Wednesday, 21 September 2011


One night I am standing outside the Jamaican pattie shop in Portobello Road partaking of the same when a car pulls up on the street and from it emerge certain characters from Kilburn by the name of Militant Barrington, Tapper Zukie and Jah Lacey, which is by no means an unusual combination to see, as these are very intimate idren and frequently keep each other's company, except that now there is a fourth person with them in the rear approach, one known as King Saul.
Now if I know in advance that this King Saul is stepping in my direction I will not even be there at all, for King Saul is a guy I do not require to share an intimate relationship with whatever. Furthermore, nobody else in this town requires the immediate co-existence of King Saul, except sometimes in the capacity of bailiff or bodyguard, as he is known locally and far and wide by one and all as an extremely callous integrity indeed.
Many citizens express wonder that King Saul is not a deh in boneyard already, alongside such infamous Back O'Wall rude bwoys as Two Gun Keith, Ryging, Lance Scott, Woppi King and Bur O Boy, as he is generally implicated as being no backward participant in the Western Kingston war effort - let me tell you say! - and is known often to hold a gun on his person, which he will sometimes produce to shoot at people if, for instance, he does not like the political party they favour.
The word is King Saul shoots many an innocent victim back in Jamaica, as well as others not so innocent, and it is not unknown for him to practice his skill with a ratchet in this man's town either, and the reasons he is usually to be found around artists of musical disposition is that some of the individuals in this field are as notorious wongdoers as himself, and besides, King Saul allows it to be understood that he finds the escort of creative persons like Militant Barrington and Tapper Zukie and Jah Lacey a very agreeable and glamorous pursuit.
Well here am I disposing of a Jamaican pattie and debating whether or not I can cross the street and vanish into Tavistock Road before I am spotted when I hear a large "Wha' 'appen Jah Reel!" and suddenly Militant Barry is striding over to me and pumping my right hand down and up in greeting.
"Irie" I reply, very tasteful, "The man cool?"
We stand there exchanging responses for a few moments, where I learn that the parties are out in search of food prior to negotiation of a Fat Man Hi Fi session at Phebes, but decline the patties upon discovering that these are filled with meat. Tapper Zukie speaks for all with his declaration that he does not nyam deaders and describes a supermarket in Queensway from where ital vegetable samosas are obtainable and to which he proposes we proceed, myself included. It is also arranged that I am accompanying the said quartet to Phebes later on, in order to pay my respects to Keith Hudson who is just arrived in town from JA and scheduled to be in attendance at the venue with a selection of his new music.
Now of course, I do not desire to go to Stoke Newington's Phebes Club, even to pay my respects to Keith Hudson. More pertinently, if I do desire to go to Phebes I do not necessarily desire to go with Militant Barrington and Tapper Zukie and Jah Lacey and King Saul, particularly King Saul, as it is written: blessed is the man that walketh not in the council of the ungodly, and anyway, a guy is sometimes judged by the people he is seen moving with, especially around sound systems, and King Saul is likely to be considered careless company. But since my fellow travellers are of sensitive temperament and may easily form the impression I am putting the old birds eye on their unquestionably generous invitation and take offence, I profer not argument nor resistance as I am squeezed into the back seat of Militant Barrington's car and we head off.
Now this Phebe's Club is a large, ungainly foundation, some three stories high, that complies in every respect with the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act 1962 and all regulations or orders made thereunder. It boasts a somewhat uncertain patronage - on many occasions the place is funerally empty, with less than a score of citizens swelling its interior; at other times, particularly when a name act or top sound is billed, the house gets so ram up that ordinary breathing becomes an extraordinary feat. On this night of which I am speaking, Phebes is doing very brisk trade indeed. Fat Man controls a vast youth following in this part of town, where he is hailed the most celebrated Tottenham talent since Mr James Greaves. In the upstairs lounge his No 2 set is regaling its crowd with more cut variations on the currently popular "Get In The Groove" rhythm, like Gregory Isaac's "Slave Master" and Big Joe's "Natty Dread A The Curnal", as well as other commercial and lovers rock pliants, such as customs approval with the close moving couples that inhabit the dance floor.
Downstairs in the basement the No 1 sound, as toasted by A Roy the Humble Lion, is mixing up the medicine in most Phensical dispensation and bawling a woah fe poor Ramses. It is a very large room and full of smoke, with a small stage at one end and the sound system perched on the edge of this stage, and around the sound, and in a frenzied display of natty locks, is the entire population of North London's roots and culture brethren, as well as a great number of transportine dreads from Brix and Lewisham, and various militants in the army of Ras Tafari. They include personalities such as Pepe Judah, Festus, Coxsone, Moa Ambassa, Sir Fray, Jah Superior, International King, Bro P, Scorcher and Moody Judah, plus a proportion of characters of musical calibre like Errol Dunkley the Man, Gene Rondo, Ason Gayle, Ras Elroy, Byron Otis and Kelso Christian, and these are wedged up against a mesh of samfie men and soul vendors and other stepping razors such as Bootleg Sammy, Pretty Bwoy Patrick, Keen Kenny, Freddy the Cat, Screwface, Oliver and many other high shots. They are all compressed together and intent on this single figure cavorting stage centre, twixt A Roy and Fat Man himself, the man from Shooter's Hill, Mr Keith Hudson.
Now the object of this collective curiosity, nay homage, is a hatless individual with shoulder length locks and hirsuite chops described in an immaculate three-piece suit of delicate pastel, Mafiatone style, the inevitable red, gold and green belt casually dangling around his waist, beringed fingers, and wide-soled dub shoes protruding from the helm of his bandalou-cut strides and with, on closer acknowledgement, a variety of mutable expressions gleaming from his proud, sometimes red eyes.
Well, as I say, Phebes is well ram up on this particular occasion when I walk into the room with Militant Barrington and Tapper Zukie and Jah Lacey and King Saul. King Saul lets loose a hearty wha' 'appen as we enter, and the dreads all look around, and the next moment there is space cleared alongside Fat Man and company not only for King Saul but for Militant Barrington, Tapper Zukie, Jah Lacey and me, too. it is really quite uncanny the way there is suddenly room for the five of us when there is no room whatever when we come in.
All the while Hudson is selecting from his assortment of slate - and to which A Roy prefaces each choice with a "Humble Lion" refrain - the man from Shooter's Hill is dramatising the fruits of his genius in gymnastic exposition. Breathing ital earthhquake, fire and brimstone from his nostrils and clenching his fist skywards in defiance of oppressors, the elegantly attired dread steps and struts before the acolyte fraternity like the proverbial best dressed chicken in Phebes, declaiming the wicked.
This continues for a number of hours until around 6.00 am the patron of the establishment, a large guy by the name of Big Lance, squeezes his way through to the sound and announces that he is compelled to close the club at this time as Babylon deh pon street and would the idren please leave in peace and love and remember, each and every night all roads lead to Phebes, in tune to entertaining sounds from this sound, Sir Fray sound, Jah Shaka sound, One aim One God One destiny.
As we file into the bitter dawn Hudson stops me in the corridor and offers his own explanation of the Vernon's Yard affair (in reference to the eight LP deal with Virgin Records which commenced in 1976 with 'Too Expensive'). "They tried to make a Bob Marley out of me," he harangues, "But Bob Marley is not me and I am not Bob. Bob Marley is my elder brother, he is a Reuben and I am a Joseph so Bob mus' come first. It is written I am given to go forward in my own way, not as Bob Marley but as Keith Hudson."
Penny Reel, New Musical Express 14/10/78

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