Monday, 13 November 2006

Poet And The Roots

I'm skanking along to Linton Kwesi Johnson at the moment - or, does one skank to Linton? Whatever. Out of nowhere I had an aural memory burst over me of him shouting out one word. That word was, "Waaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr" accompanied by enough reverb-erb-erb to shake my bedroom walls back in 1978.

I bought his 12" single of 'Dread Beat An' Blood' which also had heavy dub versions of 'All Wi Doin' Is Defendin'' and, I think, 'Five Nights Of Bleeding' on the 'B' side. It was scary. Before I heard Linton reggae was sunny beaches, Desmond Decker and, more latterly, Bob Marley. Marley's songs were sometimes thoughful and challenging but they weren't scary, weren't threatening down to the very marrow of the sound. Linton's reggae, attached to his poetry, was all that and more. It shook walls.

He mentioned magical places like Railton Road. How exotic was that to a teenager in a little mining village outside Newcastle who'd seen the Brixton riots on telly? Oddly enough, he's appearing in Newcastle next Monday as part of a reggae festival.

Of course, the heavy version of 'All Wi Doin' Is Defendin'' that I remember isn't on the CD. But I have the memory.

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