The search for Norris Regal -pt.I


People had warned me. Beware of the siren’s song, they said. Take heed, for once you reissued one record, you might develop a strange addiction: you will start lists (I had one going on, for a then-imaginary label, for years before I did the Zen Bow, btw), they prophesied, you will fevereshly spend hours on the web squinting at undecipherable names off decades-old record labels spinning on Youtube…

Well, guess what ? They all were right.

After the unexpected gift from the great Zenbar Bennett asking me to put take Impression for a fresh spin by sending me, dead sea scrolls-style, his original master tapes, the amazing adventure it was and the tremendous welcome the reissue got, I just knew that this first project was all but be the last one.

And so, here I come again-but which one would be next?

High on my list was one amazing 12″ I had heard a few times off Jah Shaka tapes from the beginning-mid ’80s. Not a typical “end of night” steppers tune, but one of these subtle heavyweight, one-away slow tracks that make it clear that the dance is started.

And every time, Struggle got me.

Past what I identified as typical UK-style intro, Norris Regal’s almost murmur was magnified by a majestic horns line, only to be followed by the most moving, heart-dropping female backing vocal chorus: “Oh, we a Struggle, oohh-ohh”. You could feel that a lot of heart went into penning this. This track was obviously NOT a rush job by a prolific mic mercenary. It was crafted to perfection, the mixing was impeccable.

Should it be the next one? Of course. Plus, it made sense for me to go and give back to the UK roots scene -after all, it gave me so much when I was writing my “UK scene” section in Natty Dread mag… it only felt normal.

Adding to the already heavy mystique of the tune itself was the fact that Norris Regal fully disappeared from all the radars after this debut tour de force. After a quick check with the usual suspects within the London scene, it became apparent that nobody had had any news since, let alone ever seen him in person at the time, or even knew where he might have been from or about. Full-blown, Sugarman-style mystery (minus the “star in South Africa part,” I reckon). The man came, sang, and vanished away for ever.

Anyway. Some time in the Fall of 2012, I innocently opened my “fantasy reissue list” Word doc. Norris Regal: Struggle – no other tune known. Check if UK, my notes only said. “Regal, Regal…” What an unusual stage name, I thought. Not unknown, though: during my London adventures, I did cross a few times a legend of sorts in the reggae fraternity, somebody who’d go by the name “Regal”: Regal Music Center, run by a certain Ossie… I had his number off an old flyer he gave me in 2006. Let’s call him and see if his “Regal” had anything to do with the Norris in question…

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