Friday night special: John Eden’s ultimate roots’n’dancehall mix

After much pestering from me, one Friday night in 2000 John comes home from the pub, severely pissed, and lashes together a reggae mix — and it’s amazing. It wasn’t the first mix tape he’d done — following extensive experience DJing in seedy north London dives he produced a series of eclectic and entertaining tapes under the Ultimate Beaks and Bats moniker. One day, my complete collection of these will be worth a lot of money.

But this was the first serious reggae mix he’d done. Like I say, I badgered him for months to do one and he wouldn’t, kept saying he wanted to do one “properly”. As you can imagine, I had no truck with that; in the same way as developing a “proper” business strategy is a sterile process, so doing a mix requires an admixture of chaos to be flavoursome. (That’s not to say that I don’t edit the chaos to fuck when I’m doing my own mixes!)

When I tore open the jiffy bag and played the tape, it was a simply sublime mix of roots classics, DJ cuts and ragga. Ever since, the wife and I have been caning it in the car and on the home stereo, we’ve played it hundreds of times and the tape itself is now badly wearing out, hence my desire to capture it digitally before it finally died. As it turns out this is a service not just to us, and John and his family (this was the music playing when I drove John, Lorna and Ruby home from the hospital when Ruby was born!) but also to the world at large — for this is the best DJ mix you will hear this month. I guarantee it.

Friday night special: John Eden’s ultimate roots’n’dancehall mix
90 minutes.

Mix Tracklist
John has kindly compiled a track listing, which pleases me hugely cos he was much too drunk to do it at the time, and far too hung over the next morning to do anything but stick it, naked and unadorned, in an envelope. Even better, he’s done sleeve notes and record scans. We don’t do it by halves here at Shards Fragments and Totems!

1) Introduction
I can’t take any credit for this 😉

2) Willie Williams – Armagideon Time (off s/t Studio One LP)
First Studio One record I ever owned. I was struck by how much of this mix featured in my recent dj set at a mate’s birthday a month or so back. That either means that the first few mixes I did were really enduring or that I just associate records in “batches” and am stuck in a rut! Everyone knows this from Ghost Dog or the Clash cover and it’s especially good to be able to kick off with a discomix – lets you get the rest of the records out, and also doesn’t rush things sonically…

3) Abyssinians – Declaration of Rights (Studio One 7″)
Get up and stand for your rights, my brothers...
An anthem, obviously. In some ways more so than “Satta”, because of the more universally immediate lyrics…

4) Prince Phillip & The Musical Intimidators – Judgement Dub (off “Heavyweight Sound – A Blood & Fire Sampler CD)
Purists can fuck off
First version excursion – bring it on! Being a bit pissed obviously meant my purism went to pot – not quite sure if you’re “allowed” to follow up the first cut with another one on a version of the riddim by a different producer. Playing tracks of a CD – and a sampler CD at that! OK – it’s a sampler for one of the best labels in the world, but y’know, not very cred – heh heh. The actual track itself is part of the tip top “Tappa Zukie in Dub” release, and basically if you’re new to all this, you can do no wrong with any Blood & Fire releases which take your fancy.

5) The Hurricanes – You Can Run (Black Art 7″)
No escape from the terminal zone
One of the first batch of represses which got done by Omar Perry in 2000 or so. Proper Scratch roots bizness and obviously most people haven’t heard it because it isn’t on any compilations I’ve seen. Fits in with the preceding tracks in the sense that it’s all about not being able to avoid judgement – dread claustrophobia and no escape.

6) The Heptones – Guiding Star (Impact 7″)
My guiding star, that's what you are... Sirius rising
Beautiful song, with the added bonus of “true stereo” which always freaks people out when they hear it in their cars or on headphones. I got this in HMV when they briefly had a bunch of sevens in. The callow youth at the checkout looked very confused by the “dinked” hole in the middle of the record and asked me how, ah, you actually PLAYED it…

7) Tappa Zukie & The Aggrovators – Jah is I Guiding Star (off “Heavyweight Sound – A Blood & Fire Sampler CD)
Natty time to go home now
So good he used it twice – if you like these two tracks you should buy the compilation, it’s only a fiver or something! Once again I think this deejay version is over a different vocal cut. (Is it Horace Andy?) “Down in a babylon a very long time, it’s time to go home now”. That bit of echo at the end is by Paul, BTW. And as a special bonus you can hear the beginning of the next track on the CD as well…

8) Scientist/Jammy – Flash Gordon Meets Luke Skywalker (off “Scientist and Jammy Strike Back!” Trojan LP)
CLASS record cover!
As I have said elsewhere “This track kicks ass – a massive anticipation-builder as it has virtually no beats in it. Stripped down minimalism that is all the more powerful for it – you know what SHOULD be happening, but just get teased. When the entire tune kicks in just before the end it feels like you’ve just come.”

The sleeve says Jammy, but Scientist reckons some of the dubs credited to both of them were entirely his, so who knows…

9) Johnny Clarke – Babylon (Jah Shaka Music 12″)
This track's rocking...
So, yeah, follow THAT up with a huge boshing Shaka steppers tune, innit? I probably needed a piss and another can from the fridge at this stage. Anyway – this is featured in the film Babylon, but isn’t on the soundtrack LP. I think it’s actually a Channel One production rather than one of Shaka’s own. But either way, it’s RUFF!!!

10) Delroy Wilson – Rascal Man (off Niney & Friends 1971-1972 “Blood & Fire” Trojan LP)
Where you going to run to rascal man?
Because you need a bit of funky twinkly tunes after the bleakness of the last track. I can’t believe Niney doesn’t get more respect from people. Another “run / hide” judgement track.

11) Upsetters – Blackboard Jungle Dub Version One (off Upsetters – “Blackboard Jungle Dub” Upsetters(?) LP)
Shitey pressing but it’s actually as was originally intended – with one mix in each channel! I can’t remember the full story off the top of my head, but I seem to recall that one mix is by Lee Perry and one by King Tubby. Some versions are in mono (not as daft as it sounds – most soundsystems are set up in mono) but you can mix it up big style by the use of your “balance knob”. Anyway I remember taking some Merzbow fan to task because of him doing what was heralded as the first “two lps in one – with one recorded on each channel”. Psychic TV did something similar with the b-side to the Roman-P 7″ on Sordide Sentimale, but once again Jamaica got their first, better and more listenable! Anyway – this was an early 70s ting, like the Niney track before it, so that must have been what I was thinking…

12) Linval Thomson – Mariguana (Thomson Sound 7″)
13) King Tubby – Mariguana Version (Thomson Sound 7″)
I like to smoke... it gives me a deep meditation...
Great tune – I snuck out of the flat one Saturday morning “to get milk” and pegged it down to Gladdy Wax for half an hour, and then snuck back in trying to hide the carrier bag and everything. Of course, Lorna knew exactly what was going on and found the whole incident highly amusing. Hmmph. I found myself singing this loudly to myself one afternoon recently, which is a good sign, except I was making coffee for the whole department at the time in the work kitchen…

Paul has added his own echo here again, to cover up my deft “pause the tape and turn the record over” technique.

I think we can safely call this “the end of side one”.

(Ed.: Compare and contrast with the versions on my Tons of Boxes mix, which I must stick up here some time…)

14) Frankie Paul – Worries in the Dance (from “Hitbound – The Dances Were Changing” Pressure Sounds LP)

Massive tune off an outstanding compilation – Pressure Sounds are easily up there with Blood & Fire for quality, but spread out away from being strictly 70s roots as well – which is fine by me. Anyway – you can’t mess with this and the dogs get sampled all over the place, don’t they? It always amazes me how much Frankie Paul’s vocals sound like Joe Strummer here. DJ Scud dropped this in the middle of a bonkers set at The End once. And then played the dub as his last track – respect!

15) Morgan Heritage & Bounty Killer – Gunz in the Ghetto (71 Records 7″)
16) Anthony B – Lock di Gun Dem (71 Records 7″)

So, yeah, these are also on the Shake The Foundations volume 2 mix in slightly curtailed form. “Lock” was the first Anthony B tune I ever heard as well. Yaggedy Yow!

(Ed.: these tunes are absolutely KILLER!!!)

17) Sister Nancy – Bam Bam (off “300% Dynamite” Soul Jazz LP)

Is that the sounds of purists spitting? Pop tune off pop label, but you have to see a room full of women dancing to it, really. And female vocals sound ten times sweeter after some rugged DJ biz.

(Ed.: Anyone who doesn’t like this wants their head examining.)

18) Pliers – Bam Bam (off “Dancehall 101” VP LP)
Want you to know that, I am a man who, fights for the right and not the wrong...

Hmm, so no version excursion on the stalag riddim but instead a follow up with the same title. A bonafide classic – “Murder She Wrote” also, but that’s slightly problematic because of its ambiguity about the wrongness of abortion (i.e. – it’s not wrong per se, is it?). The cover of this record is just absurdly un-pc and everyone who’s seen it round my gaffe has picked it up and laughed at it. You can’t fault the riddim either – a sharp reminder to those who hate ragga for its inauthenticity that it is often more “african” musically than a lot of roots tracks from the 70s.

19) Sizzla – Jump Nuh (Xterminator 7″)
No, I can't make out what he's saying either
Hmmm. The record I taped for lots of people without realising it has lots of homphobic references in. Gah. None of them have mentioned it though. I can’t unhear it now, which somewhat detracts from the huge chasmic pounding riddim behind it. One of those tunes I picked at random from Dub Vendor’s mail order catalogue…

20) Luciano – Final Call Dub (from “MLK Dub” Ras CD)
Fiiiiinaaal callllllll....
This is pivotal shit, 21st Century dubwise from Fatis Burrell of Xterminator.

(Ed.: a killer modern dub and the main inspiration for the new wave of Grievous Angel tracks…)

21) Super Cat – Boops (Techniques 7″)

Stoopid! Super Cat is widely seen as the vocal precursor to Sean Paul. In fact he has allegedly recorded a dis track on the very topic. I assume this is the first of a whole slew of boops (sugar daddy) tracks from the period. Class lyrics “and when you check it out, Friday a payday…”

(Ed.: quite possibly my favourite record ever…)

22) Tanya Stephens – Bounce Me (off “Ragga Ragga Ragga 12” Greensleeves LP)

First ragga LP I bought and I’m not ashamed to say so, innit! Can’t fault Tanya – great delivery and humour “kick of the size 10 nikes” and all. Fucking big skip in it though, I probably fell over onto the table. 🙂

23) Simpleton – Coca Cola Shape (off “Dancehall 101” VP LP)

Love this – great lyrics about thwarted lust. Miles away from the “I’m a sex machine and all the laydeez want me” attitude so prevalet today. All over the world men are getting knocked back by gorgeous women, alright? Hopefully they’re not all getting injured by flying rocks as well, but there it is.

24) General Degree – Pot Cover (off “400% Dynamite” Soul Jazz LP)
25) Cobra – Tek It Off (Size 8 7″)

Bass, innit. Plus kitchen implements introduction. What’s not to like? Well apart from the stupid “reversed out” lyrics in the Cobra tune – what’s that all about, eh? I especially like the General cut, cos it makes no sense whatsoever to me and sounds like two cartoon characters having a domesitc in Homebase or something.

26) Luciano – Blast Off Go Moon (Kennedy International 7″)
27) Baby Wayne – Sick Of Dem Treatment (Kennedy International 7″)
28) Admiral Tibet – Blame It On Yourself (Kennedy International 7″)
When there's blacks on the moon...
Again – this lot features on the Shake The Foundations 2 mix. But better put together by a factor of about 3 million. The Luciano track I found out about just as it had left record racks all across London, which was a pisser because I was about to play a couple of space reggae sets for the Association of Autonomous Astronauts. Baby Wayne I know nowt about, but Admiral Tibet is always a favourite – perhaps not over a whole album but if he turns up on one cut of a roots selection then I’ll definitely check it out.

29) Bloodclaat Gangsta Youth – Kill Or Be Killed (Full Watts 7″)

This is one of the best pieces of music ever committed to vinyl, in my opinion. It certainly inspired countless others to have bash at bashment. Perfect.

(Ed.: they had my old Allen & Heath 32-channel desk for ages — claim to fame!)

Many thanks to John for doing the sleeve notes and, most of all, for doing one of the finest reggae mixes you will ever hear.

a.Theist musing

a·the·ist (n.) One who disbelieves or denies the existence of God or gods.

the·ism (n.): Belief in the existence of a god or gods, especially belief in a personal God as creator and ruler of the world.

These are not entirely satisfactory definitions. I think that theism — the belief in god(s) — implies that god has an empirical existence as a seperate entity, as opposed to being an artefact of belief. I’m not sure that Wicca in particular or paganism in general can easily be described as definitively theist in the sense of believing in an ontologically authentic sense in an objective, manifest god. When Doreen Valiente did her valedictory address at the Pagan Federation conference, she stated quite explicitly that in her opinion, the gods might be powerful, might be experientially authentic, might be personally immanent, but they do not objectively exist. Insecure Wiccans have a problem with that. As you would expect, I for one have serious philosophical issues with the proposition that there is a seperately existing “Lord” and “Lady”. For me, it’s simplistic nonsense.

But if paganism isn’t quite theist, is it atheist? Well, not in the sense of adopting a belief system which denies any dealing with what might be called “deity”. Belief is itself a negotiable commodity; indeed, this makes the term “agnostic” problematic, because not only does one trade belief for results, but one is by definition engaging in “gnosis”. I guess the theist / atheist divide is a false dichotomy, a set of obsolete Aristotleian categories. We need new words the escape binary polarities!