I had quite a different tune in mind for
this week's Saturday Scratch, but instead
here's Winston Wright & the Upsetters with a
a sweet little organ-led groove from 1972 in
tribute to the biblical storm that hit us an
hour or so ago, 'Hail Stone'.
For the first time in nearly three years, I
have a deck set-up and I'm playing through
my records, rediscovering forgotten gems
and reacquainting myself with old
favourites, such as these unlikely versions
of 'The Surrey With the Fringe on Top'.
The Rodgers & Hammerstein show tune has been
covered well and faithfully on many
occasions over the years, by jazz artists
such as Miles Davis, Ahmad Jamal and Wes
Montgomery, but I've mentioned before how
much I enjoy a well chosen cover version
that confounds expectations and these tunes
fit that bill to a tee.
The first is indeed a jazz version, by Sonny
Rollins, but not the sedate respectful run-through favoured by some of his previously
mentioned contemporaries. It captures
Rollins and drummer Philly Joe Jones duoing
(or should that read duelling?) on a hard
bop arrangement that twists and turns it's
way to an exhausted conclusion. Genius.
Then there's Dennis Bovell (a.k.a.
Blackbeard) - member of Matumbi, UK dub
pioneer, creator of Lover's Rock and
producer of such varied artists as Linton
Kwesi Johnson, Fela Kuti, The Thompson Twins
and Bananarama! He uses 'Surrey' as a
starting point for 'Ska-Be-Doo-Za' from
1978's 'Strictly Dub Wize'. Absolutely
inspired, but how did he get away with not
giving Rodgers & Hammerstein a partial
When Frank Dowding embraced Rastafarianism
in the early 1970s, he amended his name to
Kiddus I, Amharic for 'blessed one', and
between 1971 and 1978 was a member of a band
previously featured on Saturday Scratch, Ras
Michael's Sons of Negus.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s Kiddus recorded a
number of solo singles, among them
'Graduation in Zion', which featured in the
film 'Rockers'. During 1978 a handful of
tunes were cut with Lee Perry at the
controls, the best known of which is
'Security in the Streets', an appreciation
of a recent peace treaty between political
gang-leaders. Great tunes both, and well
worth checking out.
After his brief period at the Black Ark,
Kiddus continued to record for a number of
other producers, before slipping from view
at the beginning of the 1980s. The results
of these sessions belatedly seeing the light
of day as 'Graduation in Zion 1978-80' in
2007, a worthy addition to any collection.
Here's my personal favourite of those
precious few Scratch produced tunes, 'Crying
I've been out and about today, getting home just in time to prevent the need for an inaugural Sunday Scratch. So, as the midnight hour approaches, here's George Faith's 1977 psychedelic Jamaican soul version of the Wilson Pickett classic, complete with additional Lee Dorsey references.
In the summer of 1980 Otway & Barrett released their third
album 'Way & Bar' and commenced 'The Tent Tour' to promote
it. The gimmick was that admittance to the gigs was by the
purchase of the album's second single, 'DK 50/80', only. So
with no actual door money coming in, John & Wild Willy
pitched a tent in a campsite near each evening's venue and
spent the night under canvas, before moving on to the next
town the following morning.
A couple of weeks into the tour, they arrived in my town
and before that evening's gig at a local nightclub, they
spent a good deal of the afternoon meeting and greeting
fans, signing albums and generally hanging out, in the
local record shop. I'd been working at that record shop for
just a few months and it was my first experience of an 'in-store', as these events were invariably called by record
Otway and Barrett had one of their many partings of the way
at the end of the tour (perhaps not so surprising
considering the hardships they no doubt had to endure with
the unconventional accommodation involved), but together
behind the counter that day, they entertained all and
sundry like the seasoned double act they undoubtedly were.
It was an extension of their stage show - Barrett the
straight man and the gangly, flailing Otway, mad and funny
with the ever-present danger of personal injury!
As the afternoon drifted on, their road manager tapped his
watch to indicate that it was time for the duo to head off
for a soundcheck. Customers were satisfied and all our
stock had been signed, but we asked for something a little
more personal to keep at the shop. Otway scratched his head
and excused himself to use the toilet, grabbing a magic
marker on the way. No sooner had he returned than the pair
were whisked away leaving us to clear up the debris left
(Otway & Barrett only had one real chart hit, 'Really
Free', in 1977 and appeared endearingly and chaotically, on
both TOTP and the OGWT at around the same time. The b-side
(sadly nowhere to be found in it's original form on
YouTube) was the epic, fan favourite, 'Beware of the
Flowers 'cos I'm Sure They're Gonna Get You, Yeah', which
contained a much-loved spoken intro from our hero, Mr
A short while after the duo had left the shop, I had
occasion to visit the loo myself and discovered Otway's
parting shot. On the inside of the toilet door, in huge
magic marker print he'd transcribed that spoken intro. So
if you happened to find yourself seated, concentrating on the business
at hand, you'd read, 'OK, LET'S MAKE THIS THE BIG ONE, FOR
Many happy returns to John Otway, singer, songwriter and death-defying
entertainer, who turns 60 today.
Here's the Hairy Cornflake introducing 'Really Free' on
TOTP in 1977 and the concert ticket to the 'Tent Tour', 'DK
50/80', from 1980.