Interview with Linford Anderson a.k.a. Andy Capp
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Andy Capp is the sarcastic comic strip character first published by cartoonist Reginald “Reg” Smythe in England’s Daily Mirror in 1957. Capp loves to drink and was often featured in a pub, smoking and talking about gambling. The cartoon character was accused by critics of promoting stereotypes of being lazy and poor. A curious connection exists between this comic strip character and a Jamaican genius by the name of Linford Anderson, who enjoys the nickname of Andy Capp.
“MR. POP A TOP”
Linford George Anderson is a Jamaican radio engineer, radio announcer/selector, recording studio engineer, music producer, and recording artist who started smoking at age thirteen. Anderson favored Marlboro and Craven A cigarettes as a youth, but smoked Benson and Hedges in his adult life. He is still smoking at age 78, and now smokes Marlboro Lights. To understand Linford Anderson it is essential to know that he is full of personality, is very serious, has diverse and intense interests, is creative, abstract, highly technical, has a strong work ethic, and always maintains an edge.
Our Jamaican “Andy Capp,” Linford George Anderson, describes the origins of his nickname:
My name is Anderson. There’s a cartoon from England called Andy Capp and Flo. Everybody say, “Hey Andy Capp where’s Flo?” That’s how it started. My name is Andy and there’s “Andy.” He gambles and I gamble. I drink and play dominoes. The only difference is I work! I love to work – unlike Andy Capp. Everybody call me “Andy.” In Jamaica we use the last name… use Andy for short.
Professional music became a part of Capp’s life through a casual recommendation when he was working at a three dollar per week job. Capp lived good and was kind to people. One day an old lady sensed his potential and told him about an RJR Radio Station opening for a log keeper position, documenting and tracking the play of radio commercials. Capp got the job and started as a log keeper at six dollars per hour in September 1959. Within the year there was another opening for a radio engineer position, and Capp got that job too. The radio engineer position required a three-month training program with a probation period-Capp completed the training in three weeks. Through diligence, Capp rose to the role of the RJR Radio Station chief engineer. Andy Capp relays his early radio employment history:
In the late 1950’s when we used to work in radio, each engineer was so dedicated to their work that they would listen constantly no matter where they are. In later years they would even have a transistor radio plugged in their ear. If they at the bar they’d be listening. At the time, there was no TV, so the radio would be on. As soon as the guy make a mistake somebody would jump on the phone, “Hey what’s happening? What’s that ten second pause for?” It’s only a second, but you kill the guy. The guy on duty gets a hard time, so you have to be good. That was how fierce the competition was. The guy on duty-if he mess up you’re going to call him! Your time, you’re gonna go on and he’s going to be listening. You don’t make no mistake and they’re gonna get you too. Oh man! Everybody get down on you. Not just one guy, you’re going to have ten other engineers come an’ say, “Man! That fade was long! How did you get it so long?” Just one second. It was so tight! The group that we had were all perfectionists.
During the days at RJR, they used have programs where people would come into the studio. There was a party every Friday. Program called Cash Club. You would get tickets. People would dance-send greetings. Food supplied by the station. It was a very big studio for an orchestra. Huge. That would hold 300-400 people. Ninety percent of the time I was the man on the other side on the glass. The announcer would be this guy from Canada – Charlie Babcock. It was really fun. Mostly kids from school. They would party, send greetings to their friends, and talk about it. It was really exciting.
Capp was a perfectionist by nature, and other engineers and announcers recognized his skills. He was in demand. Ronnie Nasralla, who was working with West Indies Records Limited (WIRL), approached Capp about making a move to the role of recording studio engineering. Engineer Graeme Goodall was also involved, and this was before Byron Lee started recording at the WIRL compound with the business title of Dynamic Sounds Recording Studio. Capp describes his transition from radio engineer to recording studio engineer:
Being in radio, you tend to get tired of doing the same thing day in and day out. New challenge. I was approached by Ronnie Nasralla of West Indies Records. It was one of the recording companies. They offered me a little bit more and it’s a challenge. I went in and they give me some training on the console. It was quite simple. Then West Indies was sold to Byron Lee of The Dragonaires group. Byron Lee wanted me to set up a new studio with new equipment so he had me go to the US and learn the new equipment. When the equipment came, I would be more familiar with it. We did that. I worked there for about three years, then RJR wanted me back. I went back to RJR. I stayed at RJR another two to three years and I get tired again. Then now Byron Lee said come and work for me. I went back, which is now Dynamic Sounds. I was there for a while and I get tired of that and go back to RJR. If I should go back to Jamaica, RJR would probably want me back. Everything has changed. The job that I was doing before where I work with the announcer on-air, it’s no longer like that. The announcer does everything from log-keeping up to playing the cuts. It’s a one-man operation. It’s computerized. What I would do would be files and online recordings.
When I started [in the recording studio], there was no stereo. None whatsoever. I had four mic inputs – four mics and I’m doing a ten-piece band! Think about it. We used to put the drum and the bass on one mic. Maybe that same mic is picking up the top end of the drum. We need one mic for the guitar and one for the voice. I did this song called “Thirty Pieces of Silver” for Prince Buster. It still marvels me to hear what it sounds, doing it with four mics. We had these little small mixers, four inputs only. I had to jump from one into the other to get extra microphones in. When we do a recording there’s no turning back. That’s it. It’s monoral-it’s gotta be perfect. You can’t bring no bass up. You can’t bring the meter up. If the voice is low, it’s gonna be low all the time. If you bring that up, you bring the drums up in that frequency range.
By the mid-to-late 1960s, Andy Capp was building speed in his professional life as he was generating hundreds and hundreds of critical recordings at the birth of rock steady and the birth of reggae music. Enormous accomplishments include his audio engineer work for WIRL, Federal Recording Studio, Coxson Dodd, Leslie Kong, Joe Gibbs, Bunny Lee, Harry J’s, for good friend Lee Perry at The Black Ark studio, Treasure Isle Recording Studio, and at his home base of Dynamic Sounds Recording Studio. In addition, Capp helped to set up Harry J’s studio equipment, Dynamic Sounds Recording Studio equipment, he constructed Joe Gibbs’ Recording Studio, and worked on early “versioning” with producer Bunny Lee. Capp’s creative expression was channeled into formal projects that have lasted over time, through recording sessions with Bob Marley, Toots and The Maytals, Eric Clapton when Clapton visited Jamaica, Jimmy Cliff on most of his early music including “Many Rivers To Cross,” and Prince Buster on “Thirty Pieces of Silver.”
It was Capp’s nature to be creative and experimental with his recordings. If the studio was not booked, he would pass time by chatting with musician friends, and this soon led to musical play. Capp thought it would be good to have the dance hall toaster King Stitt voice a song, and this resulted in the 1970 song “Herb Man Shuffle.” That same year, Capp engineered Dave and Ansel Collins’s “Double Barrell.” Capp was the engineer on Pat Kelly’s “How Long” -with the hot drums leaking and the piano banging (leaking in the sense that the sound of the drums was spilling over into a nearby microphone intended for another instrument). “How Long” was a Bunny Lee production – a completely live recording that Capp recorded with a new Sony brand microphone. There was no overdubbing, it was recorded straight.
Next, in his experimental sessions, Capp began to produce his own music with his friends. Capp recorded “Musical Recipe” and made-up the group name of “The Pepperlites” for the credit on the single. Later in his career, Capp recorded Bim and Clover’s “Sweetheart” and personally recorded his friend and radio personality Alan “Teddy” Magnus on “Flying Machine” and “Beautiful Sunday.”
Capp followed a natural progression as he recorded his own voice over instrumental tracks. Capp teamed up with dancehall toasting pioneer U-Roy for the introduction on a tune titled “Strong, Strong, Strong.” This song is significant in that it was recorded in 1969 – the very same year that dancehall toasting was building strength, with U-Roy at the lead. The song “Dr. No Go” has Capp’s vocals throughout the song, and the spontaneous laugh of his boss Sonia Pottinger in background of the introduction. “The Law” is yet another classic tune that features the vocal talents of Andy Capp. This song became popular and Capp released an instrumental version of “The Law” with Winston Wright on organ. Capp exercised great humility in comments on his vocals, “DJs don’t have nothing to say. My voice is stupid sounding-I’m flat!” Capp’s experimental abilities are expressed in the Upsetters track titled “Noisy Village” as he integrated percussive effects into the mix with bottles, cans, a child’s squeeze toy, and a toilet flushing. Capp explains the context of these experimental sessions:
When I record music, I was working in the studio. Musicians play for me an’ don’t charge me. They do it for free! I bring in the artists and the agreement is that they will receive royalties. I give the songs to people to distribute – Joe Gibbs, Byron Lee, Lee Perry. I never sign an agreement, ever! All the music that I create, I don’t get any money for, except “Dr. No Go” for Sonia Pottinger, she give my thirty dollars. “Sweetheart” by Bim and Clover is mine solely. A guy that lives in Florida now, he was going to distribute it, but I don’t get anything from it.
Possibly the biggest impact of Jamaica’s Andy Capp on music is the tune “Pop A Top,” that he voiced in one of his 1968 experimental recording sessions. This was a revisiting of Derrick Morgan’s “Fat Man” instrumental track many years after the 1960 original was recorded for sound system owner and producer Simeon Smith. Capp described “Pop A Top” as a re-voiced version that blended “South Parkway Mambo” by the Bop-A-Loos (released in 1955) and Dave Bartholomew’s “The Monkey” (released in 1957). Capp incorporated unique phrases and puns to create his lyrics. He produced the song independently, and in order to make money to go to the horse track, he first gave the single to Derrick Harriott with a request for 100 dollars – and was flatly rejected. Eventually Capp released it on the Tiger record label in collaboration with Byron Lee.
The “Pop A Top” rhythm was different, new, and extremely appealing. “Pop A Top” was a giant hit, creating a shift in the Jamaican beat at the critical period of October 1968, as reggae was arriving in a storm of musical releases. “Pop A Top” has even been referenced as creating a unique musical genre. Dozens and dozens of releases have been recorded on this rhythm – Capp himself released as many as thirteen creative and eccentric versions. Andy Capp describes this groundbreaking rhythm and song:
We love music so much that when you hear a rhythm, you feel it and start going with it. Whether dancing, humming, or saying something that it sounds like to you. Like the “Pop A Top” case [makes the rhythm with his voice]. I would say, “sounds like ‘pop-a-top.’ Sounds like it!” That’s how that came about. It was a long time [in the making]. That was for a song called “South Parkway Mambo.” We did it and it didn’t go so well because it was an instrumental. It sat down for about ten years. One day I grabbed the tape and was playing it back. A friend of mine, Lloyd Charmers, used to practice the piano in the studio. Nothing was happening. There was no booking. It came up on the monitor while he was listening/practicing. He started playing the [makes the pop-a-top sound]. I heard him through the open doors. I say, “Charmers what are you playing?” I open the mic and I listening to it and I said, “Let’s record that!” It’s like from one tape to the next. I start dubbing from this one into the next one on a four track. So now we have two tracks left. He played more.
When I was finished with it, I said, something not right about it, it’s still straight. I start cutting it – cutting it back and forth. The original rhythm and jus’ leave his riff going. So that’s how that came about. When it was finished, It felt so good, I start talking. Someone said, “That sounds good Andy, why don’t you put it out?” I made a disc cut of it. This is one of these old vinyl thing they call “wax.” I took it to this party that night. The guy play the song and two people went on the dance floor. He said, “It’s brand new!” Before you know it everybody was on the dance floor dancing. And the guy play it seventeen times the first night. Everybody went to the stores, “The guy play this song last night. Where can I get it!?” Before you know it they were running four presses on it. It sold over 50,000 copies in about a month. It couldn’t go on the charts [because] there was a commercial Canada Dry at the time.
Linford Anderson has historically credited the title “Pop A Top” as originating from a 1960s Canada Dry ginger ale slogan. After much effort, I was never been able to locate such an advertisement from 1968 or prior. Ermal Cleon Fraze received a patent for the ring pull tab “pop-top” in 1963, and this opener was used specifically for Coors beer, and for select soda products. There was a country & western song sung by Jim Ed Brown that was titled “Pop A Top” that was a hit in 1967 – preceding the Capp song by just one year. When asked, Capp did not recall the country western song whatsoever. In 2019 I asked Capp if his title “Pop A Top” came directly from a Canada Dry slogan or jingle, and he told me:
At the time that was a popular name to use ‘pop a top.’ The general term, there’s a top on the drinks and you pop it. That’s where I get the idea from. All the drinks, you have to pop it off with an opener. Somewhere in that area, you automatically use your hands and open it. It was a general term, and maybe the commercial probably had ‘pop a top’ in there.
At one point during a 2019 interview, Capp tilted back into his chair as he contemplated his years of recording work. His back straightened and chin raised as he asserted that he is most proud of his engineering work on Roberta Flack’s 1973 hallmark song “Killing Me Softly with his Song.” Capp described the instrumental track for the song as the “soundtrack.” He recorded this Grammy winning song at Dynamic Sounds Recording Studio with the assistance of engineer Graeme Goodall and musicians Gladstone Anderson on piano, Linford “Hux” Brown on guitar, Winston Grennan on drums, and Jackie Jackson on bass. The horn arrangement was added after -the-fact in the US. Forty six years later Capp reminisces:
When you listen to “Killing Me Softly” back, it doesn’t really sound like West Indian or reggae-type music. They were trying to do reggae, but it wasn’t. They were really happy with it when they left Jamaica. I have never recorded an artist as popular as Roberta.
Capp is fulfilled through of his twenty-six years of work-late in life, as a recording engineer at The United Nations in New York. At The United Nations, he recorded and edited interviews with world leaders during progressive and turbulent times. Capp produced seven or more audio programs each week that would be voiced-over in five or more languages and distributed throughout the world. With the assistance of an announcer, Capp executed recordings of interviews with Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Jamaica’s Michael Manley, America’s George Bush Senior, and a series of anti-Apartheid recordings completed in Johannesburg, South Africa. Capp joked that he would often “stake out” the most prominent world leaders in public settings and government hallways for an impromptu interview:
You couldn’t sleep when you are on stake outs because when the guy come, you would have to be ready with the cassette recorder. We would stake out for a couple days and the guy would just come and say, “Hi.” Just one word.