Winston Reedy interview
The Lovers Rock market in the UK has so far given very little to reggae music that is of any real value. Only a few artists working within this form of reggae music have shown themselves capable or wanting to escape its loving embrace. And after a number of years it looked set to stay that way. When a member of the Cimarons – Winston Reed – had a hit with ‘Daughter Of Zion’ it seemed that the Lovers Rock movement had found another male vocalist who could be doted over, and no more. Three more hits, ‘Paradise’ ‘Dim The Lights’ and ‘Moi Emma Ooh Je T’Aime’, turned Winston into a Lovers Rock superstar.
“MUSIC FOR MANKIND”
An album was anticipated and it duly came. It was expected to be a Lovers Rock album, but it wasn’t for Winston had been writing all kinds of songs; love songs, reality and cultural songs. Then voicing them and then sending them off to Jackie Mittoo in Jamaica, who would then build a rhythm around the song and send the tape back to Winston for him to finish the production off in London. A remarkable album was produced. A defiant forward step for reggae music.
Your first record was for Pama – ‘Breakfast In Bed’. How did you get into the music?
It was Ska music you know. I used to like music like Bob Marley’s ‘Simmer Down’ and early Heptones Studio One. I was influenced by music generally. Ska music – brilliant. Originally I wanted to be a sax player! I used to make a saxophone out of a bamboo thing, ’cause I love melody. I just wanted to blow melody. But I just turn out to be a singer.
No special influence then, you just wanted to get involved?
‘Breakfast In Bed’ was a hit?
I can’t remember. I can’t remember how it even sound like, honestly! I can remember how the Lorna Bennett one sound like!
Pama Records used to have a chart, if you turned it over you got information about artists and records. And I can remember it saying it was selling well all over the country. With your recent success I was wondering if it was the same person actually. What with the Reedy and Reed surname.
Where did you record ‘Breakfast In Bed’?
In the Pye Studios, it was the first time I’d been in a big studio. The first time I had seen a studio, big studio. Frightening you know. That’s now where I started, but that’s where I first record. I tell you something, recording is a thing… you can do a lot of live shows, but you have to go on the slates (records). So then I joined up with the Cimarons.
But weren’t you with a band called Xpress?
Yeah, that’s where I start to sing. We formed that group.
Was it Xpress that made ‘It’s Been So Long’ and ‘Rebel Man’?
Yeah. Yes Roots.
Was you singing on them?
No, I wasn’t actually singing on them, but I was in the band at the time.
Who was singing on them?
Bill Campbell, that was in the early days.
But those records were also hits. Must have given you encouragement when you joined the Cimarons. Why do you think The Cimarons weren’t more successful?
The Cimarons have been through a lot of tribulation with record companies and bad deals. They are very popular abroad. In England people know the Cimarons for a long time, a good band but… We used to write good, but we never produce them right.
Who produced the ‘On The Rocks’ album?
Most of the music we did. There are some great good songs on that album. Every album the Cimarons make, they have hit songs, it was the production that was wrong… The sound, not the playing, it wasn’t produced right so good songs got wasted.
‘On The Rocks’ was recorded in Jamaica…
I think that was our best album.
It has recently been released. Did you have anything to do with that?
No Franklyn Dunn did that, the bass player. I didn’t like that. He did it at the same time as my album was coming out, but it didn’t really effect my album, so cool runnings.
After the ‘On The Rocks’ album there was a very long gap, it almost seemed like the Cimarons had disappeared.
Yeah, there was a lot of tribulation financially. We couldn’t get a deal or anything like that from a company. All the time we still do many tours abroad. Holland and France, all over the place. We used to go to Ireland twice a year, spread it out. We used to be more of a live band than a recording band.
Yet in the early days you spent a lot of time in the recording studio backing other artists?
We toured all over the place, the Middle East and Japan.
That was really something for those times. After ‘On The Rocks’ there was an album that was never released… ‘Freedom Street’.
Virgin released it abroad, It’s a good album, a very good album.
How about the album you did for Paul McCartney, ‘Reggability’. I know you are not pleased with that?
No ’cause that was a project that I didn’t have too much to do with anyway. The Cimarons have done various things in their time. We make various different music. Maybe that’s why certain people say that we didn’t have a direction.
Another good album was ‘Maka’ for Polydor (which in fact came out before the Virgin album).
For some reason the people in England love the Cimarons, but they don’t love them. If you know what I mean. Everyman say, yeah man I love the Cimarons, but if you bring a single out no one seems to buy it.
Could it be that the Cimarons have always been outside of the mainstream of the music?
Yeah, but the same that did, is hitting now…’Dim The Light’ (the original being on the ‘On The Rocks’ album). At the moment the Cimarons are very big in Africa. I wouldn’t say I broke up with the Cimarons, or that the Cimarons broke up with me. We are just doing different projects. I mean, if a project come up now, say a project to tour Africa, we would get the Cimarons together and just go over there. Everyone is still cool.
I hope you don’t think I was implying that you broke up the Cimarons. It’s just that your success has highlighted the problems with Cimarons and their lack of success.
What would you put your current success down to?
Well one thing now, people are hearing a voice now.
But the four hits compared to the rest of the album show an incredible change in direction, what caused that?
It was always there. Now that I’m working with someone like Jackie Mittoo, who’s really… you know… he can arrange, produce. So he get the best out of me you know.
Did it take a long time to record the album?
8 months… It was complicated, but it worked at the end of the day. I was supposed to go home, but I couldn’t afford it. So I just send the cassette down of my vocal tracks, when I finished it was 100%. It was fucking amazing!!!
The album is a step forward for the music in that it was made in Kingston and London. Will it help the reggae in the UK towards a better sound?
You can get good music made in the UK. A lot of hit songs has been made in the UK, but you need to have the right producers.
Jackie Mittoo’s influence can be heard on the album. But you also have to have the songs. So comes back to you.
Yeah, the songs, when I did ‘Paradise In Your Eyes’ it amazed everyone and it amazed myself, when I played it on my turntable. I couldn’t believe where it was coming from. I got a letter from Motown saying congratulations on your version!
I think it’s your lyrics that have surprised me. ‘Borderline’ you say is not a reference to Africa (in Black Echoes).
It is in a way. You’re a White man right, you come from England. And I said there is a place, you’re not going to see it as Africa, cause you’re a White man seen. You’re gonna want it to be England or where you belong – Scotland. So there is something for you too there, your borderline. It’s for you to find it. It’s not a country really, you know. For us, the Blackman, you can say ‘Africa’. I don’t make music for kind, you know, I make music for mankind. People always take music and try to turn it into politics. But if you check what the musicians are dealing with, they are not dealing with a particular politics business. If I man say anything, it’s up to you to interpret it in your way…
‘I Spy Trouble’ is sort of going in that direction though, don’t you think?
Yeah… No I wouldn’t say that (laughs)… if you look now, you see the arms build-up all around the world yeah?
So anyone can spy trouble. It’s just floating in the air, it’s there right.
What plans do you have for the future?
Well, ‘Dim The Light’, a lot of people haven’t heard that song. So what we’re going to do is do a remix on it and release it as a 7″ single.
It was released on a 7″ at one time?
Yeah but that was only a limited edition, we only press about 1000. And then for the next album I’m going to Jamaica to record it, part of it with me there this time!!! (laughs).
Like if we make the rhythm tracks in Jamaica and then get a nice studio in England, you can get the crossover sound.
Which for some reason reminds me to ask Winston about a production that Dennis Alcapone did with Winston of ‘Cherry Oh Baby’.
We never finish it, we did about half of it, ¾ of it. We just rehearsing it, we said yeah let’s do this. No, I see UB 40 do it over.
Winston finishes the interview by outlining his plans to set up Inner Light, his record company, better. In order to allow him to avoid the aggro he had in trying to find someone to release ‘Dim The Light’ (the album). None of the big companies were interested he tells me. And add that he prefers stage work to any other and wants to undertake a major tour.
So that people can see a proper Winston Reedy show.
Looking forward to it skipper.
(This interview was originally published in Small Axe #18. There were 28 issues of Ray Hurford’s Reggae fanzine released from September 29, 1978 on to September/October 1989.)