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Thursday, June 08, 2000

Colin's Letter

Dear Steve and fellow wiries,

Colin (The Dog) from Lancaster here again, after a year or two incommunicado, yep, it's that old "on the wire stalwart" to quote your good self, here again in a grovelling self abasing stylee... I'm half convinced you stopped access by phone due to my constant semi-drunken ramblings, so due to laziness and some mild embarrassment I've put pen to paper for some time, but here we are! Back again - and you want grovelling, oh groovemeister obergruppenfuhrer!?

Well, grovelling or not, you boys are the only lot I can conceive of (especially via the Beeb) who would play, and have the Fugs' "I couldn't get high" for my somethingth birthday - captured on tape for posterity, much to the kids' amusement am I being obseqious enough! Shall I send you a picture of 3 drooling, slavering tripehounds in fawning mode?

As I have done pretty damn well from your freebies for a year of two, I though it only fair to give others a go, but that attitude has gone out the window at a chance of a free copy of "Hip City" I'm dribbling again! So if you could stick my name in the proverbial hat Steve, mucho gracias! Also, cheeky bugger that I am, if there is a chance of a poster for the old kitchen wall.....

As you are lads after me own heart, sharing similar tastes musical and no doubt otherwise I will relate a wee tale triggered off by yer man fennie playing the Incredible String Band last week, to my delight.... I will attempt to be brief.

I had an extremely fortunate youth in that I spent years 1957 to 70 (minus a year at school in Edinburgh '66-'67) in Jamaica, living a wild barefoot childhood, scoffing mangos and avoiding school when possible. At about the age of 18 or so, I was smitten by a lass who lived in "country" with her American Baptist Minister dad and Jamaican mum. Needless to say, long haired scruffs from Kingston City of Sin, weren't 100% welcome sniffing around their daughter, I digress.

It was an Easter weekend coming up, and I decided to bus and hitch my way up to Brown's Town in the parish of St. Anne on the North Coast... the home of Marley, Spear and Garney and the best "lamb's bread" on the Island at the time... the bus dropped me at St. Anne's Bay and I decided to save my last few bob by hitching inland up to Brown's Town. After a while a somewhat dilapidated van of vintage appearance stopped and I scrambled in alongside three venerable dreadlocked gentleman of similar vintage to their transport! After a somewhat hair-raising drive in full Jamaican fashion, enlivened by a smoke or two of the top "goat shit" cally I was deposited a half mile or so from my destination, at a little corner shop... with a clinking and wheezing my new found pals and their van zig zagged off and away and I stopped for a beer before the last stage of my joint. When I eventually found the right address ("Preacher man, him live up top of next hill I was told several times) I kicked myself for deciding to surprise the girl in question, as it transpired she had been dragged off by her old man to some Baptist Easter do in Kingston, where I had set off from at dawn that day. I kicked a rotten mango and got squelchy stuff all over my jeans.

I had no choice but to return from whence I came and an hour or so later was waiting at a corner in Brown's Town for some mode of transport to pass headed for the city - when lo and behold! Who should come dunking and bumping towards me but my recently goodbyed to "Rasta mates and their lifesaving van, much to their amusement. Once again I clambered in amongst boxes of veg and a big sack of "other stuff" they had picked up since I had last seen them. They insisted, as night falls quickly and very darkly in them there hills, that I accompany them to their yard for the nightl meal and I wasn't saying no. I can still just about taste the roast snapper they caught that morning and the ital veg, roast yams etc, breadfruit... god, I'm slavering. I soon forgot all about the young woman I had come all the way to see and was happy as a sandboy, stuffed to the gills and enjoying the company of peaceful and gentle country Rastafarians of several generations who were preparing for a weekend grounation session. It was good to be away from the noise, dust and increasing tension and hassles of Kingston and relaxing....

After a bit one of the younger dreads spotted several LP's poking out of my rucksack thing I was leaning against and soon we were giving them a spin. "Beggar's Banquet" went down pretty well, the Stones being popular in Jamaica (due largely to Keith Richards saying how fond he was of "Jamaican cigarettes" in the local rag not long back) but the real hit of the night, much to my surprise, was "Hangman's Beautiful Daughter". It got played again and again over the night on the stereotypical JA styla megawatt sound system set up, it must have been heard miles away on the night breeze.... accompanied after an hour or two by half a dozen traditional rasta drummers in full flow..... the gilbert and sullivan like airs of "Minotaur's Song" backed by Count Ossie and crew style drummers about the nearest to surreal I can think of! "And I Bid You Goodnight" was a popular track too, due probably to being familiar as a spiritual in country churches.

I took my leave the next morning as the session got really going, leaving my copy of "Hangman's" as a thank you, and carrying a stuffed paper bag of various goodies to keep me going on my way. I have a picture in my head of in a little hut in the mountains above St. Anne's Bay, the kids that were todders then singing "If I was a witches hat" to their young'uns to get them to sleep! It's a funny old world, eh lads.

And here I am now, in the year 2000, 30 odd years later, getting my fix of JA sounds old and new from "On the Wire". Speaking of which, I was interested to hear you chatting with David Katz about his book on Perry, and immediately got a copy the minute it was avaiable here. Through the book I was able to get in touch with an old boyhood pal who I lost touch with when I came over to London in the late '70s and he went to college in the States. He's the guy who compiled "Chicken Scratch" and others Heartbeat records, much to my surprise! Nice to hear old mates doing well by doing good!

Thanks again Steve for the chance to hear stuff I wouldn't normally get to hear (and tape!), and I look forward to the change in the time slot - Iwon't have to dash down the last pint on a Saturday night and rush home for midnight anymore!

All the best to you all,

Colin and The Chaotic Canines