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1993 – Mr. Loverman

March 5th, 2019 · Posted by Skuds in Music · No Comments · Music

The cover of the compilation album Reggae 93

I can’t say that 1993 can compete with 1991 and 1992 when it comes to music as a whole, but it does stand out for me as a vintage year for reggae, specifically Jamaican dancehall. One of the best CDs I bought in that year was called Reggae 93 and it is right up there with the best compilation albums ever. I am not aware of there being a Reggae 92 or Reggae 94 at all, which reinforces my sense of 1993 being the biggest year for reggae since the 1970’s.

The album is a mixture of singles that hit the charts during the year, and songs that really should have done. There are some older names on it, like Althea & Donna and Barrington Levy, but mostly it drew on the newer wave of artists, and not all of them Jamaican – Snow and Ace of Bass are on it too.There really were a lot of reggae singles making an impact during the year: Informer by Snow and All That She Wants by Ace of Bass, as mentioned, Chaka Demus & Pliers had She Don’t Let Nobody and Tease Me, Apache Indian had Chok There re-released, Boom Shak-a-Lak and Movin’ On, Shabba Ranks released Mr. Loverman and from the UK there was Gary Clail and the On-U Sound System with These Things Are Worth Fighting For. I think Shaggy was also in the charts, psrobably with Oh Carolina.

Apache Indian had a big impact, partly because of the novelty of a British Asian doing reggae but mostly because he was so good at it. I met up with an old schoolfriend at a re-union event and he had a good Apache Indian story. He was an Indian from the East End who bore a remarkable resemblance to Apache Indian at the time, he even had the same last name, albeit with a slightly different spelling. He had been on a visit to family in India and got mobbed beause people there thought he was Apache Indian.

At this time we were making up a lot of tapes to listen to in the car. No CD player in our car! The art in doing this was to pick songs that were in the small overlap between our two tastes, or at least to avoid things that one or other of us absolutely detested – like Kenny bloody G. A lot of the reggae tracks got on there. The Mrs. was not too keen on the roots and dub styles that I liked or even the more old-school dancehall but she did like the more poppy dancehall of 1993. One track I made sure went on as many tapes as possible was the Gary Clail one.

It was a minor obsession with me and I would have put it straight in my 1962 Onwards playlist withotu a moment’s hesitation but it is not in Spotify’s library at all. It has an ominous throbbing bassline, and very political lyrics. It may even have had Sly & Robbie involved, they seemed to have had a hand in a lot of 1993’s records. Although not on Spotify, the video is available on YouTube and is well worth a watch. Gary Clail really does deserve to be better-known than he is.

In the absence of These Things are Worth Fighting For I put the next best thing on my playlist – Mr. Loverman by Shabba Ranks. I can’t say that I like his attitudes to women and homosexuals but he did have some good tunes and this is the best of them. Part of me wishes we had called our two dogs “Mr Loverman” and “Shabba”. It would have made it so much fun when calling them in the park. Many is the car journey that was soundtracked by this song and I love the bit towards the end with the metallic percussive sounds. It is like a reggae version of Kraftwerk’s Metal On Metal from the Trans-Europe Express album.

Apart from reggae there were some other notabe singles during the year: Creep by Radiohead, Billy Joel’s The River of Dreams (another mixtape staple), Pet Shop Boys with Go West, Dreams by Gabrielle, I Feel You by Depeche Mode, the George Michael/Queen EP, a couple of Janet Jackson singles and, of course, No Limit by 2 Unlimited. It is impossible to hear that song and resist the temptation to join in with Ray when he yells “Techno, Techno, Techno, Techno”!

A particular highlight was one of the best cover versions ever recorded – Faith No More’s spookily accurate version of the Commodore’s Easy. I still play this whenever I fancy a good old singalong and nobody else is around. I have to make sure I am on  my own because I really go for it.

There is one song from 1993 that I didn’t take seriously at the time. Like many people I thought it was a bit of a novelty, but it has proved over the years to be a real classic anthem that is one of the best songs for a crowd singalong. I refer, of course, the the Proclaimers and the song I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles). They were playing at some festival or other on TV, or it might have been a concert before the Olympics or another sporting event and watching the crowd jumping up and down and joining in with the la la la’s was a truly joyous thing.

At about this time there was a new avenue for discovering new music that you wouldn’t hear on the radio or TV at all, unless you just bought it on the strength of reviews and hoped for the best – the cover-mounted CD. There was a lot of choice in the 90’s with Mojo, Q, and Select amongst other. Toward the end of the decade there was Songlines which provided the same sort of access to world music. Quite a few of my favourite tracks are ones that turned up on a Q cover disc like PJ Harvey and Sheela-na-Gig in 1993. Without those magazines it could have been years before I got round to hearing her.

A few of the albums I bought in the 90’s were the result of hearing a track on a promotional compilation CD, like Donald Fagen’s gorgeous Kamakiriad. My album-buying was mostly in the compromise zone of things that both I and the Mrs would tolerate, which included Janet Jackson’s album Janet (the one with that famous cover. A great album, spoiled by all those naff interludes) and Together Alone by Crowded House.

At this point we had a Sky dish and used to watch a lot of MTV Europe. It was still a pan-European channel, based in Camden Town but broadcast across the continent and featuring mainland continental artists alongside the standard chart stuff. Our particular favourite was Ray Cokes presenting MTV’s Most Wanted. Ray was a charismatic presenter and the whole show was good-humoured, entertaining, and interactive. We had managed to get a video request played on it (Higher Ground by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers) and got to visit the studios to see Crowded House perform live.

We had seen them at Hammersmith but we were at the back and the Mrs was so short she couldn’t see anything except Paul Hester because he was up on the drum riser. That sob story was enough to get us in the select audience, perched perilously on makeshift scaffolding around the studio. After seeing them as part of a 600-strong crowd it was very different to be in a small room with only a couple of hundred.

Most Wanted also led me to get Paul Rodgers’ Muddy Waters Blues CD after seeing him interviewed. It also led to me to various European artists after seeing their videos. The problem was that a song would be promoted heavily but not be released in the UK until much later, or not at all. I had a lot of fun tracking down Die Krupps’s album of Metallica covers and the first Deep Forest album after seeing the videos on MTV Europe, and never did get my hands on Die Fantastichen 4. It was a sad day for me when they split MTV Europe up and we just got a UK version, which eventually turned into a reality TV channel instead of a music channel.

Lest we forget, 1993 was also when MTV started showing Beavis & Butthead, which was also a roundabout way to discover music. I do miss my MTV.

 

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