Lloyd Parks & We The People - Meet The People

Reality
Life Ain't Easy
You Hurt My Pride
Ordinary Man
Trench Town Girl
Ah Rock Dis Yah Bass Line
I Want To Go Home
I Love You Girlie
Grand Father Bogle
Part Two
Slaving (Steppers Cut)
Part Two
School Days
School Days Part Two

Kingston, Jamaica, spring 1978, and Lloyd Parks is taking his We The People band in to Joe Gibbs' studio to record the 'Meet The People' album. Lloyd has already achieved big local hits both as a solo singer and with The Termites, and had three solo albums released by Trojan in the UK. Now, as a session musician, he is at the heart of Joe Gibbs' quest for international success. That February his bass playing helped to propel Althia & Donna's 'Uptown Top Ranking' to number one in the British charts.

Lloyd Parks: "Joe Gibbs' studio was like the hang out spot, like the chill spot for every artist. Every day you'd find Big Youth, Prince Far I, Culture and The Mighty Diamonds and all the musicians come around, and what we do is we play cards and we chat to each other and we have fun. Before each recording we would just tease each other, like find some joke to make off each other, and then we walk into the studio with that same spirit. So that just spin off into magic. Like sometimes when you're recording the engineer call out 'ready ready!' and then somebody just draw a card, like we call it a card when we jive each other, and then we just have to stop the tune and start again because everybody just laugh. We would be there maybe Monday and Tuesday for a full recording session, but then also every other day just to hang out, cos it was like our recreation ground. And we become the resident band for Joe Gibbs, and he called us The Professionals.

"Joe Gibbs' Studio was near a place called Jungle, so sometimes bad guys come in the yard, but they just come to listen to music, not for violence. I remember there was one time when Joe Gibbs owed some money to Prince Far I or Culture, so some bad guys come in the yard to make trouble. It was a problem with royalties, but with so many bad guys there manage to resolve it - heh heh. But really the bad men just love the music and love the musicians.

"I also keep working at Channel One studio throughout this time. And boy there was a rivalry between those studios. We called it a musical clash. Joe Gibbs vs Channel One! One studio come with a big tune, so the other studio come back at them. And everybody trying to say my studio is better than yours. But it was a peaceful clash; it never create problem. What it really create was just better production from both studios."

By 1978, Joe Gibbs was really starting to taste international success, with the 'African Dub' series and albums by Culture and Prince Far I having found a wide audience overseas, and Dennis Brown just about to break through.

"Joe Gibbs himself didn't really contribute nothing to the sessions, he would just come in the night time to check what we had done. If there was a major session with a big artists, like the albums we did for A&M with Dennis Brown, then he might drop by, but Joe Gibbs was busy at his record shop downtown most of the day, and just swing by at night to check the works. So really he do nothing! How it work in those days is that the producer tell the singer to come to the studio. The singer sing his song and the piano player works out the chords with me on the bass. If it is a really good song then all the musician can feel it and I can catch a bass line right away, and the drummer match a drum pattern to that, and we can say let's put this arrangement to it. Soon everybody can hear what to play and the engineer gets a sound, and bam it is done. But at the end of the day the record sleeve says 'produced by Joe Gibbs'. It's a shame, but that is the culture in Jamaica, and up to this day the producer is usually just the money man. In fact the engineer Errol Thompson was really the man, and he and the musicians produce the session."

After an apprenticeship at Studio One, Errol Thompson had shaped the sound of early reggae at Randy's Studio, leading early forays into dub, before moving to Joe Gibbs' new 16-track studio in 1975. The pair were soon nicknamed 'The Mighty Two'.

"Errol Thompson was one of Jamaica's greatest engineers, and a great person, and he understood music and sound, so he was the real producer back then. He could take nothing and make it into something. He was both the technician patching up the studio at the start of the day, and the producer of the session at the end of the day. He would direct your singing, like tell you whether to step closer or further from the microphone. I rate him like Lee Perry as a producer, a similarly talented person, a champion in those days. And he also had the same talent as Mr. Dodd from Coxsone Downbeat, that he knew a hit song immediately he hear it. All those 'African Dub' albums, it was really Errol Thompson behind that. Errol was the man who know how to mix, he have the energy, and he bring a lot of inspiration to those versions. Like even on the original of 'Ordinary Man', that was Errol Thompson at Randy's studio putting all those 'woowoo' effects on the version - that was a crazy thing! He always found a lot of sounds to bring to our riddims. But let me tell you, that studio was full of a load of old equipment. Before he could start each session, Errol Thompson was always patching things up. Every day he had to repair things before we could get going!

"It was natural then that I recorded the 'Meet The People' album at Joe Gibbs Studio. But when I record it, I still had to book Joe Gibbs studio and pay for my time. Nothing for free! If Joe Gibbs made a deal to pay you a penny, he would always pay you that penny. But before that he would try to strike the lowest bargain, the hardest deal. When we played sessions, Joe Gibbs would always pay you by the song at the end of every day, but he was not really a kind guy. At one time I was in a bad situation with money with my house. So while I was in there making hit songs for Joe Gibbs, I asked him if he could lend me some money, and he said 'go in the studio there and make me some songs', and as soon as I went in he flew straight out of the country! That was the kind of guy he was, maybe not a bad guy, but not a kind guy.

"So I spent my money to make this album. We The People Band formed in 1975 and I just decided it was time to make this album a couple of years after. at that time We The People was really active, we record a lot and play a lot of live shows, and you can find plenty of film on the internet of the same band that is on the album. We toured with Dennis Brown all through that time, and you can watch all those live shows, like 'Live In Montreux', and 'Splashing The Palace', which was Reggae Sunsplash in London - that is an interesting show to look at. every time we play with Dennis Brown it was just magic, and so we automatically became his live band for the next 20 years. We just had that amazing chemistry every time. So Dennis Brown said that I was like his credit card - he used to say 'I never leave home without my credit card"' There is also that film called 'Heartland Reggae' with U-Roy and Jacob miller, where you can watch the same set of guys as on this album.

"On drums there was Devon Richardson, one of the greatest drummers that ever came out of Jamaica - in fact Sly Dunbar used to admire him a lot. He used to do the same things as Sly, and Sly would say 'he is the only guy can play back what I am playing.' So they always comment on each other, but in a friendly way. Devon and Sly were the two drummers who really played all the sessions at Joe Gibbs studio. Devon played song like 'Love Has Found Its Way' and 'Groovy Little Thing' for Beres Hammond - that's me on bass and Devon on drums and syndrums. Then you have Winston Bowen on guitar, that is 'Bo peep'. A lot of these guys came through my band and went on to long careers. Like Dean Fraser is on this album, but we called him 'Youth' on this LP - we called him 'Youth Sa' back then. So being that I was like the senior recording musician at Joe Gibbs, I introduced these horns sections with these young guys - Dean Fraser and Nambo Robinson, Chico Chin was already in the band - we called him Junior Chin on this album. Lloyd Kerr played trombone - he was a mechanic who loved music, but he lives in Florida now. Then there was Franklyn Waul, alias 'Bubbler', who also start with me - I had to go to his school to get him, and eventually he became popular and create a scene. Mighty diamonds sing backup vocals on the LP, and Rita Marley and Marcia Griffiths from the I Threes sing backup on 'School Days'.

It was really a great album, but I never had proper distribution for it. It was just released in Jamaica but I used to sell it for export, so it still made it out to different countries, but it wasn't released worldwide. So I'm really glad to give it that exposure nw. At the time I had given my first three albums to Trojan, and maybe they did what they were supposed to do or maybe they could have done a bit more, but I figured that I wouldn't go that same route for this 'Meet The People' album.

"'Reality' and 'Life Ain't Easy' wee songs I write from just observing things in the ghetto, where people would struggle to achieve what hey want, and be unable to make the progress they look for in life. People with children that couldn't get a good income; babies crying and mothers sighing, and I just get an inspiration, like 'life ain't easy down in the ghetto'. I recorded 'Ordinary Man' first for the Impact label, which was Randy's, and I decided to do it over for this. 'Rock Dis Ya Bassline' was just me imagining myself giving a live show, like I'm playing the bass live and the audience is responding, so it's like 'music is in my bones, and I can't give it up'. Ruddy Thomas was the first lead singer for We The People, and we would feature him in our live shows - that's how I record the song 'Grandfather Bogle'. It was maybe Glen DaCosta or Tommy McCook playing the flute on that. Ruddy Thomas also learnt to work as an engineer at Joe Gibbs, running sessions with Errol Thompson, and he work also as a percussion player, but he was a great singer."

As the We The People band became increasingly in demand as a live act, Lloyd's collaborations with Dennis Brown for Joe Gibbs created a huge hit with their recut of 'Money In My Pocket', and a brace of albums for A&M. Yet just as the studio's global reach seemed assured, Joe Gibbs found himself caught up in a dispute over songwriting royalties for JC Lodge's 'Someone Loves You Honey'.

"Yes, I played on that tune, and I know the story that Charlie Pride sued him for royalties and that shut everything down, but as far as I'm concerned Joe Gibbs never go bankrupt. He ended up closing the studio for a while, and when he try to open again it never come back the same. But I don't think Joe Gibbs was really bankrupt, maybe he was playing that situation. And after all this, Errol Thompson end up working in Joe Gibbs' grocery shop - can you believe that, the great engineer that he was? I don't know what arrangement that he had with Joe Gibbs, maybe it saw him comfortable, but Errol was like one of us, a true musician."

The 'Meet The People' album may have had limited distribution, but its rarity has only added to its strong reputation with aficionados over the years. today its songs of reality still resonate, and vibrancy of the musicians still jumps out of the speakers.

"When we have session in those days the main this is it was fun. I don't think anything can match the music that came out of that environment in the 70s and early 80s. The mood and groove of the music is totally different to what is happening now, because it has that spirit inside it that came from the musicians hanging out together. We were really full of fun in those days, and love those recording sessions, and a lot of hit songs really come straight out of that spirit."

Diggory Kenrick

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