Interview with David Jahson – Part 1
The mid-seventies saw a sprinkling of 45s using the classic ‘Ali Baba’ rhythm being revitalised to good effect. Among the more successful of the tunes using this classic was the Tommy Cowan-produced ‘Natty Chase The Barber’ sung by one David Jahson, his definite breakthrough and probably the best known song by this obscure singer/songwriter and one that has been revived more than once since this period. It also gave title to his equally classic album in conjunction with Inner Circle, except that the hit in question was left off the LP at the time.
STILL CHASING THE BARBER
Little has been told about his experience in the music business, so I felt it was about time we got some inside information about the days spent with Tommy Cowan, Inner Circle and the late Jacob Miller, his stint in Well Pleased & Satisfied, and what became of his career after the success with ‘Barber’. I linked up with him in May, 2004. My thanks to David for his time, daughter Sarah, Dave Katz, Bob Schoenfeld, Sergio (Heartical), Donovan Phillips, and Steve Barrow.
When did you enter the music business?
OK, well, it was about 1970. We used to go up to Coxson, Studio One, and try to see if we could get our songs record, yunno. At the time there was a lot of people coming there trying to get their stuff done, and I had been going there for about five months before actually. I went to Coxson and he was taking audition that day, I went up to him and I sang a song I had named ‘Far I’. And when I sing it to him in the audition, he said to me, “Go into the studio and tell Morris to put your voice on the tape and sing the song”. Because, I think he kind of liked my voice, so I went in and I told (Sylvian) Morris what he said, and Morris put me there and I just sing the song a’capella, like. And that was OK. So I went back the following day, and I say, “OK, Mr Coxson, I did the tune you told me yesterday, I put my voice on the tape”. And he said OK, “Alright then, I like the song. Go there and there will be a session tomorrow, so come along”. And when I went to that session there was quite a few people waiting to record as well. I knew that I wait and wait and wait, until I went in and they played a riddim for the song that I had named ‘Far I’. But at the time Leroy Sibbles that used to be in the Heptones, he was the one playing the bass at the time…
Right, the Sound Dimension band.
Yeah, with Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace and quite a few other musicians that time. There was like, y’know, I only used to read them names on record. I went and I do the song, but when I was supposed to voice the song I was nervous, I think maybe because I see these big stars around like Heptones, and some other man, they were listening to me singin’, and they would come into the studio. Because I see them out there I was nervous so I couldn’t sing (laughs)! I couldn’t sing the song they way how it should.
Got blocked in some way.
Yeah, they came in there, Leroy came in an’ “Wha’ appen, man?! Sing the song, man! You don’t want to have someone sing some music out there – sing the song!” But because all these man was my idol, I couldn’t really sing the song. So I did it, I sing it in the end but I wasn’t satisfied how I sing it, yunno. But they take it on the tape and everything. And I was feeling a bit anxious after I voice it, because one of my friends heard the song and he said he want a dubplate of that song to play on his sound. So Coxson cut a little dubplate of it along with some other songs, and they put it on dubplate that evening. But every time I keep going back to Coxson and thinkin’ that he would press the song, ’cause it’s my first song, I can’t wait to hear it come out, y’know. But it never come out though. One day I went to Coxson, I say, “Coxson, what happ’n, man? You’re not puttin’ out that tune?” And he say, “Which tune you sing again, Jackson?” ‘Cause him don’t even remember me, yunno. So he say, “Which tune you sing again, Jackson?” I say, “Yeh, dem song name ‘Far I'”. He say, “I’ll tell Morris to go look for that song again”. So, he was in the studio one Saturday, the same Saturday Morris tell him that, “Yeah, look, that’s the song, man”. He was cuttin’ some dubplates for some other sounds, y’know, and he played the song. I said, “Yes, that’s my song, Coxson!” Coxson was playing it and he said, “Jackson, you didn’t sing that song proper, yunno. I can never put out that song ’cause if I put it out, all my man dem that use to buy Coxsone music, them say: ‘Coxson, you gaan sof’!'” Oh gosh, I feel so bad when he told me (chuckles). I felt really bad. So…
How old were you at this time? Just a teenager trying a thing.
I think I was round about sixteen, yeah, round about sixteen I was that time. And I really vex, and I get downhearted. ‘Cause Coxson say that and I was really lookin’ out to have that song on the Studio One label, one of his labels that he put out. And y’know, I felt so bad. But there was the following week, there was… no, no, no! Not the following week, it kind of round about ’72 now, a year go when nutten happen for me. And there was an announcement in the Gleaner, that Dynamic Sounds having an audition, and they want some new singers to come. So I went down there, and there was about two hundred men out there waiting – in Jamaica there’s lots of singers (chuckles). So, all I had was to wait until they let in people, it was like a long wait again. So the time when they let in me and this group – me and them was talkin’, they was called Earth & Stone, but they actually didn’t have any song out there yet. Out of that session that day, they only pick me and Earth & Stone to record out of those two hundred men. So Earth & Stone they record a song named ‘Bunch of Babylonian’, and I sing back the song ‘Far I’, I sing it back in a different way than how I sing it at Coxson, y’know. And when they was playing it in the studio, Byron Lee pass through, and he was saying, “Who sing that song?” And he was like, somebody stretched him out towards me like they did a t’ing, and he get a quick look at me and he went out. They had all these things on the songs, they had these pamphlets print up and all kinda advertising ready to do. They had all the printing things there at Dynamics to do the labels, the sleeves, the pin-up cards, all those t’ings. Them have all those equipment in the one place to do everyt’ing, getting ready for the song, ’cause they think it was a big hit. So anyway, the following week I went down there and I saw Niney, ca’ Niney was the producer they used, he was doing very good at the time with Dennis Brown and he was making a lot of hits with Dennis Brown. So they used Niney as the producer to get them some hits at Dynamic. I think Byron Lee had asked him, like, ‘Me want you to produce for the day or for the week, to pick some artists for me’. I think it was something like that, he wasn’t permanently with them, like. But he was one of the top producer in Jamaica at that time.
Had his own with ‘Blood and Fire’, a big hit at that time, and so on.
Yeah. So he was the one who produce it. But I think somewhere along the line – I was young, somewhere along the line, probably Niney and Dynamics they didn’t agree with somet’ing on the music.
Interesting to see that Dynamic, who were mostly producing for the mainstream, that they took interest in a Rasta song even at this time, the early seventies.
Yeah, they were doing like Toots & The Maytals, Eric Donaldson and quite a few other. But they wasn’t into roots, but Niney was producing roots and was making money. So they probably say oh, maybe if they put Niney in the produce for them, he probably would pick two good tune, or four good tune for them, ’cause he was the top man. So he produced, I did ‘Far I’. It was very nice at the time. Our first song, it was like a hit. But I think somewhere along the line, a couple of days between that, Niney and them probably might fall out over some kind of business. Because when I went back on the second day, down to Dynamic, I saw Niney and he said, “Come here, man. Don’t sing that song like how you sing it yesterday, I want you to sing it different now”. What he did, at the time Ernie Smith have a song name ‘Mus’ Be A Duppy’ record, man.
‘Duppy Gunman’ you mean?
Yeah, Ernie Smith did have a song name (sings): ‘It must be a duppy or a gunman, I man no find out yet…’. So he was tellin’ me seh, “Don’t sing the song like…” – I was singin’ it slurry, I was singin’ it like how Dennis Brown used to sing in the early days. And he was tellin’ me, “Don’t sing it like that, don’t bother slur it up, and pretty it up too much, just sing it like how Ernie Smith sing (kind of ‘thrusty’) ‘Must be a duppy or a gunman…’. You say ‘Far I, Far I!’, don’t bother say (in lower tone) ‘Far I, Far I'” – like niced up. He say, “Don’t bother with no sweetness, just say ‘Far I, Far I!'” But I didn’t like how Niney was tellin’ me to change the song. But because he was the producer, I was doing what he was saying, and at the time I know that it was messing up the tune. Beca’ what they did, at Dynamic they have about 24 or probably 36 track at that time, and the same track that I did the original one on, they put this other voice he was tellin’ me to do over, he was rubbin’ out the other voice same time weh I was doing the other one! You see what I’m saying? At the time I didn’t know because I didn’t have no knowledge of studio runnings or anyt’ing like that, and I was saying because it’s Niney and he knows what he’s doing and blah blah, and he was jumpin’ up and saying, “Yeah man! That is our!” But I wasn’t feeling good how he wants me to change the song. But at the time Byron Lee and Neville Lee, they didn’t know anyt’ing about that. They was still up in the office getting ready to put out the song and everyt’ing. And I think it spoiled it, because it was… I didn’t feel good in myself how Niney tell me now how to sing it, and…
It was released as ‘For I’, credited to ‘David Janson’ on the Jaguar subsidiary.
Yeah! ‘Janson’. Yeah, the Jaguar, I was vexed about that one! They was pumpin’ it on the radio, man. It was gettin’ 24 hour play even on the Sunday, it was playing, playing, playing! And I’m saying, “Blower!” I didn’t even like to hear on the radio. People say, “Hey, Jahson, come hear your song!” I didn’t want to hear it, because it wasn’t how I want to sing it. So about five or four weeks I went down to Dynamic to see how it go. Neville Lee was there, y’know, and he say,”What ‘appen, man? The song is not moving as fast as I want it to do, I’m doing everything for the song, and the song not doing nutten”. I said that Niney told me to change the song, yunno. He said, “What?” I say, “Niney told me oh, change the first one how I did sing it first, they change it and I get to understand that the same voice track that I did it on, they put this one on the voice track and rub it out at that same time I’m puttin’ one, an’ rubbin’ out that same voice track”. That mean they couldn’t even remix it, they spoiled it altogether. So, Neville Lee didn’t realise that, you see. So it really went to number seven in the chart, but I didn’t think seh it a strong that really, number seven. He said, “What?” So all those pamphlets and all those things that I see lined up with ‘Far I’ and ‘David Janson’, that they print up for the street and all these other things, they didn’t went anywhere, they just stopped that instantly after I told them it wasn’t the way I originally sing it.
The musicians on that track, can you remember them?
Dynamic? I can’t remember all the guys name, but those guys usually play for Toots…
Right, Jackie Jackson on bass, and so on.
Yeah. And Bobby Ellis was on trumpet I know, Bobby Ellis and…
Hux Brown too?
Yeah. That’s the first time I meet them, meeting those guys still.
Paul Douglas on drums.
Yeah, yeah. Those are the men that actually played, ‘cos I remember that they usually – they were mostly like Dynamics kind of man them that plays, they play mostly for Toots and Eric Donaldson, them kinda man. So, it was nice. I liked the riddim track, even though the riddim track sounding good, and the version – they put a little bit of the voice that them didn’t rub out, and some of my friends say, “Why didn’t you sing it how the version part of that voice sound?” I said, “That’s how I sing it original, but they let me sing over it and rub it out”.
Somehow I doubt that’s a misprint on Dynamics part, why it was titled ‘For I’. Dynamic was uptown people, and they probably kind of hid the title, as to avoid the obvious Rasta connection with a title like ‘Far I’.
Yeah, I know how they rest, but you know actually at this present moment I’m still getting some royalties from the PRS for that song. I get more money from the PRS for the song than I get from Dynamic at the time. That’s what prompted me now to go into producing my own t’ing, ‘cos I didn’t like what Niney did. Up to now, I saw him and I told him, “Niney, you spoiled my first big hit from Jamaica”, ‘cos Dynamic really played that song. Even on a Sunday I hear the song play, I could see that them didn’t like it, I don’t know what happened, but it was really playing. And it didn’t actually went the way it should went, for a song that gets so much play. I don’t know if it’s the voicing that they make me do, ‘cos if it was in the original voice how I was doing it, then the first song that I made it really would’ve been like a big number one and it would’ve spread all over the place. But anyway, I went to Dynamic when it was money time, and they must’ve given me about sixty dollars or so, and it was like… I mean, I was feeling a bit depressed on that. And I was saying, the next time I’m doing it I’m gonna produce it myself. Because no-one know how inside the studio stay, and what happened and what’s going on. The first cut they had, but me said the rest of my songs I’m gonna produce, I’m not gonna follow-up on anybody and ask them to produce my songs for me. So, the second song I did was called ‘Child Of A King’.
Released on the Ital Lion label.
Yeah, ‘Ital Vital’. Yes, and that one now I did it myself and there was a place in Jamaica called Micron, I think it was Micron Music…?
Pete Weston’s distribution outlet.
Yeah, Pete Weston. So I give it to them to distribute. They did that Ital Vital label, so they put it on that label. Well, it didn’t get as much play as how ‘Far I’ get on the radio, but it did a little bit better. And me as the producer, the money I get is really just probably over the hundred dollar. Hundred dollar in those times wasn’t bad, it was good still, yunno.
This was released shortly after ‘Far I’?
It was round about sometime early ’72. Yeah. A few months after ‘Far I’. And then I try and try with that, and went around, y’know, I sell quite a few of that. In those times I could’ve taken some boxes of records from Pete Weston and I could go straight to the sound man, or anybody playing a sound in their yard and just sell them a copy same time, and that’s how that song spread around more for me. I just did go around, selling it on foot, and stuff like that. I cool off for a bit for a time. I used to like this ‘Ali Baba’ riddim, which I know I used to sing when I was a boy, I used to like that when I was going to school.
A John Holt classic.
Yeah, he sing it as ‘Ali Baba’. So I get Bobby Ellis, I get Tommy McCook. I called Sly (Dunbar), ‘cos Sly was my friend, he used to live nearby. By the time he came late, and Horsemouth was at the studio at the time, it was at Channel One, and Johnny Clarke brother – they call him ‘Fish’ Clarke, he was there as well, and Robbie (Shakespeare), there was a guy name Ranchie (McLean). And ‘Dirty Harry’ (Hall), Bobby Ellis, Tommy McCook, I get these guys in. It’s from my third song, and I say that I’m gonna do ‘Natty Chase The Barber’, but them play over back the riddim for me, the ‘Ali Baba’ riddim. And I sing ‘Natty Chase The Barber’ on that one.
This is like ’75 now, or the year after?
Yeah, that was coming up to ’75 now. Yeah. And I did that one, and everybody in the studio was like happy, yunno. When it finish, man, them say “Yeah man, that’s a hit tune! You have a nice tune, I like that”. And they was laughing about the lyrics and stuff like that, and I say OK, that’s good. So I didn’t have any money now to actually put it out. They had it mixed – what we did was we record it at Channel One, and I went an’ mix it at King Tubbys. That’s how we used to do, we didn’t want Channel One to do it. We laid down the track there at Channel One, and I went and took it to Tubbys. He was doing the mixing, ‘cos Tubbys was living nearby to me as well. I was at Waterhouse at the time. So, I was stuck with it now, ‘cos I didn’t have any money now to press or to do any stuff like that. So I was kinda stuck with it, like. And there was this guy name Tommy Cowan, he used to be in The Jamaicans.
Right, he had the Talent Corporation, some sort of talent scout, management, label and distribution all in one.
Yeah, Talent Corporation he have, and at the time he was like handling Inner Circle productions, y’know, Jacob Miller. Some of the Inner Circle thing he was like a lickle manager for them, like. You know? And he have this place where he release Toots & The Maytals, Ras Michael, even Peter Tosh, and he have some of Bob (Marley) songs, I think he get one or two of Bob’s song to release. So I went up there. Still at the time I didn’t have no name, nothing in the business to really know me. So I went up there and I say, well, “Tommy, I’ve got this tune here, I’ve got it on tape” – because he used to have a reel-to-reel, a seven-inch reel-to-reel player, so I had the song mixed down on that. I took it to him, and I said, “Tommy, I’ve got this song on this thing here, could you listen to it, and if you like it can you press it and distribute it for me?” I was very naive, I didn’t negotiate about any advance or anything like that, I just want my song to go out. And Tommy say OK, and he have it there. So I wait until about one week, and I went back and I said, “Tommy, did you even listen to the song, did you like it?” And he said, “Ahh, gosh, I didn’t get the time to listen to it, y’know, so come back tomorrow”. So I went back the next day, quick, quick, and he’s tellin’ me, “Oh, I still didn’t listen to it. Listen man, my machine that, the tape recorder, it’s broken down but this man is comin’ in later to fix it, so I will hear it tomorrow again”. I was eager again to get it done, for I know seh everybody say that’s a good song.
And I keep follow up Tommy for about three weeks, and he still haven’t listened to the song! He still haven’t listened, so I was gettin’ kinda vex with him and I said to myself that if I go back up there tomorrow and he haven’t listened I’m gonna take back my stuff from him an’ fuck off, an’mek him go whey, and I was feeling them way. But there’s something else that enter my mind, that ‘go back to King Tubbys and let him give you a mix again, and put it on dubplate’. So if he still doesn’t listen, then he can listen to it on a dubplate, on his turntable. So I said OK, I went to Tubbys and two more days, I say let me take it up there. When I went up to Talent Corporation on that day now with the dubplate under my arm, I went down where he sit in there, and before I even say anything to him, he say to me, “Oh, I didn’t get to listen to your song, y’know, ya see the machine still don’t fix yet”. I said, “Tommy, I’ve got it here on dubplate, if you want to listen to it?” So he said, “Oh, you have it on dubplate?” I said, “Yeah man”. So, like, I was going round the back where he was for the play, but when I look around there, I see Peter Tosh round there, I see Bob Marley round there, and I see some big star round there, and I kinda get cold feet, y’know. So I didn’t went round there, I just lef’ Tommy Cowan and I stay round the front. An’ then I hear the music playin’, the man them was talkin’ and you can hear the voices talkin’ loud and man laughin’ and stuff. But the tune start to play, the place went quiet and nobody nah talkin’ again there. I was around there, and they were listening. Then I hear it stop! After half-way through I hear it stopped, and it play again and I hear Bob say, “Who sing that song?” And Tommy walk forward to me, and seh, “David, come here, man! Come, come here in the yard! Come! Come on out!” And I walk round there, and Bob say, “Yeah man, that’s a bad tune, man. So play it again, man”. And it start play, and them man start… them say, “Bwoy, if them man ya a like it!” ‘Cause Bob was my idol them times deh, and certain man if them man hear it and like it and them feel good, me say, well, if them big champion man them hear it and like it, it must be good (laughs)! So, two days after that the song was pressed and everyt’ing and it was running and it didn’t get as much radio play as ‘Far I’, but it get more, like, sound system and every dance I go and every party I go I’m hearing it. And I’m saying yes, make me feel a bit better now, me say yeeesss – that sound, yunno! So I think that song also inspire Bob’s ‘Chase Them Crazy’.
‘Crazy Baldhead’, right.
Yeah. Because he was really in answer with that song, and even after a while I was like a member of the Twelve Tribes, and they did have this function of His Imperial Majesty’s birthday. And I was singing, I went and I sing the song ‘Natty Chase The Barber’, like how I will do a one song and I sing it. And while I sing it I see Bob come up after me and he was singin’ ‘Chase Them Crazy’, and I say yeeeahhh, y’know, that’s me give Bob the idea. ‘Cause I remember the day at Tommy Cowan, how he was going on about the song, and it kind of just give him that inspiration there, I know that. So it was going and that song went well and everything, and it was going even bigger than I expect. ‘Cause I think I didn’t get my fair share of that, because I did see some paper from Canada, and some paper from England, and the song was in it. You know, it was way up there in the chart and sellin’, and I’m saying to Tommy, “Tommy, what’s this here?” And him say, “Oh, that’s just promotion”, and blah blah blah, an’ t’ing. So, all dem royalties I didn’t get. But actually, I spend round about one hundred and fifty dollar to make that song at the time. And because when he was paying me back some money at his quarters, he give me round about one thousand five hundred, and I was thinkin’ oh, that was the biggest money I hold for music really at the time. And as a matter of fact that was the biggest money I ever hold at one time in my hand in Jamaica. So I was feelin’ like oh, but that wasn’t even a quarter of my royalty that they give me. But at the time, y’know, I didn’t make much bother about it. ‘Cause I was thinkin’ it was coming in the other quarter, that I would get some more in the other quarter. That was the only money I get from them, until when I look I see people come from abroad, man come from England and they say, “Is you sing that tune deh, man? Bloodclaat!” And some of the man deh them say, “John! Come see the bredda weh sing the tune here, man! Come look ‘pon him!” And they would be tellin’ me that everywhere they go in England that tune there play! When me go America… when I went to America the man dem say, “Is you sing that tune deh?” And it did like, say, the tune was really all about the place. To me, I didn’t get much offa that!
They put that ‘Natty Chase The Barber’ tune out on Vulcan’s Grounation label in the UK at the time.
Yeah. When I come to England I see it, get a copy of it on the Grounation label, and they put a version that I did in the studio down at Tubbys, I was like deejaying. But in Jamaica I didn’t bother with that, because I didn’t think it was deejayed proper, y’know. And when I come up to England that was the version they put on the back, that was the deejay version. I said blower, this t’ing I neva know! All that, and it’s like I wanna know who control the Grounation label, and some man was tellin’ me it was Chips and Bunny Lee and some man I didn’t know. But I know that there again I get anedda weh yu call it ‘robbery’…
The usual rip-off.
Yeah, I was ripped again. But they say you have to pay to learn some of these things. So, it was just my payment. So far that was my biggest hit.
They had that in Jamaica on Cowan’s Arab label, and also it was credited to ‘David & Jahson’, look more like it could’ve been by a duo!
Yeah. They fuck me up again, and that was Tommy Cowan. I went to him and I was complaining to him about that, and I’m saying, “Tommy Cowan, why you put ‘David & Jahson’?” “David Jahson?” It jus’ happen that nobody knew anything about ‘David Jahson’, I was just like coming up. So they just do all these things. First of all, Dynamic did the ‘David Janson’, and now they do ‘David & Jahson’. So I was feelin’ really pissed off inside of me for that t’ing. And when I hear they play it on the radio, they said: “Now that was ‘David & Jahson'”. I said, “Fuck, look at that!”, y’know. So I wasn’t feeling really good about that. But before all that, me and Jerry (Baxter) was in a group they call Well Pleased & Satisfied.
When did this start, when did you link up with Jerry?
Jerry was living nearby in Waterhouse where I was living at the time, and he had some songs out already which was like a song called ‘Black On Black’ and ‘Westman Rock’, some songs. It was good. King Tubbys and King Attorney and Tippatone, all dem big sound in Jamaica used to play their music. You didn’t hear their music on the radio anyway, but if you go to some big sound, that’s where you will hear them songs. So Jerry was like big in the dancehall anyway.
Yeah, in a kinda underground way. And he was tellin’ me that he want me to sing a harmony on one of his songs. There was a chap name Earl, he used to have a sound called Earl’s Disco, so…
Earl’s Discoteque. He was a technician as well, he used to make his own little sound, he make it himself. But he used to gwaan have a look to see what Tubbys was doing sometime. Tubbys didn’t like him, because everything that Tubbys did he could do it as well. So Tubbys didn’t like when he come round and lookin’, y’know. I tell you one day we had this gas-tank, it come from afar truck or something like that. When I was knockin’ it, it sound like a congo drum. So, Earl Disco he did have a riddim track, and he have a reel-to-reel tape. So he kinda link up some mic an’ t’ing, and I was playing that drum t’ing onto the mic, onto a instrumental riddim, and when they was playin’ it back it sound so real and sound so good like a congo drum was playin’. So that inspire Earl to want to make a studio, he make a transistor studio. So Jerry now, we all lived together to help build up the studio, like we mix the cement and get the wood and whatever to make it up, and Earl make the studio from transistor. But he used to go around Tubbys to have a look and see how certain things go, and he actually build the studio and he put out one song from the studio called ‘Baba Boom Time’. It was the same riddim offa weh The Jamaicans sing ‘Baba Boom’, but he have a deejay onto that song. And it was soundin’ good at the studio that this man make up from transistor. So we was like sayin’ yeah, and then me and Jerry used to do some harmony in there offa some other song – we used to play back version of some songs, and I used to sing back some Dennis Brown songs or something, and then Jerry used to come harmonize to it. All these things Earl Disco still have on his tape, he’s livin’ in America now, he have all his tapes same way. That’s how me and him and Jerry link up, and Jerry want me to harmonize on a song name ‘Please Mr DJ’ he was gonna put out. So I went to the studio with him and harmonise it and then, y’know, differently from… We used to make handbags, we used to take the pattern off some handbags that come from abroad and we used to cut them out and used to make them back, and sold them. So we used to make like handbags, woman handbag, man handbags, and sell them. So, me and him was linkin’ after that, or be a part of his salesman team so we could make money to put together and get our music out. We used to do that. So me and Jerry kinda get close after that now. We start do some songs together, harmonising. He even harmonising ‘Natty Chase The Barber’, and there was another song I did after that named ‘Give Thanks & Praise’, that was out on the Arab label as well but it didn’t do as much as ‘Natty Chase The Barber’. So from that, then Jerry them… we do just do one or two lickle t’ing that we was doing, harmonies and stuff like that. If he got a song to sing, we harmony to it, and if I have a song to sing, he harmony on it. That’s how we was movin’ until one day I say to Jerry, “Jerry, one of us gotta go to foreign, yunno”. Because I heard that a man in England pirate one of Jerry’s songs named ‘Open The Gate’/’The Gates of Zion’. There’s a man named Shelly in England, he pirate that song and it was like a lot of man was…
This is Count Shelly?
Yeah. And I say, “Bwoy, Jerry, we cyaan afford to do our song here in Jamaica and people abroad eatin’ food offa it”. I said, “No, one of us got to go abroad”. But at the time I didn’t know how it go abroad and what’s happening, beca’ I never travel, I never even leave Jamaica yet. But at the same time I was movin’ in-between there and Talent Corporation where I was minglin’ up with Inner Circle, they was the uptown boys. They was drivin’ their Mercedes Benz and even Jacob Miller at the time he sing a song named ‘(Dreadlocks Can’t Live In A) Tenament Yard’. At the time he wasn’t even dread! I was sayin’ to him, “Listen man, if you a come inna Waterhouse and man know seh yu no dread deh weh yu a sing ’bout, they will jus’ catch you an’ beat up, give yu a blow!”, and everything like that. Ca’ he have his big soul hair, yunno. All them have soul hair, all of them is big an’ fat.
Right, the ‘fro.
Yeah. They used to be going in and out of foreign regular, y’know, so…
This is when they got signed up.
Yeah, they usually sign up with Columbia Records or Atlantic (actually the Circle was signed first by the Capitol label in the US, then Island). Those companies used to sign up these guys and put out albums for them, and me say “Blower, the man deh big”, yunno.
But Jacob wasn’t middle class like the other Circles?
Well, actually he was from the ghetto, yunno. When he get into Inner Circle he was livin’ at Maxfield Avenue, ’cause Roger and Ian was the uptown boys really, ’cause they come from middle class family weh have some kind of money in a way. And Jacob could sing, so they wanted a singer for the group after they split up with Third World. But it wasn’t Third World, it was Inner Circle, so when they split up the rest of man like Ibo (Cooper) and certain man, they went an’ form Third World. And Inner Circle was lookin’ for an artist now, so they found Jacob Miller down Maxfield Avenue and they took him in their arms and took him uptown. So he was just livin’ up in Beverly Hills and them place, so that’s where he is. But I used to meet them down at Talent Corporation, down at Tommy’s. That’s where I used to see them. Sometimes I used to have a quick talk with them and they used to gone in their Benz, and I’m jumpin’ on my bicycle and I gone back down to Waterhouse, down the ghetto (chuckles). Anyway, I found that I have an auntie that live in Beverly Hills, and my other auntie always asking me to go up there and look for her, ’cause they’ve got money, man. “Go up there an’ look fe dem”. But I never really took the time out to go. So one day she give me a taxi fare and say her mom is up there, which is my granny and I didn’t know my granny at the time, and that was about me going until about 19 – 20, y’know. I didn’t know my granny. So she give me the money and say, “Go up to Beverly Hills, ca’ that’s where yu granny is, and give my mom that money for me, and you can meet your granny and meet some other family that you don’t know”. So when I went up there with the cab, and I went over there, right in front of them that was where Inner Circle was livin’. And actually they used to come to that house, come raid the fridge and all dem t’ing deh, and gone back over to them house with food and stuff. So when them see me, they say, “‘Chase The Barber’, wha’ yu doin’ up here?” And I say, “Well, I t’ink I have an auntie live up here, yunno”. Them say, “What?! Miss G. a yu auntie?” She was a rich woman, very rich with some runnings they was doin’. And I say yeah, and when I talk to Miss G. and when she found out me and her was family, she listened and she said, “Yeah, I hear that song before, I hear that song played on the radio all the while”. So she was a bit more proud to find out that it’s her family, so she kinda indulge me, say, “There’s a room there for you and if you want, you can come and you can stay anytime, you can stay for as long as you like”, and blah blah blah. So I was feelin’ good because in the ghetto it was very hot and in any minute now… ’cause even in my area, because I’m not coming out to fight the war with them, they have you as the enemy in their area, because you’re not joining up with them to go and fight the next area.
You had to be ‘loyal’, like.
Yeah, I can’t see anything good in fightin’ my own people down there, and fightin’ my next own people some cross way for nutten. Why them fightin’ for? Just because they might be votin’ for Labourite and next one are saying they are PNP, and I’m not gonna go and fight! And so, I’m not gonna fight, I’m not gonna take up no gun or no cutlass and chop off anybody because of any political thing, ’cause that’s what it’s all about. Sometime when I’m walkin’ in my area in the ghetto they say, “Rasta, what ‘appen? How come yu haffe find a gear, yunno. Yu cyaan neutral, yunno. Find a gear!” And I know seh, I say, “Right now me a Rasta, yunno. Rasta no really go inna dem madness hole, how de man dem a deal with, ca’ me no support dat!” And me can see dem a whisper, whisper, sometime when I’m passing, like, I know seh sooner or later they gonna want to do me somet’ing. So when me Father just took me out of there, and took me straight up to Beverly Hills I say well, if I get the offer to come an’ stay up here in the Hills, up here is so nice and quiet and it’s just peaceful and, y’know, I feel so different. I was on the hill lookin’ down on the city down there. I say yeah, I feel better here so I was thankful. So me and Inner Circle dem kinda get a lickle bit more and then with Jerry t’ing, is not I no see Jerry every day again. I even stop sellin’ the bags now with Jerry, and we find that I no see him regular either. ‘Cause with Inner Circle dem, everywhere Jacob is going he used to come for me, and me and him gone all about and him just love the company of me. So we used to be close brethrens, me and Jacob.
So one day him said to me, he used to call me ‘Chase The Barber’, “What ‘appen ‘Chase The Barber’? When we go a foreign sometime, yunno, you can come if you wan’ to, we can carry you if you want to come, yunno”. Me say yeah, me don’t mind. So round about six months after I know them, they get this contract with Island Records to do about five or six albums, and to do touring and all dem t’ings deh. So me say, “Yeah man, me open to come with you”. So they say OK. They took my passport and first place we went with them was Nassau when they was finishing off the album they call ‘Everything Is Great’, and we did a full tour on that album. All over that was. We was touring so much that we was fed up being abroad, we want to go back home to Jamaica now. I think we were on the road for round about six months going on for about… we just get fed up, and people start to bawl fe dem want to go home an’ t’ing. I didn’t went back to Jamaica, I didn’t know Miami, so my auntie that was living in Beverly she have a big house in Miami, so I stopped there and get to know Miami. When the tour start again, they come from Jamaica, meet me in Miami and then we’re gone again. Go to England and Europe and the whole a that place and we was touring again until the people dem start to complain again, saying that them homesick. And they send us home and I think that’s when Jacob get killed.
Right. In Jamaica, 1980.
Yeah, I didn’t went back to Jamaica with them. I stopped in New York at the time, ’cause they say at the company that I don’t have to go back to Jamaica if I don’t want to. Anyway, they would come and pick me up back and the tour start again. I was playing percussion in the band and even backing harmony. They promise me that they would let me sing some of the songs. Because at that time I did an album with Inner Circle, and that’s the ‘Natty Chase The Barber’ album. But that title track wasn’t on the album though. Because they see how the song sell well they say, “What ‘appen ‘Barber’? Come we do a session, you know like how we do an album”. And so me say yeah. So I would just do six songs and they put the version.
It’s basically like a ‘showcase’ album, vocals followed by dub versions. Strange that it begins with a dub though.
Yeah. So I didn’t really know these guys proper to give them a full – but I should give them a full twelve side version, ca’ I did have some other songs at the time which was good, and it was played by Sly & Robbie. All the best crew, they was friends of Inner Circle so they all come and they gladly do it for them.