Q: Right. So this link to GG's, that must have been in '77 too. There was this disco 45 you did for him of 'Trodding Through the Jungle'?

A: GG? GG's is... you know, the time frame with GG's is kind of muddy. And the reason why it's muddy - I'll explain to you why it's muddy. Because the experience there was... something between me and GG, and to me I think it was disrespectful. So, it's like I never really put that in my head to even comment about GG's stuff, you know what I'm saying? But I know it was maybe about that time because I went up there and did about four songs for him - 'Trodding Through the Jungle', 'Poor Donovan', and about two more tracks that I can't remember. Then he put it out on seven-inch and twelve-inch. But then in that same period I was down at Channel One and staying with Taxi Gang, with Sly & Robbie, and I think Solgie was the one who came in and suggested... Solgie was the one who came in and played the GG tracks - with 'Trodding Through the Jungle', and Solgie was like, "Robbie, I know if you guys lay this track the right way then it's a killer track". So Robbie said, "OK, let's go". And we lay the tracks the same day and we voice it the same day - 'Trodding Through the Jungle' for Sly & Robbie. But GG's was the first one that came out.

Q: So you consider the Taxi version of 'Trodding Through the Jungle' the real version of that song?

A: Yeah, the Sly & Robbie version was the version that kick it over the hill, man! Because I can distinctively remember 1980 or... maybe a little before that when politics was hot in Jamaica. I can distinctively remember I was on North Street where there was a big dancehall, and I can remember the night. A sound by the name of Arrows was playing out there and when they played 'Trodding Through the Jungle'... the eruption of the crowd! I sat back - I was out at the wall, sitting on the wall, and I could not believe it. My head... my whole body just shiver! Then over at Jungle, in Concrete Jungle, they were playing at the Water Tower - you have a water tank over there. And I think U Roy's Stur-Gav was playing over there, and when Stur-Gav played 'Trodding Through the Jungle', everything... people tell me it erupted! So the Sly & Robbie one was the hard-hitting one. That took it over the hill.

Q: But GG's didn't put this out again, when the version for Sly & Robbie hit?

A: GG's one was released first. But it wasn't going anywhere. It was a little bit slower - with Radics, y'know? But the one with Sly & Robbie it really kickin' it in the high gear.

Q: We're still at '79 now I guess, and your next move after the GG's and Orthodox stuff, was to U Brown?

A: Right. U Brown is a deejay. You know, as I said while at Channel One U Brown came to me and I was singin' 'Please Mr Deejay' on Studio One riddim track at dances.

Q: Which sound was that? Any particular Hi-Fi at that time?

A: Soul Express, still Soul Express... And then U Brown said to me that he heard I had a song on the 'Rougher Yet' riddim. And I said yes and he said, "You wanna give it to me?" And I said no problem. 'Cos then, you know, I didn't... Then I did (it) for U Brown and it really took off in Jamaica. Then I made an appearance on television - I think it was 'Where It's At', the name of the program, and that was like the first set of entertainment programs in Jamaica, on television. So I came on 'Where It's At' for one time with 'Please Mr Deejay'' And then actually I did two songs for U Brown - 'Please Mr Deejay' and 'Cuss Rasta'.

Q: 'Don't Cuss Rasta' - what a tune that is!

A: (Laughs) You know what? A lot of people tell me about that song, it is so funny about that song. I've got a friend in Vermont, he has a label by the name of Roots Foundation, I did a couple of songs for him, and he love that song. I always say to him, "I've always wondered what U Brown gonna do with that song?" And a guy just emailed me and tell me he love 'Don't Cuss Rasta', and I was like: "OK, here we go again"(laughs)!

Q: That fellow could have been me, to me that's one of your best shots. Did you know that U Brown put it out in France, on a compilation a couple of years back (titled 'Hit Sounds From Channel One - 1979 - 80' on the now defunct Tabou1 label)?

A: Yes. Right, yeah, yeah!

Q: It wasn't titled 'Please Mr Deejay', he had it as 'Play This Song For Me'.

A: Right. It has about four different names! It has 'Please Mr Deejay', 'Play This Song For Me', 'Mr Deejay', 'Have You Ever Heard About My Love' - Carl Meeks and Daddy Lilly do it over on the Redman label, and they called it 'Heard About My Love'. About four different titles. Just like 'Trodding Through the Jungle' - it has like about three titles: 'Chalice In Hand', 'Troddin'' and 'Trodding Through the Jungle'.

Q: The same song.

A: The same song, yeah. So, you know, people give it the name to flip whatever they wanna do it, y'know?

Q: As a "new" song or whatever.

A: Right.

Q: Tricky?

A: Yep.

Q: So it was only two songs you did for U Brown, and they were both pressed at the time?

A: No, the only thing he put out on single was 'Please Mr Deejay'. 'Cuss Rasta' just came out the other day on the compilation. I think he plans to release it on a seven-inch in Jamaica.

Q: Titles like 'Rasta Get the Blame', 'Don't Cuss Rasta', 'Call of the Rasta' - what kind of relationship do you have to the Rastafari movement, from then up to now? At least there's several lyrics in defence of the Rasta. What was the inspiration for that song, 'Don't Cuss Rasta'?

A: 'Don't Cuss Rasta'? Before I really get into the business I was a postman, and I have this friend, we usually work together - he was a Rasta. But then he cut his locks, and there was a guy name Barry in the office every day would mouth him, and I say to him, "Why you cuss Rasta?" I mean, he would curse Rasta and then Barry, usually, say, "Why you wear yu locks all the way down to your bottom?" You know, he wear long... he were dread. And I know he cuss Rasta. I sat down and wrote that song one day in front of the office, me and Barry, we were talking about it and I wrote 'Cuss Rasta'. And, like, 'Rasta Get the Blame'? It was like in the early eighties when everything bad was happening in America - is Rasta. Everything happen - is Rasta. So I always write my song offa reality. Always write about things I see and I hear. And I guess most of my songs... people can relate to it or see in it or... it does something to them.

Q: Somehow the prejudice about Rasta is still very much there in society - even today. Why do you think that is? It will never stop. I dunno what people get provoked about, they just have to ridicule them.

A: Right. No, it will never stop. I think maybe it is that some people they don't understand the culture, or they don't want to understand the culture. Maybe it's because it is out of the mainstream, or maybe it is just imbedded in society to be like that. Maybe that's just what it is.

Q: Your upbringing, you've said somewhere that you didn't grow up in a poor family, which doesn't necessarily suggest that you had some kind of priviledged family situation - how did it look like?

A: No, I mean... we weren't really poor. I could say this: I've never been to bed hungry, unless I chose to! My mother always make sure there's something there. You know, we were never really middle class, and we were never poor, we were in-between middle class and poor. But we survived, you know.

Q: Why didn't you continue with U Brown? I mean, after 'Please Mr Deejay' hit? What was the circumstances there? An album should have been followed by the success with this tune, don't you think?

A: Right. We talked about it but it never did get around. I don't know what happened. We never did get around to even going down that road. Maybe it was just meant to be them two songs. Who knows? But I think what it was at that time - he was working with Al Campbell, come to think of it. And I think basically most of the time it was Al Campbell, and I didn't go to studio without never getting anything done and I was like... after I while I was hanging at the back of the studio. That's it. I go stay in the east. That's what happened, yeah. 'Cos I did go to Channel One a long way and I was like - there was war going by Channel One and I was like, "I cannot bother with this stuff!"

Q: Yeah, and not getting enough attention?

A: Yeah, exactly! That's when we went to... Studio One.

Q: And this is like 1980, or something like that?

A: Yeah, ' bout '80.

Q: And Ranger had this (Studio One) album 'On The Other Side of Dub' out at the time. Was it Ranger that brought you there to Coxson at the time, or Walcott again? That's one of the stories, how did it come about?

A: Right, that's '80. Well, Coxson is the same story as the Channel One - Tony Walcott took us up there. Me and Ranger. Me, Ranger and Welton Irie. I don't think he took Puddy. Three of us went up there. I did two songs - 'Why', and another song. Ranger started doing couple of songs. And he end up doing 'On the Other Side of Dub'. Welton did about two songs - 'Mr Bassie', and another one. And, you know, we started from there... working for Coxson. And then I just start going up there couple of days and, like, maybe voice one or two tracks till eventually...

Q: But around that time, only one tune came out of this?

A: Yeah - 'Why'.

Q: And then you went to him again a couple of years later for 'Jam It Up'?

A: Yeah, 'Jam It Up'. A couple of years later I went to him. That was after I went to Dynamite Records, with Clive Jarrett, and did 'Rumours' and stuff like that. Then I went back up to Sir D and did 'Jam It Up'. In that period Dynamite fell between that... 'Jam It Up' and 'Why'. And in 1980, with the help of Sly & Robbie, my friend Clive Jarrett decide to start a label with Ranger, then we started Dynamite. And then Ranger did an album and I did an album, which spawned hit like 'Woman', 'Here I Stand', and then Robbie gave him 'Trodding Through the Jungle' and put it on a pre, and that took away that album too.

Q: If you could estimate, how many tracks did you record for Coxson during that eighties period?

A: For Coxson? In the eighties I did maybe about twenty tracks. After 1980 up to 1999 I did like about fifty tracks. You know - maybe more than fifty tracks, 'cos there was a time when I just go up to the studio an' voice, just voice because I didn't have anything else to do.

Q: (Laughter)

A: Yeah! I just intend to go there and voice - voice tracks. But the only disappointment I had with him was that he never released my stuff. And I was kind of disappointed... until finally last year he decided he was gonna release some stuff. It will be out maybe by the end of February to early March ('03, which didn't happen). I keep my fingers crossed, hopefully!

Q: How come he decided to finally do this album now after all these years?

A: I think what happened is that he started to get a lot of response from people calling and asking for tracks that I was doing as special for sound systems. Like 'Trodding Through the Jungle' - people keep asking why he didn't release it on a 45 or something. And one day he said to me - we were talking one day - and we said "These tracks Sir D, I've voiced them for something like about ten years now". And he was like, "Yeah?" I said, "Yeah!", and I said, "I'm really disappointed that you don't release my stuff". I mean, I'm not jealous. I'm not the type of person to digest about anything, but I think I deserve it. I said that: "People come after me and did work for you, and you release their stuff ". I said that: "Maybe because I don't call you I'm badging you, maybe that's why you treat me like that?" So he decided seh he's gonna do something. 'Cos I don't really call producers to put out my stuff, I don't think I need that. I think my work speaks for itself. That's the way I look at it. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's the way I look at it. But then after we started to communicate and he said OK. Last month he was up in New York and he called me and I went to listen to some tracks and there were some that never will be released. And t'ing about it, is on the wickedest set o' rhythms! Is not like common rhythm that everybody plays. I always chose some rhythm which is like a... obscure rhythm.

Q: So you got a free hand to choose whatever, what you wanted to voice on?

A: Actually I choose all the tracks I want to sing on. With Coxson I just, like, find a tape and seh to him "this is what I want".

Q: I was interested in how he works, seems like he gives you the free hand to approach it the way you want to, whatever tracks you request, or he has full control? I get the impression you do?

A: Yes I do. Surprisingly I do! I never have a problem working with him. I usually choose the tracks I want. Only problem in choosing the tracks I want with Coxsone is that... it takes him a long time to find them (laughter)! Yeah, because sometimes he's not aware! He was like, "Carlton, where these tracks from?" I was like "I have collected all these things on cassette". And I usually write them and I know what I want. Like, for instance - Larry Marshall. I love Larry Marshall! You know, I love his songs (laughs)! And, like, I did a lot of lyrics on Larry Marshall tracks. And he (Coxson) was like, "I can't remember these tracks!". Finally, he find them and I voiced them and that's it. Yeah, he give me a free hand. Surprisingly he has done that to me. And that's the only free thing he has given. That's the only thing he gave me - a free hand. Instead of release it (laughs)! So, you know, I'm grateful for that. I chose the riddim that I wanna sing on, 'cos I always tell him "I don't wanna sing on everything that everybody sing on". I don't believe in that.

Q: True. You have to distinguish yourself from the rest?

A: Exactly. So he said, "choose what you want".

Q: How is the man to work with? I mean, all this talk over the years...?

A: Most of it is just talk (laughter)!

Q: Really?

Carlton Livingston.

A: Yeah! He's cool. I mean, I can only speak for myself in that sense and Ranger would tell you the same thing too. I mean, we go to Sir D and voice tracks and we sit down listening to it and if we wanna change it and if he hear anything he want... we change it. He's easy to work with. Him and Jah Life is one a the easiest persons to work with.

Q: By the way, what happened to Hyman Wright (Papa Life)? I know he had the Grade One label during a part of the nineties, but...?

A: He has been quiet for a while but I think he is ready to get back on the scene. I was just in New York and up in the studio and he has a lot of things. His catalog is huge now - Johnny Osbourne, Sammy Dread, Sister Carol, Scion (Sashay) Success. I mean, he has a big catalog so I think he is ready to... You see, Jah Life's problem, he's just trying to find a distributor who he could really (rely on). Jah Life is like Coxson, he don't really trust anybody. Yeah, you know, if you deal with him - is not about the money, Jah Life's problem is just if you take his thing and put it out and market it and enrapture (?) he don't want to do that. So, basically that's why he haven't done anything in a while.

Q: You more or less disappeared for a while, after a peak in the mid eighties - what happened around that time, say '89 to '92?

A: What happened was I migrated to the United States and it was totally different. You know, with family and stuff like that. But actually at that time I was doing recording but I just didn't have anything released. At that time I was recording stuff for Coxson up in his studio on Fulton Street. I was recording for Jah Lloyd 'cos I have, like, about 40 songs in Jah Lloyd's catalog. I just get up and go voice 'cos he do some good tracks. I just go an' voice but I didn't get anything released. But otherwise than that I was doing a lotta recording. And basically my peak was around '83 to '84. But it was just one of dem t'ings. You know, I was just recording anyway. I have a too huge catalog. I went to Jamaica and did songs for Junior Reid, Bobby Digital and Jammys, but Jammys was like he only release that one song off his catalog. Junior Reid hasn't released any. I'm really pissed at him too! Jammys is the same t'ing. I think he really had a great catalog down there. Only one who really done a little stuff was Digital. I give him his profit, but... You know, I don't understand the business sometimes, what they do. But I think they could have done better.

Q: By the way, I hope someone - yourself or the man responsible for the original (Beswick 'Bebo' Phillips) - could reprint those 'Soweto' and 'Rumours' albums one day? They came upon the Bebo's label back then.

A: You mean Thrillseekers? Yeah, we plan to bring that back out. Actually I got the tapes a couple of months ago and I gave it to Jah Lloyd to run it through and clean it up. So I have that to put out. We're thinking of combining it together.

As most of you know by now, Sir D passed away suddenly in May 2004 and Carlton's long-awaited album got delayed further, a big set-back for both Studio One and Carlton. The album's working-title is 'Mr Music Man' and has been eagerly anticipated in some circles. It should be just as good as Glen Washington's success with new vocals over classic Brentford Road (oh, sorry, 'Studio One Boulevard'... my bad) rhythms a couple of years back. Some would suggest that Carlton did a few unfocused, patchier albums during the nineties, but this one for Coxson should redress the balance and put him back where he belongs among the finest of Jamaican singers. Carlton also did some stuff for the Oakland-based Tree of Life during this period, appeared at the Bob Marley Day celebrations in Los Angeles and the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival in California alongside Brigadier Jerry. Singles for producer veterans Glen Brown and Jah Life was in stores a while back and a project with New York producer/Steel Pulse-keyboardist Sidney Mills is as yet unreleased. Then you have the 'Retrospective' CD which Carlton put out on his own a while back, a good anthology which represents his work very well throughout the eighties but suffer from some strange mastering. Prioritywise, if anything, this is something that should be redone in the future to give the songs justice. A sound system tour titled Dub-Fe-Dub/Rub A Dub Partners, featuring Carlton and 'long-time Soul Express-spar' Lone Ranger, saw him back in Europe again in the late fall of 2004 for the first time in years. Now, if only Mr Gooden or Mrs Dodd could bring the recordings to the plant...

Visit Carlton Livingston's website by clicking HERE.

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