April 3, 2016

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APR. 3rd, 2016- MYSTIC RADICS “NATION WIDE” 12” REISSUE NOW SHIPPING TO DISTRIBUTORS! Our new 12” is FINALLY out this week, shipping to distributors worldwide… Ask your local shop for it!
As per usual, the full Mytic radics interview is coming up in the next weeks on the blog below… Hold tight! Feel free to subscribe to this blog, or to our Facebook page to know what’s up.

ZEN BOW + NORRIS REGAL 12s UPDATE Regarding our two first releases, Impression by Zen Bow, and Struggle by Norris Regal, they are sold out at our distributor’s –which means they are all in a shop somewhere, waiting for you! There are still copies available, for sure, over at Ernie B’s : www.ebreggae.com. They are going fast!

The Mystic Radics story, ep. 3: ” He said I had to pay the DJs now to put the song on their playlist”

April 8, 2016

Why did you decide to go with Mystic Radics instead of just you as a solo for Nation Wide?
Tony Moody:
The early days, it was more personal, like Night Work and Pusherman, they were all personal stuff. Then when I saw that all the players I was teaching at the time started playing really well, I decided we needed to form a band. And that’s when I started to deal with Mystic Radics.

(Mystic Radics member Earl Dorango joins the conversation)

Earl… I was just telling him about the Radics. So, the name Mystic Radics came from Roots Radics in Jamaica. Because Roots Radics was bad, you know? And it’s more inclusive: when that band element came into it, each individual had to take personal responsibility for various things.

So on Nation Wide, Paul played the drums, I played the keys, and Desmond played the guitar—that’s it, I think.

I always thought you were singing on it, but you were not, correct?
No, it’s Earl doing the lead vocal. He came into the rehearsal room and I heard him sing, “Nation Wide.” So then, we created a little beat around it, and then I said, okay, let me write some lyrics [laughter], let me do the verses to it. He ended up singing it with his two brothers, Tony (RIP) and Junior.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 6.10.09 PMEarl Dorango in 2014, London.

Earl: I was 17 at the time. I was coming from a different Youth Club but I heard they were auditioning, and I got the lead singer spot. We recorded a few other songs where I’m singing, but only Nation Wide was released. I did this other one called Give Thanks that we used to sell as a dubplate, Small Axe was playing it a lot. I just saw it on Ebay for 130 Pounds – They called me Earl the General on it! [as it looks, someone DID release it, unbeknownst to Earl -check it over here]

Tony: I printed 250 copies of Nation Wide. I took them to Jet Star and he bought them all. So he had faith in the music, he bought them all. I had joined PRS, and when they came back in, they gave me a rundown of who purchased them. Quite a few were sold in France, but the most was sold in Ireland!

But I kept everything, all the master tapes, all the lacquers, everything. I always thought that this was going to be documented some day. So mi pushed everyt’ing under mi bed. It didn’t surprize me that much when you got in touch. But you see, when mi tek it out, cobweb full it! [laughter]

So then the tune got quite big from Shaka playing it, notably on the Masseh show on Kis FM. How did that happen?
Well, when we released it, at that time, [Brixton-based, 12 tribes-affiliated sound system] Jah Revelation Muzik was big, so I wanted to have them play at our Gypsies Youth Club. I ended up giving them a copy of it, and they played it a lot, and then they told me Shaka picked it up and rub it.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 6.18.38 PMTony Moody and singer Vincent Roswell, circa 1984.
Photo courtesy Tony Moody 

You also did the highly sought-after Going to a Dance 12” with Vincent Roswell as the singer.. But then, it feels like you all disappeared
Really, it’s only three songs we did. And the reason why I stopped… Ok, so, we did the song Pusherman, it played on Radio One, and then when I went back to Jet Star and he said to me I need to plug it. I said, “What you mean, plug it?” He said I have to pay the DJs to put it on their playlist. Pay them. The reason why I wrote Pusherman is because the youth take whole heap of drugs, how do you expect me to go pay for a social thing? So mi sey, “Mi nah pay.” And mi stop. [laughter] “You know what, I’ll focus on the cricket.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 6.16.40 PMI was done. The only time we put out music again was for the Zimbabwe cricket event, in 1988. It was a massive tour because The Evening Standard put £25,000 into it. They sent a camera crew from Channel 4 to record it and I got to create the music for that a 12” called Zimbabwe. I always felt that the music would have carried the cricket.

Earl Durango: But it was the other way around.

Tony Moody: Cricket was rather more important because I realized that in cricket I could do more in my own mind. Even though music is more effective, in my mind I feel I could do more with cricket than with music. Even though the music, at the time, was more impressive and more effective, I felt the lasting effect would be using cricket. It would last longer.

 

The Mystic Radics story, episode2: “It made me realize that I could use cricket to tackle wider social issues”

April 3, 2016

mysticThe Mystic Radics in the early 1980s: L to R. Vincent Roswell, Desmond Carter, Franco Scalisi, Tony Moody, Marvin Augustus
—Photo courtesy T. Moody.

So that first song came out, and it was already on your label, Water Mount. The name always intrigued me.
Oh, yes! It was where my wife was born—Water Mount, St. Catherine, Jamaica. So I named the label off her. And I drew the logo myself as well.

I love it.
[laughter] I think it’s terrible.

Well, it’s very… I’d say it’s very genuine.
Yes, it was like that. Because I couldn’t afford to do things, I just do it myself.

How many copies did you originally press of Night Work?
Two hundred. That was at what I could afford to do. And I did try to promote it in some of the clubs because I sang in some of the clubs, like The Podium, or another one in Catford. I remember singing there once and Nitty Gritty was on the bill. It was a big dance, Frontline sound system was playing. I got to sing Night Work right before Nitty Gritty got on the microphone. But I only did it because I wanted to find a way of getting the funds for the cricket. So, that’s what I did.

You kind of managed to make some money off it?
No, because the way the music business works, I realized I didn’t have the kind of money to stay with it. I didn’t have the kind of money to stay. Because the way how they deal with music is not for the music. They deal with it for something else. It’s not just for the music. It’s like they feel everything has to be marketed in a particular way, and music is sometimes is very personal. And that personal feelings or that personal attitude that you bring to it, sometimes it’s not commercial enough. If you are going to say certain things that you, you know, that you feel strong about, some people would say, Oh, it’s too militant, or too political. They kind of want to manufacture the spirit of music and manufacture the spirit of people and that’s where the creativity is lost.

So then from this first 12 inch, what was the next one? Was it Pusherman?
Pusherman, yes. In the youth club, I remember one of them, his brother was taking drugs in a bad way. Because it was so bad he was prepared at the time to allow his girlfriend to go with the pusher man in order for him to feed his habit. And his brother was telling me, in the rehearsal room he was telling me and he was crying. And he asked me, “What can we do? What can I do?” And the only thing that came to me was for me to write a song. Because then it wasn’t the pusher who they were blaming, it was the users. They were penalizing the users. So I realized that really it’s not the users, it’s the pushers who is creating that problem. So I then wrote about the Pusherman. And it played on Miss P’s show on Radio One. I was at work and Desmond called me and said, “Tony have you got a radio nearby?” And I said yes. So I went to the personnel and I heard about few bars of the song. But then I hear them discussing the contents, the words. And then few days after I saw in the paper that they were dealing with the pushers rather than the users.


Wicked DJ cut on the Pusherman riddim, followed by the original vocal – both found on master tape, unmastered.

Do yout think that was it because of the song?
I don’t know if that’s what they got it from, but I know that’s what happened.

Do youu remember roughly what year Pusherman came out ?
Not really. I didn’t document my role in music, because I’ve always felt that music wasn’t… even though I love it, it wasn’t like the most important for me. Cricket was.

How did you get this deep into the sport?
When I came to England, I started playing football but one of the coaches from Surrey came to the school and that was like the first couple of months while I was at school. He took us to Crystal Palace, where we played cricket, and realized that I was a better cricketer than footballer. So the first few months while I was in England I played for the school team. By playing cricket, I realized that the social side of things was different from football, different from music. It is a different concept, a different mentality, a different attitude. I realized that the depth of thought that you need to play cricket was different from the instinctive nature of football. I also realized that in music the concept links with cricket.

Links in what way?
In terms of the emotion. Because it’s not instant, it’s not a sprint, it’s like a marathon. And because it’s like a marathon, it gives you more time to think, to be creative, and so on. So the creative juice within cricket, because the mental side and the physical side and the emotional side, all that is evident. So when you bring all that together, the creative juices increase.

Did you play cricket in Jamaica already?
Yes, but not so much the traditional cricket. We’d play the catchy shubby form of it. Everyone could be involved in playing this type of game because it’s for the young, old and anyone. So that’s what I grow up with. So when I came, I start playing traditional cricket. I was 17 when I played my first match here. But then it was a match between the community team playing against the police. So I realized that you could use cricket to tackle wider social issues So that got me going, because that concept was really good – to watch the team, mainly West Indian players playing against the police.

Was it a friendly game?
Yes, it was, and they were using it to bridge the gap in a social way. So it was very good and I really loved the idea, because then the police was very aggressive. They were very aggressive and quite a number of people died in custody and all that type of stuff. So the idea of using cricket to bridge the gap, I thought was a good one, so ever since then I grasped it and I continue doing it.

So you were very deep into cricket already, and then came Nation Wide…
Yes.

Final episode of the Tony Moody interview coming up next week – hold tight!

The Mystic Radics story, episode 1 : meet me at the Youth Club

March 30, 2016

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Being born is St Andrews, Jamaica, how did you end up in England?
Tony Moody:
I came here when I was 13. My mother came, when I was seven, and I remember I missed her so much. So in 1967, I wrote her my first letter and I explained how much I missed her and so on, and within six months she sent for me. She was working on the buses, as a conductress.

It was a cultural shock—the change. In comparison to Jamaica, it was very cold, but I liked it. The thing that I noticed more than anything else was that there was no leaves on the trees [laughter]!

Had you started singing already, back in this time?
Well, when I came to England, the first thing I saw in my mother’s new house was a piano. And I always wanted to play the piano when I was in Jamaica, but I didn’t have one.

I also liked the trumpet because the most famous band back in Jamaica was the The Skatalites, and I met Dizzy Moore and so forth, I loved the way he played. But I bought a trumpet and I realized it was quite difficult, so I didn’t bother.

So… the piano, then.
Yes. And I had a friend who we used to go to youth club with and his brother was one of the best pianist in Jamaica, and he used to attend the youth club: Harold Butler himself! I used to watch him play ath the Youth Club. I even paid him to play for me. So when I came and I saw the piano I then asked my Mom if I could play it and she said yes. And then I started singing as well.

What area of London did you reach when you first came? Lambeth?
Lambeth, yes. West Norwood. It’s a beautiful area. But then while I was there, one day, two days, three days, playing songs I brought over from Jamaica, Alton Ellis songs and different songs to remember Jamaica, the Skatalites’ songs, I’d play them, and then finally my mom said, “Okay, we’ll have to go and get your school uniform to go to school”. So then she took me to Brixton. I could not believe it. Absolutely wonderful. I just loved it. The vibes, just the area. I’ve loved it ever since. It was like a small version of Jamaica. It’s the feeling. I felt like I was at home. I wrote back a letter to my grandmother and I said, “This place is like little Jamaica”.

Was anybody from your family in the music business at all?
No. My mom is a very good singer, though. She’d sing Sam Cooke songs, things like that, or The Platters or Dusty Springfield songs. She’s back in Jamaica now.

But anyway, when I started at my school, Kingsdale School, all of my friends and l would sing because we would go to youth clubs and we’d listen to music and then we just start singing. My friends would always be saying, “Tony, sing! Sing!” That’s when I recognized that okay, they liked my voice. They didn’t even know that I play the piano.

The band, now, came about because of my piano playing, I taught myself to play good enough. I played the organ as well, so my friend Sami Francis wanted to form a band and asked me if I would play the keyboards. I said yes, and that’s how it started.

But the most important step for me to really get serious about putting out music was when I was playing cricket. I joined the Brixton West Indies Cricket Club and I remember playing a match against the BBC. I remember telling everybody, “I want to take a cricket team to Africa.” I was 19. So they said, “Where you’re going to get the money [laughs] to take a cricket team to Africa? You know you’re talking nonsense.” It’s like a pipe dream, you’re thinking, but you’re just dreaming.

At the time, the apartheid system in South Africa was really bad. And I knew that if they were exposed to cricket and exposed to music they wouldn’t have no time to fight because the spirit that cricket has. I believed that it they were exposed to that, they would try to rectify their differences rather than fight. So I thought if I could get at team to go to Africa to demonstrate that it actually can work if we use cricket and music linked together. It can work. So then I said, “I am going to use my music to do it”. So that’s when I start writing and producing and so on.

What wacarltnw109261637564530s the first song you put out?
It was called Night Work. I married when I was 20. So my wife, she was doing night work, and it was very lonely [laughter], very, very lonely, because I had to look after my children. I missed her so much and I thought that by putting it into words, and writing a song and all of that she would understand how I felt. So I wrote the song for her.

So The Mystic Radics had formed already?
Yes. I was in a youth club, and I taught them to play, then I recorded with them. On Night Work, you had Desmond Carter playing the rhythm, myself, and then my eldest son, Paul, playing the drums…

Wait. You were 20 and you had your son play in the band?
Oh yes, he was like — he was young, 15. He’s my step son. When I did the first song he was about 15 and I was about 20 something. I can’t remember exactly. Then you had Marvin Augustus who usually played drums, too—just not on Night Work. And then his brother, Patrick Augustus, played steel drums. He still plays steel drums with Mad Professor today. Then Michael played the clarinet and melodica, Andrew —I forgot his last name—played the bass. Franco Scalisi played the saxophone. Everybody was from The Gypsies Youth Club in Lambeth. I did meet Franco at a hotel where I worked for a while, though. He would play at restaurants and that’s how I met him, and then I asked him to come and join me.

Episode 2 coming out next week… Hold tight!

The Mystic Radics story – Foreword: the missing link between cricket and Jah Shaka

March 27, 2016

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Growing up in pre-internet France, there was one more affordable way to get to hear new music than buying records : audio cassettes.

While a few have over the years become staples I am still religiously listening to to this very day (the Roots Ting single mixes, the Olivier Allot selections, the early days of the French-made Jah Kingdom series by DJ Clyde, etc.), some gradually became mini-Grails on their very own : The Manasseh show’s,  on London-based Kiss FM 100 fell in that category. Everything about the show was impeccable – from the music selection to the opening spoken jingles by one Martin Campbell. Need proof? Just download all these from this link, will you? Yes. That’s what I thought. You’re welcome.

Anyway, a Grail within the Grail was the series of shows that Jah Shaka did as guest over there —Mind? Blown. Imagine him playing pre-releases of Sidney Mankind’s These Three Girls to a flabbergasted Nick Manasseh, dubplates galore… and then, the Mystic Radics ‘Nation Wide’ 12”. “Oldies but goodies,” as Shaka introduced it. That was it. Some day, I’d have this tune, I promised myself.

Well, it only took twenty-or-so years, until I did get the chance to reissue it on my label.

One bright day of 2014, I decided to launch on the hunt for the Mystic Radics, trying to re-trace their career from the meager credits on the 12s of theirs that I knew, all on the same label —which, I assumed, had to be their own, as it never put out any music by anyone else— Water Mount Records.

Oh boy, I thought, let the squinting start again.

After a few hours losing all the eye sight I had left on deciphering the Water Mount label’s credits on the few records they put out, I came to a conclusion: my guy’s actual name had to be a combination of the following occurrences: “C. Moody”, “Carlton Anthony,” “Carlton Moody”, “T. Moody”.

How about… Let’s run a search with “Carlton Anthony Moody” in the UK, first and foremost? Only one hit: a certain Carlton Anthony Moody has trademarked the term “Catchy Shubby” as a form of cricket in this country, some trademark website states. Mmhh… far-fetched. But let’s be overly pragmatic here: that’s the only lead I got. Well, let’s add “cricket” to the search. Now here comes this article:

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Jamaican-born coach who used to “buy a lot of records”… Suspicious. “Tony Moody” could be very well be the “T. Moody” from the label. Plus, the picture is encouraging: this coach on the photograph would have been the right age to sing that tune back in 1984.

Too tempting: a few hours of search later, I had an email address to contact said coach. You’re always kind of nervous getting in touch with people out of the blue like that. But what do you have to loose? There I went again for one of these awkward intro emails:

Dear Mr. Moody,

Ok, it might sound very strange, but here’s the reason for my mail” (…) “I have been after productions from a label called WATER MOUNT that was set I think in the 80s, and as it looks from hours of research on the internet, that the producer on this label was a CARLTON MOODY, and I once found mention of T.MOODY -which I thought could be you ? Is it you? Do you know who CARLTON MOODY might be?

On this same label, I know of a 12” sung by a certain CARLTON ANTHONY so I came to the conclusion that the producers’ full name is Carlton Anthony Moody, perhaps. Anyway, I hope you know what I’m talking about, otherwise it must sound pretty strange”

Etc etc—I don’t mean to kill you with second-hand embarrassment, and I’m sure you get the uncomfortable picture.

(Blank space here symbolizing the next hours refreshing my Inbox every 30 seconds)

And then – ‘You have 1 new message”. It read what you always hope it would:

Dear Mr Carayol,

My name is Sandra Moody, I am Tony Moody’s daughter and Secretary.
Thank you very much for the email, you will be happy to hear that  Carlton “Tony” Moody is the person you seek in regards to the songs.
Mr Moody has expressed his appreciation in regards to your interest in the music and that it has reached all the way to you in France.
However, he would like to know what would be the benefits of his music being on your label Reel-Heavy Music.

I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours Sincerely,

Sandra Moody

Bingo! A couple weeks later, I was on my way to London to go meet THE Tony Moody.

Coming from France where the sport is non-existent, I never realized how big cricket actually is in the UK. Tony gave me an appointment where he works: at The Oval cricket stadium in Kensinhgton, London —which, it turns out, can shame quite a few football stadiums where I’m from, a beautiful arena made of red bricks.

Tony didn’t come alone. As instructed, he had dug in the vaults and when he opened his car’s trunk, it sort of felt like the old Treasure Isle logo: a few very coveted master tapes appeared, in immaculate condition, as well as a handful of vintage photographs that Tony had kept because he was confident, he told me, “that some day, someone would want to document all this.”

By the time I calmed down a little (not a lot), a whole friendly crew had surrounded us: the Mystic Radics au grand complet (yes, this includes Vincent Roswell) all came to spend the rest of the day with us, and reply to my questions. Tony even invited a videographer documentary he knew to film the uncanny encounter!

The next day, after an afternoon as great as you probably imagine, I was back home. I had satisfied my own curiosity about this old 12” obsession of mine, and, very much more importantly in Tony’s eyes, I knew the basics of cricket. I was now ready to launch the Nation Wide reissue process.

In our next episode – the Mystic Radics story – pt. 1.

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“Shaka says so”

March 26, 2016

For “Nation Wide” to reach such elusive status, it needed some help… How about having been played in one of the most legendary sets of the Manasseh show on Kiss FM? For a few weeks in 1994, the crew invited Jah Shaka to play a few favorites on the show—and, boy, did he deliver. Hear The Mystic Radics around  the 19th minute… Full Mystic Radics story coming in episodes soon, stay tuned!

32 years later, a legendary tune rides again….

March 19, 2016

nationwide_promoRHM-003
Mystic Radics Nation Wide
12” reissue – NOW OUT!

TRACKLIST
A – Nation Wide (original mix) / Nation Wide Dub 2 (prev. unreleased)
B – Dub Version (original mix) / Alt. Vocal Mix (prev. unreleased)

Recordeded at JJ Studios, Bakham, London, 1984. Engineered by Mad Professor.

Wholesale distribution by Control Tower : dub@controltower.fr

And the winner is….

March 13, 2016

Check out our new reissue being played in fine style by Legal Shot Sound System out of France…

Norris Regal interview – part III : a matter of principle, and an electric finale

April 19, 2014

Manicus & RegalManicus & Steppa : warrior stance ! Photo courtesy Norris Regal.

I meant to ask you… You mentioned during one of our conversations a combination DJ cut that might be laying around on the master tape, by Manicus & Steppa. Who are these guys?
Norris Regal: Oh, them? I know them well. It’s actually me and a friend messing around. We were no Michigan and Smiley, so I ended up never releasing that cut.

This should be fixed soon, ha! Back to the non-released stuff you were talking about, on the cassette tapes you had. Was it strictly dubplates for sounds, or?
Yeah -specials for sounds, really. But then I did some work with Computer Paul and then one day when I was in the studio with him, he introduced me to someone who was a song writer but couldn’t write lyrics (laughs). It was pretty odd. He was pretty creative, but he never completed anything. I’m trying to word this diplomatically, ’cause I don’t wanna be publishing things that…

Anyway. This guy played me a few tracks and some of the tracks I quite liked. He started telling me the idea of what he wanted on one of the tracks, a love song. I told him I could write a song for him, and I did. We recorded it with Paul and we thought it sounded quite solid. Paul loved it. The song was called “The One I Adore.” We recorded it, but we didn’t go no further. We didn’t mix it down, we left it at that. And then a few months passed, and next thing I suddenly heard this guy dealing with Cecil Morris, who obviously I had the last links with.

But now Cecil liked the song, but decided they should have someone else to record it, and they had someone else lined up to record the song. So, unbeknown to me, they end up deciding they’re going to have this other guy from the area who made a name for himself later but was then just beginning, sing it. But no one said nothing to me.

When the record came out, I think I was studying at the time so I sort of eased up off the music scene for a while, one of my friends heard the song and told me about it. So now Norris comes back on the scene, creates a bit of mayhem (laughs), and puts the original singer in the position, because obviously he agreed to all of this, and first singer’s turning around, asking, “how much do you want for the song?” I said, “I don’t want nothing for the song, how can you do something like that?” Well, the principle, you know?

Cut a long story short, I went onto my contacts in London, to say, look man, this is what happened. That song I believed could have gone further, but once my contacts in London had heard about it -and some of them had heard of my version, remember I said I used to keep in touch with Winston and all them guys, they said, “this can’t work.” It didn’t grow the way it could have grown. None of the key people would play it or do anything to really push it. Which is a shame in a way —it could have been better for everybody. But you’re young, you’re upset, and principle is principle, you know what I mean?

To be honest, that sort of really restarted wiping my hands clean for a good while. There’s always a good side and a bad side to music, isn’t it? But when you are experiencing something like that, it’s quite hurting. Remember, if I was established, it wouldn’t have happened for a start. Suddenly now, something like that happening, it spoils everything for you. I stepped away completely after that.

What year was that, roughly?
That was about 1984-85.

What were you studying at the time?
Electricity. I’m an electrical engineer now. But you’re trying to get with your life, really. Back in the days, you’re going into the studio, work with them, work with Computer Paul and Pato Banton and all these guys, all of us, we used to be together and work on ideas together, letting each other hear what we are working on. I don’t think it’s gonna be for me now, they’re going to bring a bad vibe in you, that you don’t wanna develop. Every other project was just on the shelf.

So you didn’t pursue a music career from there?
No. no.

But then you found a new hobby… how did the dominoes happen?
Oh, the dominoes? (laughs) I know traditionally it comes from China, but it’s very popular in the Caribbean, in the West Indies. You probably heard Usian Bolt said he likes to play dominoes. That used to be one of my pastimes, which obviously developed to play in the Anglo-Caribbean League.

What it is, this league covers the whole of England, but it tends to change its shape -some teams join one year, then they fall out for certain reasons. I’ve been with them now for twelve-thirteen years as a player, then I got invited on the board I think because I do quite a lot of things in the community.

Yeah, I found this article saying you participate in homework groups for kids in the area, right?
That’s right! You know a lot about me, man !

Didn’t the City stop the funding for it?
Yeah! I always believe in giving back something to the community, and I always feel that if you come from humble beginnings, if you show certain youths a way out, or how not to take the easy route that’s going to lead to misery…

I also believe education is a strong key to it. Key thing. Like this mentoring thing, it’s nothing new to me because some people do need mentors, and I don’t mean the ones they see on the television all the time. They need real life people who they see, and can associate with. That’s the way forward, I think.

It’s from seeing all you do that the Domino Federation put you on the board, you think?
That’s right. On the board, they’re all business people and by doing that you’re hoping to encourage the younger element. And also, to get them focus. Something to do. They may make a success out of something that you may start as well, I found out that with the homework group, it was growing year by year and was very successful, the key thing for me, I tried to make it on a budget, so I wasn’t charging the children I’d just use the funding money and that was it. I deliberately did that so, you know, people didn’t think it was a money exercise, it was something to build up the children’s self-esteem, cause once children get confident they surprise themselves, that’s my experience. We had some success in that.

I had one child who came from Africa, he was in the country for less than a year, I managed to train him up, we have a grammar school system here, where you can take a test to gain entry, and he gained the entry within a year. It was hard work, but his mother was so, so proud, she couldn’t believe. He got into one of the top schools in the country.

And so ends the Norris Regal story… Thanks for all the love and the following! The reissue of “Struggle” is still available in most tasteful reggae shops worldwide. If you have a hard time scoring a copy, feel free to email : sebcarayol@hotmail.com.

noris_nowNorris Regal sorting through some decades-old cassettes at the Rugby
West Indian Center – November 2012 © Seb Carayol

Norris Regal interview – pt. II – the Unity connection

April 4, 2014

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Where did the your stage name Norris Regal come from?
One of the times when I was singing on the sound, someone said, “bway Norris, man, you sing like a prince.” and I said, “Yeah man, I regal, me regal.” It kind of stuck from there.

What songs were you singing in the contest?
Ain’t No Sunshine was one, definitely, it was a reggae version of a Michael Jackson song, by Phillip Fraser maybe? There’s another record, I Need a Woman. That would be in 1980 I think.

Why did you not reach the finals?
There’s always two sides to a story, but put it this way ; I have to be careful how I say these things cause I don’t want to discredit people, but… one of the judges was in a group, and after that semi-final, he asked me if I wanted to come listen to their group, because they were looking for a lead singer.

I was a bit upset anyway, so that was the last interest I had. So I mean, I don’t want to go far into that. It was just one of those things, really.

To be honest another thing that came up as well was image. At the time if you didn’t have locks and you were singing roots music… In those days you were supposed to be a locks man. It was a lot of rubbishy things like that. Doesn’t really help. That was probably one of these things.

So, from there, Cecil Morris told you to re-record, and?
When I met the guys, we did a few practice sessions, they obviously learned the track. I started to re-arrange things and so on, there was a bit of confusion between what Cecil wanted, and what I wanted. Obviously it’s my song, so that project ended, but talking to the guys, they sort of said you don’t want to let a project finish just like that. So I took the project on my own, and the first thing we decided was instead of using the same bass line that was on the riddim track, to change it so it’d be a total new track, new song, everything.

Who was the backing group?
It was a group called Unity. A local band from Stonham, Birmingham. They used to play out a lot, but I don’t really recall them recording, it was a new experience to them going into a studio.

By the time we dropped this riddim and so on, I went back to the initial producer and told him this song which I did for you 18 months ago, I revamped it totally. I made him hear it, and then he loved it. First thing he said was, I need to be the one mixing it for you, Norris. So I says, OK, no problem with that. We mixed it at Easy Street Studios, London.

At the time the way the system used to be, you try out the record labels initially, and what they would do, if they see a hit in it straight away they take it up, but what a lot of the would do is say , I’ll tell you what, you go press a few copies, we’ll see what the reaction is, and then we’ll take it up if we think we can push it further.

You’d push it to sound systems as well, right?
Yes. And radio stations, some of the distributors, depending on what type of record it is. Remember in this business a lot of it has to do with timing. Sometimes if you are a bit unfortunate, you can have a good song or a good track, and just from releasing it at a wrong time, it just fades away.

One of the things that struck me in Struggle was these stellar backing vocals -who did them?
Two girls. And me. I needed to do some backing vocals, and originally it was gonna be me and the guys. I thought it’d be better if we had some girls because it’d bring out my voice better. I needed some women. They knew two girls who were doing a bit of singing. They came to one practice session, I harmonized with them, we went to the studio and dropped that, really. To get more stronger effect, you can do the bouncing effect, where you multiply it and it sounds like a bit stronger. I don’t remember the names –if you had asked me 30 years ago, I would have told you everything, man!

What happened then?
I pressed 1000 copies, got plenty of air play. I mean, it depends. Certain radio stations obviously wouldn’t play it, it’s not their type. John Peel played it on Radio One, and then we’d have local radio stations. They used to push it a lot. The thing was, the London side of things, I left to Jet Star and they took 250 copies off me at the time, then I deal with… You heard of Winston Reedy? Well, I became friends with him.

I started to move into those circles, I knew Carol Thompson and Janet Kay and Winston Reedy, quite a few of them. Winston and his manger at the time, Chilly Dixon. They used to help me with the promotion side of things at the time. Winston got quite big, and in the end he used to come to Birmingham a lot. He signed for UB 40’s record label. Those guys helped me with marketing.

norris_chartsCheck Norris Regal’ 12″ ranking spot # 23 in Don Christie’s charts ! May 1984

It’s probably them who gave it to Jah Shaka?
Really it’s those guys. Shaka was a producer himself, he knows what he likes and plays.

The Sirron label – What does it mean? I realy tried to dissect that when I was looking for you.
Oh… It’s just my name spelt backwards.

Damn. Of course!
Don’t let the secret out now!

I was researching your name, I thought it was Sir Ron maybe.
It’s quite good, innit?

Do you think your record came out at a wrong time?
Yeah, partly. The trouble is, when you write about something, and if you feel passionate at the time about it, you feel that it could work any time. You learn from experience, don’t you?

After that, it didn’t reach the success you hoped for, then what?
Then obviously in the meantime, Bertie sent me a couple other riddim tracks, I wrote some songs, but then, I’m not even sure if he actually heard the songs in the end. he was with S&G records, but he split away from S&G. Then he was strictly working with Carol Thompson, then I think him and Carol had a bit of a bold stop. These guys at the time, if you didn’t know anyone else, you were kinda stuck.

I tended to be more following around Winston Reedy, I did a few dubplates, I went to Capitol Radio with dubplates and things, I met up with some guys in Birmingham who used to aid in the backing tracks with UB40.

I also got in contact with some of these guys, and one of the guys we used to call him Computer Paul. I did a few tunes with him as well. I don’t think they came out. He used to send some to America, and he used to give me feedback but nothing too strong, nothing that was gonna change my life, put it that way.


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