My Pop Life #66 : Untold Stories – Buju Banton

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Untold Stories   –   Buju Banton

I’m living while I’m living to the father I will pray
Only him know how we get tru’ every day
 all the hike in the price, arm and leg we have to pay
While our leaders play…

…all I see people a rip and a rob and a rival tief never love fe see tief wid long bag… no love for the people who are sufferin’ bad, another toll for the poll may god help we soul…


1995.   Q : What do actors do when the work dries up?

a)  Go mad

b) Start a business, and go mad

c) go to the gym, read and go mad

d) go to Los Angeles, and go mad

e) take drugs, drink, and go mad

f) go on a bike ride, do voluntary work, and go mad

g) write a film, and go mad

I’ve tried all of the above – except b) naturally.  Start a business ?  I think not.  But I’ve started a couple of Production Companies – 1507 Productions with Beverley Randall (fond memories) and Apricot Films with Gwen Wynne and others (actually still exists).   I suppose they are businesses.  In 1995 I had been unemployed for a year in Hollywood.  I’d done one job for the BBC in Italy – nice, Florence, Napoli – another story – but zilch in LaLa.  Grrrrrr.

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I’ve documented some of this chapter of my life in My Pop Life #15, the hustle for work, the desert drive, the agent meeting,  the return to England.   What I didn’t mention was my last stretch in LA, knowing I was coming back to England, finishing up, finishing the lease, finishing my first screenplay.   We’d been on King’s Road in West Hollywood for two years, lovely apartment with a piano and back yard, walking distance from the Beverley Centre, just across from the King’s Road Cafe, even though we preferred to patronise Jans on Beverley (where the LAPD eat) because of the Monte Cristo sandwich and unselfconscious clientele.   LA man, I dunno, it’s a trip you know ?

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And I had an idea for a film.  A good film.   I knew what the story was, I’d talked about it with a couple of people, including the screwface who eventually directed it Suri Krishnamma.  Looking back it’s amazing how little confidence I had in myself.  My front page is full confidence, but behind that is a person who needs constant encouragement, and when that isn’t forthcoming doesn’t have the sheer chutzpah to smash through the indifference and just DO IT.   Although I have done that a couple of times, it’ just not my personality really.  Funny old game innit.   Anyway.

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I organised my CDs in alphabetical order and played them one at a time starting with A.  I like to write to music.  Doesn’t really matter what it is.  I didn’t want to choose a CD every time one finished, so I just took the next one.  I sat in the bedroom at a small table with my Apple, opened Final Draft and started to write my screenplay.    I vomited it up like an ayahuasca purge.   Based loosely on my adolescence at Lewes Priory School, the story is about two 16-year-old boys who make a suicide pact at the top of a steep chalk cliff overlooking the sea, then give themselves one last year of life before they die together.   It took me two weeks to write, and the first draft that resulted could have been made into a very good film.   Of course though, there were re-writes, seventeen in all.   It eventually got made in 1999, but that’s a long and tremendously irritating story.    I will tell it.    The film is called New Years Day.   It always was, even at first draft stage.  An annoying title, because when you google it, all kinds of shit comes up.   Word to the wise – choose a standout title, something eye-catching like My Beautiful Laundrette.   Sgt Pepper.   Songs For The Deaf.   Everyone remembers those.   “New Years Day”.    Cah.   What was it called again ?  Anyway, done, dusted.  It’s out there on DVD now, I haven’t spoiled it by unravelling the plot.    I am, despite the teeth-grinding betrayals and back-stabbing, proud of the finished product.

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Untold Stories was on Buju Banton‘s fourth LP ‘Til Shiloh which was his 1st since becoming a Rastafari faith member, and the change in style and lyrics was immediate – gone (almost) were the lyrics about women and batty men, violence and so on, in were more thoughtful pieces like Untold Stories, Not An Easy Road and “Til I’m Laid To Rest.   We all deserve a second chance, right?  Untold Stories itself has a marvellous feel to it, spiritual, neo-realist, earthy and full of wisdom.   It is one of my favourite pieces of music from Jamaica and speaks to the struggle we all go through, whoever we are. It’s not an easy road.   Who feels it knows.   I had an untold story.   I told it.   I’m still telling it.

 “…I could go on and on, the full has never been told…”

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