Saturday, April 25, 2009

Jamaican follytricks

Neville Martin was never a huge name in the Jamaican record business, but one tune in particular is historically important for it lyrics. “The Message” came out on forty five in 1976, and was a hot part of the infamously violent Jamaican elections. Producer Clancy Eccles was a strong supporter of Socialist candidate Michael Manley, a champion for the poor man who was in touch with Jamaicans in a way that made him seem accessible and sympathetic.

Manley commissioned a campaign tune that would get his message across, presumably the lyric is Manley’s. Heavy manners are promised, the PNP’s social programs including the JAMAL literacy program, Land Lease and free education. The recording has patented Channel One production, with a clean, hard drum sound and outstanding mix. It has a “country sound” like Jamaican calypsos done at the same studio by Stanley & the Turbines and others, a rockers beat with long, draggy guitar skanks, stepping bassline, cool Hammond and piano. A dub of the original tune appears on the single’s flipside.

A spinoff entitled “Tidal Wave” provides two more sides derived from the rhythm track: the a-side launches with a great spoken intro and delivers a solid version with percussion and a haunting ape-like cuica effect, and the version side is a nice horns cut of the rhythm.
One can imagine that these and other versions of the rhythm, especially on dubplate, must have ruled many a 1976 Jamaican dance.
The song was featured in a BBC movie in a mix of popular records blended live at Randy’s downtown in Kingston (predecessor of New York’s VP empire, run by the Chin families of Jamaica).

It is said that at the time, Neville “STRUGGLE” Martin hid in the country or on a neighbouring island to wait out the very intense election time. People associated him with the song and with Manley’s PNP party, and Martin was hated by certain factions.

Eccles did another tune entitled “Power For The People”, and Michael Manley himself appears on the B side. Musicians present at the session recall that Manley’s timing was perfect, he came in on cue like a deejay.


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