Bernard Collins: Keeping On . . .

Bernard Collins at JapanSplash 95

First, I have to give thanks to Trainer at Dub Missive for putting this interview in motion for an upcoming article.

The interview took place on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 27, 1998 from about 3 to 4:30 p.m. in a house near Sherwood and Constant Spring Road in Kingston. I was in Kingston for the Ernie Smith & Friends concert later that evening. Louis and Patty Chase from Reggae 1 Love in Miami arranged the interview and link up with Mr. Collins.

Bernard is soft-spoken. He is smaller in physical stature than I imagined -- not the same as the cover photo of Heartbeat's Satta Massa Ganna album implies. He is a graying Rastaman -- as are many of his generation.

Bernard's mood and vision seem to shift between optimism and apocolyptic pessimism, immediately reflected in his ambivalence on the title of his new album . . . whether it should be Last Days or Keep On . . .

When he cut loose and sang on a few ocassions during our talk, it was clear his voice has not deteriorated much, if at all, in the years since the great recordings were made. A thorough listen to the new album confirms this.

It was another piece in the great puzzle of Jamaican music. I give thanks to have helped uncover it.

As I was saying, to go back to the beginning is one thing, to the story of the Satta session, but I want to go further, to just talk about you and your personal biography. Tell me how grew up and how the music came to you. . .

Ever since from me go in school as a youth, way down inna the middle 50s. My intention was always to be a singer. Cause me generally used to listen to the American singers them like Elvis Presley, used to listen to Sam Cooke, we used to listen to most of them American artists. I get most of my inspiration from American music, cause at that time it was just American music we used to hear. From there on I always wanted to be a singer, so normally I would imitate most of them guys. Elvis Presley -- at one time they used to call me "Presley," when I was a youth. From there on always searching fe get involved in music. When I came to town, back in the 60s, 1960, when I actually left St. Catherine where I grow up with my grandmother. I come to town now, then I realized . . . all of the big artists like Desmond Dekker, Alton Ellis, and everybody. So what me normally do when me came to town is to go through the areas where me know is (?) for the musicians, like Trenchtown. During those times, you have guys like Alton Ellis, Ken Boothe, Delroy Wilson, which was one of my main artists. So me normally go down a de area where those singers is just fe get the vibes, cause me normally go down Trenchtown and meet Leroy Sibbles. We get some vibes. We sing together, cause we very close to the Heptones. We would go, even amongst the Shoes them, Carlton and the Shoes. That's how come me get involved with Carlton and the Shoes them. His brother [Donald Manning] always love music also, but Carlton. . . recorded over the years and from there on, that's how me get fe involve with the Mannings. Cause they lived in Trenchtown. And therein me meet Donald, then that's how we start really.

Did you ever voice a track before "Satta?"

No. "Satta Massa Ganna" was the first song me really decide fe produce. It was my own effort cause that song fe come about. Because it was on my own label, Clinch, with the help of Donald and his brother [Linford]. We all work together around it.

Why did you call the label Clinch?

Well, the idea of Clinch came from another bredren, who usually was in Jamaica, and he went to the States about 1970. And he came back here about two years after, and he came with this little pendant on him chest.

The black power symbol?

Yea. We just use that as a label, Clinch. It kinda show a kind of unity, cause them time deh, the black power fist was the symbol them time deh, ya know? Back in the 60s.

Who drew up the first labels?

I have an artist who . . . is a guy who actually introduce me to Donald. His name is Lloyd Thompson. He is a Rastaman. He knows the language also, the Ethiopian language, the Amharic. He get me along to Donald. That's how come me and Donald becomes singing partners from such time.

I'm going to go in two directions now, but you're talking about Amharic. Was there a lot of interest in people learning and trying to get information about Amharic and how to speak Amharic in those times after His Majesty came to Kingston?

Mmmm. You see, the Rasta influence long time, even before His Majesty come. When His Majesty came now and the people actually see him, they get even more involved, cause people start seeing themselves more and want to identify themselves. Back in Jonestown near Baker Street, 25 Baker Street, where Donald and I, and he had another brother who was a priest in the [Ethiopian] Church at one time. He was a man who used to . . . have classes around there, where we could all go there and learn the language, cause he used to get books from Ethiopia through England -- Ethiopian opinions. And those books contain all literatures that we need, information, so during that time we used to keep classes round there. That's how come we get acquainted with the Amharic. Donald elder brother who died some years ago, used to keep a school there. Bredren from all about used to come there and learn.

So the session the, the "Satta" session. I'm not familiar with other stories of Studio One being used independently, outside of the control of Mr. Dodd. That sounds like an unusual thing. Did someone try to get Mr. Dodd interested in doing a track by the group and the musicians just rallied around you or how did you get the opportunity outside of Studio One's imprint?

It was always available. Why I know that it was available, during those time, I used to see man like Harry J, and I used to see man like Moodie's, he used to go in there and come out with production. Tune like "Drifter," all them tune are older tune than "Satta." Then did it in the same time, but they were like tunes before "Satta." And these men were independent producers. Those were two men I know who go in there and do recordings.

But this was kind of supervised by . . . Leroy Sibbles was probably important . . .

He did, he played a lot in regards to the arrangement of the song. But what really happened. When we went to Studio One to record "Satta" first. I actually went to Coxson, long before, and I ask him what it would cost to actually do two songs. And he told me that I should come back, and it should cost me about 70 pounds. And I used to work as a messenger with one of these manufacturing companies, ? Benjamin Manufacturing by East Queen Street. And I generally used to save my money. I was planning long time to do some recording for myself, cause before I used to sing with another guy name . . . um I don't remember him name, but this guy lives somewhere in Papine? First time we went to Treasure Isle, and they passed us, and sent us up in the top of the studio to record.

[Passed] through the kind of audition process?

Yes, and the guy hear us and say we sound alright and we should go upstairs, and we went upstairs, and they start feeling out the tune on the piano, but my other partner, he get a little nervous (laughs). So they say 'come back next week!' What I did now, I say, I'm going to start save and do my own session. Like wha I see Moodie's do. Cause as long as you have some money, you can go in and do your ting. That's how come. And at the time, Donald and I come together, and we just go inside of Coxson and do the recording. Pay Coxson for the session and everything. But "Declaration of Rights" now, was the second song I do. Because after "Satta Massa Ganna" is like a whole heap of little things, so I went back to Coxson to see if I actually coulda do some tune for him. So Leroy Sibbles was a good friend of mine from the Heptones, cause he generally used to come along in Trenchtown there where I tell you I go and meet. So Leroy say come along a de studio, so I went there one day and we lay down a track. The first track I lay was a tune called "Cheating Is Wrong." And Coxson came and he heard the track and he say he think I could do a better track. And I went back and I did "Declaration of Rights." A couple months after I realized he released it on an album called Solid Gold, a kind of all-star album. That was about 71, 72. With Leroy Sibbles singing harmony along with George Henry, who presently singing with me here now.

Is that right, so one of the third harmony on "Declaration" sings with you now?

Yes, he is along with me. Is George Henry. So "Declaration" was actually the second track. It came out as Abyssinians also on Studio One.

That's an extraordinary recording. When I listen to that I get more of a feeling than from "Satta."

Even "Forward On To Zion," which is on the same Satta Massa Ganna album, when I first sang that, I sang it for Upsetters, but as far as Upsetters went was just test presses. I never hear anything further of that track.

Do you still have the test pressings of that?

No. He [Scratch Perry] gave me one test press, and that was about 1970 . . .

Was there a test press ever made of the other Coxson track that you just referred to?

"Cheating Is Wrong?" No.

Tapes wiped, all gone?!

I do over that track now on my new album, "Cheating Is Wrong."

I want to go back to "Satta" for just a second. In the studio then, one of the most identifying characteristics of that song is the horn melody, which I think . . . I talked to Vin Gordon, months ago, when he was playing with Justin Hinds in my hometown. And he said he played on that track and I think Deadley Headley was there. How did it come together that that signature tune came . . .

That tune really, no one specially [gave] a specific arrangement to that song. We went there singing the song on our guitars. Cause we had like the melody progression, everything we had worked out. So we went there playing the chords and everything on the guitar, and while we play, everybody just came in. Cause these men were professional musicians. That's why I wanted to use Studio One musicians. And at the time even Carlton used to sing for Studio One. Song like "Love Me Forever," and through the attachment with this brother, I decide that I'd use Studio One, because at the time I see that as the best sound, in terms of musicians. So when you go to Studio One now, is like the musician, you haffe say they did all the arrangement really, Leroy Sibbles feel out his own bass line, Deadley Headley . . cause we didn't go in there with no special arrangement -- just the basic chords and the progression of the song and the melody. Is just a vibes tune.

When you played back the tape the first time did it strike you that this was going to be a long-time song?

No! Well, you see "Satta Massa Ganna" was really my song, you know. A song that I wrote as "Far Away Land." Cause the words "satta massa ganna" is just a phrase within the song as you can see. When the song actually ending, Donald Manning say I should sing "satta massa ganna." And when I released it first on Clinch, it was released as "Far Away Land." It wasn't till after a time, Donald Manning say I should call it "Satta Massa Ganna," and then we actually register the song as "Satta Massa Ganna," all three members owning the copyright. But in fact that song was really between me and Donald Manning. But all three of us rallied around to help get it pressed, get to the record shops, and everything.

I understood that it wasn't until it was versioned as "Mabrak" . . . what's the tune with the spoken word?

Yea, "Mabrak." It was versioned with "Thunderstorm."

I understood that ["Mabrak"] was the tune that sold more than the original. . . is that true?

The original flip-side was "Jerusalem," which was actually Donald's song. Cause at the time of the session I decided to do two tracks. One which written by me and one written by Donald. So "Far Away Land," which is called "Satta Massa Ganna" was actually my track, and "Jerusalem" was Donald's track, which I think is a Psalms from the Bible. But when we released both tracks, two A-side, we were contemplating whether or not, cause when we take it around to the record shop, the record shop people play this side and play that side. And we would watch their reaction to find out which side they would like. Sometimes some people would like "Jerusalem." Some people would like "Satta Massa Ganna."

"Jerusalem" was more in the style of the time, more traditional rock steady.

Ah, aye. I have to tell you about . . we record that song [Satta] in March 1969, and it wasn't till about 1970 that Joe Gibbs actually did over a recording of it. He was the first one who did a rerecording version he called "A So," an instrumental with the Destroyers. That him do, Tommy McCook, Bobby Ellis, and him come by some other hornsmen. And it playin on the radio.

Voiced by anyone?

No, it never voice. It just instrumental. But just as instrumental version just bring back the record right back to the people, because normally when it released first, it used to just play in the dancehall, because "Satta" is really a dancehall tune in those days, because it was in the dance it used to play. Home buyers never have it. People in the home never buy much of it. It was just sound system people, but it wasn't until Joe Gibbs bring out this version that everybody is out start going at this song.

Do you know how many versions of it you released on Clinch . . . I know there's versions by Big Youth . .

I have more recent versions that released since the past two years. I have versions with Prince Far I, "Wisdom." I have a version with myself, name . . . you have "Satta Don," which I did recently.

"Satta Me No Born Yah" . . .

Aye, I did that one also. Dillinger "I Saw E Saw." You have Tommy McCook, "Mandela." Right now I have a whole album, with 14 tracks of pure Satta from the original.


Do you remember when those [with McCook] were dubbed?

Early 70s. Tommy McCook and Vivian Hall playing trumpet. Those overdubs were the same sessions where me did "This Land" -- about 1976.

Tell me about the tracks . . . you put out an album "Best of Abyssinians" on this label Musidisc. That had some things that hadn't been released on cd before, including "Let My Days Be Long." Was that one of the next ones that was done? Cause it says 1971.

Yea, "Let My Days Be Long," "Jason Whyte."

Now "Let My Days Be Long" and "Jason Whyte." I was listening to them and those sound like two different takes of the exact same rhythm.

Those was the two second songs we did with Mannings. Those were the two second recordings after "Satta Massa Ganna." "Declaration" was before these.

How about "Leggo Beast" and "Reason Time"? Those sound like they were recorded the same day.

Yea, those were recorded at Federal, the same session those two songs.

Mikey Chung said he worked with Now Gen on some of these tunes.

There was only one he worked on with Now Gen, cause only one song Now Gen ever played for us was "Y Mas Gan."

For Matador?

Yea, he played on that. And he played on one track on the Satta Massa Ganna album. Is "African Race." That acoustic guitar that you hear.

I always thought that might be Chinna, but it's Mikey Chung?

Yea, just a little acoustic.

Then there was this version of "Jerusalem" called "Crashie Sweeps." Tell me how that one came together . . . that's interesting, it sounds like you're doing a public relations campaign for the city.

That's a time when Manning them went away. What date you have on that?


74 . . . well, even from long when never singing any more [new] songs, a craze come in where people singing over riddim tracks, back over the same original rhythm tracks. So I decided that I would sing back on some of my rhythm tracks, like Satta. Me sing "Satta Me No Born Yah," "Jerusalem," -- "Crashie Sweep" them. During the same time as socialism time*. Is like a political commentary, cause people used to sweep all the streets here and ting. And they used to make one and two songs from those people. This was a song I make in regards to keeping the streets clean.

How about the track "Love Comes and Goes?"

That tune was actually produced by Stephen Coore, Cat Coore. And I think a guy named Compton Russell. You have a company named CORUS (?). Cat Coore always fancy Abyssinian music, so he came to us and say he would like produce a song on his label. So we came up with "Love Comes and Goes." I think it was distribute on Arab label, Tommy Cowan.

This next next one I was going to ask about, "Tenayistillin." Who produced that?

That produced by the same Sound Tracs people, same session which did the album. Cause that album that they released, Heartbeat. It was produced by Sound Tracs, a company here.

Tell me about that company. . . Let's go ahead and talk about that session then. What we call the Clive Hunt sessions.

What year you have as the date of that album?

Released 1976 . . . recorded/released 76. It wasn't an official release as I understand. People always refer to it as a pirated album. What's the story?

The story is . . . you have a company at that time here name Sound Tracs. [Run by] Pat Cooper, you had guys like Clive Hunt, Geoffrey Chung, Mikey Chung, all of the top notch [musicians] working with the company. They must make some contacts with Donald Manning. I think it was Geoffrey Chung, cause [he] lived nearby Donald Manning, so them make the contact with Donald Manning, and Donald told me these people would like to record the album, so we went there and lay down ten tracks. No, the first track we lay down was "Tenayistillin." And they released that one in England. I think that was like track of the year for one of them year deh. Until they approach us now fe do the album. And we start working on the album, but before the album finish is like . . .something went wrong within the company. I don't know what go wrong, but the director of the company actually went away to the States. Clive Hunt had the tapes and when we check Clive Hunt fe find out what going on with the album and ting, he told us that everybody gone, and the most him can do is take the tape and try and make some money for himself. So him start printing the records here.

So that's why it's on the Azul label, which is his nickname, true?

Well, I feel that way because I understand he was behind that label too, with Tappa Zukie. Tappa Zukie had him other thing going, because I think is Tappa Zukie control that label in New York. Because when I went to New York, I try to check out and find out where they are operating, but my lawyer told me that people always do them sorta ting deh in New York. Them just give you address and is an empty warehouse or something.

I think they still press it to this day.

Uh-huh. Still pressing it mon, cause I see people come here with it. I have copies of it also. But anyhow, we lay down ten tracks. Before the album was suppose to be release, I understand that copies was all about . . . England, in America, on white label and everyting. Well anyhow, a company in England release it, two companies in England, Klik Records and Different Records release. I think it was album of the year 1976. I went [to England] and get a copy of the tape from I think Virgin, cause at the time we just completed the Arise album, and Virgin release that album, but Virgin present me a copy of the Forward On To Zion album, which was bootleg in England. I took back the tape here and had it with me and give it to Donald Manning.

You're talking about a mix-down.

A mix-down. I see it release in America through Heartbeat, and I don't know what's going on.

The copy I own of that album is from France, on Blue Moon.

Yea, it was released there, cause me and Donald Manning sign it over to them, but it never release as Satta Massa Ganna, it release as Forward On To Zion. But it release in Europe as Forward On To Zion. There was a lot of mix-up with that album.

But aside from all the mix-up with the album, the album itself, nuff people feel that it was one of the greatest reggae albums ever recorded. I would say so personally. I mean I don't like to put one thing above another, but I find myself listening to that album almost more than any other reggae album.

Yea, cause it's really original. It's a really original album. Everybody put themself in it. I know I put myself deep in that album. And I figure the other bredren also too. So, I want this album should be on Clinch. If everything a run right, the album would a deh pon my label too. Cause Satta Massa Ganna is what we really intended releasing it as, because originally it was release in Jamaica as Satta Massa Ganna by Geoffrey Chung. And then you see it in England now, through Klick as Forward On To Zion.

There were copies release by Geoffrey Chung in Jamaica?


What label would those have been on?

That's on the Antrim? label. I have copies of it at home. Cause Geoffrey Chung have the publishing on it and right now him owe me a lot of money, for my tracks dem. Tracks like "Declaration of Rights." Track like "Black Man Strain." Track like "Forward On To Zion." All of my publishing. He released it. He have the publishing -- ParaNowgen Songs.

You're talking about Geoffrey or Mikey Chung?


Geoffrey's gone now . . .

Yea, but him business still going on, and them collecting all of them monies.

Who runs his business?

His brother say somebody in Miami. I was talking to him brother the other day, but me going to find out everything still. Cause me just write to the performing rights in England fe find out and send them certain letters and contracts weh me have with Geoffrey Chung. Before he died, me and him was talking bout it, but he wanted me to bring in my contracts them, weh him give me. And me no really give him my contracts them cause him supposed to have a copy of them contracts deh! But me check him breddah since him dead and him say somebody in Miami dealing with him business.

But most of them songs, me nah collect no money offa it. "Leggo Beast," me a collect publishing offa. And the Manning songs . . . I don't know if they get them songs out of the deal, but I see most of [their] songs on the album on Happy Valley Music. All of the songs were jointly registered by Geoffrey Chung. I don't know if the Manning brothers actually get back their publishing, cause most of the tracks on the album is Happy Valley. My songs are still with ParaNowGen.

When the session was going on, you said you put everything into it. It sounds like the musicians must have felt the same way. There are some sessions that have happened in this town where it sounds like people are just doing work.

This is some professional set of musicians. Because I myself actually recommended some of those musicians.

But you wouldn't call that necessarily the Now Generation.

No, no.

Even though Now Gen was Val Douglas, Mikey Richards, and Mikey Chung. Their names are . . . I know that Horsemouth is on it too.

Well, Now Gen wasn't really a roots band. Now Gen band was like an uptown band. With some middle class musicians who know music and could play good music.

Sure, but they could play roots music too.

Yes, that's why I mixed them at the time with some of the roots musicians like Horsemouth, cause Horsemouth played on some of the tracks dem. You had Robbie [Shakespeare] played on some of the tracks. You had this guy, Soul Syndicate, Tony Chin playing rhythm guitar, Chinna playing lead. Clive Hunt himself playing piano. Robert Lyn play organ and synthesizer. To me that was the best of the crop, what I see. It was a combination of Now Generation and In Crowd, cause we used to play with In Crowd too. Cause after a while In Crowd even start playing like Abyssinians, some of them songs. "His Majesty," and them songs. . . they take them fi Abyssinians [songs] in England.

Tonight at the Ernie Smith show, I helped Mikey Chung with the setlist last night, and they're going to play "Y Mas Gan."

Yea, [Mikey Chung] invite me the other day. When Ernie was playing last year [Mikey Chung] say I could even come and sing "Y Mas Gan."

Why don't you do it?

But I never know how serious him was.

I don't know why you wouldn't do that.

But that was a good song them did mon, "Y Mas Gan." One of the best recording me do up to the time in terms of quality. Studio in that time was an eight track studio still, but the kind of sound . . .pitch out on the band really sound a way, steady and cool, you know?

You're talking about the first with Matador?

Yea, the second recording was, same Val Douglas play bass too.

But the credit . . . or that was [to] Linford Manning.

Yes, Linford Manning wrote that song. Which means "Let him be praised." You see, me not really fighting Donald Manning them. Is them moving away from me and more wan deal with them ting as a family unit. Cause Donald Manning have a lot of children. They grow up now. And from a time, he depend on his brother to help him out. One brother turned Christian and him bring in another brother. And I want to really get out of the brother business, because most group with brother business always have problem. If me and him and the brother in Miami was singing it would be alright, what him name? The guy who him harmonize along with?

I don't know. I don't have it written down.

Morrison? What him name? The present man is David Star, what him name . . . you never interview them since?

I interviewed Donald Manning 18 months ago, in the spring of last year when 19.95 Plus Tax came out.

That is the first album come out where I don't even have a track that I write. Most of the albums that have come out before, I have most of the tracks them written by me.

. . .

As I show you, I've just completed a new album Last Days, and this track was supposed to be on the present Abyssinian album which is out there.

Like "African Princess" and "Last Days." Those were recorded back with the other [19.95] tracks. There was one other one that I'd never heard that I saw listed . . .

"Soon We'll Be Free" was the next track was supposed to go on it.

I made mistake when I was writing [my notes], cause I thought it was "Swing Low."

Yes, "Swing Low" was also a track, but I never intended putting "Swing Low" on that album.

But it's from what time period, late 80s?


That's interesting. We can skip ahead to talk about that time when those tracks were recorded. Did you get together for a Sunsplash show in 89?

What really happened. As I said, Donald Manning leave here from 1984. And Linford Manning left about 1980. And I leave Jamaica in 1986 and went to the States and did these tracks, some of these tracks that we're talking about, I recorded them in Phillip Smart studio in Long Island. I laid tracks there, me and Andy Bassford and Val Douglas. And I went to England about 1988. Leaving New York, I go straight to England to go and look market fi de album. When I went to England is like certain bredren glad to see me as Abyssinians, as a matter of fact they wanted to get all three members over in England, seeing me. They say, 'what happened to your bredren?' I say, 'they are all living in the States.' I happened to fly over to America with . . . certain individual from England and go over to America to get them over to come and do some shows. Well, they didn't come over same time, but about a month after they came over and joined me. We started touring in England. That is about 89-90. We came in 1989 Sunsplash, coming from England. We did Sunsplash and returned back to Europe. By 1990, Donald brother Linford no longer wants to sing. He say he want to more stay with his family. Can't take the touring and ting.

Donald said he turned Christian and didn't feel he could sing reggae anymore . . .

Aye, exactly, that's what he told us.

And this gets into another thing, because there's in songs like "Tenayistillin," and other songs, "Peculiar Number" maybe, there's references to Jesus Christ, and that doesn't [necessarily] seem inconsistent with Rastafari . . . or is it?

Well, you see most of them songs deh, imagine him sing "Tenayistillin." Linford wasn't really a Rasta, you know. He was more like a Church man from longer time. Donald was a man who I know was a Rasta. When I met him he was. He locks before me. But he was saying the same thing I was saying. That's why me and him come together. Cause of a fact, it wasn't him and Linford come together or him and Carlton. It was me and him come together, because Linford always sing with Carlton as Carlton and The Shoe along with Alexander Henry, if you know the history. Alexander Henry was the third person who died in America sometime.

Donald never sang with the Shoes?

No, Donald never sang. He came and sang on my session. I took him to studio. And he asked Linford to come and help him with the harmony, because I already had George Henry who used to sing with me and Donald. Me and Donald and him used to sing, but we never recorded. It was George Henry and Leroy Sibbles who recorded "Declaration of Rights." But is like George Henry phase out and Linford came and hold harmony through we had to go to the studio to do the recording. From there on Linford started sing . . . and he even started writing some songs. So Donald and I is really the two original Abyssinians.

I have another question that goes back to the past. You did a Sunsplash 1979 show. Do you have a memory of that?

With the original Abyssinians?

Yea, Nelson Miller told me that.

That was the [second] Sunsplash. Bob Marley was on that show too. Burning Spear too. It was Burning Spear's band who backed us up. And Donald Manning even sing on 92 Sunsplash with me, along with the two, Melvin Trusty and George Henry. The four of us sang on 92 Sunsplash. So it surprise me to know that Donald Manning really have a group outside, because he know what I'm doing. He came here. He been here over a period and the last time he performed with me was 1992 Sunsplash at Montego Bay. It really surprise me to know that he set up an Abyssinians in America.

There's two appearances of the Abyssinians on film that I've seen. At the beginning of Rockers . . .

Yea, I know of that. We were invited by Horsemouth, who was the star. He recommended us to the producer of the film for that special scene, which was like the opening scene, singing "Satta Massa Ganna" with Ras Michael.

That's a great way to open that film. It really sets the stage. [In the documentary Roots, Rock, Reggae] there's a scene where you're singing Satta acoustically, it's kind of a capella with Donald playing guitar.

Yea, I playing guitar also.

Are you?

Yea. Two guitars.

I haven't seen it for years, but I remember it just because it was beautiful to hear the song done that way. How did you agree to do that for the film-makers, and where was that recorded (filmed)?

That was recorded on the actual spot where we wrote "Satta Massa Ganna." It was actually recorded on the same spot where we come up with the song. It was back in 25 Baker Street where Donald generally used to live. Where he had a school. So the people who the produce that documentary wanted us to be on the actual spot where the song was made.

That's a good concept.

That was really no problem, cause in that time, everybody was eager to get themselves established.

To get the exposure. How do you feel about that trade-off that you get in the business. I'ts almost like you have to get yourself exploited in some way by someone, the way this business works, to get your name out there and get your own chance to establish yourself?

Well, you see, that's why I try to produce myself, because I'm a different artist from the rest of artists. I'm not so much of a Studio One artist or a Treasure Isle artist. I'm a Clinch artist. I have my own label. I establish, I produce my own self from 1969. There is only two songs I did outside of my company, which is "Y Mas Gan" and "Declaration of Rights." And those songs for Sound Tracs, which consist of sound tracks that we sing over, like "Declaration of Rights," "Y Mas Gan," "Satta." But over the years, I try to have my own thing, even though I get exploited still. Cause you have pirates, and you have bootlegs. Even on this album here, I see one of my tracks pirate. I don't know how him get this, cause him don't produce this. I have the master for this. Anywhere them get this is off a record. Because right now I plan to release a fourteen track pure Satta [album] from the singing, right down to the last track. So I find it a problem still, because when I came in the business, I never come in to make a lot of money. And I wasn't a businessman as such to run a company, even though I produce a song independently. I came in the business now, and I realize certain things that I should know before entering the business. Even now, there are a lotta things still I don't know. That's why I haffe keep reading and communicating with people fe get back some of my rights and protect my rights. So is a lotta thing I learn. I lose a lot. Even now I'm losing, cause people even using Abyssinians out there when I should be there of a fact. I always want to come in America, cause I have people in Seattle who I been communicating with from in the 70s who always say them want me to come that side. So I know of a fact that people looking for the Abyssinians. Them getting some Abyssinians still, but them not getting the original Abyssinians. I open for work yes, but as I say I'm doing my own thing here now. If them need me fe work with the Abyssinians, them haffe come and lay the cards and see what there for me. Is not like one time when me and Donald just sit down and talk a ting, and Donald may feel him is the boss, or me feel me is the boss. Because I know them must be working with a company now. They must have people working with them, do they?

That I can't tell you. All I know is that Donald did a thing on his own which is that cd, 19.95 Plus Tax. But then obviously he linked up with these people in New York. I can't speak for exactly what he did. I don't know who is around him.

[Looking at the photo on the cover of Satta Dub] This is the first photograph that ever published with us, in The Gleaner . . .

(left to right: Linford, Donald, Bernard circa 1970)

What Donald doing is projecting himself as the leader. They introduce him on the Earl Chin [Rockers TV] show last week. They had him on interview in regards to the Abyssinians. I'm not looking [to be] no leader you know. All of the albums him bringing out now, him up front. I'm not looking fe leader, I just want agitate for my rights. I have a lot in the Abyssinians too. My money spent in it. I still spending here.

I have a friend in California. He loves reggae music. He's a deejay. He traveled to see
the Abyssinians. It was Donald, Carlton [etc.]. But he was disappointed because it was your voice that he identified as the core sound. Of course I don't want to take away for a second from the Manning brothers, because their harmonies complete the trio. It's a trio. And their voices are there, but without your voice at the center, this person, he felt disappointed.

They are going around and saying I refuse from working with them. That's what I hear. They say is I don't want to work. But is not a matter of I don't want to work. I am here working, and if they want me fe work they haffe come lay the cards pon de table. I am not here fe work with nobody pon a level, cause this is Jamaica. This is the roots of reggae music. And agree that in England, that is a next section of the business. But in Jamaica, everybody haffe report right back to Jamaica. You have artists leaving England to come back to Jamaica to reside just to get back him roots. You have artists who do live in America, but you haffe say they are here every day. In the studio, around the music sector, to get that vibes.

Yea, the vibes are here.

So, if anybody really need me to do anything, it because they leave me from 1984, hungry, and I have to find my way out. And I still perform here, and I'm recognized here as Abyssinians. Cause people a see me now of late say they hear of a next Abyssinians. They see thing in the paper. Who is these brothers? They know those brothers as Carlton and the Shoes. Cause of a fact what they're getting is Carlton and the Shoes.

They wouldn't disrespect themselves to just call it Carlton and the Shoes, and they could even sing Abyssinians songs. There would be nothing wrong with them playing Abyssinians songs, but if they called it Carlton and The Shoes, that would be what people would be getting.

But Carlton do sing even two of his songs too. They came here and perform some time ago, and I see a couple of the video that they do.

Did they do "Love Me Forever?" That's a beautiful song.

So what I really want to show is that Carlton is an act by himself. He has a career of his own. And I do think he's still working on his career, because he has an album. Somebody told me recently they heard a track from his album. Some kind of soul kind of tune.

I think it's time . . . we haven't talked about your Last Days project, through and through. As I told you, I've had the fortune of hearing a [tape] of it, so I have a concept of what it sounds like, and I was very impressed. I love to hear a live studio production out of Jamaica like the old days.

Yes. Well, Last Days. Me and Andy Bassford work on that album. Andy Bassford. I don't know if you know him. He got a band in New York named the Blue People.

No. I know his name. I've seen it around, but I don't . . .

He used to work with Lloyd Parks here. He is American, but a very good musician. As I say, while I was in America, 1986-1987, I get a vibes to start doing something there. That's how come that album started getting together. And then Andy Bassford laid about ten tracks, and I came down here and laid four more tracks, to make fourteen tracks. Me and Familyman had this song, "Tribute to Marley," which I actually did with Familyman Barrett, original bassist of the Wailers. So this album is a direct album, you know? The first name of the album was Keep On. That's the first concept I had for the album. The track name "Keep On" . . . 'Bernard Collins & The Abyssinians, Keep On' . . . then a next thought hit me say make this album the Last Days through things what I see going around me, you know. So of a fact I have two names for the album, but I think I'm going to lock with Last Days.

Tell me a bit more about it. There are several tracks that stuck out. When I had the tape I didn't have the list of tracks, so I had to guess, but obviously "Jah Marley." Bob Marley, you know? Give me your perspective on him. Outside Jamaica, people say that he's the best, the greatest. I think of him as the greatest ambassador for the music, because I can't disrespect all the Burning Spears and the Abyssinians, and Johnny Clarkes, and Cornell Campbells. I can sit here and name 50 artists who are crucial contributors to the music. How do you feel about the way reggae is represented to the international community, presently and through time, as being Bob Marley's music?

Well, I wouldn't have nothing much to say in regards to how the music really flow, because Bob Marley was very lucky in getting a deal with a company. He was the first reggae [artist] here to get a good international deal. And I know Bob Marley have potential, because I always rap with Bob Marley back in Trench Town. I pass through Bob Marley stable also and rap with him, sing there with him, make songs with him on tape. I don't know what him do with it. . . . Harmonize with him there. I know Bob Marley was really a creative man, and I do get inspiration from him, because I go amongst him and see how him create. Is a mon who would just look upon the moon and would play and make a song about the moon and the trees, same time. And I get to realize, seh, of a fact, is how you really have to deal with it. In creation, composing and all that. Cause he was a great composer. I respect him for that. I get a lot of vibes from him. I learn a lot of tings from him also during my Trench Town days of going around. So you have to respect him a lot.

Did he ever give you any feedback on your tunes?

Yes, yes! When I actually did "Declaration of Rights" in Studio One, I went to his shop with it, to let him hear it. Because normally, as I say, I do my own production, and I always carry my records to his shop and leave them there that he could sell them for me. So when I actually record "Declaration" on the Coxsone label, I took it down to his shop for him just to hear it. And him play it and him start dance and say 'yea mon, a dem tune ya haffe sing a now yout! And you haffe call up Rasta name inna you tune. De tune a sing if ya call Jah! Sing bout Jah. And make tune like dem weh ya a sing.' That's weh him show me. That's as close as him ever talk to me in regards to any of my song dem. Bob Marley was an alright guy. He was a rough guy to me still, a very proud guy. He don't put up with no bull[shit]. He [was] a very serious man when it come to certain rights. Ya haffe fight, ya know wha I mean? [Laughing] But other than that him cool! He was a very boastful guy, a special guy, when you look pon him you know him is no ordinary guy, from a longer time -- a very unique guy. Sometimes you see him passing by where he lives, like when you going to the bus stop, going to town. And he has his guitar on him shoulder, and is just him that going up the road, ya know wha I mean?

Did you see him as much in his later years?

No. When him get popular I don't see him much. It was like he had to run away you know?

Well, yea, they tried to kill him.

Yea, him sing "Running away, running away. . ." He really had to keep wide. And when he do come to Jamaica, him never generally come around. Him mostly up by his place. So he was a very hard man to see. Years I don't see him. Even before he died. A good while I don't see him. But normally you would see like, Peter Tosh. Cause Peter Tosh was a very popular man me used to see all about. Someplace him riding him bicycle downtown, a one wheel bicycle. Him just make appearance [laughs] at Crossroads or somewhere [laughs].

He'd ride his unicycle down the streets of Kingston!

Aye! . . . Though the reggae gone now, you haffe get knot up with some people who can promote you, cause over the years I'm not satisfied with myself as Abyssinians. I don't see myself really reach no heights in it. I hear people do come and say certain things. Is just through the 80s I make a few tour, and 96 I make a little semi-tour in Europe. I think Donald Manning them went in the same area, January, February of this year. [But] I don't go anywhere yet. I don't satisfied with the level of my contribution in the music business, because regardless I tell you seh I produce my stuff. I haven't seen anything, because that album that you see, the Best of the Abyssinians, I release it [though] Musidisc company in France, and from the day I release that album, right now me having some problem about me royalties. Cause me have a lawyer deal with them over deh.

Same way with Forward?

Yea, but I know you haffe tour for [an] album [to] sell. A company cyaan just put out album and you earn money. So that is a game again. Long time the Abyssinians haffe hook up among the right people, cause a lot of this problem that creating now maybe we would avoid it if we have the right people behind us. We were too [into] dealing with things ourself. Where that mon feel he is boss, and the other man feel he is boss. You have the authority to do certain things . . .

But it cuts both ways too, because you've benefited from it by virtue of the fact that you're in control of the sound you've got. There are no recordings of the Abyssinians that particularly misrepresent the integrity of the band. Let's say . . . there's an album that the Diamonds did in America with a New Orleans producer [Alan Toussant's Ice On Fire production], and it misrepresents what the Diamonds are about, cause they let it get out of their own hands. But it cuts both ways you know? There's some good and some bad. But I don't think you should feel like you've made a mistake in sticking to that course. And you must know too that among people who really penetrate the music, they respect you to the max, too. I know that's a small consolation in some sense when you see people drive around in big cars and thing, but . . . I mean . . . I don't know . . .

Yea, well, if you're doing some work and you want to achieve. You want to see things happen.

I know that . . . I know that. . .

And at the end of the day, you cyaan blame anyone. You haffe blame yourself still in certain case, because you haffe get your things together. Because if you don't get your things together, the next man going to just capitalize off it. Cause right now the amount of people who rerecord over "Satta Massa Ganna . . ." We still don't have the right people who strike it yet, who can sit down and collect some good royalties. Third World is the only band who carry it to a level, cause Island Records control the publishing. What I've been getting from them so far is chicken feed, but the amount of people that do over the song. . . I mon a tell you mon, really, cause [here] in Jamaica, [Bobby] Digital just did a whole album [of Satta]. And if I'd a been doing some work, really, me should a see some good royalties. There is a business too, you know? Regardless of the culture we are putting out, making people feel happy. We supposed to be happy too. And at least should be enjoying some of the benefits that they put out.

. . .

One of the other tracks [from Last Days] that I really latched onto was "Old Wareika Hill."

Yea, Wareika Hill is a place where I go everyday. . .

Still . . .

Yea, sometime I play up there for the youths them. Every Sunday I go by there and down by the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari. So I have a special feeling for Wareika Hill where I make that song.

What's the history of Wareika Hill? I don't know much about the place . . . I've heard it cited in [the title of a] song by Augustus Pablo . . .

I don't really know much about the history of the hill, but the little that I do know. I know that you have a lot of people live up there. And a lot of talented people too. Cause generally I used to go up there to Count Ossie. And these people are people who always beat them drum and praise Rasta, even though they may not be Rasta. They were more like bearded men. Cause back in the early [days] you used to have 'bearded men,' who different from Rasta. You still have bearded men too. They just grow their beard.

I've never even heard of that.

Ya mon! You used to have a song name "Beardman Shuffle" too, back in those days too. So you have beard men who is like the first set of Rasta. And some of them rest up on the hills. And some of them rest up on Sligoville too, Pinnacle. You find Count Ossie on the Wareika Hill, so you have a history of musicians -- all of the hornsmen them come from the East -- Tommy McCook, Vivian Hall, and so on.

The hornsmen come from up that way?

Yes. Prominent hornsmen, they come from the East.

Can you sight any reason about that?

I don't know . . .

Where was the Alpha Boys School?

That is in the East too . . .

That could be the reason . . .

Rico Rodriguez come from the East.

Headley came through Alpha boys school. But they had instruments there. So if that's where Alpha Boys School is, that could be the reason.

But Wareika Hill becomes a place where after a while, a whole heap of tings going [on] up there -- war and killing and is a section where don't get much support through politics and all that. So you find seh the people them struggle up them side deh. They exist, so a lotta tings gwan up deh. The last ting I think some soldier go up deh and kill out a lot of people. That's why this song yah now show you everything wha'happen in Wareika Hill. Lotta bloodshed . . . 'Women cry when they see they kids die. Old Wareika Hill, my memory still deh still.' So, most of the songs off the album is things that me experience. "Swing Low" is a next experience, cause "Swing Low" is a very important track to me, because you can listen to the lyrics of "Swing Low" and know what you're dealing with! [laughter].

Again, I'm not sure which one that is . . . cite the verses . . . [this tune wasn't on the tape I heard of Last Days but is on the vinyl copy I took home].

[Sings] 'Woman, you swing low, swing low. Woman you swing low, I've seen you bend down low. You soon buck you toe, woman you swing low. . .' a whole heap more lyrics. [Laughing] But is really a woman ting I experience -- woman side. You have track like "Keep On" is a next experience that show Bernard Collins keep on keeping on, you know. Because, regardless what I still keeping on, is how it works.

What's the first track, the lead-off track on the album?

The first track on the cd would be "Lion In The Jungle." But the first track on the vinyl is "Jah Marley." Cause the vinyl have twelve tracks and the cd have fourteen tracks. So I start the vinyl with a different track from what what I'm gonna start the cd with. . . "Jah Marley" is like a more up tempo track, but on the cd, "Lion In The Jungle" is more like a bongo drum carrying me in. "I wake up this morning with music . . ." is the opening track and then step up the pace.

Yea, that's the first track on the tape I had. It set the tone nice.

But in Jamaica now, them kinda like the faster tune dem. People like the fast stepping. Them like hear the faster song, me don't know why.

What other tracks on the album would you say are particularly strong tracks?

Tracks like "Tell Me." Tracks like "Too Young," which is like an old Nat King Cole song I sing over. I do it over inna reggae. "Too Young," "Tell Me," because the tracks are love songs, they show my versatility that I am not just singing . . .

About one concept . . .

Yes. This album have a mixture. Love songs, songs dealing with prophesy. You have songs dealing with slavery, "Soon We'll Be Free." "Jahoviah." Tracks like "Cheating Is Wrong." All those tracks combine together to make this album a strong album. It's the strongest album I feel I ever do. . . I have confidence in the Last Days album. It really a deal with the signs of the time, also -- the fulfillment of the prophesies. And everything coming from the heart, cause deep down I & I a sing the music really fe Jah, and the people. Not just money alone. Ya know wha I mean? . . . or power or fame . . . Cause as I say, I'm here and I'm willing to work under certain circumstances. Cause my job's suppose to be still there for me. Cause I'm not vex with anyone you know. Really, I no carry no feelings for no one. But I need to know where I stand, because a man supposed to get respect for what him doing. Man supposed to be credited for what him doing. But I realize there ain't no credit out there for me. I feel Donald and Linford Manning and myself did a lot to make it happen. And I give them thanks for that too. Cause it wasn't me alone, regardless.

Donald said the same thing about you. . .

But at the same time you're suppose to have certain voice where a mon can hear me, regardless I'm not a Manning. Cause many times people call me Mannings too, you know. Many occasion man an man say 'hello Missa Mannings, what happen to your son and ting, and him play drum . . .' Me seh 'No, Missa Collins really. Missa Manning a me bredren.' [Laughs] But this album is what me really concentrate pon cause me want to get it out. Cause you can see me start have it publicize already in Jamaica. Them waiting fe hear it. Cause me have some people willing fe launch it for me. NKB, the same people who promote the Heineken Star Time show. They are willing fe launch it for me. Cause they heard some of the tracks. I have one track released, recently, that's "Young Wings." That's the track I released [as a single] about three weeks ago.

On Clinch?

Yea. And that's the track I'm going to use fe kinda promote the album first here.

Is that the one that's got a guitar and keyboard melody that [alternately] play off of each other?

Yea, yea.

Bwai, that's right on! That is beautiful. Who arranged that part of the tune?

Dalton Browne arranged the guitar section, and the keyboard arrangement between me and Bubbler [Franklyn Waul]. This guy weh play for Julian Marley now.

He's going to be down tonight.


Yea. He's playing with Mikey Chung [and Now Gen].

He play on couple of my songs on this new album too.

Bubbler is one of the greats.

Mmmm. This album now mon. I just want it released, cause most of my songs them now, they haffe come out on the streets. They haffe be really released. I cyaan tell you if the song going to be a hit or not until it come out there, cause most of the songs that I sing over the years, "Declaration of Rights," "Satta," is not until they actually come to the street. Cause "Satta Massa Ganna" take three years before it was accepted to the public here.

How do you feel about the trying to get tracks accepted when what young people are listening to is this programmed dancehall. I don't know how they chart records in Jamaica, or what constitutes a hit, or what have you, but the songs that are hitting in Jamaica aren't full, live studio productions, unfortunately. Do you feel that you have a better chance of getting something going on here or are you hoping that it will get accepted overseas where there's a large awareness of your old Abyssinians work?

Well, you see, we have a stronger ting going on outside. I know that. Cause back in Jamaica here now, the Abyssinians do have a name, yes. In a certain area. If you call upon "Satta Massa Ganna," "Declaration of Rights," everybody know those songs, but if you say Abyssinians to most of the young youths, they don't know Abyssinians. Sometime them don't even know what the word Abyssinian mean. They never hear that word before. But if you say "Satta Massa Ganna" or "Declaration of Rights," they know the song. Because our song was like the first dancehall song. And the first dub, "Satta Massa Ganna." You don't want to believe it -- the first drum and bass that! "Satta" came out 1969, drum and bass.

When you say 'drum and bass,' I associate that with like an early 80s dancehall style like Junjo Lawes and Linval Thompson style.

If you listen to the flip side of "Mabrak," same "Satta" version, "You tink a so?" The flip side is drum and bass. That was release from 70-so. Because we record that tune on two-track. When I was at the studio one day, cutting a pure stamper, one of my bredren just put it on single track [one channel], and we just get the drum and bass. And him say, 'but wait, this sound good mon!' And we just release the flip-side of "Mabrak," which is "Issat" -- pure drum and bass. And that used to play in the dancehall, regular. Cause we used to sell a lot of dub plates, like a special to sound systems -- Sir George, Tubby's, and all them ready soun. Cause we get the dub wax a it right in the dancehall, and from there on you find the dub and version start springing up. From 70 come down. Because as I say when "Satta . . ." release it was like two A-side, in 69. But by 70, this version business came in, where you could just version back the same original track and put it on the flip side. All of this take place in the 70s, coming down. Version business.

But in terms of the direction weh the music take now, it's still doing a good. Because reggae music is really for the poor people here in Jamaica -- the poor and the have-not. Cause most of them come and exist from the music including myself, cause that's the only thing I have to hold onto. Where I find myself can deal with. I don't even know how equipped I am inna this music business, cause a lotta musicians you have go to school and learn. And when you check out certain people really, mon put dem to a test. Them limited too. I'm gonna put myself in the same ting, cause me no really go and tell anyone say me is a big musician. Because me see other people on here who me know more creative than me -- in a sense that these people are professional people. You can call upon them fe get anything done and them dweet same time. Cause you have certain musician you can call them today to do certain things, and them get it done. Me is a mon now me haffe meditate and deal with it. Me a go deal with my own tings. And count how the vibes really come. Cause me never really been to a music school as such. But me can learn the formulas of music. Me still learning though because through me have the idea and the talent in me, me always a search fe a develop meself. Because you have musicians on-yah weh can just make up a ting and give you. Cause them have them degrees and know the formulas and them deh pon a certain level. My tings weh me create maybe something abstract, but me just come out with my lickle tings and at the end of the day maybe people say them sound good. So that is just me. So even this album weh ya see me have is a lotta work. Even if it don't sound good, cause a lotta people listen to it and find fault.

You've gotten feedback as such?

Yea mon! Me carry it to professional musician -- mon who as me say, have 'degrees.' And him listen to it, him can tell you say, 'bwai, something sound flat deh-so you know.' Or something, but a your style, that a you. Because that's what you've been always doing. Cause a lotta things go out there weh have fault . . . even in music. A lotta hit songs weh reach number one . . .

It's subjective always.

When people actually playing them over back, and musician can say, 'but wait, the mon a play one bad note yah-so,' ya know wha I mean? A brother sing a half-key ting. . .

No, but the thing you have to remember: People hold music to certain standards, and it's often a European musical standard. If you're talking about something being off key. That's because there is a [traditional] standard in Europe as far as what a [proper] scale is. And the great blues musicians, created things called 'blue-notes,' which broke from that European tradition. So when someone says, that sounds out of key or that sounds sharp, I say, well, you've got to put it all in context. And people tell me sometimes, they [act] like they have perfect pitch. "This is an absolute middle C." Well how could they ever listen to recorded music as such? Cause no music ever plays back in perfect pitch. All the change in speeds of the tapes. All that stuff is relative. It's always subjective, so when somebody says they find fault with something, the next person who is equally academic or expert may not. And some of the greatest, most brilliant music totally broke with tradition. And they call it rough, you know? So, that's my input on that subject. [Laughing]

Well even the stage of the reggae music now. The reggae music reach deh in Jamaica. But I say, a broken music is as it best, cause everything sound broken to me now. And that is as it best, cause that is what people want. Deejay mon dem a talk flat and them a talk off key and the music only have a two chord thing going on. And changes . . . when you're supposed to reach a bridge, is just the same two chords [in modern music]. You hear a guy singing over some of them foreign song, pon a two-chord ting, maybe Sanchez . . .

Sometimes these rhythms go on for hours, like boom-boom! boom-boom! Not much else other than that.

Yea, and people call me fe get me involve in them ting too ya know, but me no really wan do that. Me rather do my own thing weh me get my inspiration, cause right now me working on a new album. I'm a try create some new song.

A next album beyond Last Days?

Yea, yea. Sometime we sing some songs that people give me . . . a bredren we sit with and we have ideas and can take them ideas and put them together and get something outta it. We open fe work with people too, because even some of the songs we sing with Abyssinians were songs weh the other members write. Even though me may be lead [vocal], but the song weh dem write. Material is the key, cause if they call you in for a big project, you need material. A lotta of the artists them here, when you really check them out and call them in for material, some of the major company when them really sign them up and call them, them cyaan produce. That is the key. In them time deh we have a test how strong you is as a musician. Cause sometime musician share with musician and find out how much you know too. You jam together, whether you just a sing or you [play] an instrument. Some people can just sing and some can play. The talent limited, but is just a matter of how you use your talent.

The only thing I sorry fe say is that Abyssinians out there a gwan and me is not a part of it really, because me should be there, because is like me a lose a lot too. That is where me was suppose to be. And me all haffe go back regardless what Donald Manning want say to you. And them people who him have, cause him have people who a represent them you know, up there. And regardless of meetings haffe gwan without me, whether Bernard Collins is there or not. Is a whole heap of work that me put in. I don't see more work . . . come in, cause me nah lodge pon de past, but some of the past history of things is even better than the future, cause future tings them no good like the past. Not going be good as the past, under this system weh we a deal with. Haffe go be a different system, cause the best of de tings dem is from the past. Even the food weh we eating now. The food we gwan eat the next ten years from now gwan be garbage. So everything deteriorating under the system. We haffe go set up a different system, and start all over again. In the new Jerusalem. Is just pure divinity a gwan pon the earth yah-now mon. Satan a try fe manipulate and get in how him can get in . . . in every area, in every sector. Cause me is a man who read all the Jahoviah Witness book, and them people tell you a lotta truth, and them deal with a whole heap of present world. Right now them a show you seh even the governments them are falling down now. Them world power. Different nation a go right down the drain. Because them nah deal with truth and right. Even your President, they say him get mix up? [Laughs] Them throw him out yet?

He's not the first, and he's not the worst.

[Laughs] Mandela the other day, him shoulda gwan with the work and forget about that and make the man gwan with him work. And I feel him should just do that. Cause certain things fulfill also pon dem too. Nostradamus, prophesy a whole heap a tings against America also. Them tings deh a come true. You read Revelation and take in certain understanding. You know seh, certain things a manifest pon dem world leaders ya-now. And America supposed to be one of the leading world figures, where from them say anything, is like is law. And I don't see where them working for the better of humanity. Cause if them work towards that, things would be better.

They're working for the better of themselves. And I live there, so I don't want to say 'we.'

With that kind of help, I nah gwan help them. Them all going a crumble. Cause you see them work nah righteous.

That's the cycle of history.

We're in the last days you know. Cause I-man see it. Anything can happen. I look for a new world order just come right into being . . .

* Ernie Smith mentioned in passing that Michael Manley had a street cleaning program in the mid-70s called the Crash program . . .

As an endnote, within a minute of the end of my tape and the end of the interview, the power cut in the house. It meant I couldn't get a station ID that day as I intended. Several days later, Ernie Smith & I went to Bernard Collins' yard (Clinch Records headquaters) on Rousseau Road to pick up a copy of Last Days and buy some Clinch repressed 7"s. Bernard was waiting with a bredren guitarist. He had the station ID rehearsed with guitar accompaniment and ready to go . . . a nice new opener for my radio program.

Later, we were reasoning about Satta again, and Bernard mentioned how many artists had told him that Satta inspired their lyric writing. Junior Byles sited it as the primary influence on "A Place Called Africa." You don't have to look long to see that Satta is a monumentally influential Jamaican record.

When I was buying records from him, Bernard said how much he really enjoys doing business one on one as a sole proprietor. How far removed is this phenomenon in the American music industry?You walk into Best Buy and there are 100,000 cds in ill-kept racks, being pawed over by the modern music buyer. At Bernard's house, I was able to choose from one of the classic catalogs in the history of recorded music and reason with the artist during the process. I also left with a pre-release of what I consider to be a perfectly appropriate contemporary statement from one of reggae's elder statesmen.

Irie feeling. Satta massa ganna.

--Carter Van Pelt
Oct. 23, 1998

Transcript Copyright 1998 Carter Van Pelt


Clinch Records Press Release For Last Days

Clinch Records Catalog

Abyssinians Discography

Interview with Donald Manning

First ever article on The Abyssinians