BC: So Nick, this week’s Big Chill Presents playlist is dedicated to the legend Bob Marley, in honour of his birthday, what can we expect from your selection?
RR: Having got into Bob Marley & The Wailers prior to Catch a Fire in my teens (don’t do the maths) I chose a selection from early Rocksteady, through to the Lee Perry produced releases, onto his early Island recordings with Chris Blackwell and his subsequent rise as a world superstar. I’ve tried to capture a sense of his writing through Bob and the Wailers career which includes my favourites tracks and ones I always get requested at my reggae nights. However with this body of work including all the remixes 10 choices is always difficult.
BC: How long have you been running UK Reggae Revival for?
RR: I am a musician and regularly gig around East London area ( I don’t go far now) but reggae has always been something that touched me as a youngster. As such I’ve always bought a lot of reggae. About two years ago I started doing a couple of nights in my local area just for friends and family in pubs. From this it just took off though I never started out to be a gigging DJ and now I have regular gigs every month. For me I think it’s worked because I play that real cross section of Reggae and tend to stay pretty close the original sound (don’t play no bashment) though I do play classic dancehall and current acts. Whenever I play I always like to be friendly and welcoming to everyone and I don’t mind requests for tracks as it’s about everyone enjoying the night.
BC: Reggae is timeless, why do you think people have such love for it?
RR: It always baffled me as a youngster that reggae was not taken seriously and rarely heard on the BBC. However you can now hear in dance mixes the influences of producers such as Lee Perry, King Tubby etc. with drop outs and such. Also from my kids and son-in-law Al who often plays alongside me. I certainly think Jungle and Dnb have through sampling (Congo Natty) and artists such as Shy FX have introduced reggae to a younger audience. Also people forget the influence of Don Letts as he was the man who introduced reggae to the punk kids back in the late 70s and of course Rodigan. When I play I am always surprised at the age, gender and cultural mix of reggaes appeal which is now world wide.
BC: What was the first reggae song you bought?
RR: Like most people of my age the first album I bought was Tighten Up Vol 2 (1969) which was a classic sampler of Trojans artists and remains a classic reggae album. From there I started getting into the more roots side and then discovered toasters such as U Roy, I Roy, Dennis Al Capone and my top fav Big Youth. From there I was hooked.
BC: Apart from your sets at Big Chill, what other music nights in London would you recommend paying a visit too?
RR: Big Chill is always a great place to play as there is such a mix, you can be any age any anyone and feel relaxed in the bar. The bar in The Theatre Royal Stratford East like the Big Chill is a really friendly and relaxed atmosphere and they like old skool reggae. Also the Red Lion Leytonstone has a good mix of DJ’s in the bar and well known DJ’s playing up in the Ballroom.
BC: Finally, if you were hosting a dinner party, who would you invite (alive or passed) and what would you cook them?
RR:I do all the cooking at home and would probable cook some sort of curry or casserole so I don’t have to stand around cooking and can entertain my guests.
Guests would be:
David Rodigan Legendary BBC radio presenter and reggae aficionado
Don Letts DJ, film maker and musician who loves a lot of bass
Kirsty Young TV and Radio presenter (Desert Island Discs but not much reggae)
Steve McQueen Screen Writer and Director
John Peel Who wouldn’t want Peel
Richard Prior Comedian, Writer & Actor
Shane Meadows Writer and film director
Rebecca Front Actor & writer
Explain That Album
We’ve changed up our regular Explain that Gram section this week and picked 3 classic Reggae albums to hear your thoughts on.
Catch A Fire – Bob Marley & The Wailers: Definitely an album that changed reggae music. Back in the day I was living down in Kent so no big record shops. I’d read about Bob Marley & The Wailers upcoming first release for Island. I went to my local electrical shop (no records shops then) and went to the back in the small record section to pre order my copy, then waited for weeks for it to turn up. Though a recognised classic now this album didn’t really sell that well (zippo lighter cover). Now you can buy the CD of the original recordings the Wailers did back in Jamaica and then listen to what Chris Blackwell did as a producer. Whatever you think of Blackwell (sorry Peter) I don’t feel the Wailers music would have been so well-known without his production and marketing.
Funky Kingston – Toots & The Maytals: This album has got some classic tracks that still get regularly requested today. Toots has been around from the early days of reggae and has a voice with such gravitas that is enhanced by the harmonies of the Maytals. Put on Louie Louie, Funky Kingston , Pressure Drop, Country Roads and you’ll still get a reaction form the groovers. Not only is that Toots is still performing live. What’s not to like?
Israelites – Desmond Decker and The Aces: Back in the day you rarely heard any reggae on the radio which was either BBC or Radio Caroline (hence Nicky Thomas’ It’s A Long Walk To The BBC (check it out) ). Sometimes you could get reggae hour on Radio London on the Medium Wave (look it up you youngsters) so unless you were living next door to the radio station it would come in and out of reception. So Desmond Decker Israelites and It Mek were nuggets of gold to be savoured. If you knew he would be on Top of the Pops you would eagerly wait for Thursday night (after Tomorrows World) to see reggae on TV. Back in the 80s you could also regularly see Desmond Decker playing in the Oval Pub in Kennington (just down the road from Brixton).
Even today you drop any classic Desmond Decker tune and from 9 to 99 year olds will dance. Classic.