Keith Brand - Nuh Skin Up
Dreadful Words Dub
Nuh Skin Up Dub
Bad Things Dub
Keeping Us Together
Bad Things Dub (Version Two)
|The history of Keith
Hudson's innovative work as a record producer and artist in the late
sixties and throughout the seventies in Kingston, London and New York
has already been comprehensively covered elsewhere. Instead we are
pleased to present the story of Keith Hudson's close friend, business
associate and creative collaborator in Kingston and New York throughout
the seventies, Junior Walker, who here clears up some of the half-truths
and many myths behind the Keith Hudson legend.
"There's a couple of things I can't put an exact date on because Keith had a habit of producing and reproducing... you can't nail down specifics when it comes to Keith."
Originally Keith Hudson had simply torn up the rule book when he took Sound System deejays U-Roy and Dennis Alcapone into the recording studio but then he began to rewrite the rules with 'S90/Ace 90 Skank' the motorcycle tribute that kick started Big youth's amazing career.
"I like albums. so many singles come out you can have one out and it get lost 'mongst records y'know..."
But in order to convey his message properly Keith knew that he needed to do it himself and 'The Man From Shooters Hill' transformed himself into 'The Black Morphologist of Reggae' as he began to work on a series of long playing releases. Dark, brooding and intense these long playing sets featured his extraordinary vocals, enigmatic lyrics and overpowering rhythms held together by his unorthodox production techniques.
"John Holt said 'When it came to singing Keith is a man who couldn't take telling!'"
Keith Hudson and Junior Walker had been moving in different directions to achieve their goals. Junior was born at 147 King Street in downtown Kingston and "Keith and Bon and quite a few other musicians and producers used to be at 127 King Street."
"Me a come from High School, Barclays Bank. Keith a come from selling newspapers and 'street' dentistry. We were just two people from two different poles. Keith started out selling The Star newspaper and through that he developed a knowledge of street economics and money management. Turning two pounds into twenty two pounds was always a Keith Hudson trait."
United in their love of music and their allegiance to the Rastafari faith it was inevitable that their paths would eventually cross:
"The first record I bought was a version to 'Sun Is Shining' ('Psalm 2' by Johnny Lover) from the Tuff Gong shop at 127 King Street and some friends of mine were running a little disco they called El Conquistador. They got a little amplifier and this guy was an electrical minded guy who did a bit of soldering and hooking up and stuff and my first input into the Sound was buying that record.
When I finished High School I started working at Barclays Bank. I hooked up with a tailor at the same upstairs at 127 King Street. We used to call him 'Tailor Youth' and when all my friends in the bank seen how my pants looked everybody wanted to get into that same kinda style. We used to wear straight foot with a cuff and sometimes pleats in the front. This was a Spanglers style 'cause it's from the neighbourhood but here I am working at the bank and all of these guys were wearing the same Spanglers style. We'd always be there in the evenings smoking and hanging out with Tailor Youth who would be teaching us about things like ital food.
I first met Keith in 1974 when he had his album 'Flesh Of My Skin' and so I bought a copy. I used to play 'Hunting' on the Sound System 'cause this was my favourite track. At the time when we met Keith was going through some financial difficulties and in banking, as you know, we give loans to people who are in trouble and, usually, you get a piece of the action. I would then assist financially but as a brethren. this wasn't like any investment or loan it was just me as a lover of music. One way of me constantly having some music is to keep helping and gradually we built a relationship. When I would go to play the Sound System in places like Rose Hall in Linstead Keith would come along and we'd come back to town refreshed. I was a fan more than anything else and it was like a family kind of vibe.
My thing was always to be around Beeston Street. I'd run into Big Youth and he's have a box of records. 'What's new?' 'Sky Juice' and whatever forty fives he had I'd buy. Leroy Smart similarly so I had a choice of different artists but the Keith relationship was such that it tended to be more like trying to fulfil the things I wanted to fulfil in the business. So if it sounded like I wanted to meet John Holt then Keith would find a way of taking me somewhere I could meet John Holt. So my investment was basically paying off by me getting into the world of music."
However, it was not long before Junior's contribution and input would gradually become more creative than financial:
"I used to play The Dramatics version of 'In The Rain' on my Sound System and Keith did his own version. At the time everybody was doing a dub LP: Coxsone with 'Roots Dub' and 'Ital Dub' even Treasure Isle with 'Treasure Dub' so I said to Keith. 'Wha' happen? you should be doing a dub album' and he said 'Which songs will I put on the LP? What you do... you pick the songs and you make this dub LP' So I picked some of his songs which were my favourites at the time such as 'S90/Ace90 Skank' ('True True To My Heart'), 'Don't Think About Me'/'I'm Alright' from Horace Andy and a few others. He said 'That's not enough to make an LP' and I said 'Couldn't we get some more tracks?' Keith said 'Yes. If you're willing to pay for them!' So I said 'Yes.' we went to the studio and recorded the kind of things I knew dance hall people wanted: versions upon versions of rhythms such as 'Satta' and 'Declaration Of Rights'. Songs were recorded just for the album that were not old Keith Hudson tracks such as 'Depth Charge', the version to 'Still Waters', which was another track he'd heard the soul version of on my Sound.
This was my thinking at the time. I'm thinking Sound System not thinking record business and we decided to call the album 'Pick A Dub' 'cause it's based on the fact I'm picking the dubs! I'd been the total financier and every week we'd take the step of deciding what to do: whether it's more studio time, labels or pressing but it was extra risky to have a really elaborate jacket because we couldn't afford it. At the end of the manufacturing of the album I had run out of cash. My whole objective at the time was all about me having the music to play before anybody else. After I lost my job in the bank it was more about the business...
This was the nature of our business then; the silent partner was just that. People would take what you invested and do wondrous things but there was no mention of your contribution. I requested that my name should not be included because I had a contract with Barclays Bank that said I should not be involved with any other business while working for them. The thinking behind it was if you get into financial difficulty with your other business then you'll be tempted to take their money! So when Keith came to the UK with 'Pick A Dub' no mention was made that it was financed by someone else!"
Moving between London, New York and Kingston Keith started "going to music school in New York for a year now, getting voice training" in 1976 and the following year he released 'Brand', a stirring dub set, and its vocal counterpart the awe inspiring 'Rasta Communication'.
"When I stopped working in the bank Keith had me on a twenty four seven music making routine and I was so glad that he was willing to accept lyrics that I was making. Who told me anything about composing? Keith would usually start with a title like 'Darkness' (from 'Rasta Communication')... There wasn't supposed to be any electric in the side of the building where we were so some guy had made an illegal connection. We don't use anything in the daytime to make anybody know that there's light there and if we're gonna turn the light on at night we're gonna keep it below the window so when Keith crossed over from the lighted side to the dark side he'd sing 'Darkness' and eventually we came up with the song 'I and I light is the only light you'll ever see'. Keith loved words a lot. He just loved the dictionary see a word and just insist it a go be in a song! Don't have a clue about what the song a go sound like. Him find a word and want to share with the world.
Musicians were always willing to work with Keith Hudson because he carried a status. He had his Midas touch and sometimes they'd play willingly for sometimes half of what they would normally charge or sometimes nothing at all. His productions didn't restrict people... they'd expand you and give you room. Keith would just come up with something that was 'street' but we started feeling out concepts and I would encourage him to go for more lyrical creativity... for instance at one stage in Jamaica 'nuh skin up' was a phrase. It means to be serious and Keith when him hear a terminology that's common he put it in a song..."
In the late seventies Junior moved to New York to work with keith:
"Now Keith's in the USA and I'm in Jamaica so he sent an invitation letter for me to take to the US Embassy which had me as the 'Overseas Representative' for Joint Records. Keith knew exactly what position he wanted me in the company... it was like a co-production business and that's why it was named Joint Records. I got to New York on Valentines Day in 1979. we started from there and the same things that had gone on in Jamaica started again in New York... bleaching and writing... and we came up with 'From On Extreme To Another' and 'Nuh Skin Up'. By then I'm getting a little knowledge of the business and a wider scope of what was what."
Although the original 'Nuh Skin Up' labels (the album never came in a proper sleeve) credited The Soul Syndicate Band two of the rhythm tracks 'Ire Ire' and 'Troubles' were the work of a "white Reggae band from Baltimore.":
"I went down to Baltimore to sell some records and while I was there I met this guy named Steve Carter that had a Reggae band and he told me that Family Man had given him a bass guitar. I said 'What! Family Man is a good friend of mine and we hooked up. He said he'd love to meet Keith Hudson and so the band got themselves together and we drove back to New York. They played on 'Write Me Your Resume' and that was when Keith started to put my name on the records as Junior Walker 'Executive Producer'."
It wasn't always easy but Keith and Junior's experience and knowledge from Kingston enabled the pair to handle difficult situations:
"Keith is not like a man who'd sit down and plan. The opportunity would arise and Keith would just jump on it. that's Keith... he's ever continuous. He would leave me in New York for three months and come to England and I had to keep on functioning... pay the 'phone bill, pay the electric bill. If you're broke and you're a music man you throw your music inna the bag and go out. There used to be some of the Reggae shops in Queens and Brooklyn that would take records from you... not so much to sell because they were selling weed but just to put 'Brand New' up on the wall so if the police came in they could say they're in the music business. Keith taught me those kind of things: he's a man who would put his bag on his arm and the intention was you're supposed to come back with the money, food and weed. That a the plan. Him was a music seller. You put on the bag and you go out there until you have them basic ingredients. Whatever we gained went right back in the business."
But as the decade drew to a close Reggae began moving towards the dance hall style and heavy, atmospheric twelve-inch releases such as 'Write Me Your Resume' and the albums 'From One Extreme To Another' and its dub counteraction 'Nuh Skin Up' did not sell anywhere near as well as they deserved to. They have subsequently become highly prized rarities on the 'collector's market'. Keith Hudson was diagnosed with lung cancer in the summer of 1984 and, after initially responding well to radiation therapy, he collapsed and died on the fourteenth of November. His music lives on and Pressure sounds are proud to be able to work with Junior Walker on this reissue of 'Nuh Skin Up', to try to set the record straight, and to give credit where credit is due.
"So far I'd been left out of the loop but it had been my request that my name not be included back then. That's the old school Reggae... that's how people used to do it in the old school. I never did address too much returns to anything as it wasn't that sort of relationship. But now here are the same things you worked on and that you built and made and people are benefitting from it... when me see those things I have to just step up to the plate."
Harry Hawke - January 2007
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