Playing out of the inner borough of Hackney, London Reggae Roast have been in the vanguard of the UK reggae and soundsystem culture for many years.
They have recorded original songs with international artists including General Levy, Mr Williamz, Burro Banton, Tippa Irie, Ward 21, Earl 16 and Charlie P to name just a few., and are also the first signing to Trojan Records’ new imprint label TrojanReloaded.
The regular events events organised by the collective are attended by thousands at a time and Reggae Roast now play regular slots at festivals all across the globe, always with a guest MC such as Kenny Knots, Charlie P or Ramon Judah.
Later this month they will release ‘Sensi Skank – Reloaded,’ (featuring Ruben da Silva.) As you may imagine, it’s a bit of an homage to weed, and re-visits Ruben’s #1 hit and giving it the Reggae Roast Soundsystem deep bass production treatment.
The video to accompany the track features a number of renowned personalities from the world of film and television – showcasing a rich tapestry of cannabis culture in cinematography.
Unfortunately, I’ve just realised there’s an embargo on the video until July 26th …. oops!
Still – I suppose it gives me an excuse to pop up a couple of other videos for your delectation and delight.
(And if you need more of this stuff in your life, and who doesn’t, then check out their excellent website for more news, events and podcasts.)
It wouldn’t be too long to wait before my first gig – only another four months or so, in March 1973. But in the meantime, my Alice Cooper LP ‘Love it to Death‘) was being played to death in my bedroom.
It whetted my appetite for more ‘heavy rock.’ In late 1972, however, gaining access to such music was not easy. You either had to know somebody who had bought an album and played it to you, or you took a punt and bought blind (or perhaps that should be ‘deaf.’)
Some shops though, like Lewis’s in Glasgow had ‘listening booths,’ where you’d be allowed to listen to one or two tracks from an album in the hope that you’d eventually buy.
(Latterly, the dingy wee Virgin Records shop at the end of Argyle Street, then Cambridge Street in Glasgow offered the use of headphones to listen to music. The down side though, was that only one person at a time could listen – we used to pile about six mates into the listening booth along the road in Lewis’s.
You would also have to explain to your parents just why your clothes were stinking of incense when you returned home. Telling them the shop burned joss sticks to cover up the smell of other smouldering substances in-store was probably not a good idea, though.
Some rock bands, however, like Free, Deep Purple and the excellent Atomic Rooster had been given airtime on the UK’s prime time popular music show, Top of the Pops in late 1971 / early 1972 and although a bit late to the party (again) I started to search out music from artists such as them.
Being ‘late to the party’ is a trend I’ve managed to maintain for almost fifty years, having just bought my first two Atomic Rooster albums in this past year.
(1972 also saw the blossoming of Glam Rock in the UK. Arguably started by Marc Bolan in mid 1971, the Glam movement was well and truly on the march through 1972.
At school, though as a thirteen / fourteen year old lad, it was not de rigueur, to show your true Glam self. Stars like Bolan and Bowie were for the girls. Boys had to be into what was perceived to be ‘harder’ rock. As mentioned in an earlier post, I got terrible stick for admitting I liked The Sweet. Little did those ‘macho’ pals of mine appreciate that most Glam bands could rock-out some pretty heavy riffs too.) (Look out for a special Glam Rock Feature coming soon to LOUD HORIZON.)
My first rock album however, was one of those blind / deaf purchases I referred to earlier. I had read of this band Uriah Heep in Sounds paper / magazine, and around mid-1972, sent away for their debut album, ‘…very ‘eavy… very ‘umble.’ This immediately took over from the Alice Cooper LP that had hogged the turntable for so many months.
With the exception of Lee Kerslake, who would play drums on subsequent recordings, this for me was by far the best incarnation of the band, with Dave Byron up there with the best lead vocalists of any band.
From a kid who was totally unaware of The Beatles just a few years earlier, I was now totally immersed in music. I couldn’t play a note, of course – I was far too lazy to learn despite my parents’ best efforts. And singing? There was more chance of me holding the World Heavyweight Boxing title than me holding a note.
1972 had been a year of musical enlightenment for me. It had started with me pestering my folks to buy me a shirt similar to one I’d seen Kenney Jones wear while playing drums for Rod Stewart on Top of the Pops. I wanted to look ‘cool’ at my school disco. (We never found one, of course, and I had to settle for a turquoise, paisley pattern shirt and matching kipper tie, with lilac needle-cord trousers.)
It ended with me wearing that very same outfit to a disco in London (I was part of a representative Glasgow Boy Scouts group visiting the city) where I had my first schoolboy crush on a girl from a local Guides troop. She liked me because I made her laugh.
I now know why.
Anyway – here’s the song that kicked off the year for me and is to this day, still one of my Top 10 tracks of all time.
I have taken the easy option here, because I know I couldn’t do any better! This post is reproduced with the kind permission of JIM S who runs the excellent MUSIC ENTHUSIAST blog / site.
I can’t say definitively how I came across the music of ROY BUCHANAN, but it would likely have been encouraged t explore more Blues material by the recordings of my ultimate musical hero, RORY GALLAGHER. Or perhaps it was the late night radio shows of JOHN PEEL.
Either way, my enthusiasm for the blues and ROY’S distinctive guitar playing style st me aside from my school pals who were all into the ‘accepted norm’ bands of the time like YES, DEEP PURPLE and PINK FLOYD.
This post by the MUSIC ENTHUSIAST is a really succinct piece on yet another tragic blues player taken from us to early. (I’d say ‘star’ but Roy was not the kind to go for that terminology).
“Probably the most original country style rock and roll guitar player. Has the nicest tone, the most amazing chops technically – superfast. And much neglected.” – Jerry Garcia on Roy Buchanan.
“We never heard anything quite like what Roy was doing. He interested the hell out of me. He’s not playing an arpeggio the way you learn an arpeggio. If you had studied the instrument you played straight on, the chromatic scale you’re taught in school (sic). This guy was anything but conventional – he was just out there. He was unrestricted, as far as what he played. If he felt like getting from here to there, it didn’t matter how he got there. If he didn’t pick it, he plucked it with his fingers. There were no rules with Roy. He was cruising down his own lane.” – Les Paul on Roy Buchanan
I have to credit this month’s issue (July 2019) of Wire magazine for prompting me to include this little piece.
There is absolutely no reason why I or anybody should be surprised at the fact that punk, and metal music are popular in Africa.
But it seems the case that I / we, are indeed surprised. In fairness, it’s more simply a case that we don’t often, if at all, have the opportunity to listen to those particular genres of music from that part of the world. It’s not promoted so much in the UK for instance, and indeed a Google search for ‘Afropunk’ or ‘Punk Africa’ etc doesn’t result in much other a few pages dedicated to the various annual festivals in USA and UK that do actively celebrate live music, film, fashion, and art produced by black artists.
This needs sorting right now! So, to add a little weight to the superb Wire article, and the short documentary made for German TV (see at the end of this piece) here’s what I can muster about Kenyan punk band, Crystal Axis.
The five-piece released their debut EP, ‘State of Unease‘ in 2012 when they were in their late teens. The music reflected the lads’ thoughts on the violence they witnesses during their country’s turbulent elections of 2007.
All went quiet on the band front for about five years as the the members graduated into further education.
However, they were to return mid 2017 with the release of the ‘Leopold’ a hard-hitting punk anthem, about King Leopold and the Belgian colonisation of the Congo. Although principally aimed at one person, the song is pertinent to all previous and subsequent colonisation.
This track shows how much the band matured in their time away. Guitarist Djae Aroni, who studied in the UK at Cantebury university, says the band are constantly gigging and recording with a view to releasing an album at some point in the near future.
Meantime, the band are to appear in the UK this summer. They will be performing in London, late June, at the brilliant sounding, Decolonise Fest.
To celebrate the impending release of their ‘comeback’ album, though technically, they were never really ‘away,’ I’ve posted a couple of old videos from this tremendously under-rated band on the ARTROCK page.
(If I say that BIG STICK were favourites of the much missed John Peel, that’ll convince you to check them out, yeah?)
My tastes were changing. Maturing, some would say.
But the kid in the 1971 me still found it tough to be weaned off the bubblegum and sugary Pop hits of the day. As a family, we’d been our first foreign holiday the previous year. To Spain, it was. And being played to death that summer was’Candida‘ by Tony Orlando and Dawn, while back home The Mixtures and ‘The Pushbike Song’ had been popular enough to reach number two in the January charts of 1971.
Both songs, and ‘Grandad‘ by Clive Dunn, were found by my parents on the one album in Woolworths. I’m guessing, but in in ultimately forlorn hope of ‘getting with it,’ they bought that album. And on bringing it home, chuffed to bits, they proudly told me I could play it (carefully) on the new radioogram.
My excitement, however, didn’t last long when it very quickly became apparent that the songs were not performed by the original artists Still, money was tight, and it was better than nothing at all.
A few months later, and buoyed by their ‘new cool,’ my folks bought another of those trendy compilations, principally for the track ‘Get it On.’ Of course there was no fooling me this time. Once bitten and all that. Also, the song ‘Coco,’ was on the LP, and I had the proper, 7″ single by The Sweet. I could spot the difference.
Anyway, this one didn’t last long in our scant collection. A couple days later, my Mum saw the TV Top of the Pops and decided Marc Bolan of T. Rex, who of course had the hit with ‘Get it On, ‘ looked ‘dirty.’ The following day I was dragged along to Woolworths in Drumchapel Shopping Centre, where she demanded her money back, despite the album having been played many times.
That was the day I learned the meaning of the word, ‘mortified.’
The rest of 1971 music passed me by without leaving much of an impression. I do still have ‘Bannerman‘ by Blue Mink in my collection, but that’s about it.
The following year though, shaped my music of choice – pretty much for life.
On a family weekend trip to Blackpool, I remember buying what would be only my third album. (The second was ‘Slade Alive‘ by Slade.)
That album was ‘Love It To Death,’ by Alice Cooper. I have no idea as to how I knew of the band. I think perhaps I was flicking through the record box and the rebellious, now fourteen-year-old in me had decided to exact retribution for my mother’s performance a year previous. You think Marc Bolan is ‘dirty’ do you? Get a load of this dude and his cronies!
(I unfortunately now own only a CD copy. I sold the vinyl to a second hand record store in Stirling not long after being married when we had no cash.)
I should have known my parents would win out in the end.
A few months later, Alice Cooper arrived in the UK for a series of shows. His reputation preceded him and of course the very conservative press of the time were all over it. I was desperate to go to the Glasgow show. It would be my first gig. But there was zero chance of that happening.
Determined my mind would not be corrupted by some deviant from the other side of the Atlantic, my folks properly ‘grounded’ me on the evening of 10th November 1972, to prevent me sneaking off to the show with a couple of pals who did have tickets. It was for my own good, of course.
One of my mates though, somehow managed to smuggle a tape recorder into the venue and so I was at least able to hear a very muffled version of the show.
Nine vinyl LPs; one vinyl EP; two ‘box set’ CDs; one triple CD set; twenty CDs; five DVDs and four Taste CDs. You’d be correct in assuming I like Rory Gallagher!
I recall the very first time I heard Rory’s music. I was playing Subbuteo at my pal’s house. I was Chile, that day – red shirt, blue shorts. I can’t remember what team Derek was, but it wouldn’t matter – he’d have whooped my ass anyway. I was rubbish.
Derek shared a large bedroom with his older brother who at that time was a long-haired, senior school student, about four years older than me. He’d been doing paper rounds for several years and so was ‘minted,’ as we’d say in Glasgow. And all his money it seemed, he spent on records, particularly the heavy end of the musical spectrum. Deep Purple and King Crimson I vividly remember being played. I know this because as a Slade, Sweet and John Kongos fan, (yes, John Kongos) I just couldn’t get into this new fangled ‘progressive’ music.
Anyway, as my Chilean right winger was about to take a corner, something new burst out the record player. It went on for ages, too. Wow!
“That’s ‘‘Catfish,’ my mate said. “By a band called Taste. Alan’s just bought it. Like it?”
‘Like it?’ That was me. Hook, line and sinker.
So – this is the Blues? A fourteen year old kid had just been enlightened..
The LP was ‘Taste. Live At The Isle Of Wight.’ With a little more prompting, I was told the band were no longer together, but the guitarist, Rory Gallagher, had embarked on a solo career. In fact, he’d already released three albums.
Always late to the party, me.
A few weeks later, I’d saved enough from my paper round to send away, through a ‘small ad’ in the ‘Sounds’ paper, for a copy of Rory’s latest release, ‘Live in Europe.’ (Going to watch football on a Saturday normally accounted for most of my earnings.)
As it happens, I was fifty pence short in payment for the post and packing, but the nice record store still sent me the LP. They asked I just send a postal order for the shortfall, something I never got round to doing. I read a month or so later that the company had gone bust. I felt ever so guilty.
That was late 1972 and I still have that album. It remains my favourite of all my Rory recordings, although I have to say, the new ‘Blues’ double album pushes it very close.
The next stage in my Gallagher development was to see him play live and that opportunity came in March the following year, when my parents finally acceded my pleas to be allowed to go to a concert. And so shortly after the release of his fourth solo album, ‘Blueprint‘ (my second favourite) I trooped up to Glasgow with a couple of pals to the Green’s Playhouse (later to become the world famous Apollo.)
My seat was about eight rows from the front, just left of centre. Perfect. Until Rory came on stage and everyone jumped to their feet. I was a short-arse then, still am, and suddenly I was struggling to see my musical hero.
But the bouncers at Green’s and even more so when it changed to The Apollo, had a fierce reputation. There was no nonsense. If you were told to sit down, you sat down. If not, you’d only be able to hear the gig from the alleyway at the back of the theatre. (This heavy handed approach always worked … until The Clash came to town on 4th July 1978. But that’s another story!)
The concert was everything I hoped it would be. And more. The relationship Rory had with the crowd was amazing. It was like a personal friend was putting on a show. There was no posturing. No garish showmanship. Just straight-up, blues infused rock ‘n’ roll with a tiny touch of folk influence.
Rory was dressed simply, in his trade-mark check style shirt and jeans, and although he wore a denim shirt on the cover of ‘Blueprint,’I always associated him with the checks. It must be a ‘first impressions’ thing, for I don’t recall seeing him wear that again on any of the other four occasions I was lucky enough to see him.
In the early to mid-seventies, bands would generally only hit your town maybe once a year although I was fortunate in that Rory did return to Glasgow later in ’73, at the end of November. After that though, it was December only, and ’74, ’75 and 1976 were my last shows. It’s interesting to note that the most I paid for a ticket was the £2.50 in 1976. I wonder how much you’d have to pay these days? I’m sure Rory would have done all in his power to keep prices at a sensible level, but what with ticketing agencies these days …. aargh! Don’t start me!
While my love of Rory Gallagher has been unflinching, I am not one of those fans who listens exclusively to their hero and that particular style of music.
Although I still rushed out to buy his immediate subsequent releases, ‘Photofinish,’ ‘Top Priority,’ and ‘Stage Struck,’ I was, from 1976 onward, more into the punk and second wave rockabilly scenes.
The only groups, however, that even then could come close in my overall ‘favourite band’ list were / still are, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and The Rolling Stones. (Over forty albums of the latter in my collection.)
And of course, there is a close connection between all three bands with SAHB‘s late great Ted McKenna latterly taking over on drums for Rory, and Rory himself famously auditioning for The Stones back in 1975 when Mick Taylor left.
I must say, I’m so glad Rory decided not to hang around and wait for Mick and Keith to get back to him, and toured Japan as he had planned. I just couldn’t see Rory as anything other than a front man. Ronnie Wood is perfect for the role in appearance and style.
It doesn’t always follow that a group betters itself by absorbing ‘the best.’ Look at The Eagles. Did Joe Walsh really add to what was already one of the most popular bands in the world? Did Joe Walsh lose a bit of his identity by joining The Eagles?
‘No’ and ‘yes’ would be my two answers.
But back to Rory.
It pained me to see him on The Old Grey Whistle Test or wherever as the rather large and bloated musician he’d become by around 1990 as drink and various prescription medications, administered to deal with the rigours of life on the road, had prematurely and noticeably aged him.
In the end, 1995, he perhaps cut a sad image – the archetypal solo rock star, not necessarily fading as such, or clinging to past glories, but perhaps lonely and just sheer exhausted from all he gave.
And he gave so much. The vast majority of his fans, like me, never met him, but Rory came across on stage, and in media interviews, as a very personable and likable bloke. There were no frills. You got what you saw.
He was genius on guitar. He could literally turn his hand to make it gently weep; or laugh; or sing. He could make an audience dance – in an ugly, uncoordinated, shaking-head, rocker style, maybe, but it still counts.
Best guitarist in the world? Many of us would say so.