Brian Tremblay

“Place Call[ed] Africa” by Junior Byles

If I had to pick one reggae artist who most deserves more attention then (s)he has received, it would probably be Junior Byles. He was gifted with a beautiful voice and an ability to convey a lot of emotion with it. Which he did, on some deadly serious songs like “Beat Down Babylon,” “Demonstration,” and “Fade Away.” Even a love song like “Curly Locks” has as a subtext a plea against discrimination.

Most of Byles's early work — indeed, much of his finest output — was produced by Perry, and it deserves a wider audience.

The two met in the late 1960s when they were employed by music executive Joe Gibbs, Byles as lead singer of the Versatiles, Perry as Gibbs' house producer. When Byles decided to start a solo career, in 1970, he turned to a now independent Perry to help him.

Time Zones

Responding to a question about Vladimir Putin at a press conference, Joe Biden claimed that Russia has 8 time zones.

That's ridiculous.

We have four in this country, right? Do you know how many time zones they have?

Do not, you know...lie.


Something I learned today: A 5th generation ipod will sync songs in .aiff format. It will let the user select those songs and press the play button. But it won't actually play the songs.

For that, you gotta use a different format. (I went with .m4a.)

“Return of Django” by The Upsetters

Early in Lee Perry's career as an independent producer, he recorded a slew of instrumentals credited to his house band, The Upsetters. For song titles, Perry took inspiration from Spaghetti Westerns. Like many reggae artists, he loved that film genre. A quick glance at his output includes

  • “High Plains Drifter”
  • “Dig Your Grave”
  • “Big John Wayne”
  • “The Man With No Name”
  • “Amigo”

Let's add to that list “Return of Django,” my favorite of the late 60s/early 70s Perry instrumentals.

The strangest looking icicles I've ever seen.

A deer on Whidbey Island, part 1

Note: file size is 11.3 or 8.5 MB, depending on which format your browser supports.

“A Wah Dat” by Junior Dread

I don't know much about Junior Dread outside of the two toasting records he made for producer Lee Perry. One is a solid outing over a dub mix of the Heptones' “Sufferer's Time.” The other is “A Wah Dat,” cut on an otherwise unused rhythm (or, if it was used elsewhere, I'm unaware). Both are sufferer's tunes, so-called because they express the plight of suffering people. But “A Wah Dat” is, for me, the better of the two.

The lyrics are a first-hand account of desperation and mounting financial trouble during the Christmas season:

Christmas a come And me soon get a next son And that's no fun yuh! No no no no no no

R.I.P.R. Robbie Shakespeare

I just heard that reggae bass player Robbie Shakespeare — half of Sly and Robbie — passed away. Rest in peace. And rhythm!

(I hope NPR does a better job eulogizing him than they did U-Roy, Bunny Wailer, and Lee Perry.)

uncollected posts

“People Funny Boy”

In 1968, reggae pioneer Lee “Scratch” Perry launched his first record label, Upset Records, with the single “People Funny Boy.” The title might seem odd, but try this: mentally insert a comma so that it reads “People Funny, Boy.” It's a complaint, as in “boy, people are funny.”

That raises the question: who was Perry complaining about? Who was acting “funny?”

The answer: his former employer, Joel Gibson, AKA Joe Gibbs.

Working for Joe Gibbs

Two years earlier, Perry had begun working for Gibbs, ostensibly a music producer. In reality, Gibbs was not a music producer, but an executive producer — he financed the operation. Perry was the music producer. He scouted talent, supervised sessions, arranged and wrote songs, and promoted records that appeared on Gibbs' Amalgamated and Pressure Beat labels.

“Rightful Ruler” by U-Roy and Peter Tosh

In 1969, Lee Perry produced one of the first ever deejay records, “Rightful Ruler” by U-Roy and Peter Tosh. And as I wrote in my list of recommended U-Roy records, it is a remarkable record.

First, recording a deejay artist on a reused rhythm track was a novel idea at the time. Second, the rhythm track, originally used for a song called “Selassie,” was substantially changed for U-Roy's cut. Most early deejay records use an instrumental mix of a record as the backing track, replacing vocals with deejay rhymes. For “Rightful Ruler,” Perry did much more:

Lee Perry Recommendations

Reggae and dub pioneer Lee “Scratch” Perry passed away in August of this year. Perry is my single favorite musical artist. I'd have a hard time counting the number of albums and singles I own that feature him as a vocalist, producer, or mixer. Since I have so much of his music, I've decided to write about songs or albums he recorded that I think you should hear.

Another NPR Obit, Another Factchecking Fail

Readers of this website — by my best guess, all two of you! — will note that I have twice criticized NPR for errors in obituary/remembrance pieces for reggae artists, first for deejay U-Roy and a second time for singer Bunny Wailer. Well, I'm at it again. This time, the subject is my single favorite musical artist, Lee “Scratch” Perry.

I woke up early this morning and recorded this audio at my open window.

peas 3rd planter box (northern-most) sown on

Adding Microformats to SVG

Using SVG in web pages offers many advantages:

  • SVG file sizes are usually small compared to bitmapped graphics
  • it adapts well to different screen resolutions and display dimensions
  • it can be styled with CSS
  • it can be scripted
  • SVG <text> elements can be indexed by search engines

To that list, we can add one more: the ability to add microformats to embedded SVG elements.

cucumber seedling

pepper seedling

NPR Pays Homage to Bunny Wailer, but Shortchanges His Early Career

NPR's afternoon news program All Things Considered aired a remembrance of Neville Livingston, known to reggae fans as Bunny Wailer, who passed away

Bunny was one of the founding members of The Wailers, whence came his adopted last name. He wasn't as well known as his bandmates Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, but NPR nevertheless felt he deserved recognition for his contributions to the group. Yet the piece largely passed over those contributions, making it seem like he was only a backup singer until he went solo.

That is a misconception that I'd like to correct.

“Wake the Town”

A couple of days ago, I chided NPR's “Here and Now” program for choosing a less-than-stellar record to excerpt in their U-Roy obituary. After hearing the piece, I compiled a short list of U-Roy recordings from my collection that, in my humble opionion, would have been better examples of his work. And certainly worth listening to even if you're not producing an on-air tribute to the deejay originator.