|Lee Perry - Mr Perry I Presume
George Faith - Don't Be Afraid (12" mix)
The Gatherers - Word (Acapella mix)
Lee Perry & The Upsetters - Jah I
Joy White - Lay Besides You
The Upsetters - Big Bird Skank
Noel Robinson - Along The Way
The Upsetters - Along The Way Version
The Upsetters - War & Peace
The Upsetters - Sun Is Shining (Dub Plate mix)
Peter & Paul - Ethiopia Land
Keith Rowe & The Upsetters - Groovy Situation
Susan & Bunny - Keep On Trying
The Upsetters - Police & Dub
Keith Rowe & The Upsetters - Living My Life
The Upsetters - Devils Dub Plate
Augustus Pablo & The Upsetters - Keep On Moving
|This set resumes the Pressure Sounds mission to shine a light on the music and exclusive mixes that were only ever heard by those few hundred that went to particular sounds. The tracks range from re-mixes of existing classics, recorded prior to his famed Black Ark studio being built in 1973, to obscure tunes that never achieved vinyl release and exclusive mixes of tunes from the Black Ark's trajectory of destruction.
Perry-heads will be interested in the original vocal that Joe White cut before Scratch used Susan Cadogan to re-voice the song and also her duet with Bunny Rugs that never made it onto her album. There's Perry returning to Words - that is also featured in acappella style. But it's best to let the tracks speak of a creative mind in full flow.
In 1974 the UK was still suffering the aftermath of the 'three-day week', an ongoing mainland bombing campaign from the IRA and a society struggling to come to terms with the effects of post-war immigration from (ex) colonial countries. In October McDonalds open their first UK Restaurant in Woolwich, south London and in north London, a Sound System Clash would go down in history and prove to be the first major incident in what became over a decade of violence from the police toward the immigrant community.
Generally youth culture was marginalised and not reported on but if you were a teenager born to the 'Windward generation' life was doubly tough as even getting into Nightclubs and Disco's frequently proved to be impossible: the infamous 'No Blacks, No Irish, No dogs', signs could still be seen in windows in London: and there were plenty of those invisible signs.
It was to the nascent UK Sound System Culture that the West Indian teenagers turned. Sound Systems sprung up across London and small out of the way venues played host to 'Sessions' and 'clashes' especially in parts or north & south London. Sounds had passionate locally followings and, just like local football clubs, the weekend events were both keenly anticipated and then dissected the following week.
Home-made Speaker Boxes and amplifiers were driven in old vans to the venues where 'Box Boys' carried everything in and then out again - often in the small hours. Lord Koos had a fifty watts valve amplifier for his bass bins - which was big and powerful by standards in 1974. The boxes, often painted up, vibrated and rattled as the music boomed out and the amplifiers glowed red and gave off hand warming levels of heat and smelt of cooking dust and dirt.
On Friday October 11th, 1974, (it has been wrongly reported elsewhere that the dance took place on the 13th October but it was the 11th October) one such clash was keenly anticipated on the north London scene as Lord Koos was 'Clashing' with Jah Sufferer's, whilst Count Nick would start the night. Preparation for the clash had begun during the previous week as various 'dub plates' were cut, as Dennis Bovell recalled in Reggae Britannia:
"Whilst thumbing through the yellow pages one time looking for a place to cut an acetate I found Hassell Recordings. Phoned up. Gone over there, (found) an elderly gentleman who was famed for smoking a big fat cigar: John Hassell. And we'd go into his house, his living room and he's got this wonderful German disc cutting lathe set up in his front room. And his wife Felicity offered us a cup of tea, a cup of coffee and then we'd put on these tapes, this like reggae.'
As the sounds vied for local supremacy or London wide recognition these acetates - known as 'dub plates' - became the very heartbeat of pride of the Sound. It was about exclusivity - they also showed that you were 'in the know' and 'linked in' with the upcoming Jamaican producers. These items weren't bought off the shelf but were obtained after many phone calls and meetings and then a trip to John Hassell's house in Barnes. Many such dubs went on to become almost mythical on the Sound System scene: they created those moments that were discussed and debated. Lee Perry was no stranger to John Hassell's house: A regular visitor to England since the late 1960s he had become one of the key faces on the scene and his trips to London not only saw distribution deals done and finished vinyl product sold but dubs cut for exclusive play at certain Sounds only. For this clash Jah Sufferer had dubs fresh in from Lee Perry - including some Vin Gordon tracks, that would eventually surface on DIP. He was being taken around by Larry 'Ethnic Fight' Lawrence, who ran a label and a record distribution business. Also in the Sufferer's corner was Castro 'DEB' Brown. Both Scratch and Larry were sharp dressers, with Larry famed for his shirt and tie appearance. Lord Koos had been cutting fresh dubs from that man of a thousand friends - Mr. Bunny Lee - looking dapper in checked sleeveless jumper, a shirt with big collars and his trademark hat. The scene was set in the three rooms above the Burton's Tailors shop on Cricklewood Broadway: not a very glamorous venue for the showdown... dress code was double smart - 'Criss' - the growing interest in Rasta only being shown by the odd flash of red, green and gold. In truth, for many, there was far more interest in that oldest of dances between teenage boys and girls... rub-a-dub style! The top floor bar, the dancehall itself on the next floor, the lower floor room - with snooker and card tables plus the connecting stair ways were all rammed: it was a sell-out, with several hundred people there. Moving around in the venue was slow and the constant flow of people going outside to the KFC only made the jammed stairs worse.
The vibes were good until three policemen appeared and started pushing through the crowd seemingly chasing someone: a suspected car thief had run into the club from outside. By pure coincidence Junior Byles 'Beat Down Babylon' was playing but the police took it personally. By the time they got to the dancehall room, the crowd had blocked the door and the police were kept out. The suspect ran into the loo's. A stand-off ensued but it quickly became clear that the police were bringing in large numbers - over 70 (young) officers, who immediately started being very 'hands-on' even with those milling around outside or on the way to the KFC. Once allowed access to the dance hall area the police literally waded into the crowd pushing, shoving, punching and kicking their way to the toilets, where the suspect was arrested and dragged out whilst a selector played Johnny Clarke new tune 'Move Outa Babylon'.
But then the police just started beating down on, and arresting, people - many who had no idea of what was even happening. Some on their way to the KFC suddenly got set upon by the police and found themselves in the back of the police van. Many escaped but with split lips and swollen eyes from the police violence. It was chaos with the police just attacking people - both male and female - for no reason what so ever: some started fighting back and the violence escalated.
Scratch, Bunny and their posse managed to quietly slip away: for them heavy handed police attacking a dance was a familiar event back in Kingston. Natty and friends carried out the tunes box and kept their mouths shut and didn't respond to punches and blows. The next day Sufferer DJ Dennis Bovell found himself a wanted man and reported to his local nick, where he was taken into custody. He spent 6 months in jail, on remand, charged under an ancient law: that he was 'about to commit a crime'. The case was eventually dropped.
The London Evening News ran a front page headline on the Saturday: '42 Held after Club Battle' and papers made much of the fact that Sufferers had a ceremonial type sword on their tunes box. All the papers reported 'trouble with coloured youths' or with 'West Indian youth'. The Daily Mail found an old lady who thought that the noisy 'West Indian' club should be closed down. The police made much of some bottle throwing and injuries sustained by about a dozen officers. A police spokesman said '...it's terribly unfortunate that the thing blew up out of all proportion'. A choice of words that speaks volumes. It was the first display of the tensions between the police and the young West Indian community: with the police clearly being the aggressors. Nine club goers, aged between 18 and 25, were eventually charged with 'making an affray'.
In 1976 these tensions boiled over again at the Notting Hill Carnival and it was of course Perry that caught the zeitgeist of those riots with his production of Junior Murvin's 'Police & Thieves' - a tune which he remixed several times for dub plates. In 1980 Rowan 'Mr. Bean' Atkinson starred in a comedy show called 'Not The Nine O'Clock News'. In one sketch he played a policeman who'd arrested someone for being in possession of 'curly hair, big lips and wearing a loud shirt'. A nation knew it was true and laughed nervously: After the Brixton Riots in 1981 no one was laughing.
Scratch licensed about half a dozen singles to Larry and his Ethnic (Fight) label(s) in 1974 but much to Larry's disappointment Susan Cadogan's 'Hurt So Good' went to the Birmingham based DIP set up, who also released a slew of UK only albums, which included some cuts played at this clash. The first dub album to hit the Number 1 spot in the UK Reggae Chart was 'King tubby Meets The Upsetter At The Grass Roots Of Dub' (Fay 1974) - a collection of tracks that had first surfaced at Sounds on a series of 4 track 10" dub plates. Perry produced dub plate only tracks, like Clive Hylton's 'From creation', that could only be heard at certain sounds; all of which had exclusive vocal and dub mixes. He had once again found himself at the heart of a new culture and a new breed of music, where the 'music missile', was king: As the history of Sound System is written Perry's name will be called for sure. His restless spirit of exploration is today rightly celebrated and he's becoming a founding figure in the world of remixing and the producer as auteur.
In the film 'Babylon' the 'Battle of Burtons' was the inspiration for the police raid in the Sound System session scene.
All the crimes committed, day by day
No-one tries to stop it in any way
All the peace makers turned war officers
Police & Thieves: Lee Perry & Junior Murvin
|All material © Copyright Pressure Sounds|