In the late summer/early autumn of 1979, Barrington
Levy, with the help of his producer Henry Junjo Lawes,
and Jah Life, reshaped reggae music to how it is known today.
This kind of fundamental change occurs in the music every five years or
so. What took everyone by surprise with this change was its speed. Other eras
had been slow stop/start processes. For example, Channel One's
domination of the rockers sound took at least a good year to get going, and,
during that time, the music could have gone in any number of
So, what caused the music to change so quickly? The only
possible answer can be Barrington Levy. If Henry Junjo Lawes had voiced anyone
else over those Roots Radics rhythms, at that time, it is
unlikely that the effect would have been/ the same.
Barrington gave those
rhythms an edge. He was young, only 17 at the time of release of the albums, and
seemed to have elements of different vocal styles without having a direct
influence. In otherwords, he was original. That originality also came out in his
lyrics. He had an interest in all aspects of life. From the cultural
implications of ›A Ya We Deh‹ to the more basic observations of
the ›Shine Eye Gal‹. Lyrically, he was never content with just
simple explanations. If he made a statement about anything, he would usually
back it up with a certain amount of detail.
When he did do over a song,
he also picked material that was very close to his own. So many young singers
end up singing the classics. Instead of that we find a selection, that although
still classic, were not over cut. Songs like ›Moonlight Lover‹
and ›Skylarking‹. And even they were recreated into something
new using ›The Style‹, which although he didn't invent, he must be credited with
being the first to bring it forward in a form that won massive
The release of ›Bounty Hunter‹ in New York
on the Jah Life label, ›Shine Eye Gal‹ in
London on Burning Sounds, and ›Shaolin Temple‹
in Kingston on Jah Guidance, really got things off to a very
that they were the same album, more or less. In fact ›Bounty Hunter‹ and ›Shine
Eye Gal‹ share only one track ›Shine Eye Gal‹. The track listing on the ›Shaolin
Temple‹ is unknown to me. So there could be another different selection. Even so
with just ›Bounty Hunter‹ and ›Shine Eye Gal‹ we have 17 tracks. ›Shine Eye Gal‹
does not give any musician credits, but it would be safe to say that the line up
is the same as on the ›Bounty Hunter‹ album. Out of the three, the New York
release appeared first, so it's seems the best place to start.
get apart from the music with ›Bounty Hunter* is a very thick black and white,
very American, cardboard sleeve. It may sound strange, but this alone gives the
album not only a special look, but a special feel. It feels heavy and it is
When you get to the credits on the back of the sleeve, back in
1979, you found yourself looking at the line up of a new band. The
Channel One All Stars. Errol ›Flabba‹ Holt on bass,
Carlton ›Santa‹ Davis on drums. Eric ›Bingy Bunny‹
Lamont on rhythm guitar, Christopher ›Sky Juice‹ Burt
on percussion and Winston ›Jelly Belly‹ Anderson on organ.
Other credits include Gladstone Anderson on piano,
Bongo Herman on percussion and Scully on
These last three are well known. Santa is as well, the rest of
them minus Winston Anderson and Santa went on to become the Roots Radios. Along
with a young engineer, also credited on the album, called
Scientist, they were part of the team that not only turned
Barrington Levy into a star, but changed reggae music from rockers to dance
The track listing on ›Bounty Hunter‹ and ›Shine Eye Gal‹ also had a
different mix to them. Very few artists up until that time, would mix together
love songs, cultural songs and songs with titles like ›Bounty Hunter‹ and
›Shaolin Temple‹, from the ›Bounty Hunter* album and ›A Ya Ve Deh‹ and
›Christmas Day‹ from ›Shine Eye Gal‹ which was yet another interesting
All this confusion, the titles, the line up of the band, the
engineering credit to the Scientist, the 3 albums, the two different producer
credits Jah Life on the ›Bounty Hunter‹ album and Henry ›Junjo‹ Lawes on ›Shine
Eye Gal‹, all created huge interest. It was a marketing man's dream or possibly
his worst nightmare, because everyone knew something had just happened, but they
weren't quite sure what. In this state of flux, a company well tuned to the
reggae market could make some very interesting moves. In the UK, such a company
was and is Greensleeves.
They had already done very well
for themselves and a certain DJ called Dr Alimantado, by releasing an album
›Best Dressed Chicken In Town‹ to reggae fans who had been
waiting for such an album for at least 3 years.
When they released
›Englishman‹, Barrington Levy's new album, they well and truly established
themselves as the UK's top reggae label. ›Englishman‹ had the
same mixture found on the other albums, and tracks like ›Sister
Carol‹, ›Look Youth Man‹ and the title track, gave it
the same edge. It was a magnificent set and another big success for all
The great success of the ›Englishman‹ album was enough for
Greensleeves to risk releasing another album from Barrington within a year.
›Robin Hood‹, also produced by Junjo, with the Roots Radics supplying the
rhythms, could have been held back. The reason it wasn't, was probably due to
another side effect of the incoming dance hall style. All of a sudden it was the
fashion to have 2,3 or even 4 albums all released at the same time.
Greensleeves didn't release the ›Robin Hood‹ album, which is a
very good album, someone else would have. The result was that Barrington was
over exposed. People simply got fed up with him. In the same way that they were
getting fed up with Sugar Minott and Johnny
Osbourne. Of all the positive things to come out of the Dance Hall
Style, this was a very serious negative thing, and yet from the artist's point
of view, it was a case of simple economics. It just wasn't possible to survive
by recording one album a year.
By 1981 Barrington was producing himself for
the first time. In the UK, JB Music released ›Doh Ray
Me‹ which was his first self produced album. Another album in the same
style was released in Canada on the Puff label. ›Run
Come Ya‹ is a nice album. It's a showcase album, 6 tracks plus dubs,
with all the power of the Henry Junjo Lawes productions, which isn't really
surprising because it features the Radics, working out at Channel
What makes it interesting is that most of the songs sound like
alternative takes of songs found on the Junjo albums. The best of them, are
›The Love Of Jah‹ and ›Run Come Ya Man‹. They
have a strong dub-plate feel about them, but do not contain the throw-away
lyrics now associated with the term. Although encouraging, Barrington was not
breaking any new ground with this album. What he needed now was a good
This came with the release of the ›21 Girls
Salute‹ album, released in 1982. This was another Jah Life release,
only this time the production credit is a true credit in every sense. Produced
by Henry ›Junjo‹ Lawes and Hyman ›Papa‹ Wright, mixed by Scientist and featuring
the Roots Radics now including Style Scott.
Junjo and Jah Life successfully update the '79 Dance Hall sound, and give us an
even stronger sound. ›River Jordan‹ and ›Mary Long
Tongue‹ are the stand out tracks on the album. Barrington sounding
fully inspired once again.
The whole vibe of the album, gave Barrington
back the respect he fully deserved. At the time, he could have got caught in a
downward spiral of indifferent releases. This album stopped that, and Barrington
was now into the next phase of his career.
This phase built upon the
success of his years with Junjo, without going in a new direction. What he
seemed to be doing was concentrating more on his songwriting.
album with great emphasis on this. Is ›Teach Me Culture‹ which
was produced by Helana. Hall and
Barrington, and was released on Delroy
Wright's (Papa Life's brother) Live and Learn label.
Included on this album, was the great ›One Foot Jo—Jo‹ one of
Barrington‹ s best songs. It had been first heard on dub plate on Gemini
Sound System tapes in 1980. If it had been released then it would have
been a massive hit, as it was, it was just nice to have it available on plastic.
The really good news about this album is that all of the other tracks are on a
par with or come very close to that tune. Especially interesting is the title
track, which was another dub plate favourite. 1983, also saw the release on GG's
of the ›Life Style‹ album. Produced and arranged by
Alvin Ranglin, this album is a little known but classic set.
Alvin Ranglin had a great deal of success in the late seventies with
Gregory Isaacs and Lone Ranger, but by the early to
mid eighties he seemed to be very low profile.
This alone would account
for this album being virtually unknown. A producer's profile can make a lot of
difference to an album's acceptance, and yet if people had listened to this
album then, it could have made a big difference to Alvin and Barrington. Once
again, it confirms Barrington's new songwriting direction. Nine out of the ten
tracks on the album were written by him, and all are of a very high standard.
The production work on the album is excellent with some fantastic horn work
coming from the likes of David Madden, Glen
DaCosta and Dean Frazer.
Of all the albums
released at this time 83/84, the ›Money Move‹ album for Junjo's
big rival at the time, big George Phang, is without doubt the
best and most successful.
Included on it are two big hits, the first was
›Suffer The Little Children‹ a powerful cultural/reality tune
set over a bouncers rhythm supplied by Sly & Robbie and
the Taxi Gang.
And then there was the title track
›Money Move‹, one of Barrington's biggest hits. It had all the
elements of a Barrington song, a very topical subject, but with a very serious
message. After all the great artistic success of 83/84, which, hopefully, also
materialised into financial reward for Barrington, the next few years (really to
the present day) saw him slowing down. The quality was still there though, and
that is the most important thing.
Around 1984/85, Henry Junjo Lawes
released Barrington's ›Prison Oval Rock‹ on the Volcano label
in Jamaica. Like all of the Junjo produced albums, it's a special album for a
number of reasons. First of all, it's got one of the biggest hits Junjo ever had
with Barrington, › Prison Oval Rock‹ , which used the Wailing
Souls ›Firehouse Rock‹ rhythm to magnificent
Another reason comes with the ›Hammer‹, another
great tune that came out around 1983. The most important reason is that it's a
great album in every respect. Even then, Junjo was bringing in new ideas, like
Prince Psalms, the melodica player, to nice up one or two of
the tracks.Not long after the release of this album, Junjo was imprisoned in
America. And it was then that Barrington started to work with Paul
Love/AKA Jah Screw.
Paul Love had been in the
business for years, starting off as a selector for U.Roy's
Stur—Gav, then Ray Symbolic. Around that time,
he started producing music with his good friend Ranking Joe.
The success that their Sharpe Axe label enjoyed, gave Screw
enough encouragement to set up his own label, Time.
so in 1984, Paul Love started laying some rhythms in London, one of them was a
version of ›African Beat‹. It was this rhythm that Barrington
was to turn into one of his biggest hits ›Under Me Sensi‹ . He
followed it with an even bigger hit ›Here I Come‹. Both tunes
can be found on the highly successful album ›Here I Come‹. The
album and the singles, showed that Barrington, with the right production was
more than capable of going mainstream pop.
Ever since then Barrington and
Paul have worked really well together. The main reason for this seems to be
respect. Each know their trade very well. Their most recent success being a very
Barrington is not really known for covering other people's
songs. So the re-cutting of Bob Andy's classic ›Too
Experienced‹ was a great move. People were taken by surprise by it. It
gained their attention, and once the pair had their attention, they have set
about keeping it.
This attention/success was enough to draw the attention
of major record companies. And in 1991 Barrington Levy's great new album
›Divine‹ was released on Mango/Island. A
mixture of old and new material, it is by any standard a great album, and one
that should take Barrinton Levy to even higher heights.
»Heckle and Jeckle, that
was like a joke ting, a name picked by Barry Biggs. We didn't
pick that name for ourselves.«
And who was in this duo with you?
»Me and my cousin, Everton Dacres.«
Did you ever
»Yeah we did two songs, as The
Mighty Multitudes, ›My Black Girl‹ and ›A Long
Long Time‹, just two songs and then the group split
And that was for
»Yeah, the first one was for
Dobby Dobson. Dobby Dobson was living in America, so we
couldn't tag along with him. It was just a one-off thing.«
When did you record those tunes 75/76?
»Yeah, about then.«
about the Mighty Multitudes?
»There's not much
to tell. We just did two songs.«
for Sonia Pottinger?
»No, Dynamic Sounds, and
Dobby Dobson, that song has never been released in England or
Jamaica, just America.«
How did you meet up
»After the group split up, we
started to go to studios. We went to Joe Gibbs for around six
months, just keep going and going. Then I decided to start sing at dances and
clubs and things like that. That's how it started.«
So you actually sung on Sound Systems, before you met
»Before I met Junjo, yes. Junjo hear me
on a sound and said to come and call him.«
What sound was you on then?
was on loads of sounds, but the sound that I started on was Burning
Spear, but in them times I was on every sound. I was working, and
people started to hear about me on cassette.
And then Junjo come over,
and said ›You think you can be a big star‹ and he come up with some
rhythm tracks, and we do ›A Yah We Deh‹, and after that we do
›Collie Weed‹. That was the big one, it mash up the place. It
was then that we made the album ›Bounty Hunter‹.
You had released at the time two albums
›Bounty Hunter‹ and ›Shine Eye Gal‹ ...
the same album, but a different title.«
about the connection between Jah Life and Junjo, who are both
credited as producers on the album?
»I was just
working for Junjo, but Junjo do a deal with Jah Life, for America. And then do a
different deal for over here in England.«
do you feel about the ›Bounty Hunter‹ album now, because with that you started
the ›Dance Hall Style‹ and all the fuss it has caused since
»Well the people who are doing dance hall
style now, they don't want to give no credit. They are
So you would say the music has been
»No, I would say they have tried to
copy the pattern. Which for me, I think that's good, because at least I'm doing
something good, for them to follow. I think they have followed me, more than I
have followed them. I have to create things you know.«
»The dance hall style
was going before I was born. It is an international music. Take for instance
›Here I Come‹ is a dance hall music. And ›Here I Come‹ crossover. So dance hall
music is nothing that should be looked down on. The lyrics now, they should be
looked down on. The DJ's what they are calling Dance Hall is not Dance Hall,
That's a different
»Oh, but they can change that. If they
got together, and write some sensible lyrics, riding the rhythm on the same
melody, they would-be safe..«
What gave you
the inspiration to bring in R. Dean Taylor's ›Indiana Wants
»Well that song was right for the
style of the song. We are talking about pushing the dance hall vibes all over
the world, and it fits. [Barrington starts to sing it] I did like the song from
when I was little anyway.«
It really is what
the dance hall style is all about, taking one thing, mixing it up with something
else and creating something new. You have worked with a lot of producers, how
did you get on with Junjo?
»Junjo was alright,
but I enjoy working with Paul Love (aka Jah Screw). He look on it as a career,
and not as a hustling you know.«
»Junjo was a different person when it come
to that. He was more interested in how much money he could make, rather than
what he was going to use to make the money.
Junjo seemed like more of a vibes producer.
How about other producers, you did a lot of work with Linval
»Yeah, Linval is
How about your own label ›B L
Sounds‹. Your first own production for it was ›Deep In The Dark‹,
which got a very good response, was that an original tune?
»It was a cover, but no one seems to know that
Most of the reggae fans know your cut.
They don't know where it come from before. [Barrington laughs] Why didn't you
follow it up?
»Well you see I can't keep up with
it, to press and distribute and also write song, it's too
How's your brother?
»Michael, he's alright.«
Is he still in the business?
»Yeah, yeah he's still in. He's in Jamaica at the moment taking
care of some things for me. He's supposed to being going to Canada. He's got a
song out called...You know the ›Spanish Harlem‹ song? He's changed the lyrics to
Is it released on
»No it's on Jah
When did you set up the
Lipstick label then?
»I'm going to
introduce Lipstick to England soon. Well say I'm going to introduce London . I'm
going to put out some songs, not just mine other people's music. Cutty
Ranks, Michael, and that's about it. Like I said I don't have the time to
sit down and produce records with people, when I'm busy with my own
Tell me how you come to write
certain songs. Like ›One Foot Joe Joe‹, because that was an amazing
»That song was about a man, with one foot
called Joe Joe. He was my friend, Sammy Dread's father. He never want
to do nothing when he come in from work, he was a one foot man, but he works. He
would come home with his money, and go to the bar and get drunk. And when he
come home he would just chase out everybody out of the house. Joe Joe died now,
about five months now.«
How about ›A Yah We
Deh‹ that was an interesting song.
means is that here we are, giving thanks and praise, praying to god. The things
that you do, the father is watching you, everything you say he's hearing you.
What the song is saying, is that just live up right. That is what ›A Yah We Deh‹
All your songs have little stories
within them. ›Here I Come‹ is a great example of that.
»Here I Come‹ is a reality song. It is all about what these
young girls are thinking. They want to have fun, they want to have boyfriend,
but when they get pregnant, they don't want no kids to tie them down. They want
to have fun. They want to live life to the fullness. Until they get older and
they are thinking of settling down. I make that song from a
So it's based on a personel
»It's a real thing. After she had
the baby, she find out that she can't do what she used to do. She had to start
to think about her kid, and she can't leave her kid to go raving. She didn't
have no babysitter, so she started to get mad. And I take the baby to him and
leave the baby at the baby's father's mum's house. Then one day, me and him was
walking, he buck up upon her and he said to her ›Why don't you go home and
look after our baby‹ She said ›Yeah, I must go home and look after
baby, while you go out and have fun. I'm still young.‹ And that is how the
idea came to me, and I make the song from that.«
It is a great song with a lot of attention to details, like the
lyrics about the lift.
»If the lift doesn't
work, run up the stairs and come. Like she called me up and said, ›Well the
baby is here now, you must come and see your son.‹ So I grab some rose and
started to run. «
And yet in ›Here I Come‹
there is another song within a song, the bit about describing
»When you come to Volcano it's like a
stage show, you have man that sing, dj and blow. It was the only sound you had
hornsman blowing in a dance. Junjo originate hornsman blowing in a dance, on
live rhythm. It mashed up the place.«
hit before that was ›Under Mi Sensi‹ which was also recorded for Jah
Screw and Time Records.
»That one has a story
behind it as well. ›Under Mi Sensi‹. There is this sound, Junjo's sound,
Volcano. It was one of the top sound in Jamaica, and when it played out the
police always came and tell it to turn off. And they always pick on the dreads.
They said the dread always have the weed. And one of them ›A you where you come
from, A dread where you a come from.‹ So me take off me dread hat, so me observe
and me observe and then I say - ›Hey natty dreadlocks where you come from, you
must have two stick of sensi, under your tam, I said no officer, you must be
mad, I only smoke cigarette...but I put in the shag as well, so it was I only
smoke cigarette and strictly shag.‹ Basically all them stories are what happened
in real life.«
Then there was ›Money Move‹
for George Phang's Powerhouse label, what inspired that?
»A that in Jamaica, when I make ›Money Move‹ everybody was
coming out with ›Shoulder Move‹, ›Body Move‹, this move and that move. So I said
everybody is making moves, I hope they make the right move, and make the money
move. At the time we did need money. Kids have to go to school, lights have to
pay. So I come with ›Money Move‹ and it was a hit.«
More recent success for Barrington has come from doing over a
couple of Bob Andy tunes ›Too Experienced‹ and ›My
Time‹. What made you want to recut those tunes?
»It come to a test, or should I say it come to a stage, where
people were into these foreign artist songs. And the reggae that was coming from
Jamaica was just foreign artist songs. And I was sitting down and thinking that
I like that song. and well, why not do it, and make some money for the older
artists. If you do over a song from someone who's got a couple of million in the
bank, it doesn't make sense.
Help out the reggae industry, because we do
need new equipment and new studios. We need proper promotion, we need more money
in it, but you see Sanchez and most of those guys, they are
doing over foreign artist, and they don't need the money they are
And at the same time, there are many older artists, they don't have
no money. And yet they have kids to send to school, and family to look after. So
I did it to help me and to help them as well, and then at least they can get
something from the publishing. Bob Andy is quite happy for me to do over his
song, I see him the other day and we was talking, and he said ›It was nice
And since I did that, everyone has gone over his
tunes, and other old artists.«
planning to do any more old reggae tunes?
I see Alton Ellis is the other day, and he was saying to me ›Yeah man, go
ahead do some songs‹. John Holt said, ›Yeah go ahead‹. ›Too
Experienced‹ went 13 weeks at Number 1 in America, 13 weeks. And ›My Time‹ went
9 weeks at Number 1. This latest song with Cutty Ranks.
›Dance Hall Rock‹ is at Number Two. While it's Number 1
It's a very good tune. It seems
whenever you go away, you always come back even stronger.
»That's why I call the album ›Divine‹. Its
a mix of my material and other people's material, I'm quite happy with
The album looks like it was really
worked on. There are credits for a number of studios, in Jamaica and
»Most of the good
reggae artists now like, I won't call no name, they are drifting. They are just
doing the poppy, reggae thing. And most of the heartical reggae artists are
switching, changing. Someone has to defend the music. Someone was asking me, I
was doing an interview — ›Who is going to be the next Bob
Marley?‹ But there will never be a next Bob Marley, Bob Marley is
Bob Marley. Someone's got to push the music, but it's got to be pushed in a
different direction to Bob.
If anyone is trying to be the next Bob
Marley, they are stupid. What are they going to do grow dreads, and. ..that's
crap. You don't have to be dread to push the music, just do the right thing, and
do it properly.«
Bounty Hunter (Jah Life, 1979) Henry Junjo Lawes
Shine Eye Gal
(Burning Sounds, 1979) Henry Junjo
Shaolin Temple (Jah Guidance,
1979) Henry Junjo Lawes
(Greensleeves, 1980) Henry Junjo
Hood (Greensleeves, 1980)
Henry Junjo Lawes
Ray Me (JB Music, 1980)
Come Ya (Puff, 1981)
Man Style (Trojan, 1982)
One Girls Salute (Jah Life, 1982) J.Life & H.Lawes
Life Style (G.G, 1983)
Teach Me Culture
(Live & Learn, 1983)
Helena Hall & B.Levy
Money Move (Powerhouse,
1984) George Phang
Prison Oval Rock
(Volcano, 1984) Henry
Come (Time, 1985) Jah
(Tuff Gong, 1985) Tuff
Love The Life You
Live (Time, 1989) Jah
Broadway (Profile, 1989)
1991) Jah Screw
A Yah We Deh 7"
(Roots, 1979) Henry Junjo
Whom Shall I Be Afraid Of 12"
(Germain, 1981) Germain
Teach Me Culture 10" (Live Look &
Learn, 1981) Delroy Vright
Praise His Name 7" (Powerhouse, 1983)
One Foot Joe Joe 12" (Jah Life,
1984) Delroy Vright
Under Mi Sensi 12" (Time,
1984) Jah Screw
Here I Come 12" (Time, 1984)
Struggler 12" (Time, 1986) Jah Screw
Mine 12" (Time One, 1989) Jah
Too Expericenced 12"
(Time, 1989) Jah Screw
My Time 12" (Time, 1990) Jah Screw
Rock 12" (Mango, 1990) Jah
By Ray Hurford
(C)&(P) Small Axe 1992
(C)&(P) Small Axe 2007