Junior Delgado interview
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A lot of people still, them want I & I fe go drum and bass, mash up the music, do the music in a little kind of way, but it can’t work because you still have enough Reggae soldier living on the front line – the music have to be made good. I don’t care what they say or do time and money have fe spend on the music, it’s the only way.
Nothing nah really happen in the business, a company take your music, it sell, yeah, but no big thing. Nothing really happen like, making sure the artist is equipped to hit the road proper to have gigs and dates right.
JUNIOR DELGADO: INCREDIBLE JUX
Junior Delgado, Jux to the reggae business, is currently feeling a bit depressed. And it’s not really surprising. For Jux and Pablo, have not long finished a highly successful tour of the UK and Europe – instead of feeling good, looking forward to the future – Jux finds himself feeling uncertain/depressed. The reasons for this are tied up in the deal for the then forthcoming LP for Island, One Step More, his second LP for the company. And with the general state of the reggae business itself. Contrary to popular media, the music itself is sound – firm, no worries. What’s been bothering the artists recently, is that the business itself hasn’t really progressed since the early sixties. Everyone since the mid ’70s has expected the business to improve. Ten to fifteen years on, and it hasn’t. Promotion is still a joke, and so are royalties. There are other things like distribution and airplay, but promotion and royalties are still making reggae artists angry. Something needs to be done and no one is doing anything.
Did Island have much involvement in the tour, in ’87? They had a couple of media people working on it. Did they back it financially?
No, and even the tour, I didn’t get no money really. I got around £90.00 for the show at the Astoria. Like me is a soldier, I’m not afraid of what happen in the business, what a gwan. It’s like so many times I’ve been on the bridge, but have never crossed over. Enough agony, and wear and tear. It’s a mindbender you can’t understand it – if you try and understand it you a go mad yourself.
I don’t understand how reggae artists can keep taking all the knock backs.
Me is a man who is prepared to take all the knock backs. Everything is blocked off. Island do a whole heap for reggae music still, you can’t blame them. They did spend the money on Bob Marley and some other singers.
They are very inconsistent though, interested in the music, then they’re not. It must make it very difficult to decide what to do next?
You have to just prepare all the time, and work and hope for the best.
You was in a very similar position in 1979?
Same way, same way, it’s no different. You just have to bear it. You put out the right works… I don’t know. Certain companies do keep making the same mistakes – it’s like they don’t know. They do know, companies like Island don’t guess. A company that can find groups like Bob Marley and the Wailers, – you name it, some nice artists, they’re not making many mistakes.
Yet Island apparently spent a million dollars on making a video for Grace Jones – imagine what you could do with that.
Even half a million! even a quarter, even 10% of it.
You’ve been in the business a long time, when did you start?
In ’72 – with a group – Time Unlimited, we did a song Psalm 23, The Lord’s Prayer, for Lee Perry. The group was made up of, Glassford Manning, Orville Smith, Junior Marshall and sometimes Hugo Blackwood. I knew Chris Blackwell even then, as a little youth, but like in those times him never penetrate me yet. Chris is a man who know it, and he’s a iry youth too. He’s only got around to doing part of the work now, more time a certain thing will a slip through. If I had five minutes to sit down with Chris and talk to him…
Perhaps Chris Blackwell is too familiar with the music, and that tends to breed contempt.
I don’t really know about that, he can see it and he knows it.
After Time Unlimited you worked with the Heavenly Singers?
Yeah, I was lead singer with them, but because of Upsetter – Scratch, we couldn’t let him know that we was doing it for Rupie Edwards, because Scratch, still have a special love for I still. We make about two LP’s for Scratch, and Boris Gardiner wrote a song that I sang solo Crime And Violence something like that – ‘No need to buy a newspaper anymore, crime and violence will fill our streets by the score.’ – a bad song.
What happened to that music, who’s got it?
Scratch, still have them, some guy did get some tape from him, Sons Of Slaves that was a track, and African Sound, and Reaction.
Larry Lawrence issued that tune on Ethnic Fight on 7″.
Well, with Larry Lawrence it was with the Wailers, when we went back over it. Larry Lawrence asked me to sing it over – Reaction.
You started working with Dennis Brown, after the group broke up? Me and D.Brown used to move as two little youth, and Niney the Observer.
You worked well with Dennis Brown. D.Brown is a great youth, me and him do some great works. I man have to give enough praises to him, a strong youth. They try to put him down, but him wicked, they can’t stop him.
Most people remember Trickster, a huge hit, from the album Taste Of The Young Heart, Junior’s debut LP for DEB – Dennis Brown’s label. It is a classic album full of great works. Which also included some music he made with Augustus Pablo Blackman’s Heart and Storm Is Coming. Yet it was one of DEB’s first UK releases on 7″ Tiction that really got Jux’s career started. On top of a very powerful bass line, Jux literally growls out the lyrics of a song about urban warfare. Unfortunately it wasn’t included on Taste Of The Young Heart nor on any other LP from Jux. Even so it remains one of his most intense performances. Shortly after the release of Taste Of The Young Heart and with the demise of the DEB label, Jux moved on to work with the newly formed Taxi label – Sly & Robbie’s label. It looked like a good move.
Did you record much with them?
Only three tunes, and we got two hits Merry Go Round and Fort Augustus, the other one is not released yet. I didn’t get no money for Fort Augustus.
Jux then explains the reasons for this. They make little sense to me, but Jux’s seems resigned to the matter and adds only…
I’m just easy.
Remembering Gregory Isaacs interest in Jux at the time I ask if he’s ever worked with him?
Yeah, like I did some back up harmonies for him, me and Dennis Brown and Leroy Sibbles on the Soon Forward album.
He’s never produced you?
He wanted to produce me, but I’m kind of a person who is hard to record, it’s hard to get me to sing. You have to be very close, and have a good relationship. I and Gregory have a good relationship, but we didn’t want to do no records.
Junior Delgado with young Yami Bolo 1987 (Photo: Beth Lesser)
In the early ’80’s Jux went on to release another LP, Effort, which contained some of the later material he recorded for DEB. Tunes like Row Fisherman Row and Warning. Jux’s claim in Reggae Quarterly 8 that it also included Raiders, is not confirmed by the UK release of the LP. Raiders, which is now better known as Father Jungle Rock due to Jammy using the rhythm for his Superstar Hit Parade rhythm LP (one side) to which Jux also contributed to. For some reason Effort never really got the attention it deserved. It’s a softer LP than Taste Of The Young Heart in that there are more love songs, but the rhythms are still tough and the production is crisp. A year or so later came the Bushmaster Connection album, released on Incredible Jux – Jux’s own label. Like Effort it too failed to interest the people who had gone for Taste Of The Young Heart in such a big way. Junior Delgado was still popular but like a lot reggae artists, he just wasn’t able to convert that into record sales at the time.
It was around this time – ’83/’84 – that Jux was imprisoned for a minor offence in the UK, joining a long list of reggae artists who find themselves a easy target for the law. Upon resuming his career – Jux, quickly issued a compilation LP Classics which saw release on the Maccabee label. This album included the big hits for Sly & Robbie Merry Go Round and Fort Augustus plus other popular singles like Big Shot and Movie Star. The LP fully deserves its title. And can be considered to be the man’s next best LP to Taste Of The Young Heart.
New music came from Jux in the form of Broadwater Farm, a 12″ that caused some fuss when it was released.
With Broadwater Farm, it was like watching the news everyday. You see things happening, you see kids mugging, a lot of wrong things happening and going on, you know that some people are really suffering, for them to try and thief things. Like Broadwater Farm was getting scared, people were getting afraid to walk through the neighbourhood. I picked up the idea and started writing the Broadwater Farm song.
Where did you record the song?
It was done at Easy Street. It was done by me and Joe Richards, and some other guy on bass – it must be Preacher. We did the song a long long time before the riot.
It was said you was just trying to make some money out of it.
Yeah, and we did it a long long time before.
You then returned to Jamaica to work with Pablo, what was it like working with him again?
Well it was like, Pablo was like ‘Nothing ain’t happening’. I said, it’s now, lets go and do some work, but I needed some cash, so I do some work with Jammy.
They were good LP’s.
I do Roadblock first, and he gave it to this company Blue Mountain, before it was even ready. They wanted it… so he asked me to do a next one, so I did a next one for him.
Did you enjoy working with Jammy?
Yeah, we did it, and I enjoyed doing it – Jammy was alright, he paid me – everything went smoothly.
Were any of the rhythms built for you, or were they already there?
We built some, most of them was there already.
Around this time Jux also worked with the Miami based Skeng Don company, recording yet another great album Stranger, which included the magnificent Nine Fence. A tune that played a big part in Jux’s revival. Finally, Junior and Pablo got around to the recording of the LP Raggamuffin Year. First came the single, released on Message. Pablo, was once again popular in the reggae market after a few years in limbo. And people were just waiting for Jux to fire up again – the combination of the two at that time virtually guaranteed success. With Raggamuffin Year the two of them got it. Jux’s powerful lyrics and vocal together with Pablo’s deft keyboard work had created a classic reality tune. An LP had to come next, and it did. And with it came Augustus Pablo, on his first ever visit to London.
As news of the album got around, so did the excitement. It seemed that Pablo was negotiating with Greensleeves for the release of the LP, it looked like a deal had been made when the company announced a release date and a catalogue number for the LP. Yet then came the news that Island/Mango were set to release the LP. Which they did in the winter of ’86. Apparently they had taken the LP without hearing it. It was a good move by them as Junior explains…
It’s sold 30,000, they say it sells well in America. When we first came on tour it had sold 19,000, so maybe it’s made 40,000 or 50,000, I don’t know. And they say they didn’t promote it so, they have to start watching me now and start promoting. I really hope they do.
The Fashion LP is another good album, did you enjoy working with them?
Yeah, Fashion, like John and Chris, those guys are great guys, I like working with them, I can take chances with them, and I don’t have to worry.
Will you be working with them again?
Well, I’m not contracted to Island, and sometimes I haven’t got no money or nothing , and I have to go and sing a song. I need a company who will contract me and take care of all my productions.
In the early summer of ’88, Island released their second album with Junior and Pablo – One Step More. For me the LP was a disappointment. Although it contained tracks like Hanging Tree, Forward Revolution, and Riot In A Juvenile Prison possibly three of Junior’s best songs. It was marred by the inclusion of Night Patrol, the over-production on King James, and the uninspired Hey Good Looking – the last three songs on the album.
Hopefully, Jux will give us stronger material in 1989. Despite One Step More, he finished 1988 in fine style with the release on Intelitec Muzik out of Fort Lauderdale in the US, an LP with White Mice – one of the singers who toured with him and Pablo in ’87 (Yami Bolo being the other). True Love, White Mice’s debut album, is also Jux’s first LP production with someone else. It is said to be one of the LP’s of the year. Really and truly that’s no surprise.