Love Me Always – Dennis Brown
Angolian Chant – Joe Gibbs
I wanna dub you, dub you always….
there ain’t nobody else….
Time for a version excursion on my pop life. Two songs for number 69 – they are the same song, but they’re not, really. Lovers rock becomes dub plate tune. I cycled up to Williamsburg today on a citibike, nice Sunday afternoon, looking for graffitti spots in Bushwick, enjoying the weather. Called in at an address on N10th St and rang a random bell, and Annie McGann opened the door. Hooray! Inside, her son Joseph McGann, Sam Barrett, Chris Ebdon and Imogene Tavares. Introductions all round, and food is being prepared. Reggae and dub is playing. I’d met Joe before, when he was very young (in Los Angeles Annie reminded me!) and then throughout the years, most recently with his dad Paul at a Withnail & I event in Bristol. I introduced myself to the cat that Annie is catsitting and – suddenly – one of those proustian moments rushed in as this song came on. I left Annie and the cat Schmo and ran to the ipad. There was this picture. Treasure from beyond.
I’ve been looking for this song for years. Using the wrong search terms “I wanna dub you” and so on. The song is called Love Me Always by the great Dennis Brown, and the dub version, which has been stuck in my ear for over 30 years is called Angolian Chant. Now that’s not even a word as far as I know! So, so sweet to hear it again. What did it remind me of ? Well : Club 61 for starters – Paulette‘s legendary parties in Clapham (see My Pop Life #60). And certainly also West End Lane, Pete, Sali, Nick, Colin, Tony (see My Pop Life #59). This kind of music was for a) slowdancing – at Club 61… and b) getting stoned to – in West End Lane. Dub is perfect for smoking marijuana. And vice versa of course. And both are great for slowdancin’. Just how the world is meant to be sometimes.
The music comes out of Joe Gibbs & Errol Thompson‘s stable in Kingston Jamaica where they were known as “The Mighty Two”. The house band were called The Professionals and had Sly Dunbar on drums, Robbie Shakespeare on bass (also known as Fatman Riddim Section and later to become international hit machine Sly & Robbie) & Earl “Chinna” Smith on guitar as the rhythm section par excellence. This team produced over 100 number one hit records, for Dennis Brown, Black Uhuru, Culture, Mighty Diamonds, Althia & Donna, Prince Far-I, Junior Byles, Jacob Miller, Big Youth, Dillinger, John Holt, on and on. Joe Gibbs
And yet beyond all the hit records, Joe and Errol also produced a stream of incredible dub plates many of which are gathered together on the seminal LPs African Dub All-Mighty. Angolian Chant is from Chapter 3.
I used to have this on vinyl – and it is one of the LPs that I failed to replace when I lost my whole collection in 1985. Just a missing piece of my brain. The thing is – if you’re listening to dub, you’re quite likely to be stoned. Things get lost in the haze. But seriously, dub reggae is a huge part of the musical universe, and technologically way ahead of its time. Lee Perry, King Tubby, Augustus Pablo, Prince Far-I, Errol Thompson, Mad Professor – and all of those other guys – they might have been stoned when they produced this music, but they were on the money, sharp, and knew exactly what they were doing. The dub plates of 12″ reggae singles go much further than just being an instrumental, a track which can be used, versioned, recycled. A different melody is put on top, a new singer, a new band, another hit! As reggae had been doing since the 1960s. The dub plate went way beyond that into a version which sampled itself and using faders and echoes like musical instruments themselves, created a new song from bits of the old one. This of course has totally influenced every genre of popular music since then – rock, pop, hip hop, house, as well as grime, Drum&Bass, dubstep, ambient and electronica more generally.
Dennis Thompson, Errol Thompson, Clive Chin & Augustus Pablo
Errol Thompson engineered at Studio One, and is credited with producing the first instrumental reggae LP in 1970, before becoming one of dub’s pioneers. Joe Gibbs learned his trade with Lee Perry, producing the Heptones and others before branching out on his own in the early 1970s. His first international hit was Nicky Thomas’ “Love Of The Common People“. Errol and Joe Gibbs joined forces in 1975.
Dennis Brown was born like me in 1957 and started singing aged nine. He was Bob Marley’s favourite singer – he dubbed him “The Crown Prince of Reggae”. Dennis cut his first single aged 12 for Coxsone Dodd at Studio One. He recorded over 75 albums, and had many hit singles of which the most famous internationally is “Money In My Pocket” produced by his close friend Winston “Niney” Holness on behalf of Joe Gibbs. He recorded with all of the great Jamaican producers in his long career, one notable track with Lee Perry is called “Wolf and Leopard” and is also worth seeking out. In 1977 he made the LP Visions Of Dennis Brown with Joe Gibbs which was a huge success and contains the vocal track Love Me Always.
Joe Gibbs HQ
What is great about all this is that I only ever remembered the dub version “I wanna dub you” – try googling that ! Serendipity is a great thing. So thanks to Annie for inviting me over and to Joe and his gang. (Joe goes out as a grime DJ under the moniker Kahn, his partner is Neek, he also works as Gorgon Sound). Thanks for playing that damn tune ! Or was it actually Annie ?? Probably. Annie likes a lot of the same era reggae as me. I’ve known Annie since 1985 when I shot Withnail & I with Paul McGann, Richard E. Grant and Richard Griffiths, all being conducted under the passionate inspiration of Bruce Robinson, who also wrote it. Wow, we were all kids really. I’ll write about that another time, but Paul and Annie have stayed in my life ever since, as have Richard E. and Bruce. Sadly Richard Griffiths passed away a couple of years ago. I drove up to Stratford for his funeral. Life passes so quickly. Dennis Brown died in 1999. The Prime Minister of Jamaica, and previous PM Edward Seaga both attended his funeral. He was an inspiration to a whole generation of Jamaican singers. This is my favourite song of his, returned to me like the prodigal son. I have just listened to it eight times in a row.
Dennis Brown – the Crown Prince Of Reggae