Tommy McCook & The Supersonics – Pleasure Dub
Dub With Strings
Ride De Dub
Bond Street Rock
Dreads Leaving Babylon
Side Walk Doctor
I Shave The Barber
Seven Eleven (7-11)
I See Your Face Version
Scrubit (featuring Lizzy)
|Arthur 'Duke' Reid was
born in 1915 and, during his ten years of service with the Jamaican
Police Force, became a champion marksman. He was rarely off target for
ever after and would continue to score hit after hit preferring the more
'hands on' approach to music making with his artists, musicians.. and
"Duke would come in and sit down and look at the boss man and say 'Bassie. I want you to play this. Dam Dam Dam' and the bassie would play 'Tam. Tam. Tam' and Duke would say 'No! Dam Dam Dam' and Duke would take out his gun and fire it 'Dam Dam Dam!' He had three guns but he was a very nice man!" Bunny 'Striker' Lee
On retiring from the force in the early fifties the Duke opened the Treasure Isle Liquor Store in Pink Lane, Kingston, which would later move to 33 Bond Street, in partnership with his wife, Lucille, who was known as 'The duchess' and who had financed the venture following a win on the National Lottery. In 1953 the Duke became one of the first independent entrepreneurs to 'sponsor' his own radio show: 'Treasure Isle Time' on RJR promoted his liquor store, his rum bar and his sound system.
At venues, such as the Success Club and Forrester's Hall, Duke Reid's sound had triumphed over the opposition and he was crowned Kingston's undisputed 'King Of Sound And Blues' in 1956, 1957 & 1958 for the power of his sound system and his unmatched selection of exclusive American rhythm & blues 78rpm records. his record buying trips to the USA were legendary but, towards the end of the decade, the American audiences turned towards a smoother softer sound. Kingston's more forward thinking sound system operators began to make their own rhythm & blues recordings. They had intended to play these acetates solely on their sets but the one off custom cut discs proved to be so popular that many of the sound system operators began to release them commercially on vinyl.
During 1959 Duke Reid's productions were largely built around the American rhythm & blues sound. He stepped back from the music business in 1960 and returned two years later with the unmistakably Jamaican 'Rough & Tough' a massive hit credited to 'The Stranger' (Wilburn 'Stranger' Cole) and allegedly written by Lee 'Scratch' Perry.
In 1964 the Duke built his own recording studio on top of the liquor store in Bond Street. The wooden construction of the Treasure Isle Recording Studio gave the recordings an added warmth and richness and, over the next ten years, countless classic records were produced there with resident engineer Byron 'Baron'/'Smithy' Smith.
"Treasure Isle Recording Studio. The high quality of reproduction heard on all Treasure Isle discs emanates from this up to date control booth, with skilled technician in attendance. He calculates just the right measure of sound, with the proper addition of jump-up enthusiasm, a dash of spontaneity and a judicious sprinkle of technical inventiveness, to present you with the perfect tropical cocktail..." 'Independence Jump Up Calypso'
' Tommy McCook & His Ska-talite' had provided the music for the majority of the Duke's ska recordings and, after the Skatalites broke up in the summer of 1965, Tommy became the leader and musical co-director of the Treasure Isle house band: Tommy McCook & The supersonics.
"He had Tommy McCook & The Supersonics when the Skatalites broke up. Half of them went to Duke and some stayed with Coxsone and became the Soul Brothers." Bunny 'Striker' Lee
The significance of rock steady to the subsequent development of Jamaican music is incalculable and, with the arrival of rock steady in 1966, the Duke really came into his own. The Treasure Isle sound proved to be the elegant epitome of this ice cool music although Duke Reid's unorthodox production methods might sometimes have been at odds with the final polished results.
"Plenty people used to say he was like a scientist because Duke Reid had a ring on all his ten fingers and Duke used to have two guns on him side, one down him foot if you look good... but his pants were drawn over it, and a long shotgun. You understand?... If you went in his studio he'd say 'What you come in here for man? You have any business?' And he'd fire a shot over your head so the people did run...
So everybody used to be kinds scared of Duke... But Duke would come to you... and say 'I want you to do this' and he'd say 'bop bop' and then say 'No! Listen again... be bop boof'. Him say 'Yes' and they'd say 'Duke it nah go fir the chords' and Duke would say 'Try it... you try it and make I see!' and then he'd fire two more shots. The man got busy! He used to get the best out of them... that's why he had so much hits." Bunny 'Striker' Lee
Towards the end of 1968 the pace of the music moved towards the faster reggae rhythms and a new generation of producers, including Bunny 'Striker' Lee and Lee 'Scratch' Perry came to prominence. Treasure Isle fought to hold its own against the newcomers. The Duke recruited Lee Perry for 'Lock Jaw', credited to 'Upsetter' when released on Treasure Isle in 1969, which was one of the very first records to point the direction that would dominate the music for the remainder of the century, dub and deejays. 'Lock Jaw' was a number one hit in Jamaica and showcased the talents of Dave Barker, a seriously underrated deejay and singer, who recalled going down to Bond Street with Lee Perry.
"We passed by Duke Reid's studio and we go upstairs. I was a bit on the shy side. Duke Reid and Scratch started talking and Duke said 'I have a tune and I want a deejay to do it but I don't want a Jamaican deejay. He must have a Yankee feel'. So Scratch said 'I have the right man here' and Duke couldn't believe it. Duke said 'Dave' and stood right beside me. He was armed to the teeth. Byron Smith, the engineer, started to play the track and Duke started to say how he would like me to do the track. 'From coast to coast. The sound of now!' Then Duke would nudge me when he wanted me to shout. Every time Duke Reid wanted me to say 'Move it! Groove it!' he tapped me and I'd do it. I did 'Funky Reggae' a couple of months after. After 'Lock Jaw' Duke started to bloom again..." Dave Barker
King Tubby had built his first sound system in 1957 and, after years of playing out at weddings and birthday parties in the Waterhouse district, was eventually crowned local 'King of the Dance Hall'. However, Tubby felt that King Tubby's Home Town Hi Fi only really got going in 1968 when he took on Ewart 'U-Roy' Beckford as his deejay. Stories of Tubby's technical and musical prowess began to spread as he obtained employment with Duke Reid maintaining his studio equipment, dub cutting lathe and amplifiers. He was never the cutting engineer at Treasure Isle studio.
'Doing over' another producer's tune had been a feature of Kingston's musical rat race from the outset and a precedent had long been set for releasing instrumental or alternative vocal 'versions' of popular rhythms. A 'rhythm only' version was not a leap too far from what was already occurring but the importance of the rhythm to the subsequent history of reggae can never be overstated.
"We couldn't afford for every song to get a different set of musician so we started using the same rhythm over again. It took off and then the people started wanting it on their records." Bunny 'Striker' Lee
In an interview with Carl Gayle Tubby stated that he had invented 'versions' while cutting test plates for Duke Reid but Bunny 'Striker' Lee is insistent that Rudolph 'Ruddy' Redwood was the first man to actually play versions.
"... but Tubby and me had really met upstairs at Duke Reid's one day when the version thing came in. It was a mistake made up at Duke's studio. Now Ruddy was really the man that started playing versions. We called it version not drum and bass. Ruddy was a big businessman and he had a club by the seaside too. When Ruddy from Spanish Town came to Coxsone's or Duke Reid's studio they gave him the keys to the city and allowed him to use any tape because his sound was like a big radio station in Spanish Town... anything that Ruddy played the other sound men wanted it and then the record buying people too. Ruddy was cutting a dub and Smithy forgot to put in the voice through we were talking and he was going to stop it and Ruddy said 'No, make it run'. So when it finished they cut it back on the other side and put in the voice. I never took any notice of it. Me and Tubby were just sitting there...
I used to go over and listen to Ruddy's and Stereo in Spanish Town and on the Monday I came in and said 'Tubby... you know the mistake we made up at Duke's studio? It's a serious mistake, you know, because the people them love it. It mash up Spanish Town!' I don't remember whose tune it was but it was Alton Ellis or John Holt they were playing... They played the singing version and then they said they're going to play Part Two (and those times you never had any versions) so when they played Part Two the people just caught the song and sang it over the rhythm... they must have played it about five or ten times and it brought down the house and, as we say in Jamaica, it mashed up the place!" Bunny 'Striker' Lee
The stories of either Tubby or Ruddy taking out the vocals for special mixes of 'You Don't Care' or 'On The Beach' have been repeated many times and no-one can be sure as to who really was the first. However, no-one can argue about the fact that it was a Treasure Isle rhythm that gave birth to the version phenomenon.
Tubby's Home Town Hi Fi with U-Roy in the mic popularised the fashion for playing versions where only snatches of the original lyrics remained and other Jamaican deejays also developed their own style of 'toasting' while 'riding the rhythm'. the next step was for U-Roy to transfer the excitement generated live on the mic in the dance to the recording studio and, once again, there can be no arguments about this phase in Duke Reid's career. Using some of Treasure Isle's greatest rock steady recordings as their starting point U-Roy and the Duke made musical history together. U-Roy's first three seven inch records for Treasure Isle 'Wake The Town'. 'Wear You To The Ball' and 'Rule The Nation' held the top three spots in the Jamaican Hit Parade in 1970. The 'Version Galore' album that followed proved to be one of the most important records ever made and these recordings established an entirely new musical form.
"U-Roy is not a singer. He plays no musical instruments. He just deejays. Makes the sounds which create excitement when the music goes around. His comments are dubbed onto tapes of versions - instrumental arrangements of tunes." 'Version Galore'
Duke Reid died from cancer in 1974 and his nephew, Errol Brown, who had been a junior engineer at Treasure Isle, took over the studio controls. He mixed three dub albums that dressed down and dubbed up some of the best of the Bond street catalogue. Snatches of the original vocal were woven in and out of mixes that sound as fresh and as vital today as they did when they were first released both in their original sixties incarnations and in their seventies counteractions. 'Treasure Dub Volumes One & Two' have been available ever since in various formats but 'Pleasure Dub' featuring versions to rock steady classics such as 'The Right Track' by Phyllis Dillon, 'The Tide Is High' and 'Riding On A High & Windy Day' from The Paragons and 'Things You Say You Love' by The Jamaicans has never been re-pressed since its initial release. This classic album takes you straight back to the real roots of the music... to Bond Street on to Spanish Town and those very first versions.
Duke Reid's professional, polished perfection provided the platform that launched a brave new style of music whose influence would prove to be profound. The understated brilliance of the Treasure Isle rock steady rhythms was the perfect backdrop for the musical experiments of the deejays and the dub remixing engineers. This music not only broke the sound barriers but also overthrew countless cultural and artistic preconceptions. It is no exaggeration to state that the musical innovations that originated down on Bond Street have radically altered our understanding of the popular music making process.
"Duke made his own things and Duke was one of the greatest producers we had. He had his own style and everything." Bunny 'Striker' lee
Harry Wise - April 2009
|All material © Copyright Pressure Sounds|