Here we are midweek at Flea Market Funk and I’ve been feeling some Reggae as of late. I’ve been bumping the latest Dennis Brown compilation, thanks to my man SF over at The Offside Rules. It made me dig deep into my Reggae “to do” pile, and wouldn’t you know, I had this 12″ buried in it. I remember getting it at the Spot this past Summer, and it went right into that pile. Here I am 6 months later, and it jumped right out at me. It may have been snowing today in New Jersey, but I’m definitely feeling some vibes from JA with Mikey Dread and “Jumping Master/ Master Mind” from 1980 on Dread At The Controls Records.
Michael Campbell aka Mikey Dread was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica in 1948. Dread came to prominence in the 1970’s as a Dee Jay on the Jamaican Broadcasting Company, with a 4 hour show called Dread At The Controls. Before Mikey, mostly American records would dominate the Jamaican airwaves. After Mikey, this would all change. He would showcase local talent and played the newest and latest records, some even just hours old. An expert on Jamaican music, he would often play the original songs that the latest dancehall sides used the riddim from. He was also known for jingles on his show, not just the music. These jingles were recorded at King Tubby’s Studio and were as interesting as the music he showcased. His natural progression was to record as a DeeJay on vinyl, and he released “Dread At The Controls” with Lee Perry. This would become his theme song and an anthem, if you will, for Dread. He’d release a few more singles, plus put out sides for Sonia Pottinger and The Mighty Two, before resigning due to politics at JAB in 1979. More sides would be produced for artists such as Ray I and Carlton Patterson. Dread’s next move was to start his own record company, aptly titled, you guessed it: Dread At The Controls Records. It’s first title was just that, but the Dub companion to it, African Anthem , would make a huge impact in Jamaica and in Great Britain. People were now buying records purely for their Dub sides once again. This had not happened since King Tubby ruled the dancehall with Bunny Lee a few years prior. As the 80’s got under way, Dread headed over to England to open up for The Clash’s tour. After the tour, the band and Dread went to the studio, where they recorded “Bank Robber”. The song turned out completely different than what the Clash had wanted, they wanted Ska, Dread gave them a Dub scorcher. He would record with them again with a cover of Eddie Grant’s “Police On My Back”, from Sandanista!. The Clash sessions and further scheduled sessions fizzled out, but Dread pushed on. Hooking back up with producer Carlton Patterson, DATC would release Dancehall burners from artists such as Sugar Minott and Junior Murvin, with B-Side Dub from King Tubby. DATC Records saw some success. With the release of several more records, DATC continued to prosper in JA and now in the UK. After a less than flattering attempt at a Lovers Rock record, Dread hooked up with the UK’s Channel Four to narrate the six part music series called Deep Roots, and also Rockers Road Show. The RRS’s theme “Roots and Culture” was featured on a classic MD record from 1984 Pave The Way. His record output from here on was sporadic, but none the less unenthusiastic. Even an African Anthems Revisited record failed to live up to it’s previous glory. He’d do some producing (ex G’N’R Izzy Stradlin), but mostly focused on television gigs which kept him in the public eye.
“Jumping Master/Master Mind” is one of Mikey Dread’s better known records from the early 80’s, directly after the Clash situation/ fiasco, where the Clash would return to the UK with their tails between their legs. It’s unfortunate, but they were targeted from studio to studio in JA, sending them back a bit scared, and hopefully a bit wiser. Dread’s Dub genius is evident throughout, and with the help of Steelie of Steelie and Clevie fame, makes this side a keeper. The side’s haunting piano riff and riddim keep your head nodding like my grandfather after a long day at work, but in a good way. It’s a long side, but keeps you interested no doubt! The Dread At The Controls was a massive influence on Reggae radio and television, and should be commended for his work in both medias. I will see you Friday, so until then, Keep Diggin’!