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Pressure Beat mixes
About Pressure Beat
Reggae works in mysterious ways. You see a label, often linked to a producer, you read the credits and – most of the time – you take it as the truth. But there is always more than meets the eye. One of the reasons I started this website was because I’m interested in the story behind the music. The tale of ‘Whip Them Jah’ is a rather particular one, and quite interesting as it links many artists, musicians and producers together and speaks about going against the grain at a grass roots level, an admirable do-it-yourself mentality, a deejay on the rise to stardom and, of course, superb music. Let’s see if I can round this up nicely.
One of the most consistent stories in reggae is about the small amount paid out by producers to their artists, or even a complete lack of royalties. Many artists applaud the producers for their groundbreaking work, their entrepreneurship, their support and audacity to give them a chance when no one else dared to take that leap of faith. At the same time they condemn them for reaping more fruits than they should and not sharing the profit equally. It’s an ever occurring conflict of interest, but neither party can break away because they need each other. Plus, in the Jamaican music scene of 1967/68 there were only so much places to go to. But that didn’t stop B.B Seaton in the least when he severed the ties with Studio One.
Having had success in the ska era and enjoying big hits in the rocksteady era, Seaton and his Gaylads – further comprised of Delano Stewart and Maurice Roberts – were well established artists when reggae hit the town. But B.B. Seaton – who would later become Vice President for the Jamaica Federation of Musicians – didn’t lie back and rest on his laurels. Appreciative of what Dodd had done for him in the early years – he was with the studio from 1960 onwards – he had a different idea of what the future should bring. And he was a long way from it. With the first royalties they received the group bought their own instruments and the Gaylads became (one of) the first self contained reggae band, backing themselves as well as others. Writing songs for both his group (including the radical and cutting edge tune ‘Africa‘, penned as early as 1967!) as well as other artists, working auditions and singing background vocals, it’s fair to say the Gaylads – and mister Seaton particularly – were very important to Studio One. Yet, royalties were (too) low, they eventually found out, and when the Soul Brothers, Studio One’s inhouse band of the time, went on tour to the United Kingdom and Dodd failed to include the Gaylads in the package, the Lads weren’t so gay anymore. They left the foundation studio and linked up with Sonia Pottinger and Leslie Kong (Beverly’s). The Gaylads recorded some fine rocksteady and early reggae tunes before they broke away from producers altogether. Befitting their vision of being a self contained band, The Gaylads decided to become a completely self sufficient organization. An unusual and daring move, but they were not alone…
Hitmaker, heartbreaker and reggae crooner par excellence Ken Boothe had made the same shift around that time. Just like the Gaylads, Delroy Wilson and The Wailers, he left Coxsone in hope to find a better financial deal. He went on to record for Leslie Kong and mrs. Pottinger before he too decided to go solo. Together with Seaton, Stewart, Roberts, Delroy Wilson and Bumps Oakley (short time member of the Gaylads and known for his wicked ‘A get a lick‘ tune) he formed the Links label – an attempt to take matters in their own hands and control their own musical output as well as their income. Although the label released some truly great songs – such as ‘Sweet Rose‘ by The Melodians, Tony Brevett’s ‘Don’t get weary‘ and Ken Boothe’s boasting ‘Can’t you see‘ – and managed to get them licensed to overseas companies such as Fab, the Links organization didn’t turn out the success the group had hoped it would be. According to Ken Boothe this was due to established producers rallying against this unique set up because they were afraid of where it would leave them.
Now that Links was dead and gone, Boothe teamed up with Lloyd Charmers – musician, singer and a new producer on the scene who ran his own Splash imprint – and scored a huge hit with ‘Everything I Own. The Gaylads disbanded and B.B. Seaton released his first solo tune on the SoulBeat imprint (called ‘Accept my apology’), which was funded by a new company called Micron. Set up by Mike Johnson, Ronnie Burke and Pete Weston the enterprise recognized the rapid growth of the reggae scene and acted as both a distributor as well as a production company. They grew big very fast and had a fine nose for seeking out talent. Micron worked with Lee Perry, Junior Byles, Gregory Isaacs, Lloyd Charmers, The Heptones and Enos Mcleod, among others, and supported a string of labels. With Micron on the scene, fledgling producers found what the Links label had lacked: a solid partner to try and force a breakthrough. Without involvement of the Big Producers and in a scene that was by now bubbling with creativity. Enos Mcleod was one of them. Trying his luck at Treasure Isle and Studio One he was soon recognized as a talent for writing and producing quality songs, but apart from recording a few tunes, not much happened for him. After a short stint at Federal, Enos landed a job at Micron and was linked to the Soul Beat label by Pete Weston.
With Enos Mcleod on board Soulbeat released some of the greatest music of the era, among which was a tune called ‘The Hotter the Battle’ which was recorded in 1971 by a fresh group called The Conscious Minds. The tune displayed a heavy downbeat, harsh chugging guitars and a super heavy horns section and it quickly proved successful in the dancehalls. Taking in mind the members of the band, that is not as surprising as you might think, as the Conscious Minds were made up of old acquaintances who had found each other in their shared beliefs: B.B. Seaton on rhythm and lead guitars, Maurice Roberts on bass, Ken Boothe on organ, Derrick Hinds on trombone, Joe White on piano, Derrick Stewart on drums, Willie Brackenridge on trumpet, Bagga on tenor sax, and Winston Fallen on drums and acting as master of ceremony. The latter role was important because the Conscious Minds were set up as a showband. With the Stax Soul Revue in mind, the group would perform a showcase featuring different singers and different vibes. The heavy roots sound of ‘The Hotter the Battle’ was part of the package, the original, Conscious Minds penned version of the “I know myself‘ riddim too.
In true reggae style, Micron and The Conscious Minds would revisit “The Hotter the Battle”, or ‘Brain Wash’ as the instrumental is called, in the following years, spawning songs like ‘Good Mood‘ (Conscious Minds), Sufferer’s prayer (Enos Mcleod), Pablo in Red (Augustus Pablo) and ‘Whip them Jah, which is featured here. Released some 7 years after it initially hit the streets, ‘Whip them’ features the younger brother of Trinity – who was by then already well established as a top ranking deejay – who had dubbed himself Clint Eastwood as a tribute to the early reggae fashion to adopt a name from a spaghetti western character. Cutting his first disc for Ossie Hibbert in 1975, Clint Eastwood was a cultural and conscious chatter who would gradually leave that style behind and focus more and more on slackness. Teaming up with the England based General Saint in the late seventies would eventually bring him big fame, albeit short-lived. On ‘Whip Them Jah’, however, Robert Brammer is still serious, conscious and devout. Talking about whipping the wicked with the rod of correction, making them remember God, he displays little originality in his lyrics and delivery – that was yet come – but he more than makes up for that by sounding very confident, strong and eager. ‘Whip Them’ demonstrates the pure, raw talent of Clint Eastwood and he sure knows how to handle the Conscious Minds riddim. Within the spar of a couple of minutes he whips the song into the upper echelons of the “Hotter the battle” series.
Which is probably what Enos ‘the Genious’ had in mind too when he decided to voice Clint Eastwood on the riddim and hand over the distribution and promotion to Gibbs. Having Errol T cut a new dub was as brilliant an idea as it was logical, and the result is nothing short of sublime. What a monster! With Micron located only a few houses down the street, links between Gibbs and the company were strong. Add to that the fact that Enos was working for Gibbs at the time as well – as a gateman, singer and ‘vibesmaker’ – and the circle is complete. We’re back at Gibbs, who had traded places on the ‘Big Producers ranking’ with Dodd and Duke Reid a couple of years before ‘Whip Them’ was released. Some things just never change…
Label: Belmont (Ja) / Scorpius (Usa)
Release date: 1978
Riddim: Conscious Minds – Hotter the Battle
Matrix: DSR 5872 / 5873 Joe Gibbs
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