Sunday, June 21, 2009


"Put your hand in my back pocket."

"No - I'll grab your shoulder instead."

"Brian, trust us, it won't work. You'll never make it through. Just do it."

"I'm not touching your arse. Fuck off."

"OK, OK. Grab onto my shoulder."

So we slithered through the Westway human wave attack, like a three-man eel, my hand in the back pocket of Andy's jeans - an old and proven tactic for getting through tight spots as a unit. Minutes later, me and Andy found a few vacant molecules of space and paused for breath. Unsurprisingly, Brian was nowhere in sight. Vanished without trace, swallowed up by the multitudes. I hadn't even felt his hand leave my shoulder. We didn't see him for the rest of the day.

Difficult as it is to pick a favourite trip to Carnival, one year really sticks out - the Sunday in 2001 when I went with a workmate, Chris, and it poured down. You know that bit in Bladerunner where Roy Batty's dying and asking Deckard if he can possibly imagine the things he's seen with his replicant eyes? I'd have to reply, "Yeah, attack ships on fire, whatever - you ever seen Trellick Tower under a purple-orange sky, through curtains of rain, with a gang of Brazilian drummers shaking your joints through the pavement? Ever heard Spiderman juggling at Jah Observer and groaned with disbelief when he plays YET another crucial tune you'll probably never know the name of, or hear again? Eh, Roy? EH?" - before he bows his head and dies, bird in hand.

The worst thing about Carnival is, once you've been surrounded by soundsystems for the best part of 24 hours, your own home equipment sounds so unbelievably lame, you might as well as be using a couple of beans cans and a piece of string. Anyway, here's Morgan Heritage and Bounty Killer's Gunz in the Ghetto 45 - I think this came out in 2000? Regardless, it actually soundtracked my summer of 2002, a very good time for this cat. It was the last piece of vinyl I bought for a long time (ordered from Mr Happy, aka Keith Stone, at Daddy Kool in Berwick Street, fact fans) as my turntable gave up the ghost in early 2003 (weirdly enough, around the exact same time that a long-term, 'she's the one' etc relationship flew into a brick wall*). Luckily, the track was reissued on the so-so Soul Jazz comp 500% Dynamite so, when I saw that going cheap, I snapped it up - far more affordable than shelling out for a new turntable. Unluckily, Gunz in the Ghetto was the only song I liked on the CD. Gah....

Anyway, immeasurable thanks are due to John Eden for sorting me out on the turntable front. See, all this online scribbling pays dividends in the end! I strongly recommend this tune, which has sumptuous (can't believe I just used that word, sorry) bass and a rock solid production. Like a hundred sunny, work-free afternoons going off at once (or rainy Sunday evening Carnivals, whatever does it for you).

If you must, get it on 500% Dynamite, but do skip the Red Rat track. Oh, can I just say how much I hate the Jacob Miller song, Healing of the Nation? Admittedly, this is mostly because some left wing agitator called Richard spent the evening of Mayday 2002 shouting bits of it into my face, before trying to impress some female comrades with bad renditions of old Irish rebel songs. Some advice, kids: it's not the best way to attract attention to yourself. It has a habit of making some London drinkers want to kill you.

This one's a bit of a cheat, as I only managed to find a copy last year - but it took me long enough to do so. Like, try 15 years? For 10 of which I didn't even know who'd recorded it; I just had the tune on a battered cassette packed with stuff I'd taped off one of the pirates after first washing up in South East London (I'm guessing it was Genesis FM). For me, Jah Youth's Little Natty Dread is up there with the likes of Two Sevens Clash, Man Ah Warrior and Marcus Garvey as a bona fide 70s roots classic. Something about the bassline that gets me every time...where did that little natty dread go? "Nobody know, nobody know", Jah Youth informs us, gearing up in anticipation of 1977. If you can't skank to this...forget it.

It's odd when you go back to the source and rediscover something you fell in love with all those years ago - an age devoid of constantly crashing Firefox servers and internet forums packed with angry people telling each other they don't know jack. When I was first asked if I'd like to contribute to Woofah zine, I felt like an imposter - I'm nowhere near to tapping the wave of wax that's gushed forth from JA, and there must still be about gazillion undisputed classics I haven't heard. But I can't describe what it was like hearing Culture or Ninjaman for the first time, or watching The Harder they Come and Rockers. There's a scene in Rockers where a couple of rastas attend a disco night run by some music mafioso who's been ripping them off, lock the DJ out of his booth and horrify the dancers by slapping on a heavy roots 45. As security attempts to remonstrate with them, one of the dudes picks up the mic and hollers back, cool as a cucumber, "REMOVE YUH". Discovering reggae was pretty much that scene going off in my head. A musical takeover.

Though, DJs will be disgusted to know, it's long been an ambition of mine to re-enact that scene from the film. 'Guilty Pleasures' would be a good place to kick it off, if that club hasn't died a well deserved death yet. Call it a tribute act.

Oh wow, an ultra-rare original copy of Screechie Across the Border by Courtney Melody!!! Oh, OK, not really. Still, a fantastic 80s classic, all the same. And, on a raggacore tip, this here copy of Junglist b/w Murderer by FFF is one of my faves . It's like being clobbered around the bonce by a volley of amen breaks, with dirty, radioactive basslines sizzling underneath. FFF also did a pretty awesome split 12" with LFO Demon - apologies to the German bloke, but FFF kills it, as far as my ears can determine. I think the 7" format really suits raggacore - a whole elpee's worth, and it does start to drag a bit, unless you're fried off your box at some DIY rave in a squatted Woolworths store.

By the way, you know those little plastic things you have to insert on these 45s to fit the disc onto the spindle (see top pic)? I haven't removed them for effect - I'm running seriously low on these! I end up having to swap them around as I go - by the time you read this, the one in Gunz in the Ghetto will probably be nestling in that red vinyl Stooges bootleg. Yeah, I know I can probably pick up a large bag of them on eBay for about 30p, but...

(* - You know that time I asked you to come along, said you might really enjoy it? And I might have understood if you'd said that loud hip hop, reggae and jungle soundsystems weren't your thing, or even that you hated the thought of having to queue for the toilet, or loathed the idea of being caught in the scrum, or were scared of being mugged or food-poisoned by a plate of half-cooked jerk chicken...but you didn't want to go that year, or any year, cos your brother told you Notting Hill Carnival's "sad"??? How the hell did we last so long?)
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