“Festival Rock”: History Lesson

Jamaican DJ Dillinger toasts each of the winners to date of the Independence Festival Song Competition in “Festival Rock,” his entry for the 8th annual event in 1973:

“Festival Rock”      Dillinger     1973

1966:  The Maytals with “Bam Bam
1967:  The Jamaicans with “Ba Ba Boom
1968:  Desmond Dekker & The Aces with “Music Like Dirt
1969:  The Maytals with “Sweet and Dandy
1970:  Hopeton Lewis with “Boom Shaka Laka
1971:  Eric Donaldson with “Cherry Oh Baby
1972:  Toots & the Maytals with “Pomps and Pride

Musical misspelling:  “Dellinger”

LeeScratchPerry produced the original recording – Max Romeo‘s “Ginal Ship” – that would serve as the backing track (sans vocals) for “Festival Rock.”

And yet, oddly, most of the references to “Festival Rock” that I see online and in print declare Max Romeo to be the producer — how can this be?

In Jamaica, “Festival Rock” would be issued on a white/blank label release as the B-side of “Cocky Bully” — both considered “DJ” cuts of the “Ginal Ship” single originally released on Lee Perry’s Upsetter label in 1971.

Which song emerged victorious in the 1973 Independence Festival Song Competition, you ask?   Envelope, please:

Did you know?  There are other Zero to 180 stories tagged as Musical Roll Calls

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Bonus Bass Bonanza!
Did Paul McCartney Hand the Hofner Torch … to Robbie Shakespeare?

According to Vivien Goldman‘s riveting historical examination of the recording of the Exodus album in London, where Bob Marley and his crew were, literally, on the run following the 1976 assassination attempt at Marley’s compound on 56 Hope Road in Kingston:

Fams [i.e., AstonFamily ManBarrett] finally got his own instrument when one of his main clients, a jovial producer called BunnyStrikerLee, brought a short-necked, violin-shaped Hofner bass back from the U.K.  He’d purchased it from one Lee Gopthal, boss of the reggae label Trojan, who’d bought it from the Beatles‘ manager, Brian Epstein. So the previous owner of the bass on which Fams played those catchy Upsetters instrumental hits that both mods and skinheads partied to in England, such as “The Return of Django,” was once Paul McCartney[!]

The Upsetters at Randy’s in Kingston circa 1969/70
Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett (bass); Carlton ‘Carly’ Barrett (drums); Alva ‘Reggie’ Lewis (guitar) Glen Adams (organ)

Even more astonishingly, Goldman drops this revelation later in the book when she recounts the historic (and electrically charged) One Love Peace Concert of 1978:

Lunging across the stage, Tosh’s bass player, Robbie Shakespeare, brandished his instrument like a lance—the very same little Hofner that Paul McCartney used to play.  Shakespeare’s mentor, Family Man, had passed it on to his protege.

But wait – Paul McCartney himself displayed his famous Hofner “Beatle bass” in the June 15, 1989 edition of Rolling Stone.  Perhaps Paul owned more than one Hofner?

“Bankrobber”: Punk Roots Reggae, 2004

Great live performance of Mikey Dread at Glastonbury in 2004 where, in his tribute to The Clash’s Joe Strummer, he slyly mixes up the tempo about halfway through, as he veers playfully from torporific one-drop skank to ska at the drop of a hat:

Here’s a link to video footage of The Clash playing live with Mikey Dread on the band’s ‘Sixteen Tons’ tour — “Bankrobber” performed as the first song of their encore, no doubt from the three-camera shoot of the band’s concert at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, New Jersey on March 8, 1980.

“Bankrobber” enjoyed release as an A-side (backed with “Rockers Galore”) after first being issued as a B-side (“Train in Vain” – London Calling‘s ‘hidden’ track that ended up being The Clash’s first top 40 hit) — although some markets, such as Germany, Netherlands, France & Australia, got to enjoy all three tracks on a “maxi” 45 released in those nations.

Clash Meets Mikey Dread

“You Don’t Love Me”: Where Blues and Reggae Intersect

Thanks to Steve Hoffman‘s blues show on WPFW, today I was able to make the connection (as many others have done before me) that the inspiration for Dawn Penn‘s massive 1967 rocksteady hit, “No No No,” came directly from Willie Cobbs‘ hugely influential 1960 blues single, “You Don’t Love Me” — which, itself, was derived from a Bo Diddley tune five years prior, “She’s Fine She’s Mine“:

“You Don’t Love Me”     Willie Cobbs     1960

For comparison, check out Dawn Penn‘s interpretation, with musical support from Studio One’s Soul Vendors:

“You Don’t Love Me (No No No)”     Dawn Penn     1967

Or check out prototype as laid down by Bo Diddley:

“You Don’t Love Me”     Bo Diddley     1955

Long before Kingston, Jamaica became known as the “Nashville of the Third World,”  some of reggae’s most famous producers and label owners originally gained fame as mobile sound system operators playing obscure (at least, at that time) American jump blues and boogie 45s — albeit with identifying information removed from the labels to prevent other sound systems from knowing the names of the songs or artists behind their most popular records.   Relying on non-Jamaican recordings worked well enough in the pre-Internet 1950s.  ClementCoxsoneDodd, for instance, long enjoyed a reputation as the ranking sound system operator whose signature tune, “Coxsone Hop” (in reality, a 1950 honking sax instrumental called “Later for Gator” by Willis ‘Gatortail’ Jackson) ruled the Kingston dancehalls for an impressive seven years.  Until, that is, the fateful night Coxsone’s chief rival, Duke Reid, pulled the rug out from underneath him completely.  Prince Buster witnessed it all go down (as recounted in Lloyd Bradley‘s definitive history of Jamaican music, Bass Culture):

“I was at the counter with Coxsone, he have a glass in him hand.  He drop it and just collapse, sliding down the bar.  I had to brace him against the bar, then get Phantom [compatriot] to give me a hand.  The psychological impact had knocked him out.  Nobody never hit him.

We hold him up against the bar and try to shut out the noise.  Not only they play ‘Coxsone Hop,’ but they play seven of Coxsone’s top tunes straight.  When that happen, you know that tomorrow morning those tune’ll be selling in every fried-fish shop.”

Fortunately for the rest of the world, what initially seemed like a door slamming shut was actually a window of opportunity for sound system operators instead to obtain their musical “exclusives” by forging their own original sounds – which, in Coxsone’s case, led directly to the creation of Studio One, whose songs continue to rule the dancehalls today.

Coxsone behind the board

CoxsoneHow interesting to see Dodd draw on his prior experience as a sound system operator in refashioning “You Don’t Love Me” for a Jamaican audience.  Even more interesting to learn that Dawn Penn, who initially dropped out of the music business in 1970, would re-work “No No No” in a more contemporary dancehall style and hit the top of the Jamaican charts in 1994.   Most fascinating of all is that fact that two of the world’s top pop singers, Rhianna and Beyonce, breathed new life into this nearly 60-year-old tune when they covered “You Don’t Love Me” in 2005 and 2010, respectively.

Wait – didn’t Willie Cobbs (or Bo Diddley) write this song?

You Don't Love Me 45

“Sound Clash”: Dancehall Classic from Bunny Wailer

Back in the mid-to-late 1990s, classic Jamaican sounds of the 1960s and 70s began to appear in the American marketplace on compact disc – many for the first time – on such labels as Heartbeat, Trojan, Mango, Shanachie & Blood and Fire, among many others.

One of the more unusual compilations I purchased back then was a 3-CD UK-issued hodge podge of a mix – called Jamaica Ska-Kore – that spans a rather vast musical range from ska and rocksteady to early reggae, DJ, modern roots reggae and beyond.  Part of the mix’s charm is its complete disregard for sequencing, as well as occasional mishaps where the song playing is not the one printed on the track listing — or a repeat of an earlier tune, which is the case for Bunny Wailer’s live rendition of “Sound Clash,” a dancehall classic, which appears both at the end of disc one and track five of disc two:

Bunny Wailer