rather convincing manner, before changing gears altogether on their next single and subsequent album before disbanding soon after.

20 One Hit Wonders LPLocomotive’s second single, “Rudi’s In Love” (which slyly quotes “007 (Shanty Town),” Desmond Dekker’s big hit from the year before) would be their debut for Parlophone in 1968, and enjoy release in Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, and Yugoslavia [pictured below – left to right, top down], as well as the US, New Zealand, and Australia.

Locomotive 45 - DenmarkLocomotive 45 - FranceLocomotive 45 - GermanyLocomotive 45 - ItalyLocomotive 45 - NetherlandsLocomotive 45 - SpainLocomotive 45 - Yugoslavia

Billboard would announce in their November 16, 1968 edition (“Locomotive Disk on Speedy Track“) that “the Parlophone single ‘Rudi’s In Love’ is being released in 14 countries in Europe and in the US on the Bell label.”  According to Brum Beat – whose list of Top 20 Birmingham bands includes The Locomotive – “The catchy ‘Rudi’s In Love‘ proved very popular on the dance floor and reached Number 25 during its eight week stay in the charts.”

Beginning in the late 1980s, “Rudi’s In Love” would be repackaged in various 60s oldies compilations, such as Hits of 1968; The Best Sixties Party; 101 Sixties Hits; 100 Hits Swinging 60s; 100 60s Hits ; North of Watford (24 Rare Pop & Soul Classics 1964-82) — and even a couple West Indian-themed collections, The Best Reggae Album in the World … Ever!  Part 2 and Suited & Booted:  Essential Mod & Ska.

Suited & BootedAnd yet, amazingly, for a song so widely distributed, “Rudi’s In Love” (as of today) is only available on YouTube in the form of a live BBC version that, unfortunately, is not well recorded.  How can this be?  45Cat contributor, jimmytheferret, proclaims “Rudi’s In Love” to be “one of the most iconic records of the late sixties” and consequently has posted audio for the song on YouTube.  And yet, when you click on the video link, YouTube informs us that “this video contains content from WMG [Warner Music Group?], who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.”  Ah ha…

However, for a limited time — the next ten days — Zero to 180 will make this track available to whomever has accidentally stumbled upon this blog:

[Time limit has expired – MP3 since removed.  Sorry, folks!]

[Pssst:  Click triangle above to play “Rudi’s In Love” by Locomotive]

SixtiesVinylSingles tells us that the “stellar brass section” includes ‘his’ friend Lyn Dobson on sax “together with Dick Heckstall-Smith and Chris Mercer, and with Henry Lowther on trumpet.”  “Rudi’s In Love” is notable for having been produced by Gus “Space Oddity” Dudgeon (who is famous for having worked with Elton John in his early years and XTC in their later years), along with Tony Hall.

BigBearMusic reports that the inaugural release for Big Bear Records (“UK’s longest-established independent record company”) was a “spoof ska 45 rpm single entitled ‘Rudi The Red-Nosed Reindeer‘ by a band whose nom-du-disque The Steam Shovel disguised the fact that they were, in reality, The Locomotive” (!)

Rudi the Red-Nosed Reindeer 45

Would you be surprised to learn that EMI reissued “Rudi’s In Love” in 1980, at the height of the second-wave ska craze, in a two-tone-themed picture sleeve?

UK REISSUE, 1980                                      US SINGLE, 1968

Locomotive 45 - UK - 1980-bLocomotive 45 - US-a

PROMO EP, 1979
[Click on image below for maximum Resolution]

Locomotive UK EP

2005 would find “Rudi’s In Love’ selected, curiously enough, for a Japanese DJ cassette mix tape of various and sundry (44 tracks in all) entitled, Freaks Vol. 1.

Freaks - Vol 1Original vinyl trades at auction for decent prices — in fact, four days ago, someone paid £150 for an “extremely rare mispress” of the original UK 45:  two “B” sides!

Norman Haines, who penned “Rudi’s In Love,” would later prove to be “instrumental in developing how Black Sabbath worked” in their earliest days, notes Big Takeover‘s AJ Morocco, “He orchestrated their first arrangements and likely taught them how to commit their songs to tape in the studio.”

Sheet music below serves as bedroom poster when you click on image

Rudi's In Love - bedroom poster

Making Each Cymbal Crash Count

Listen carefully and you can count each of the three cymbal crashes in this unjustly obscure – and humorous – rocksteady 45 from Jamaican vocal group The Three Tops: about a “gambling lady” with a yen for the one-armed bandit:

“Slot Machine”     The Three Tops     1968

I am fascinated by this uniquely minimalist Jamaican approach with regard to the crash cymbal, thus helping to ensure that each use really counts.  Note, too, the kick drum pattern that accompanies each crash, as well as the unusually deep bottom of the mix overall — pushing the bass forward decades before the modern pop world would eventually catch on.  Produced by KarlSir JJJohnson, with what sounds to my ears like Lyn Taitt on the staccato lead guitar.

Kilowatts 45-cSays London’s venerable Dub Vendor about the 45 itself:

Two prime slices of Boss Reggae from The Kilowatts aka The Three Tops, allegedly.”

Armed with this new information, I would quickly learn – no surprise – that blank labels of “Slot Machine” [by The Kilowatts] can fetch up to $400 (though not always, fortunately).

One blank label marked “Gambling Lady” — while another is marked “Bandit”

Kilowatts 45-bKilowatts 45-a

Kingstonians’ $800 Rocksteady

Heavy 1968 rocksteady from the studio of KarlSir JJJohnson, with Lyn Taitt, possibly, on guitar.  But the real mystery lies with the vocalists themselves, The Kingstonians, specifically the basso profundo:

Q:  Are the tapes being slowed down, or does the bass vocalist really sing that deep?

“Put Down Your Fire”     The Kingstonians     1968

While I admit it is possible that the bass vocalist’s range could really be that low, I am suspicious, since none of the other Kingstonians singles from that same year feature backing vocals with anywhere close to the same bottom end.  Listen for yourself — preview audio on YouTube by using song titles from this Kingstonians singles discography.

In 2012, someone would pay $797 for an original Jamaican white label pressing (vs. UK 45 issued on Doctor Bird) of “Put Down Your Fire.”  It cannot be denied:  some people are prepared to spend hundreds of dollars on Kingstonians 45s — including over $2,000 for “Torture and Flames” by lead vocalist Jackie Bernard.

Kingstonians 45-aNote the address on the 45 above – “133 Orange Street” – which would make it next-door neighbors with Rockers International, one of the last remaining vinyl shops on Kingston’s famed record row, Orange Street, and the subject of a Guardian piece from March, 2015: “Rockers International Records on Orange St., Kingston:  Reggae Playlist.”

PRINCE BUSTER‘s former record store – Orange St. [photo courtesy Guardian UK]

Prince Buster's record shop

Rocksteady: Cowbell Golden Era

Will Ferrell’s inspired sketch idea as a cowbell-wielding member of Blue Oyster Cult named Gene Frenkle may have lost some of its freshness, however Ferrell deserves credit for galvanizing interest in this long-neglected member of the percussion family.   Five years after that Saturday Night Live sketch originally aired, Paul Farhi would reveal in The Washington Post’s January 29, 2005 edition that Frenkle was, indeed, a fiction.  Furthermore —

“According to former BOC bassist Joe Bouchard, an unnamed producer asked his brother, drummer Albert Bouchard, to play the cowbell after the fact.  ‘Albert thought he was crazy,’ Bouchard told the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press in 2000.  ‘But he put all this tape around a cowbell and played it.  It really pulled the track together.'”

How interesting, then, to discover the existence of a cowbell Golden Age just eight years before the release of “Don’t Fear the Reaper” in a parallel musical universe located within the Western Hemisphere – and yet not actually of it.  That’s right, 1968 was a peak moment for the cowbell on Jamaica’s radio airwaves and in their dancehalls — but for most of us here in the States, that fact would only come to light 3 decades after the fact, when CD reissues of reggae and its predecessor, rocksteady, began to appear here.

JA cowbellToday’s piece, therefore, salutes the cowbell in rocksteady’s magical-but-oh-so-brief moment in history.  Zero to 180 welcomes your suggestions to this (incomplete) list:

R o c k s t e a d y   &   E a r l y   R e g g a e   C o w b e l l   C l a s s i c s

Hortense Ellis w/ Buster All-Stars  "Somebody Help Me" 1967 [Buster]
Lyn Taitt & the Jets   "Mr. Dooby"   1967   [Merritone]
Alfred Brown  "One Bourbon One Scotch One Beer"  1968 [? producer]
Alton Ellis   "Bye Bye Love"   1968   [Clifton Bough]
Errol Dunkley  "Love Brother" & "I'm Going Home"  1968   [Gibbs]
The Dynamics w/ Lyn Taitt's Jets   "My Friends"   1968   [Gibbs]
The Pioneers w/ Lyn Taitt's Jets   "Give It to Me"   1968   [Gibbs]
Stranger & Gladdy   "Just Like a River"   1968  [Gibbs]
Shorty Perry & Ken Boothe  "Can't You See"   1968   [Links]
Untouchables   "Wall Flower"   1968   [Enos McLeod]
Desmond Dekker & the Aces  "Mother Pepper" 1968   [Kong]
The Ethiopians w/ Lyn Taitt's Jets "Train to Glory" 1968 [Pottinger]
The Gaylads  "It's Hard to Confess"  1968   [Pottinger]
The Melodians  "Swing and Dine"  1968  [Pottinger]
The Coasters   "Stony Hill"   1968   [Daley]
Black Brothers w/ Lyn Taitt's Jets   "Give Me Loving"  1968  [Morgan]
Cliff & the Diamonds  "Mother Benge"  1968  [Abrahams]
The Pioneers w/ Lyn Taitt's Jets  "This Is Soul"  1968  [Gibbs]
The Overtakers w/ Lyn Taitt's Jets  "Girl You Ruff"  1968  [Gibbs]

“Girl You Ruff” – White label release in JA vs. UK release on amalgamated label

Overtakers 45-aOvertakers 45-b

Related Trivia

= “Just Like a River” instrumentally — “El Casino Royale” & “Last Flight to Reggae City

= Ken Boothe’s “Can’t You See” (esp. ‘blanks’) can easily sell for hundreds of dollars.

= “Mother Benge” by Cliff & the Diamonds – as previously mentioned – not a cheap 45.

= In 2011, someone paid $255 for a blank (Amalgamated) copy of “Girl You Ruff

Lyn(n) Taitt Figures Prominently in JA Cowbell Lore

Lynn Taitt & Comets-aaLynn Taitt & Comets-bb

‘Scully’ Advises: Take It Cool

$521 on Ebay confirms my suspicion that the swaggering rocksteady tunefulness of 1967’s “Take It Cool” was a breakout moment, artistically speaking, for master percussionist and sometime-vocalist, NoelScullySimms:

 “Take It Cool”     Mr. Foundation (i.e., Noel ‘Zoot’ Simms)    1967

Would you believe someone paid the staggering sum of $700 at auction two years agoNinety dollars is a relative bargain, given that others have paid $108 and $345 dollars in the past for a copy of this 45.

Zoot Simms 45

Amazon Japan (and Amazon Germany) both offer this song for sale in MP3 format – fascinatingly enough – as part of a compilation entitled Skinheads on the Dancefloor:  Obscure Rocksteady, vol. 7.

Even more intriguing is the eyebrow-raising claim by Discogs.com that Noel ‘Scully’ Simms is “arguably the first Jamaican artist to release a record single” — without then identifying the title (!) of this historic recording.  What gives?

Noel Scully Simms-bb

Scully & Sticky: Percussion Pioneers

Scan the musician credits on classic Jamaican popular music from the 1960s and 70s (i.e., ska, rocksteady, reggae & dub), and odds are in your favor that you will see the name of at least one of these two percussionists: NoelScully’ Simms & UzziahSticky’ Thompson.

Scully                             &                             Sticky

Noel Scully Simms-aaUziah Sticky Thompson-a

Uzziah, the elder of the two drummers by one year, left us in 2014 at the age of 78, I’m very sorry to report.  Scully, who is still with us fortunately, is (I recently discovered) another distinguished graduate of the Alpha Boys School.  And although Thompson has served as vocalist/DJ on a handful of songs over the years (including “Guns of Navarone” by The Skatalites), Simms – I’m only just starting to discover – has been both a sideman and solo artist to a much greater degree than I initially thought.

Simms also clearly has a bit of the trickster in him, as evidenced by the nearly endless number of variant names (a cataloger’s nightmare) formally noted on the Discogs.com website, including one amusing alter ego – Mr. Foundation – that was used on at least six Studio One singles for the UK market, including this chugging groove – “Timo Oh” – that instantly grabs the listener with the distinctive opening crack of the snare drum:

“Timo Oh”     Mr. Foundation (i.e., Noel ‘Scully’ Simms)     1968

Late rocksteady or early reggae?   Stylistically, the song adroitly seems beholden to neither and both at the same time.  45Cat says this disc was released September, 1968 in the UK.

Reassuring to know I’m not the only one who finds this track compelling — in 2012, someone paid the equivalent of $344 (US) for this 2-minute recording, according to Popsike.

 A Selected Discography:  Recordings That Include ‘Scully’ & ‘Sticky’

Scully & Sticky LP-aaScully & Sticky LP-eeScully & Sticky LP-hhScully & Sticky LP-bbScully & Sticky LP-ccScully & Sticky LP-zzScully & Sticky LP-ggScully & Sticky LP-jjScully & Sticky LP-kkScully & Sticky LP-llScully & Sticky LP-mmScully & Sticky LP-nnScully & Sticky LP-rrScully & Sticky LP-ooScully & Sticky LP-ppScully & Sticky LP-qqScully & Sticky LP-ffScully & Sticky LP-iiScully & Sticky LP-ssScully & Sticky LP-tt

Rocksteady “Rain”

One other noteworthy “Beatle-related moment from 1967”:  Jamaican rocksteady version of Fab Four 45-only release “Rain” that almost certainly features the musical backing of Lyn Taitt and his fabulous Jets:

“Rain Rock Steady”     Tomorrow’s Children     1967

Says Copasetic Mail Order about this 1967 debut release from Tomorrow’s Children:

“Tomorrow’s Children were probably favored by uptown youths rather than downtown Rudies because of their funky, hard hitting sounds and lyrics.  With those elements, they successfully created own killer style, which can be undoubtedly heard with ‘Bang Bang Rock Steady’. The group also versioned the Beatles’ ‘Rain’ in fine Rocksteady style.  The original record was released in 1967.  The original 45 will set you back a fortune. Killer tune – guaranteed dancefloor filler.”

Tomorrow's Children-bTomorrow's Children-a

The A-side “Bang Bang Rock Steady” would be, amusingly enough, a cover of Cher’s #2 1966 hit that features the “trilling” sound of Lyn Taitt and his fluttering lead guitar lines:

“Bang Band Rock Steady”     Tomorrow’s Children     1967

“Whine and Grine”: Rocksteady with Pre-Fame Jeremy Sisto

Thanks to Dave Katz’s feature article about Prince Buster in the June 2008 issue of Mojo for leading me to this 1998 Levi’s ad that stars a young Jeremy Sisto before the HBO series, Six Feet Under, made him a breakout star:

The advert utilizes Prince Buster‘s 1968 single “Whine and Grine” for its musical backdrop (although, as Katz points out, this version has been reconfigured by the rhythm section of top UK roots reggae outfit, Aswad – click here to compare with the original release).  Amusing how the “shake it up” lyric sets up the pivotal earthquake plot point around which this ad centers – note how Sisto’s rigid jeans stay unfailingly affixed to his body.

Hope the Prince got paid a King’s ransom for the song’s use.

Island would issue this new version on the heels of the buzz created by the Levi’s ad, and Buster would have a UK Top 30 hit (#21) in April of 1998.  Aswad’s Drummie Zeb and Tony Gad would get producer credits on the updated version.

Sonia Pottinger: Jamaica’s First Female Record Producer

Trailblazing, by definition, can be a lonely enterprise – but someone has to move civilization forward.  Therefore, hats off to Jamaica’s first woman music producer, Sonia Pottinger, who managed to navigate a path through a field that is still overwhelmingly dominated by men and left future generations a legacy of classic recordings.

“Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl” – one of the few photos of Sonia Pottinger

Sonia Eloise PottingerUpon her passing, Howard Campbell in the November 7, 2010 edition of The Gleaner would pronounce her “Jamaica’s most successful women producer” although, curiously, neglect to point out she was the first.  Campbell would also write:

“Born in St Thomas, Pottinger was introduced to the music business by her husband L.O. Pottinger, an engineer who had relative success as a producer in the mid-1960s.  She went on her own during that period, scoring a massive hit with ‘Every Night‘, a ballad by singer Joe White.  Pottinger had considerable success in the late 1960s with her Tip Top, High Note and Gay Feet labels. She produced Errol Dunkley’s debut album, Presenting Errol Dunkley, and hit songs by vocal groups like The Melodians (‘Swing and Dine’), The Gaylads (‘Hard to Confess’) and ‘Guns Fever’ by The Silvertones.”

I was also intrigued to learn that, as Campbell notes, Pottinger bought the catalogue and operations of the esteemed Treasure Isle label after the passing of its founder/owner, Duke Reid (but only after first doing battle in Jamaica’s Supreme Court with Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd, as well as Duke Reid’s son and Edward ‘Bunny’ Lee’; sadly, she would die the very next year after winning her case).   Incredibly, this same publication – just 16 months later – would publish a piece entitled, “Women Who Shaped Jamaican Music” … and fail to even mention her!  Is my indignation righteous enough?  Today’s piece, consequently, is my attempt to bring about some measure of pop music social justice.

Sonia Pottinger, who would go on to receive Jamaica’s Order of Distinction

Sonia PottingerAs pointed out in yesterday’s piece, Sonia Pottinger issued two singles by pioneering reggae vibraphonist, Lennie Hibbert.  Additionally, Pottinger would be among the first of the producers in Prince Buster’s wake to incorporate the traditional and deep Nyabinghi hand drum rhythms into rocksteady and reggae music, as evidenced on Patsy Todd’s uniquely Jamaican interpretation of Miriam Makeba‘s big hit, “Pata Pata” (with backing by Count Ossie’s mighty band) – both versions released in 1967:

Every Culture album that bears the Pottinger production mark is top-notch and a must-own.  Other crucial Pottinger productions worthy of your time include this short list: