nicky thomas love of the common people

A: Cecil Thomas – Love of the common people

B: Joe Gibbs & The Destroyers – Freelancer / Compass


‘Love of the common people’ was the first major hit for both Joe Gibbs and Nicky Thomas. It topped the charts not only in Jamaica and the United Kingdom,  the usual suspects, but also in Holland, Germany, Belgium.

‘Love of the common people’ was penned by John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins, who operated out of Nashville, Tennesee. Next to ‘Son of a preacherman‘ (which they wrote for Aretha Franklin, but was performed by Dusty Springfield) it was the songwriter duo’s greatest hit, although it took a bit of time. Sung first by a quartet who called themselves The Four Preps, the blueprint of ‘Love of the common’ people is a clean, violin laden and sweet harmonied protest song that somewhat fails to match with the lyrics. The melody and the lyrics are golden, though, and that may be the reason why country superstar Waylon Jennings also chose to record the track in 1967. His version is a bit rougher around the edges and adds a playful piano and horns section to the instrumentarium. This version was successful and so many artists followed suit, like the Everly Brothers, Wayne Newton, John Denver and, ofcourse, Paul Young, who sang it back into the charts in the early 80’s.

destroyers compass freelancerAs country and soul are akin, it may come as no surprise that a soul/funk band picked up on it as well. Although they will forever be remembered for their anthemic Amen, brother (from which the Amen break was sampled), The Winstons deserve a bit more credit for their ‘Love..’ version as well. The violins from the original take re-appear, as does the sweetness, but the backing sure is rough enough, what with the funky drumming and hard hitting bass. My guess is it’s this version that inspired Nicky Thomas, as both versions couple the same poppy approach with a rough backing.

The Jamaican Thomas’ cut is without violins, and therefore my favourite take, but Trojan Records added violins again to soften for the European market. This version was licensed to a wide array of record companies around Europe, making Nicky’s superb cut of an already great song easy to get by. And possibly a fun factor for the completionist, if you want to get ’em all. I find the original Jamaican issue is the rarest one out there, at least it is here in Europe.

The B-side is called ‘Compass’ on the English release and on all the other cuts Trojan Records licensed, whereas on the Jamaican release the song is called ‘Freelancer’. Apart from the name, though, there is no difference between the two songs. Both titles will play the horns cut of Lloyd Willis’ ‘mad rooster’ riddim and it’s an absolute beast of a tune. Going by the tone and style of playing, I’d say it’s Tommy McCook on display here, but I’m not completely sure. Whoever it is, for this tune alone it’s worth tracking down a copy. Whether it’s on Jogibs, Trojan, Fontana, Island or Cotillion…


Label: JoGibs (Ja) / Trojan (Uk)
Release date: 1970
Riddim: Mad Rooster
Matrix: Dyna JG – 1331 / Dyna JG – 1751

Posted: 01-04-2016


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