Interview with David Jahson – Part 2
In part 2 of the interview, David Jahson talks about his debut album “Natty Chase The Barber”, his collaboration with Inner Circle, his own record label, his connection with Jerry Baxter of Well Pleased & Satisfied, the pirating of his music, and some of his singles.
STILL CHASING THE BARBER
The ‘Natty Chase The Barber’ album was out on Top Ranking in 1978.
Yeah, yeah. It was pressed in Miami, the first release was in Miami.
Who stood behind the Top Ranking label again? This was run in conjunction with Tommy Cowan, or the Lewis brothers alone?
No, it’s Lewis brothers but Tommy Cowan usually distribute things for them and if they’re abroad and t’ing like that, Tommy Cowan look after business for them until they come back. Or Tommy Cowan would probably be the Jamaican distribution branch for them, ca’ they ‘ave other people abroad to do other stuff, y’know. When I went on tour, the album was finished, but it wasn’t released. So while I was touring with the band, the album (was) released. ‘Cause I went and I found it in ’79, that’s when the tour started in about mid ’79. I went to Miami, and I saw the album in a record shop, just by chance I was passing the record shop and I look in there and I see my David Jahson and I say “What?! Somebody else named David Jahson?” But when I see it named ‘Natty Chase The Barber’ I say well, “No, that’s me”. But the picture they put of me, it was faded out. But I remember taking that picture. And I say, “Oh, shit man, these guys are puttin’ out the album”. I mean, I’m touring with them, the album’s put out and nobody even tell me! You know? So I was like, I no feel good about that. So anyway, I said to the man “How long you have this album?” And him say, “Bwoy, well, from me get it them gone”. Him said it was a wicked album but he didn’t even know it was me, ’cause the picture not showing any justice about me. So I didn’t say nothing to him, and I said yeah, I wanted to buy a copy but I didn’t have any money on me at that time. So, I didn’t worry. When they come back to go to Europe for the European tour and they pick me up in Miami and I fly back to England with them, we was stationed in Chelsea at the time and almost every day we went to somewhere different abroad to do a tv show or interview or somet’ing. So, I met this girl in London and, y’know, she was showin’ me Brixton, and after I went up to Brixton market with her – ’cause I was also the chef in the Inner Circle group, and they like me to chef, that’s how I was chef-cookin’. I went to buy a pot and some vegetables and some other stuff. I saw the record again in a shop in Brixton and I said to the girl I was walkin’ with, sayin’, “That’s my song, y’know”. And she say, “You too lyin’!” I said, “Yeah man, that’s me!” And she say, “No, no”. She don’t know me as ‘David Jahson’ there, because Inner Circle they used to call me ‘Spy’, they used to call me the ‘Black Spy’. So she know me only as the Black Spy.
Where did they get that from, why did they call you ‘Spy’ (chuckles)?
‘Black Spy’? Oh, well, it’s just that one time, accidentally, Jacob was talkin’ to a girl on the phone, and in this other bedroom there was an extension phone and it was in a cubbard. So, I went in the cubbard and I pick up the phone, because the way how he was talkin’ to the girl – like he was beggin’, y’know, and (chuckles)… I was sneakin’, pick up the phone and I could hear everything. I hear the girl tellin’ him “no!”, that he want to come and see her and she say no, and this and that, and he was beggin’, beggin’, beggin’. So, long after in the evening I was like saying to him, saying to Jacob some of the words them (laughs)… what the girl was sayin’ to him, and he was beggin’, and I was laughing offa that, and he was saying, “How yu know?! How did yu know dat! Yu mus’ be a fuckin’ spy!! A spy! How did you know that?” And he was tellin’ Roger and everybody, “Yeah man, this is a black spy, man! This is a black spy!” And instantly that name just stuck. So when we go on stage, until they introduced me as David Jahson, they introduce me as ‘Black Spy’! And the reason why they didn’t make me do any song, when I went to Miami I used to have my locks, and when I went to Miami and stopped there with my auntie, she was like clean and proper, she was sayin’, “Don’t have your hair like that”, and this and that and that, and she practically forced me to get my hair cut. So when they come to take me to England they was all vexed. Because one of the reasons why they like me to come on the tour is because I was locksed. So when they see me in Miami, they was all vex, ’cause I was like they didn’t want to talk to me. They say, “Whe yu locks? Where the dreadlocks, a whe yu locks?!” And they say, “Look ‘pon the Barber, is the Barberman sing ‘Natty Chase The Barber’!” And, y’know, it’s like a big problem. So they didn’t make me sing any ‘Natty Chase The Barber’ songs on stage. Like, I was supposed to headline Inner Circle before they come out, be singin’ this from they produced the record, so I would be singin’ some of those songs. Which at the time, that LP was sellin’ wicked in England. ‘Cause Mr Palmer of Jet Star told me that because of this album come up as an import, he used to like pick and choose some of his people that come and buy records from him, he said he used to sell that album from one of the counters, he would give a man four and next man he would give a next man four with that, y’know. He said that the album was like wanted in that time. And he couldn’t put all of it on the shelf at the same time beca’ one man would take up all of it. So he had to share it out and give one man four and give a next man three, or give next man two according to what he had in stock at the time. So they didn’t let me sing the songs at that time, and when I was walkin’ in the market the same day I told the girl that it was my album and she say “No, you too lie!” And I said “Yeah, that’s my album!” And she said, “Buy a copy for me”. So I say OK. At the time the album was sellin’ in England for £4.50, and the top you could get it fe five pound. But when I went to buy my own the man tell me it was nine pound. And me say, “How come you could sell the other albums deh fe four fifty and five fifty, why yu sellin’ this for nine pound?!” The man say, “If yu no want it jus’ move and leave it, man! Just leave it”. So I just took it, I buy it for the nine pound, and I give it to the girl. And when I went to the man dem and I say, “Boss, how come the man dem a release the song?” When I went back to the hotel where we was, then I say, “How come the album release and you never tell me? I jus’ buy a copy in the market”. And him say, “Wha’? Ahh, Jahson man, jus’ cool man, yeah, yeah…”. You know? I didn’t like that. I bought that album round about two times, it coming down to I buy it the second time, so I bought that there and I give it to the girl.
And we toured along with them until the group split up because Jacob died, and I was feelin’ it for a certain while, and I was in England and the same girl asked me why don’t we get married, and blah blah. So we just get married and we had a child and I was stuck in England for a little bit. And I did have some songs from Jamaica that I bring up while I used to work with Well Pleased & Satisfied, I used to sing harmony on it and stuff like that. I did have some of them riddim tracks and stuff, so I say well, I’m gonna try and see if I can get some stuff in the market. It never went well. I keep puttin’ out one or two singles. One or two persons like Jim Dodd they put out a song like ‘Raving’ for me, it went well in the stable there. Just box and bow, box and bow, trying a thing here and there, which wasn’t really moving fast. I had to get a job and support the family, got stuck in England for a lickle bit. Then after I went back to Jamaica and I did some more songs, and I did one named ‘Formula’ and that was voiced in England, original ‘Formula’. It was three musician I get together and we lick that ‘Formula’, it was good. We put it out and it sell a bit, was good.
Who played on that track?
‘Formula’ was played by three guys from Jamaica and descendants, but they was living in England. Yeah. I can’t remember their names now but that’s one of my classic tunes, the first original ‘Formula’. Just three a them play it. I can’t remember their name. I put it out on a seven-inch, put it on a twelve-inch back-to-back with a song by Errol Dunkley when we did link up at the time now.
This is when you formed the Spy label?
Yeah. Black Spider. Yah, I had one named Black Spider. I put out a few tunes on Spy label as well. That was in England. At the moment I can’t remember them all, but I put out an album name ‘Past & Present’, that was on the Spy label. I sell round about five hundred copies of that and I didn’t press it back. It stay like that.
There’s a duet on that album with a Wailing Souls tune, between you and Jerry from Well Pleased & Satisfied, ‘Mr Fire Coal Man’.
Must’ve been cut way back in the mid seventies or thereabouts.
Yeah, that was recorded way back now. I think that was like the original… it was played by some original man in Jamaica really. Different, different man play that like Horsemouth, you have Sly & Robbie on it, you have the other brethren we used to call the ‘Baldhead Bassie’. Because nobody ever recognise that bassie, he was like a mason. It was only me and Jerry, when we do work in Well Pleased & Satisfied, we go and get that bassie, we look for the flyin’… well, my brethren we didn’t like Lloyd Parks too much because he used to give us a kinda t’ing in his basslines “toom toom to to to toom toom”, We didn’t like that “toom toom” business too much, get the baldhead bassie instead. Nobody really used that bassman, ca’ he wasn’t established, or him name big up. And we had the man play some chord that was on the tune that people used to love by Well Pleased & Satisfied, ca’ they have this different kinda riddim sound, the bass sound different. And is not any of the popular upmarket musicians was playing the bass, we just called him the ‘Baldhead Bassie’, and he was the man that played on some of them tunes. Sometimes we get Ranchie to play bass, ca’ he could play guitar and he could play bass, and sometime we get Sly & Robbie, when we get Sly & Robbie together, yunno. But most of the early Well Pleased & Satisfied riddim tracks, on some of his riddims, was done by the bredda we called Baldhead Bassie. And even now Jerry has quite a few of them songs unreleased, because when I went to England and get mixed up in marriage an’ t’ing, I just kind of lost touch, which I shouldn’t have done. I had lost touch with Jerry and some other guys down there. Another problem was when I get over here I start to do other things, which is a different kettle of fish over here. So for a while I lose touch before I go back to Jamaica until probably about three or four years after, then I go back to Jamaica. So while I was in England here, Jerry them wasn’t feeling pleased of me going away and not keeping in touch and all them lickle t’ings. So anyway, we still linked up back, and we still do some more tune again. When I went back Jerry had a studio in Jamaica, and I said ouch, that is what we want from long ago. I think I know that he had a studio, but I don’t think that… if he actually was puttin’ out any tune, ca’ he wanted one or two hits out there again. And the area where he choose to put it – in Waterhouse, I mean Jammys did have a studio nearby, a couple of artists did have their studio nearby still. And the area was bad, you had some pure badman who try to do somet’ing, them wait, if they’re not there they break your place and thief this and leave that, yunno. So I think Jerry was in the heart of that, so he kinda pull back down the studio. He pull back down the equipment that he put up and lock it away in a room for a while, because it was those t’ings happening, y’know. And then I was abroad, and he used to keep things going musically down there. So I think when I wasn’t there he was still vex in my side for that kind of way, I don’t know. But for me to just lose touch and get out of that concentration with this man, we was doing good together, just try to make it back for that still, yunno. I knew that I had to actually link up that knot with this man and tighten it up, because there’s quite a few things that he got there in Jamaica. He didn’t even leave Jamaica until he got all this stuff, and I went away and was gone everywhere, didn’t achieve a studio. You know what I mean? But he did, and I was really feelin’ pleased for him, y’know.
There’s quite a few songs that we did in the seventies there which was unreleased. And I was tellin’ him at the time when I went back to Jerry that these songs would do good in Europe, ’cause it’s the type of songs they like. They don’t really like the computer stuff, they like the acoustic when people play an’ t’ing, and these are some good tunes. He was saying, “Nah man, dem t’ing outdated now”, and this and that. I didn’t want to say ‘OK, run off this and mek me try show yu somet’ing’, because I just know how I can get mix up in foreign again, and maybe I haffe go do it myself and etcetera, etcetera, if I don’t find the right company. So we still have quite a few of these songs which haven’t been released that we have done on tape. And he probably want to do some update t’ing now, which I’m tellin’ him that cyaan beat those t’ing we have done. Because I’ve seen what Europe is buying, and I know that they like the acoustic thing more than the computer. Maybe at the time he didn’t travel that much so he was thinkin’ that because certain tune was played in Jamaica in everybodys dance, I said no, no – maybe it’s just the Jamaican crowd dance. They want to go through some other international people who listen to acoustic instrument and love it. But he didn’t listen and I kinda see that we have a lickle difference in opinion and ideas there. He wasn’t agreeing to certain t’ing what I’m showing him anymore, you understan’?
So I get downhearted, and so we lose touch again. And I come back and we have done some songs in Jamaica and I get some riddim tracks. I’ve still got a pile of myself, I’ve got quite a few tunes I can put out now, still acousticly. ‘Cos I meet up with Mikey Brooks in England, Mikey Brooks have some Channel One stuff. Beca’ he used to be the man who actually mek most a dem riddims, he sing songs for dem to play. And Roots Radics and those man play most of them riddim tracks. Some of them Mighty Diamonds sings, and other artists sings on them. Because he was the one who stay at night and sing for these man to play them riddim tracks, and he got some of these riddim tracks in his possession as well from Channel One, so… I got quite a few of that too, I revoicing some songs on them an’ t’ing. So I got quite a few of them old riddims, which I want to put out on an album called ‘Vintage Roots’, y’know. And I’m actually in the process of doing it, with some of them seventies songs.
What about this pirate, someone pirated the album way back, in France wasn’t it?
Yeah, this guy named Enzo Hamilton, I think Enzo is in some kind of custody, or some kind of lawyer t’ing. ‘Cos he has done almost every man in Jamaica. I dunno how he done it, but he done Bunny Lee productions, he done Lee Perry production, even Bob Marley, he do Beverley’s. He just put every man!
And Tommy Cowan, Jah Lloyd, Phil Pratt, Gaylads, some Inner Circle stuff, Jimmy Radway, Winston McAnuff. In the case of Pratt I think that deal was struck but the other releases are a bit dubious to say the least.
Yeah! He touch every man. I mean, when I found out that he done mine, I found out from a radio guy tell me, I was walkin’ on the road and this radio guy say, “Oh man, I play your tunes on CD last night on the radio, man. It was sounding good. I like it, man! So why don’t you put out more on CD, man?” I said, “Wha’ yu talk? I haven’t got no CD out yet! I’m tryin’ to get a CD out, and I don’t put no CD out”. He say, “Yeah man, you have a CD out, man! I play some tune off it”. Me say, “No man, you’ve mistaken me, man!” Him say, “A yu name Jahson?” Me say yeah, but I said I t’ink I hear about some other guy named Jahson, it might be him. Him say, “No man! Yu have a song name ‘Jah Is Coming For His World One Day’?” And me say yeah. And then him say, “You have a tune named ‘Clean Rasta Head’?” And me say yeah. So him said, “But is the CD me play!” So I say, “How come that’s ‘pon CD?” The last time it was on vinyl and the last time I hear they put it out in America. But him say “Yeah man!” So me say “Ahh, I want a copy”, so me go up a Jet Star now fe go see, just to see it. ‘Cos at the time the CD was out and I didn’t have nothing on CD and I always wanted to have something on CD now, ‘cos everything seems to be leaving me (chuckles), y’know. So, I’m saying I went to Jet Star, I went to every man that sell roots tune. I went to Daddy Kool (legendary shop, since deceased), I went to Supertone, I went to all this man, and I can’t see it.
So I phoned back the man, and me say, “How come you say – where did you get the CD to buy? ‘Cos I look everywhere and can’t find it”. Him say, “Go down to Tower Records dung a Piccadilly, man”. I say, “What!” I used to pass that shop and I say “I don’t think I appear like big star inna dat”. But when me go in there, lo and behold there’s David Jahson – same record. So I buy a copy of that again, I buy a copy (chuckles) to find out the source where this is coming from, if it was Inner Circle re-release it there or Tommy Cowan. But then I see Tommy Cowan name on it and I see some other people name weh I don’t see Inner Circle produce, I don’t see me. ‘Cos on the original LP it was produced by Ian Lewis and Everal Pickersgill, which is me. And on the CD I didn’t see all a that information, so I’m saying ‘what’s happening here?’ So I see some other peoples name I don’t even know. But my brethren Denzil Dennis told me that he knows this other guy, there was a name that… I can’t remember the guy now, but there was a name that Dennis say, “I know him, man! Him have a record shop dung a Shepherds Bush”. So I went down there, and when I sight him I was very angry, and I was shoutin’ at him: “Where the fuck did you get your name on my album!? I don’t even fuckin’ know you! How is your name doing on my stuff!”, and blah blah blah. It’s like I comin’ on to doing him something, and he start to cry and say: “No, is not me, is Enzo”. I say, “Enzo? Who the fuck is name Enzo?! I don’t even know him – phone him!” And he phoned Enzo, in France. He just spoke to me from France, and he’s sayin’ oh, well, he need to come over and speak to me because of so and so and so. About three days after Enzo came over from France to speak to me, and he say, well yes, he and Tommy Cowan was friends and he knew that actually Tommy had something to do with the record, the ‘Natty Chase The Barber’, and so and so. So he’s seeing the album laying around and he was thinkin’ because he and Tommy was friends it would be OK if he did it and, y’know, it would be OK with Tommy. So I said, “No! It’s not to do with Tommy, it’s my stuff”. And the guy said OK, he would pay me some royalties and all sorts… I asked, “How long you’ve been puttin’ it out?” He had it out for five years the time that I found him doing it.
On the Lagoon or Esoldun label, wasn’t it?
Yeah, then he have it on Crocodisc. When I check it out then he have some other songs from the same album, he had put them on other compilation albums. So he said he would sort me out for that, and the first amount of that he sent a statement and I get some Euros, I can’t remember what Euro he sent. Then after that I think from that time ’til now, the time I have seen him was round about four years up to now, he only send me four statements, and the statements… I dunno where the money is going because it’s not going into my bank! I was going to straight him up again, and then his phone is off-turned – is only ringing, ringing, and no answer. I see something in the paper that some solicitors or some people runnin’ after him and he’s going into some big trouble, and blah blah. So I don’t know what’s happening, but there – it stop there. So, off that CD, I took the CD and took my songs off it, the one I want, and mixed it up with some other ones, and put it to vinyl, and put the vinyl out. And so I put that album out, the original ‘Natty Chase The Barber’. Which, actually, I put the ‘Natty Chase The Barber’ on that now, which wasn’t on any of the firs’ ‘Natty Chase The Barber’ album. So I put it on, and some other stuff, some other songs. I didn’t put the riddim tracks this time, I didn’t put it as a showcase, I just put six side of vocals an’ put it on a vinyl, and it’s doing OK. Not as well as it could have, because I don’t think it’s marketed properly, really. But it’s still going well, it’s some nice songs on it. And so that’s how the album come to be. I need to also run it on a CD, but I didn’t get round to that yet, because of lack of money, stuff like that. I have also got quite a few more albums which I want to put out, an album. Because I’m kinda scared of the CD thing, because I put out a CD named ‘Child Of The King’ and I am seeing it all ’bout on everybody’s internet page, and I dunno how some of them even get it. Some of them is sellin’ it for prices that I’m not even sellin’ it for! So, I dunno what is happening there, so I am kinda scared of the internet t’ing with the CD.
People burn it too, download it or whatever. Turns out to be a big loss.
Yeah, so I’m scared of that. I’ve got some more album here lined up, which, if a good roots company would like them t’ing and listen to, I know they would love to actually release them and put them in former places for me, an’ t’ing. But at the same time that’s not happening I’m gonna struggle and put them out myself on vinyl LP for the time being and run them. It’s like on this album which I am trying to run now, y’know. Yes. So, so far I am just here and now I am moving out with Mike Brooks and we went and do a few shows abroad in Europe and it was good, people liked it.
Yeah, in France. And we meet some people at Reggae Remedy in France and they have a sound system, they have a radio station. So every now and again we voice some songs for them. I voiced a song named ‘Ganja Tree’ for them which did well for them, because I think I did press up a thousand for them here and give it to them and when I look at the internet it was sold out, Mike Brooks and Anthony Johnson sing some on the same riddim as well. They phoned me the other day and want me on some show, they also want me to voice up some more riddim, beca’ they say they like my stuff an’ t’ing. So we are kinda negotiating to voice up some more for them some time next month. Maybe I will have to go to Paris to voice it they say, so I will have to look into that. At the same time I’ve got some stuff here for myself which I might need to put out some ten-inch, ca’ they say ten-inch probably might do some stuff. And I’ve got some rare vintage stuff an’ this is never put out, so I’m gonna put that on a ten-inch which I hope they would like. So I’m running the Pick A Skill label now, and I might run a new label when I’m doing the ten-inch, I might be runnin’ it on the Pick A Skill. I dunno what I will be doing yet, but things seems to be, to me, still bubblin’ bright. And, as I say, I can’t give up the fight, y’know.
When I went to New York in the summer of last year (’03), I saw that a 7″ of ‘Natty Chase The Barber’ was out on a blue Dub Station label, which is Jerry Baxter’s label, isn’t it?
Yes! Yes, I went to Jamaica and I saw that. Because, actually, I was aksing him, “How did you get that to put it out, Jerry?” I think I leave a CD there with ‘Roots of David’ and I think I had that song on it, so I think maybe that’s how he got a cut. I think he put out a song on the other side, I think him and Joy White was singin’ a song on the other side. On the flipside there was ‘Natty Chase The Barber’ and on the other side was him and Joy White singin’ a song that Bob & Marcia did sing.
Yes, ‘Always Together’. I think Lloyd Coxsone had that one on a compilation.
Yeah. I think that was a man… I don’t remember the guy that produced that in Jamaica for Jerry at the time, but he’s runnin’ it now. So, yeah, his Dub Station label is runnin’. I went to Jamaica at that time and I leave a song there with him named ‘Weeping & Wailing’, I dunno if he put it out. Because I actually made the stamper down in Jamaica and I made the label. I pay him to press the label and tell Jerry to put out that, because I was trying to knit up back the relationship, yunno. So I leave that with him, but I don’t know what’s happening, because I haven’t even spoken to him (chuckles) that tough to know what’s going on, y’know.
There’s a few singles I would like to know more about that you didn’t mention, like ‘Blood of the Wicked’ on the Freedom Sounds label out of Greenwich Farm. Is that even you to begin with?
It might be a mix-up, because I can’t remember that title. ‘Blood of the Wicked’? I can’t remember… Sometime they do a mix-up t’ing.
There was something for Pete Weston at Micron, titled ‘Ishan Version’.
Oh, yea, ‘Ishan Version’!
That was a deejay tune?
That was a deejay tune, because in the early days I started out as a deejay. I used to deejay with Brigadier Jerry and Jah Love sound in Jamaica, before I started I was a deejay. But it wasn’t much. I used to be the resident deejay for Jah Love Muzik, for the Twelve Tribes. Yeah, with Brigadier, with (Albert) Malawi and them guys. But deep down I know I want to sing. And then after when I sing ‘Natty Chase The Barber’ I still was like doing some deejay stuff. Because when I come to England on the Grounation label weh they put out the ‘Natty Chase The Barber’, the B-side was a deejay t’ing… I don’t remember what they called it but it was me who was deejaying that riddim. ‘Ishan Version’ again, I was deejaying that one on the ‘Child Of A King’ riddim, and the flipside of that I play the congo on the back that was highlighted there. So, yeah, I did that one. I didn’t even remember anything that I did that one (laughs)! I did a version of knockin’ a congo, the same congo pan that I knock on Earl Discoteque’s studio, I took that to Tubbys and play, and knock the version on that one. I can’t remember what I call that one again. But the deejay style was called ‘Ishan Version’. Gosh, if I could get a copy on them t’ing, ’cause some a them t’ing I don’t have. Early t’ing, I don’t have any more of them. I did a couple of more early tune but I don’t even remember the title. But if I hear them or unless I actually see them playin’…
You had one called ‘Live & Love’ on the Aquarius label, Herman Chin-Loy.
Yes, Aquarius. And also I did a next one named ‘Live In Love’, Aquarius. Yes, Aquarius. I don’t think them even released that one, Chin-Loy. Yeah, so after that apart from a lickle short brief thing with my aunt I spent most of my life abroad away from Jamaica, and I think that is what get me out of that limelight t’ing from being well-recognised in Jamaica as like… I think I am in the stable of like Dennis Brown, Errol Dunkley, all of these kind of guys, I think I am in their bracket. But because I never continually live with music, or I never release all a them music that I did, to be up in their space. Even Bunny Lee would come to me and say, “Wha’ appen! Are yu de Barber? Inna my stable yu haffe come, yunno! In my stable!” And then I keep away from those man because them man look like them are some pyaka, them jus’ a come fe rob up some young artist, y’know what I mean? ‘Cos through I produced some of my own t’ing meself I never really need them. But if I had actually had gone and sing some songs for Bunny Lee them time, even if he had robbed me and all, then I would have some vintage tune out there like Johnny Clarke, and man like that. I would have some nice tune out there, ‘cos these guys even though they was pyaka they would be making your songs be heard. You understan’? I mean, Johnny Clarke is eating food offa the songs, even though he is not doing much recording now. But he’s doing a lotta stage shows, because of these hits. If I had been doing that… Even with Lee Perry. I went up to Lee Perry one time and I never did somet’ing, he was behavin’ like a kinda madman, I don’t talk to people that don’t behave. I never liked it, so I never go back up there. ‘Cos he told me that he liked the song that I have but he had been talkin’ to people and didn’t behave, so I didn’t like that. That’s why I never really do nutten for Black Ark, for the Lee Perry studio.
What about ‘Natty Go There Volunteerily’ on the UK Burning Sounds label?
I think I do that for a bredda named Jim Daddy, it must have been Jim Daddy I must’ve been dealin’ with for that, y’know. Him did have a label named Clair. I do a tune for him named ‘Raving’, and the flipside is called ‘Together’. I did a couple of tunes with Jim Daddy as well. To him these songs sell better than some other songs that he had. Because he used to have a record shop himself, so when he pressed them he usually didn’t even give it to Jet Star or nobody, just sell it in his shop by himself and sell it off. Sometimes he sells five hundred, six hundred copies of one man’s tune in his shop. He sell a lot of my songs in that way, just sellin’ it in his own shop.
‘People Bawling’ on the Kim label is another one.
Yeah, that was the same Jim Daddy. Yeah, ‘People Bawling’, that was one of my tune from Jamaica. I do a remix with a man named Terry. I think he was the first man to actually… he used to cut dubplates. So I let him do the master for that, and Jim Daddy put that on the Kim label. An’ put one called ‘Baby Cry’ in it, and the other side was ‘Zion Train’ with Jerry Baxter singin’ that one. And he put a train sound in it before it start, it was good, y’know. Yeah, Jim Daddy sold round about five hundred copy of that in his shop alone. And I did one named ‘Raving’ which was good for him, and because he press a thousand of that to put out, and he sell the first five hundred the first time, sold off the first five hundred and so he went to press a thousand after, and he parked the van out in Brixton, and went into the shop – into a bakery – and when he come back the van was broken into and they took out all the records and gone. He was really downhearted for that, so he didn’t even bother. I think he left his shop and he’s in Jamaica now, Jim Daddy. And he used to have a studio upstairs with sound like Studio One. He got some music there, even the ‘Raving’ song I did there. I did quite a few tune with him that he got on tape. If I could get my hands on them tapes it would be good because it was some nice tunes. And he got a Studio One feel, that sound he got from his studio. I don’t know what Jim Daddy is doing now.
‘What You Gonna Do’ for the Uptown label, this was Noel Williams producing, who I believe is better known as King Sporty.
Yeah. That’s a looong time tune, man! How did you get to know about this tune? Because really and truly it’s like the guy that I did that tune for, I don’t even know if he press ten copy, I don’t know how much he pressed. I see one of the records one time, but I didn’t… he just press a few, I don’t know what happened. He’s not in the business anymore. So, I didn’t even know that that song was mentioned (chuckles).
‘She Loves The Rub A Dub’ for Robert ‘Flacko’ Palmer of Negus Roots fame, with Papa Tullo I think, on the deejay part.
Yeah (laughs)! Yeah, with Papa Tullo…? I think what happened there, I think them tapes was passed on from people, and they do stuff. Because some of these songs when I’ve done them, is like I’ve done them for somebody and it’s like the person take the tape and he just sell it to somebody or something else. And it’s just missing! I don’t even remember anything about them tunes there, unless it’s been brought up to me or unless I hear it. Some of them I haven’t heard for donkey years, man.
Can you recall ‘Must Haffe Nyam’ on the Riddim Force label?
Which one that? ‘Must Ha Fe Nyam’? Ahh, I can’t remember that one deh. Can’t remember…
There’s another one called ‘Rasta Expression’ on the Culture label.
‘Rasta Expression’? (long silence) Um, can’t remember… don’t remember.
But you probably remember what you did at Randy’s for Clive Chin’s One Way label, ‘Tell Mi Lover Goodbye’ and ‘Who Say That Satan Stronger Than God’?
Ahh… Yeah, me know that me do a couple a tune at Randy’s. But I don’t even know if them released them. Ca’ we used to go, when me and Jerry used to do some tune, we used to record at Randy’s and Miss Pat from dung there she knows, through we used to use her studio and she used to take some songs from us. And sometimes we voice up there and leave it, ’cause it was their session. We just voice and leave it, and we don’t even hear anything more. We voice some tune for Mrs Pottinger but that was like Jerry’s, I had to give harmony in ‘Sweetie Come From America’, some other kinda tunes. Them tune deh I don’t even remember them until I actually go buck up one copy a it, up at Chips’ shop. Chips used to be the man who distribute Mrs Pottinger stuff.
Right, Chips Richards from Sky Note.
Yeah. I think he is some pastor now or something like that. So I don’t know if him still actually is inna de music business or what he is doing. A lot of mix-up, mix-up gwaan somewhere down the line. And there’s still quite a few song where I cyaan remember, ’cause it’s so long. Some of them I voiced I give no name, and maybe the first man weh actually put it out now they give it the name themselves, yunno. And I can’t remember them unless I hear them play and remember the words, ca’ sometimes that’s how I remember, hearing me song dem.
A tune called ‘Licey Head’ for example, remember that?
‘Licey Head’? Is that something to do with ‘Clean Rasta Dread’?
You mean ‘Clean Head Dread’? Don’t know.
Yeah, ‘Clean Head Dread’. Yeah, it’s ‘Clean Head Dread’ but ‘Licey Head’ I can’t remember, unless it’s put on the flipside there. I don’t know what, if them put it out and sell it or what.
You had ‘Jah Is Coming For His Earth’, that’s a pick from the first album? This was on the Jakes label.
Yeah. Jakes, that now… I did that one and I think Jake put it out, ca’ it was Jacob Miller label. And it wasn’t him I did it for, I did it for Inner Circle. But maybe them say, “Jakes, put that ‘pon your label”, and maybe them just give it to him and he put it out. ‘Cause some people say to me, “Why don’t you put out that tune ‘Jah Is Coming For His Earth’?” ‘Cause I never put it out on seven-inch, and I think it was two tunes Jacob put ‘pon him label for me at the time. But them time deh I just young and free and I just say well, y’know, I just want somet’ing fe gwaan. Anybody want to do that, do that, y’know, ’cause I still see with some of these artists that they’re crying, they’ve been robbed, by Coxson or certain man. And at the time they are glad fe do the tune, at the time they just want their tune to be out, to hear that it’s just their tune. They don’t even care about the money, but then after a while them keep sellin’ and they ain’t getting nutten so they start to cry. But that was the feeling I used to get sometime, but I don’t mind singin’ that tune free for people so that they can put it out, and I want the tune fe put out and heard, y’know. Some a them tune I don’t remember as I say. Some I do remember the title, because I was the one who was responsible for the title. But there was some that I sing, and I leave it in the studio with other title and they might put a title to it which I don’t know the name a that title. And they put it out an’ if I hear it I would remember, ’cause, well, it is probably in the seventies, really. Twenty or thirty years ago, really. It’s still good that some of those songs that was there you can be tellin’ me about them, ca’ I didn’t even know that people would really hear them or recognise them. I don’t even know about them (chuckles). But right now me and Mikey Brooks a flex an’ Anthony Johnson, and Inner Circle say them fe come tune in ‘pon them again in Miami, ’cause them big, so we go line-up the long time days again. It will be nice, trust me.
David Jahson has never been one of the name-brand artists in Jamaican music, but his debut album for Inner Circle is an overlooked classic as I see it and well worth investigating. As discussed within this interview, the album first appeared on the Lewis brothers’ Top Ranking imprint out of Miami, later it came reissued in the early nineties on the French label Crocodisc, a subsidiary to Esoldun. A pirate. This is now withdrawn, thankfully, and Jahson controls the release on his own Pick A Skill label, adding the hit itself for the first time to the album. ‘Natty Chase The Barber’ is made up of typically late seventies hard roots and steppers rhythms, the Circle crew assisted by Sly & Robbie on several cuts, and Prince Jammy controls the mix on this one. Jahson has a sort of laid back ‘country’ style to his singing and songwriting, very gentle and easy going in a way. Nice and smooth, a touch of his own of course but also pretty familiar from that era. His other releases are not quite as consistent as the debut, but ‘Past & Present’ offers some nice tracks such as his and Jerry Baxter’s version of the Wailing Souls’ classic ‘Mr Fire Coal Man’, the original ‘Formula’, among others. There is also the ‘Child Of A King’ album and the most recent, ‘In Charge’, released this summer of 2006. The French Heartical label also reissued ‘Clean Head Dread’ on a crisp 7″ in 2002, so look for that as well.
[7″ single information courtesy Roots Knotty Roots]