Thursday, August 24, 2017

Bard Verses Babylon: LKJ 65

My ears are slightly improved and so is my posting frequency; to that end I am back with the second of four planned posts in five days. This one is justifiably all about one of the truly unique artists, himself born this day in 1952 and turning the big 65.
Today's honoree is considered the pre-eminent progenitor of Dub Poetry... in fact, he pretty much invented the idea of reciting socially conscious verse over a Reggae beat. He is also widely considered to be one of the godfathers of Hip-Hop.
He was born is Jamaica and moved to Brixton, UK when he was 11. By the time he grew up, he had become a central cultural force in the bubbling cauldron of late-1970s London and a primary chronicler of the UK's descent into austere, brutal Thatcherism.
It's appropriate that he was born just a few days after Joe Strummer from The Clash, whom I honored here Monday. The two of them are almost like bookends to the politically charged music of 1980 London or something. I wonder if they knew each other, or that they were born the same week?
He's been at it since 1978 and his first record, and he's really never stopped since he began. My greatest memory of him is from a Gil Scott-Heron show I went to in college, where he was slated to open for Gil. Well, Gil failed to show up, so our hero played for three full hours.
I first heard him on the radio on WBAI-FM in NYC, back when I was an impressionable lad of 14 or 15, and although it took another few years to figure out who he was and get his LPs I filed him away in my mind immediately. He's been there ever since.
If I had to bottom line it, I'd just say that Linton Kwesi Johnson is one of my all-time favorite poets and performers, and one of the most honest and simmeringly confrontational artists of our era. He slips under the radar, I think, because he hasn't, in almost 40 years doing it, had to raise his voice above a normal speaking tone to become that.
For me he's like a human hand grenade, lobbed into the gauzy, comfy sanctum of the wealthy and privileged, and especially the racist contingent we still see prancing so self-parodically across our transom these dirty days. Music, at its level and most impactful best, conveys experiences the listener might not ever become aware of any other way, and for me LKJ delivers those goods with every word he utters.
If you've never heard or heard of him, it's never too late. Let me start you off on the right foot with a triple shot of vintage FM broadcasts captured to cassette in the first half of the 1980s, his heyday. Taken together, these make a very nice introduction to what this most extraordinary wordsmith is all about and why he's held in the regard he so manifestly deserves.
Linton Kwesi Johnson
European broadcasts, 1980-84

Caribbean Week
Bremen, Germany

01 Reality Poem
02 It No Funny
03 Want Fi Go Rave
04 Reggae Fi Peach
05 Inglan Is a Bitch
06 band introductions
07 Bass Culture
08 Loraine
09 Di Black Petty Booshwah
10 Sonny's Lettah
11 Independant Intavenshan
12 Two Sides of Silence
13 It Dread Inna Inglan (For George Lindo)

Total time: 45:55

Linton Kwesi Johnson - vocals
Percival Blake - guitar
Vivian Weathers - bass
Winston Curniffe- drums
with unknown others, likely:
Dennis Bovell - keyboards
John Kpiaye - guitar
Patrick Tenyue - trumpet
Henry "Buttons" Tenyue - tenor saxophone

1st gen cassette of a 1980 WDR FM broadcast

unknown venue
Stockholm, Sweden

01 It Noh Funny
02 Five Nights of Bleeding
03 Dread Beat an' Blood
04 Doun Di Road
05 The Great Insohreckshan
06 What About the Working Class?
07 Inglan Is a Bitch
08 Reality Poem
09 Sonny's Lettah
10 Fite Dem Back/Brain Smashing Dub

Total time: 45:17

Linton Kwesi Johnson - vocals
band unspecified, likely:
Percival Blake - guitar
Vivian Weathers - bass
Winston Curniffe- drums
Dennis Bovell - keyboards
John Kpiaye - guitar
Patrick Tenyue - trumpet
Henry "Buttons" Tenyue - tenor saxophone & trombone

sounds like a 1st or 2nd gen cassette of a 1981 Swedish FM broadcast
announcer at conclusion sounds like he says the venue as "Kongress Palais" in Stockholm,
but I can find no record of such a place in Sweden, only Germany

Linton Kwesi Johnson & The Dub Band
Paris Theatre
London, UK

01 radio introduction
02 unknown instrumental
03 Dub Master
04 Come with Me
05 Reggae High
06 Brain Damage
07 introduction of LKJ
08 Dread Beat an' Blood
09 All Wi Doin' Is Defendin'
10 Want Fi Goh Rave
11 Reggae Fi Dada
12 band introductions
13 Reggae Fi Peach
14 Di Great Insohreckshan
15 What About the Working Class?
16 Making History
17 Reggae Fi Rodney
18 unknown outro instrumental/closing radio announcement

Total time: 57:41
Tracks 01-06 & 18 are The Dub Band by themselves

Linton Kwesi Johnson - vocals
with The Dub Band:
Paget King - keyboards & vocals
Patrick Tenyue - trumpet
Henry "Buttons" Tenyue - trombone & tenor saxophone
John Kpiaye - guitar
François Cuffy - guitar
Bruce Smith - drums
Nick Straker - synthesizer & vocals
Geoffrey Scantlebury - percussion & vocals
Dennis Bovell - bass & vocals

sounds like a master or 1st gen cassette of a 1984 BBC1 broadcast
all 3 shows zipped together
I shall return on the weekend, ears and interwebs willing, with yet more fluff for your nutter, but for now let's have you ditch the imbeciles with the Autotuners and get immersed in LKJ's uniquely incisive brand of Dub Soup, can we? Trust me, this is one birthday boy who's gonna smash their brains in, cuz they ain't got no think in 'em!--J.

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