Sunday, May 22, 2011
Big Youth & Blue Riddim Band Release 30th Anniversary Re-Mix Of 'Nancy Reagan'
America's original reggae band have linked up with reggae legend Big Youth to release a new version of the band's classic 80's track 'Nancy Reagan' which has been re-titled 'Nancy Reagan Remix 2011 - Voice Of The People'. The original was a good natured poke at U.S. President Ronald Reagan and his wife and a statement about where the First Lady's (and our country's) misguided priorities lay during the 1980's. It has been updated to reflect the state of the world in the 21st century and Big Youth delivers scorching lyrics describing today's geo-political situation at home and abroad breathing new life into the track.
Blue Riddim Band hold a very special place in the history of American reggae music. This all-white band from Kansas City, Missouri have the distinction of being the very first American reggae band to be invited to play at Reggae Sunsplash. Their blazing set of ska and reggae covers and originals as dawn was rising over Jarrett Park on August 8, 1982 is legendary. They earned two encores from the crowd of 20,000 Jamaicans who were mesmerized by their 'blue eyed reggae.' Their Sunsplash performance was recorded for the LP 'Alive In Jamaica' released in 1984 which was nominated for a Grammy for best reggae album in 1985. The record's highlight is a blistering live version of 'Nancy Reagan' (see video below).
Nearly three decades later I'm amazed at how well 'Nancy Reagan' has held up as an example of roots reggae from the golden era of rockers. The dub effects on the original 12" single of "Nancy Reagan" were as mind blowing as anything being produced by King Tubby, Scratch Perry or Mad Professor. Even now in the year 2011, the wry humor of 'Nancy Reagan' rings true in our contemporary era of corporate greed and relentless hyper-capitalism. With brilliant lyrics including, "All my clothes are from the best designers/All my china is a perfect match', the song may be one of the most overlooked reggae rhythms ever recorded. The track was originally recorded at the Channel One studio in Jamaica in 1982 while the band was on the island to perform at Reggae Sunsplash and was released as an EP along with five other songs.
This is not the first time the song has been versioned. In 1985 the 'Nancy Reagan' track inspired a young fan of the band living in California to use the track to create a protest song that would be critical of the ongoing Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and his view that it was being perpetuated by Reagan. Calling in a few favors, he was able to land the help of reggae enthusiast David Lindley, who mixed the "Nancy Reagan Re-Election Remix" side, and of Ranking Roger of The English Beat and General Public , who featured on "America & Russia/Selective Service System" and a free-style toast over the basic 'Nancy Reagan' track. Read more about that story and have a listen to the Ranking Roger version below.
I recently connected with Blue Riddim Band bassist Todd "Bebop" Burd who filled me in on the how the band connected with Big Youth to record the update and to discuss the launch of Rougher Records which is behind the release of the track. Read on!
How did you link up with Big Youth? He knew the band from back in the day right?
Yeah, he was dancing his ass off at Sunsplash! Every since then, he`s been an avid supporter of the band. We were his backing band for a U.S. tour in 2000. We've stayed in touch over the years and his council is HIGHLY valued in our camp. After we released "TRIBUTE", more than a few of the remaining old cats took notice including Big Youth. We also have a single in the works with Bob Andy. We've talked with others as well. Many of the veterans/originators of the music feel like much of what was great about the early days of rocksteady/reggae has been forgotten in Jamaica. We get the impression the old guys dig what we`re doing. We`re just humbled to be able to see this project materialize and to work with one of the true greats of reggae music.
What was it like working with Big Youth in the studio?
I`m tempted to describe having him fly to Kansas City, recording for days for stories sake. But, we did everything over the Internet. That`s how we roll these days! Our engineer, Leonard Dstroy totally MASHED UP the mix on this track! All right here in Kansas City! We've always been proud to represent our home town and we keep all our production local. For old school reggae, the coasts ain't got nothing on K.C.! ( Laughing) Having worked with him before, I can tell you he`s super easy going. Just one of the guys. Totally humble.
This is a remix of the Nancy Regan riddim right?
We remastered the original (which is the "B" side of the vinyl , soon to be released as a single in it`s own right, 30th anniversary) and Big Youth voiced over that. What you hear is the original mix remastered. It was originally mixed by Jack Nuber who also mixed several Bob Marley records (can`t recall at the moment). So it is his mix with us dubbing in Big Youth and working a little studio magic to make it all come together.
Any plans to tour/perform together?
It`s a lot easier to produce records than it is to put a band on the road! We have plans in the works. It`s complicated to put it all together. International travel ain't what it used to be and can present many
challenges. But we`re confident that we will be backing up Jah Youth (again) in the very near future. You`ll be the first to know, Marc!
Tell me a bit about Rougher Records?
The label was formed by myself and my partner, Emily 'Goldilocks' Madison. We both play in bands and have faced the same stigma of being reggae bands from the Midwest . We talked about how people around here tend to be ashamed to represent our area and always look elsewhere for "real music". We talked about the need to have an administrative body outside of our bands to handle the business end of the music. I realized that after 30 plus years of playing and producing this music that my skills combined with Emily s would present a formidable label that could compete on an international level. It is a full time job for two people but we feel that that the Internet has leveled the playing field and with hard work, anything is possible. We are pleased with the results thus far and intend to keep looking for artists to add to the roster.
Have a listen to the track below:
The song 'Nancy Reagan 2011 Remix - Voice Of The People' remix featuring Big Youth is now available from Rougher Records and the band has also released a limited edition 7" vinyl single featuring the 'Nancy Reagan 2011Remix - Voice Of The People/ version on the A side and a 'Remastered Original Nancy Reagan' on the B side. This is a limited first run pressing that will be numbered to 200 so be sure to get one soon before they are all gone!