Toots & The Maytals : Pressure Drop

‘When I got out of jail I had a sense of injustice. [Pressure Drop] is a song about revenge : if you do bad things to innocent people, bad things will happen to you.’ (Toots HIbbert)

( Jackie Jackson, Bass player on Pressure Drop) : ‘In 1975 we supported The Who playing to 90,000 people in California. The crowd just stood there staring – like they were going to have us for their supper. We said – what the hell are we going to do? Someone suggested opening with Pressure Drop.

The Place erupted!’ 

You reap what you sow.

You really do.

The temptation is to deceive yourself that whatever you want to do, no matter the disastrous effect it has on other lives, is just fine.

Just fine.

But, Life, God, The Universe, will not be mocked.

Oh, you might ‘get away’ from retribution for years and years and years believing you have been granted special  immunity.

But, but, but … me and Toots & The Maytals are here to tell you, directly and with vigour that sooner or later, sooner or later, the wind will change, tne water will rise, the flames will appear and you will be consumed.

Toots doesn’t seek revenge like a warrior rejoicing in his own strength and the defeat of those who have done him harm.

Rather, with certain faith and with joy in his heart he celebrates the truth that balance will always be restored.

It’s just a matter of Time.

The glass will record the approaching storm

The Pressure will Drop.

Look out Brother.

Look out!

The Pressure is most assuredly gonna Drop on you!

 

What a glorious riot!

Toots as a singer and songwriter seems to me to be a natural mystic.

Underpinning all his performances and recordings is a gospel fervour, a preacher’s call seeking an open hearted Amen from his audience.

And, tell me who, who, in tne whole wide world, swept away by the majestic vocals and rhythmic ecstasy of Pressure Drop, will fail to shake the rafters with Amen after Amen after Amen!

Toots was a veteran of the ska and rocksteady scenes and a Founding Father of Reggae when he came to record Pressure Drop for producer Leslie Kong in 1969.

Incredibly, Pressure Drop was cut live in tne studio in one take.

Toots an inspirational figure and born leader dives straight in introducing the melody with the most brilliant and affecting humming ever committed to tape.

The Maytals, Raleigh Gordon and Jerry Mathias, empathetically echo and urge Toots forward throughout every beat of the record.

Together they became an unmatched rhapsodic vocal trio bursting with love of life and music.

Keeping everything bubbling away at exactly the right temperature was the exquisite guitar of Huck Brown, the soul deep bass and drums of Jackie Jackson and Winston Grennan and the majestic Organ of Winston Wright.

Pressure Drop is one of those rare songs that has organic unity – it just flows.

Now, if you ever get the chance to see Toots & The Maytals live – don’t hesitate just go!

Take the plane, take the train, drive.

But, even if you have to walk all the way – get there.

Because Toots live is an experience of unbounded Joy.

Oh, and make sure to wear the right shoes.

Because from the minute he hits the stage you’re gonna be up out of your seat – lurching, laughing and dancing until you think you can’t dance no more.

Then Toots will start humming and kick off Pressure Drop and you’ll find yourself dancing like you’ve never danced before.

 

 

Notes :

Chris Blackwell the founder of Island Records has called Toots HIbbert, ‘One of the purest human beings I’ve met in my life, pure almost to a fault.’

Toots served an 18 month prison sentence in 1966/67.

In 2013 Toots received a serious head injury from a bottle thrown at him from the crowd.

Knowing the reality of life behind bars he had the purity of heart to write to a Judge requesting that the perpetrator not be sent to Prison as this would only increase Toots own pain and suffering.

Many listeners were introduced to Toots through the inclusion of Pressure Drop on the magnificent soundtrack record of the 1972 film, ‘The Harder They Come’ which also includes superb tracks from Jimmy Cliff and Desmond Dekker. No collection is complete without The Harder They Come.

While I was writing this post I was listening to ‘54-56 Was My Number’ a career spanning Toots & The Maytals anthology from the Sanctuary Label.

Toots & The Maytals have made some of the most uplifting and heartening Records ever issued.

Check out  ‘Funky Kingston’ and, ‘Toots & The Maytals in Memphis’ – Records that will immeasurably boost your well being and become treasured lifetime companions.

Bruce Springsteen, Chuck Berry, Emmylou Harris : You Never Can Tell

When you are young you think you know.

You know how the world works.

You know just how things are going to turn out.

But you find out the world is a much stranger place than you thought.

People – your parents, your friends, your one and only love, strangely decide to behave in ways you never expected.

The 16 year old school no-hoper strangely turns out to a world-beater by 25.

Volcanos erupt. Impregnable Walls are torn down.

True Love sometimes turns out to be exactly that.

You learn not to make such definite snap judgments.

When things happen you didn’t see coming you’re not outraged.

Instead you smile a wry smile and say ’C’est La Vie – it goes to show you never can tell’.

 

And, if you’re a great songwriter reflecting wryly on life and love you decide to write a song filled with acute observation, humour and wisdom.

At least, that’s what you do if you’re Chuck Berry – even if you’re in Prison when the inspiration strikes.

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Chuck was, of course, a writer of both inspiration and deliberation.

There’s immense craft in the song.

The story is told in four short verses.

‘C’est la vie say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell’ is an arresting and immediately memorable lyric hook neatly and beautifully rhythmically encapsulating the moral of the song.

The AAAA Rhyme scheme is used with finesse and wit building up rhyme by rhyme a complete picture of the situation.

Chuck delights in marrying his New Orleans Creole Rhythm with a French name for teenage spouse, Pierre, and playfully using both madamoiselle and Madame, in the correct order, to signify that the truly in love couple have indeed rung the chapel bell.

So, married life begins with a well stocked Collerator just crammed with those dinners they wolfed while watching their favourite shows. I wouldn’t be surprised if they mixed that ginger ale with something a little more potent!

I was delighted to discover that ‘Coolerator’ was a genuine brand name (see image below) and that the refrigerators were manufactured in Duluth – making it certain that they would have been known to Bob Dylan and very likely stocked in the family electricals store.

 

It was a teenage wedding, and the old folks wished them well
You could see that Pierre did truly love the mademoiselle
And now the young monsieur and madame have rung the chapel bell
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell
They furnished off an apartment with a two room Roebuck sale
The coolerator was crammed with TV dinners and ginger ale
But when Pierre found work, the little money comin’ worked out well
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell
They had a hi-fi phono, boy, did they let it blast
Seven hundred little records, all rock, rhythm and jazz
But when the sun went down, the rapid tempo of the music fell
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell
They bought a souped-up jitney, ’twas a cherry red ’53
They drove it down to Orleans to celebrate the anniversary
It was there that Pierre was married to the lovely mademoiselle
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell

 

Chuck always delighted in his references to US Car Culture and I have to admit that from the first moment I heard You Never Can Tell I sorely longed for a ‘Cherry Red ‘53’!

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I haven’t got mine (yet).

But, I surely did get me a fine Hi Fi Phono and boy, as all my neighbours will tell you, did I let it blast!

And, taking pride of place among my 700 or so 45s there will always be a high stack of Chuck Berry singles.

Because he was the greatest songwriter of the primal Rock ‘n’ Roll era and because nothing lifts the spirits like three minutes of prime Chuck Berry!

Consider that You Never Can Tell was preceded by, ‘No Particular Place To Go’ and succeeeded by, ‘Promised Land’ – a run of classics that would have worthily constituted a lifetime’s achievement for another songwriter/performer.

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I should draw your attention to the glorious piano playing of Johnnie Johnson for once foregrounded in this song.

Released from dramatic guitar playing duties Chuck concentrates his genius on his sly and smooth vocal.

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Of course, it was a given that once a new Chuck Berry song hit the airwaves and Jukeboxes that a flood of cover versions would appear.

So many to choose from for our Immortal Jukebox!

Let’s kick off with Emmylou Harris and her aptly named Hot Band more than kicking up their heels!

 

 

Emmylou and Co hit that shuffle rhythm from the get go don’t they.

Glenn D Hardin on piano and Hank Devito add colour with England’s own Albert Lee providing the stellar guitar.

What an apprenticeship in the big time this was for the young Rodney Crowell!

Naturellement he was in love with Emmylou  – putting him in company with all red blooded music fans of the time!

Now we let the arm come down on something really special.

You want a demonstration and distillation of the spirit of Rock ‘n’ Roll?

My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen and Jukebox afficianados the whole world over I give you the one and only Ronnie Lane with Slim Chance!

 

 

Now that’s a New Orleans second line party!

That’s ginger ale laced with the very finest bourbon!

That makes the big toe in your boot shoot straight up to the sky!

Every time Ronnie Lane strapped on his bass and stepped to the microphone he put his whole heart and soul into his performances exuding sheer glee in the music he was making.

The same holds true for Bruce Springsteen.

I love this version of You Never Can Tell from Leipzig in 2013.

Bruce takes the crowd request and coaches the initially sceptical Band until they produce a wonderfully ragged celebration of Chuck Berry’s anthem.

Chuck Berry will always be the heartbeat of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Thank God apostles like Bruce Springsteen, Ronnie Lane and Emmylou Harris ensured that the message still resounds.

 

 

And, even today, somewhere in Chicago or Cairo someone is saying – you know we could really do a killer version of that Chuck Berry ‘C’est La Vie’ song.

It goes to show you never can tell where a great song will end up except that it will surely keep traveling on.

Steve Earle, Patty Loveless, The Proclaimers & Eddi Reader – My Old Friend The Blues

Lovers leave.

Friends will let you down.

You learn that as you fall in and out love and form friendships that flare bright before they fade away.

So, you’re left all alone with The Blues.

And, you can hug those blues close to get you through.

The Blues becomes your old and trusted friend.

But, remember, remember, sometimes you are the lover who walks away.

Remember, remember, sometimes you are the friend who’s doing the letting down.

So, don’t make The Blues your best and only friend.

We all get The Blues.

We all need The Blues to get through the lost loves and the failed friendships.

Loss and failure hurt.

But, they go with the territory.

Love and Friendship will be the treasures of your Life.

The Blues will see you through until you’re ready to face the joys and pains of Love and Friendship again.

Dont lean too long on your old friend The Blues.

Love again. Be a Friend again.

Meantime let’s have a hugely enjoyable wallow with our old friend The Blues courtesy of the young Steve Earle (this is a quintessential young man’s song).

Paradoxically it’s young hearts that feel the weariest.

Ah … a shiver of recognition and illicit pleasure in pain for all of us there!

Steve Earle, a natural songwriter, came out of San Antonio Texas fit to burst with energy and a desire to tell stories about the way the world was and the way it damn well should be.

‘Guitar Town’ from 1986 was his breakthrough record announcing him as a literate, rocking, rough, rowdy, romantic and righteous artist who was here to stay.

You could hear the influences of Folk Icon Woody Guthrie and Texas troubadours Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt

Add in a dash of on’ry ol Waylon Jennings and workshirt era Bob Dylan and you’ve got a very potent and occasionaly explosive mixture which near guaranteed a vesuvial flow of songs.

Steve Earle’s best songs have drama and impact and emotional reach.

Across the Atlantic in Scotland, ‘My Old Friend The Blues’ reached the tender heart of Eddi Reader who was surely born to sing room stilling ballads.

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Listen to her here bring the same focus and sensitivity she gives to the songs of Robert Burns to Steve Earl’s cancion Triste.

Eddi has a voice that can croon or keen.

A voice laden with ancient knowing.

A quiet voice that sounds loud in your heart.

A voice of balm for weary hearts wherever they may beat.

Staying in Scotland we now turn to twins Charlie and Craig Reid, The Proclaimers.

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Their Records are distinguished by the fierce commitment they bring to every song they sing.

Which, of course, brings even more allure to their tender moments.

The Proclaimers bring a stark echoing intensity to My Old Friend The Blues.

Patty Loveless is a blue Kentucky Girl – a State where lovelorn ballads are not exactly in short supply!

Patty made her mark at the same time as Steve Earle and like him she had done her fair share of hard traveling before she had the spotlight directed at her centre stage.

Playing small bars and clubs in nameless towns she learned a lot about lonely nights and weary hearts.

She also learned that if you have a voice shot through with plaintive grace you could offer a ray of hope to those battered hearts all around – including her own.

I’m showcasing a live version suffused with bluegrass duende.

 

Speaking of Duende, as we collect the glasses and turn out the lights let’s have one more take from Steve himself before we shut the doors.

Just when every ray of hope was gone ….

On those nights when sleep seems loath to appear and knot up ravelled care you can always turn to an old friend – The Blues.

Then, when dawn breaks, as it always miraculously does, take that weary heart of yours and go in search of love and friendship once again.

John Spillane : The Dance of The Cherry Trees (Homage to Spring)

To everything there is a Season.

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring.

A time to be born.

A time of juice and Joy.

A strain of Earth’s sweet being in the beginning.

A time to laugh and dance.

A time to embrace and love.

A time to rejoice and do good.

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To everything there is a Season.

Spring is a conflagration of green fires – a blaze of growing.

The bull-frogs are sounding!

The Swifts are back!

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All things flash and flare!

Scimitar upsweep.

Fireflies ascending.

Time is the fire in which we burn.

Time to throw open the doors and windows.

Go wherever your boot heels are ready to wander.

The Earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.

Hearts run over.

Run over with dateless expectancy, tongueless promise, indefinable desire.

Something gathers.

Gathers in the throat.

In the chest.

Something blinds the eyes.

The air is so clear and transparent you feel you might actually see the whole universe from end to end.

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There is a spirit of Youth in everything.

Everything.

May Violets.

Rough winds shaking the darling buds.

Buttercups unfold – glittering stars.

Something is being said.

Being said.

Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

TIme to sing on wanton wing.

Believe in perpetual Spring.

Have faith there is a leaf to cure every hurt.

One good thing about this world – there are always sure to be more Springs.

More Springs.

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Cherry Blossom in the air.

Cherry Blossom on the street.

Cherry Blossom in your hair.

And a Blossom at your feet.

Let me tell you about the Cherry Trees.

They put on the most outrageous clothes.

They sing and dance around.

They seem to be saying :

You know we’ve travelled all around the Sun.

You know it’s taken us one whole year.

Well done everyone, Well Done.

Well Done!

Well Done!

 

 

This Post for Lilian Smith.

Lilian hosts the 6am to 8am Irish RTE Radio Show, ‘Weekend on One’ on Saturdays and Sundays.

Whether you listen in real time or later on line you will be rewarded by music chosen with intelligence and insight which will offer surprises, introductions and cherished memories.

Notes :

John Spillane who wrote, ‘Dance of The Cherry Trees’ is a songwriter who has mastered the very difficult art of saying truthful, complex things, with simplicity.

His songs both sensitive and steel strong arrest and hold the imagination.

John sings his songs with open hearted candour and fearlessness.

There is beauty, awe, humour and wonder in John’s songs.

He is Irish, a Cork native, who has the song of the River Lee in his soul.

Do yourself a favour and seek out his work.

Recommended Records :

The obvious starting point to explore John’s wonderful song catalogue is the compilation, ‘So Far So Good, Like’.

As for individual albums my favourites are:

‘All the Ways you Wander’ – a luminous acoustic collection.

‘Life In An Irish Town’ – Illuminating insights into life beyond the urban bubble.

‘My Dark Rosalien and the Island Of Dreams’ – heartfelt meditations on Ireland.

The more adventurous will also relish John’s Irish language records including the wonderful, ‘Irish Songs We Learned At School’

Before launching his solo career John was in a very fine group, ‘Nomos’. Their second CD, ‘Set You Free’ Features several excellent Spillane songs as well as superb instrumental playing.

You can learn more about John’s history and catalogue at

http://www.johnspillane.com

Thanks to :

Rainer Maria Rilke, Wendy Cope, L M Montgomery, Elizabeth Bishop, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Ecclesiastes, D H Lawrence, Delmore Schwartz, Anne Stevenson, Thomas Wolfe, Anton Chekhov, Billy Collins, Philip Larkin, Amy Gerstler, Robert Burns, John Clare and Wild Bill Shakespeare for the open hearts, the poetry and the inspiration.