A journey through Jamaica from Kingston to Saint Ann’s Bay on the north coast reveals the bountiful nature of the island, once described by the plundering Christopher Columbus as the ‘fairest isle that eyes ever beheld’. For a Jamaican in the late 60’s, travelling the well-worn roads in a minibus might well have been a joy for the eyes, but was also a test of the will, as the minibuses were usually packed like ‘sardine-can’ since the drivers earned on commission. It was by these means that a young and aspiring writer, Phillip Fullwood, would travel regularly from Kingston to reach Saint Ann’s Bay, selling literature printed in London, getting a few cents for each publication sold.
“I used to sell African literature. It was one of the things I used to do for a living, yunno. Like the ‘African Word’. I used to get them from London. Literature about Africa, like South Africa. You know, back in the days when they used to beat black people, I mean like slavery days. The literature came from England through Africa. I used to sell it and get a few cents of the payment and then I’d return the rest to them. It was ‘69 to ’71, dem times.”
On one such trip he would meet one of the formative influences on his life.
“I went with a guy to Saint Ann’s Bay. On arrival I didn’t have nowhere to sleep and then he said tell me, ‘Look, I gonna let you stay with somebody tonight’. So we sleep on a little single-bed, yunno? We’d sleep like head-to-toe. When I wake the next morning the guy said to me
‘My name is Pamo. I am the one called Winston Rodney.’”
The man he had shared the roof with that night, sheltering from the Saint Ann rain, was none other than the young Burning Spear, a thoughtful artist taking his first steps into the music industry. That very same week Spear would travel to Kingston to record the song ‘Door Peeper’ at Studio One. As Phillip made frequent visits to Saint Ann’s to sell his literature, he and Winston Rodney became good friends, often meeting and cooking dumpling and yam over a small oil stove. Cooking, talking and writing music.
“Burning Spear used to be a guy who pressed pants for all the people in the ghetto. They had this big ol’ coal iron where you put the charcoal in it. And then you pressed it and you put a piece of cloth over the pants when you press. That was his job. And during that time he was singing all kind of song.”
When Burning Spear recorded the album ‘Marcus Garvey’ several of the songs were co-written by Phillip, and when the album became an international success, Phillip Fullwood was brought in to play percussion on the US tour that followed.
“When we was travelling in the US, we record ‘The Whole World Want To Be Free’. It was the first time I sang. It recorded in a basement in Queens. It was a white guy who used to play guitar and he had a studio in the basement. They come in to the concert and we became friends and then we went to their house and stayed there. So we got together and used to smoke weed and play music.”
The session, consisting of local musicians alongside Jamaican organist Bernard ‘Touter’ Harvey, resulted in two tracks, including Phillip’s first lead vocal on ‘Love Everyone’, a longing plea for love and unity. His close relationship to Burning Spear gave Phillip valuable insight into studio work, and his move into production and mixing was inevitable, soon resulting in the profound self-production ‘I Gave You My Word’ in 1979, with arrangement and backing vocals by Winston Rodney.
This same rhythm, remixed into a long, enthralling dub, would form the introduction for the incredibly scarce album ‘Words In Dub’ (Jah Marcus LP, 1979). The highly unique set, released in a stark hand-printed sleeve, comprised self-produced rhythm tracks and some donated by friends, such as ‘Africa Rock’, a dub of ‘See Dem Da’ (Jah Marcus Roots 7”) by Burning Spear, with member Rupert Wellington on lead vocals. The first side also featured dubs of Purple Lights’ ‘Pestilence’, fronted by the singer Bangie, and ‘Revolution’ by Jah Blue & The Originals, who included Winston Rodney’s brother. ‘Reorganize The Race (Marcus Say)’, with its dense layers of digital reverb in the intro, later features singing about ‘weeping and wailing’ also by Jah Blue & The Originals, though the vocal cut was never released. Several rhythms would later get a do-over by Phillip’s American-based group I-Mo-Jah, perhaps the most thrilling being ‘Jah Say Love’, rerecorded by I-Mo-Jah as ‘Peace & Love’. ‘Hotter Fire In Babylon’ is a dub of Burning Spear’s ‘Spear Burning’ (Spear 7”), and the album closes with ‘Bubbling’, a dub of ‘Maybe’ (Yah Congo 12”) recorded by Phillip’s long-time friend Eric Donaldson.
The original recordings were primarily laid at Channel One with Barnabas and Crucial Bunny at the mixing board, with ‘Hotter Fire In Babylon’ recorded at Randy’s by Chin Randy himself, and ‘Bubbling’ at Dynamic Studio. The final dub mixes were done at Channel One and also at the legendary Black Ark by Phillip Fullwood’s own hands.
“Well the dub mix, I do it all. You know where I did that dub mix? By Lee Perry’s Black Ark studio. When I went there that day he was acting crazy and then I asked him how much money him charge me he said ‘No I don’t charge you no money’. Because I was in the studio doing all kind of stuff.”
Also in 1979, Phillip met Winston McKenzie, with whom he would start the group I-Mo-Jah.
“He come to America when he was 14. He’s from Saint Ann’s too. And when I come to America I used to stay at his house in New Rochelle, New York. That’s near to the Bronx. He was interested in music so we bring him from New Rochelle to Jamaica, but his home was really in America. I gave him ‘Words in Dub’ to bring it to America. He made only like 1,000 copies and he send me a couple of copies. Then he buy me a drum-set and bring to Jamaica. That’s all I get from it.”
And so ‘Words In Dub’ soon vanished into obscurity. By 1983 Phillip Fullwood had settled permanently in the US and virtually retired from music. Over the years, partly fuelled by its extreme rarity, the album’s reputation has grown immensely, and original copies now command a very high price. Phillip is thrilled that this reissue will now expose it to a wider audience.
“Life happen that way. I got kids and grandkids. I’m just a small guy who was with Spear and just tried to do my thing, like everybody else in the entertainment biz. My occupation, my passport you know says entertainer. Wishing a t’ing, yunno.”
Vocals extracts: Phillip Fullwood on ‘Words’, Rupert Wellington (from Burning Spear) on
‘See Dem Da’, Bangie (from Purple Lights) on ‘Terror’, Jah Blue & The Originals on ‘Muzorewa And Yusuluke’ and ‘Reorganize The Race (Marcus Say)’, Eric Donaldson on ‘Bubbling’.
Arranged and Produced by Phillip Fullwood and Winston McKenzie
Recorded at Channel One Studios by Stanley ‘Barnabas’ Bryan and Anthony ‘Crucial Bunny’ Graham, Harry J Studio by Sylvan Morris, Randy's Studio 17 and Dynamic Sound Studios
Mixed by Phillip Fullwood at Black Ark Studio and Channel One Studios
Mastering: Dave Blackman at Hiltongrove
Sound Restoration: Andy Le Vien
Artwork Restoration: Teflon aka John Sims
Sleeve Notes: Joakim Kalcidis
Edited by: Diggory Kenrick
Special thanks to Phillip Fulwood, Joakim Kalcidis,
Peter Wright, John Alan
Album Co-ordination: Pete Holdsworth
I’ve been listening to reggae and dub for more many, many years. All kind of reggae and dub, from roots to digidub, from the 60’s to now. This is by far one of the best dub albums, all dub genres included, I’ve heard in a long time. Roots but fresh and actual. I simply love it. Charles-Antoine Caron