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In the second part of an extensive interview, reggae star Al Campbell continues to chat with Adam Coxon about his career.
PB: That lover’s rock album?
AC: Yes.’ Ain’t That Loving you.’ We did that album for our self and Pat Kelly took the album and he and Bunny Lee was going on tour, on the plane Bunny Lee said to him, Pat give the Al Campbell album as I have a deal for it. Pat gave the album to Bunny Lee. Back in Jamaica when I expected to get money from the album I didn’t get any. I was angry at Pat Kelly and didn’t speak to him. Afterward I found out that Bunny Lee was the cause of all that. I went to Tubby’s and told him everything. He said, “Alright Al, I’m going to give you some rhythm and you make an album for yourself”. I made an album named, ‘Loving Moods’ and took it to England. I gave Bird and Peppa to put it out. Bunny Lee went to them and told them it was his, and took all the money for himself, I didn’t get any of the money. This boy Bunny Lee is a wicked, dirty Jhoncrow, evil bastard. I want it all to be in the interview, everything that I’m saying. Because he can’t sue you or me as he know it’s all true. I want it all to be in the interview to show that he’s a wicked evil bastard.
After he did that I did ‘Late Night Blues’ and gave it to JB to put out, he went to JB and took £1500 from JB. That Bunny Lee is an evil man.
PB: And he has done that to you a few times?
AC: Yes. And he hasn’t stop. A man called me from America and told me that I have two new album out. I said, “I don’t know of that.” The Earl Zero meet Al Campbell Face to Face is one of the album and a next one, I don’t know the other one because I haven’t seen it as it. But I know people who has it and they’re going to send it to me. That’s what this guy do, he goes around stealing. He make a lot of money but the reason why he doesn’t have a lot is because he give stuff to people and then try to steal it back from them and sell it.
PB: Too greedy.
AC: Yes, greedy and he’s not good. All is artist had money and he make them sign up with, Caroline, Westberry, and all of them died all of a sudden and he inherit all their money. He’s an evil wicked man. He thinks I’m scared, but I’m not scared of any many, only God alone I fear. He’s out of the way now, I’m glad to clear the air. He has friends that’s take my number and I see calls coming from different, different number, but I don’t pay him any mind, because he doesn’t know my family, they’re very powerful in England and what goes around comes around. Back to my career. I went to Mafia and did some songs. And I like Mafia because he’s cool. When I wasn’t around he’d sing my songs and people would remind him, yes Al Campbell. Because he can sing like me so I call him, Al Scramble. He’s and Fluxy are my friend, his brothers and I get along fine also. I did about 500 songs with Mafia for myself and I sent them to my son in Jamaica. Because you don’t know what the future brings. You can wake up one morning and can’t sing so they’re there as a testimony to the road I’ve travelled. But Bunny Lee and some others don’t invested any money back into the business, they only invest in women, they’re paying rent for up to three women.
The best producer, who I love, is Scratch Perry.
AC: He’s the best.
PB So good.
AC And his song has meaning and you feel them, for e.g., ‘Police and Thieves’ And his studio has a special sound. If you listen to some of the track that I did for Phil Pratt like ♫ three Babylon go a Zion♫ ‘Take These Shackle Off’ the original one because I have sang on the rhythm about three times. It has the sound of ‘The Upsetters Studio. He’s a good engineer, he can also engineer better than some men. He can also write songs, well, have you heard ‘Small Axe?’ ♫ if you’re a big tree---♫ that you hear Bob Marley sing? He wrote it. He was in the toilet went he wrote it on the toilet paper with a marker and gave it to Bob Marley to sing. Scratch is very talented.
PB: ‘Justice to the People’, do you know that one?
AC: ‘Justice to the People’? No.
PB: He released it himself under Lee Perry in the mid-70s, great track.
AC: He’s a great writer, he’s the best producer.
PB: Did you ever work with him? Have you cut any tracks with him?
AC: No, I haven’t sang for him directly. But he wanted to do something with me and I wanted to do something with him too. But in Phil Pratt days Phil Pratt rented the studio and we did some track there. Because he we knew he was great.
PB: A genius.
AC: Yes, he’s a genius. No one is as great as he when it comes to music. Did you the story were he’d just got Black Ark Studio up and running, and he ask his friend to go out to the shop a get him a toaster. And he brings it to the gate of the2 studio, at the front. He get a big rod and stick the toaster up outside, and he said when people come and visit, that is me I’m a toaster.
PB: I’d love to see you do some stuff with him as well.
AC: Sure, whenever he’s ready I’ll do something with him.
PB: The only other question that I really want to ask is, I always think of reggae singer, roots artist as message singer, what is the most important message that you deliver in your music.
AC: Peace and love. Learn to love your brothers and live a better life. We are against killing that’s not us. Our music deal with love because every man is important. You have to give respect if you want to be respected. Don’t be disrespectful or you’ll be disrespected. I love everybody. I wasn’t born a fighter to fight against other people. If you hear me in an argument with any one, the person is the one that did me wrong. Live your life and you try to help other people.
There’s a topic that I want to be included in the interview. The other day I was reading a paper and saw an artist by the name of, Red Rat, who said his uncle, which is Clevie who play with Steely, started dance with that, Punanny Riddim. But that’s a big lie, the Punanny Riddim is my Riddim. The first time Steely and Clevie was going to play, after they formed the duo between the two of them. Steely became greed and wanted most of the money for himself so he try to get rid of Roots Radics and do thing his way. Powerman brother had come to me first with the Sling Thing Riddim but I had sent him to Jammies because I’d not recorded anybody at that time. So I decided not to, as artist was expecting to be paid millions of dollars which I dint have it to pay them, and this would cause problem’s. So to avoid the problem I send them to Jammies and that how they got the Sling Thing Riddim. If I hadn’t send Powerman brother they would’ve have gotten the Riddim. And Will Smith is lying that he wasn’t there at that time---he went and sang on the Riddim at Jammies.
But the Punanny Riddim, my friend, Courage was wealthy and he imported a six-wheeled Benz from California. The car was remade into a six-wheel Benz, four wheel at the back and two at the front, it was a covetable. The turn a 190E, spin it around, made some changes to it and then shipped the Benz to Jamaica. When he went to Jamaica the policy search his home, seize $US5000, and arrested him and locked him up. He won the case and sued the police and win and got a large sum of cash.
He said, “Al, I want you to do an album for me.” I said, “Yes, I will do the album for you.” He said, “I’m working with a man by the name, Soujy. Do you know him?”
I said, “Yes, Soujy is my friend.” So, we went to Soujy and he said, “Al, I have a man for you to meet”, but Soujy didn’t know that I had already met him. So Soujy introduce me and I decided to let it go that way, thorough Soujy. We started the album, ‘Roots Radics.’ And then Soujy inform that Steely and Clevie had link him and that he like how they sound. I said “Alright”, because I wanted the business to grow and my mortgage was soon due and I wanted to be in the clear so I decided to do it. Steely and Clevie came and he said “Al, I know you know your part”.
Steely said, “Tell me what you want me to play,”
And I said, “Play this” ♫
He said he would catch it.
And I said, “Harmony it.”
And he said, “Alright.”
He lay the track and I said, it a new style that I thought up and called it, ‘Reggaelypso’ reggae and calypso in one. He heard and said he like the idea. He said “This is wicked”.
I said, “Steely, don’t steal my idea.” We played and he played the horns and it sounded awesome. After the session he was still humming it, after he left he went to Jammies and created a version of it. He use one horn in is version instead of the three in my version. He called it, ‘Bruk han.’ most time the term, ‘bwoy mi bruk him foot today’,’ term use when someone trick you and take something away from you. So he didn’t say ‘bruk foot’ he said, ‘bruk han.’ I didn’t hinder him I just let him be, reason been his father-in-law and I were good friends. Cherry Rock, who sing ♫ ‘I’m The Ruler, ♫ Anthony Ellis is Steely step-father. So I let him be.
Later in England he gave me two hit songs ‘Hold Me Baby’ and ‘Can’t Stop Now.’ Because no one was hearing about me and Mafia was doing well, so he link me and voice the two tune.
But the other I heard, Red Rat that his uncle created dance hall, but his uncle didn’t create dance hall, he only play it. But it was me who created it, my tunes were made from my home and then I went to the studio and I told then what to do. Because most musician can play, like how you have a singer who can sing but can’t write songs.
PB: But that’s the thing, you’re a song writer, a roots artist, a dance hall artist, a lover rock artist, you’ve been through it all.
AC: Yes, I’ve been through it all. I know about records, from salesman, to shop clerk, to producer. Max Romeo tune said [singing] ♫the women them a locks and the man them ♫ I used to sell it and it went number one, in Jamaica. Gregory Isaacs, ‘All I Have is Love’ I was the one that sell it and put Gregory Isaacs at number one, the first number one tune that Gregory Isaacs had, it was me. I did a lot of things in the business, but person don’t know. And a lot of artist lie when they get interviewed.
When Linval Thompson came from America, he was a male nurse that work in a hospital and he save his money and came to Jamaica to do a session. He went to Trinity and Trinity came to me. Because Trinity know that I was the go to person. I was the first person who audition Trinity when I was at Phil Pratt. But because he sound like Dillinger, I wouldn’t record him, so I sent him to Channel One. And he went and did, [singing] ♫ all gone, all gone, but my life don’t gone, the natty dread still de yah♫. Meditation also came to me, and we sang together.
Remember Ozzy that punched me? He used to sing with the ‘Linkers’, with Hansel. And when Hansel came with, ‘Woman is Like a shadow’ to me I told him go record the song for yourself its a hit song, because Pratt had him going back and forth and wasn’t doing anything for him. Then I told Channel One was taking on artist. Because me and Pat Kelly was at Channel One. That’s how, ‘Turn me loose is going to be made’. No, it was Jimmy Riley who came for me, Pat wasn’t in the play as yet, I was the one who bring Pat Kelly. Jimmy Riley came to me and said, “Al, come let’s go hunt today.”
And I said, “What do you mean hunt?”
He said, “Find some studio, sing some tune and make some money.”
And I said, “That can happen?”
And he said, “Yes, come on.” And I went into his car, a Starlet. But he was mean and didn’t like spending on food.
PB: Was this when you first audition for Coxsone?
AC: No. that was long after when I left and was at Phil Pratt. I was to leave Phil Pratt now. We went to Channel One, and Channel One was to play in Tivoli, Sega place. He was going to play a sound named, Mello Canary, a well famous sounds in Jamaican, the most famous sound. No sound has ever beaten this sound. Channel One took the studio board to go play at the sound, he played everything through the sound board. When I went into the studios he said, “Al, I need a tune to play at the dance”. I said, “Alright, which rhythm do you have?” And he play the dance hall rhythm for me. And I said, [singing] ♫ turn me loose, turn me loose now. Take these chains from off my feet, I want to rock to the blues ♫ when we were signing special, we didn’t sing any sounds’ name into the song, we just sing the song. Everyone said the song was great. But I had greater song that I could have sang but I didn’t because I know Riley may steal my song. I heard him singing the song and I was worried he’d steal the song but he didn’t. He tried singing, ‘I Will Never Let It Go’ and he couldn’t manage to because it was Smith who sang that song.
Soujy cut it off on the dub and went to the dance, about twenty time they replayed the song, and they defeated Mello Canary. The next day, Joejoe sent called me, and I left Bingie Bunny in the shop, because Bingie Bunny was my sales man, Roots Radics. I also formed Roots Radics. I went to Channel One, and they said, Al, sing the song. And I said, “I don’t remember it has I had sing it out my head.” They gave me the dub plate and said write it off and sing it. So, I write the song and made it shorter as I had sing it the first time for five mins. After I put out the song it went straight to number one then it went to number two. Joejoe had told the radio men that the song must not go to number one. So I ask Joejoe why, he said, “if the song went number one it would stop selling.” I said, “No, it won’t stop selling let it go to number one,” but Joejoe wouldn’t allow it to go to number one and let it remain at number two. That’s how dance hall style was, number one, but Joejoe never wanted to put it at number one, so he put at number two. Another reason why he did that was because it was the only tune he with me. After that I sang ‘Solider In Jah Army’ and he said that he’d put that at number one. But by the time it came out he’d gone overseas to live with his wife. I had done three songs, and I can’t remember that song as I’d sing it straight out my head on a rhythm ♫ a Tom McCook tune. I keeping trying to remember the words so I sing it but I’ can’t.
I took Pat Kelly to Channel One, and he song ‘Queen Majesty’, ‘It’s ‘You I love’ and other songs, at this time we had left Phil Pratt. You know sometimes when some persons are too greedy? You do all the work and they make a huge profit and they don’t want to share it with you who had done the work. It makes you frustrated when you think of the situation and when you have had enough you just say, “No more”.
So, I started producing myself and did the, ‘Late Night Blues’ Album. Then I came to England and met some young men, Preacher, and formed a small group called, ‘Reckless Breed’.
PB: ‘Late Night Blues’ is a classic track itself, isn’t?
AC: Yes, the tune was good. Bunny Lee tried to stop it by doing, Don Carlos, ‘Late Night Blues’. But that didn’t happen. When I first took, ‘Late Night Blue’ to Greensleeves and Chris Cracknell said, “I don’t want this song it’s too lovey, dovey, it won’t do well”. I said, “Alright, you don’t really know what happening, because, Soprano Beat played all over England and played it and everybody love it and as ask me when it was coming out”. I then took it to JB and JB put it out and it did thirteen weeks at number one. I broke the JB record with, Late Night Blues, thirteen weeks. Cracknell called the magazine, Black Echoes, “Paul, I think you should take that song off number now, Late Night Blues”.
Paul say, “Why I should I take off?”
“Well, it has been there for a long while, there other song that want to go to number.”
“Yes, other song want to make number but they’re not in that bracket to be number one. But this song is the biggest seller in every shop, my chart is built off the records sales, and in your shop, Late Night Blues is the seller. Jet Star, Body Music, Reds’ Record, top”. I was in a rage because l heard every word as Paul had put the phone on speaker. Paul had told me to be quiet and listen.
I went by Cracknell, and Chris Cedric said, “Al, Trinity gave me this album, Barrington Levy, ‘Loose Respect’. And I need an album with Barrington Levy, do you know anyone who has an album?”
I said, “Yes I know of someone, Junjo Lawes he’s at Grenville Towers, that’s where he and Eastwood used to live on the eighteen floor”. Grenville Towers had burned down, they were lucky they had moved out. When I went to Grenville Towers to get him. When I did it was like a movie, I saw Errol Dunkley there. I went in a room and saw Dread stubbing at Lloydy Bell with is knife. And I said, “Dread what are you doing? Come here, if anyone heard that you injured a fool like him, people would say you’re foolish man” Dread laughed and put away the knife.
Then he said, “Al, what are you doing here?”
I said, “I came for Junjo.”
And Dread said, “Hey bwoy.”
And I said, “Dread don’t even try, he’s a badder labourite that you, you’re a foolish labourite.”
Dread said, “They can’t take me serious, I speak my thought and I don’t care.”
I then took Junjo to Greensleeves, that’s how he got to be there. Then Junjo and Greensleeves made a deal.
Chis Cedric said to me “Al, that, ‘Late Night Blues’ is a monster”.
And I said, “Oh, yeah, but too bad for you, I took it here to give it to you and you didn’t take it.”
He said, “What! Chris come here.” Chris came looking like a little baby. “Al just told me that he brought, ‘Late Night Blues’ to you and you didn’t take it, why didn’t you take it?”
“Well, we weren’t putting out songs like that.”
Chis Cedric said, “But he’s dominating the charts all over England, Europe and everywhere.” Cracknel has a hatred for me but I didn’t let it be a bother to me.
Chis Cedric said, “Al, how many tunes do you have.”
I said, “I have eight disco mix that I’m working on, and an album that I’m also working on.”
He said, “Alright, Al, take them all to me.” And he went to the bank and withdraw £15000 and gave it to me. And said I should go to Jamaica and finish the album and the disc mix and return.
PB: How many albums you have got on Greensleeves?
AC Just One. The best album I have ever do, I rate it highly. So, I returned to Jamaica. Chris Cracknell and Junjo are close, because Junjo gave him the rhythm, ‘Another One Bite The Dust,’ and he voice the Clint Eastwood. They told Roots Radics not to play for me, I told them that it wasn’t Junjo band it was mine, that I was the one who firmed the band. When I book the studio time at Channel one, only Bingie Bunny came, Roots Radics didn’t show. I asked Bingie where Roots Radics was. Joejoe were mixing some John Holt’s tunes and they gave me time to do my session, so if you didn’t play you would lose your money. So when no musician didn’t come I was worried I would lose my money.
I said, “Bingie.”
He said, “Al, it’s not me, as you see I came.”
I said, “Yes you came but you alone can’t play all the tunes. I’m going let my friends in New York keep a stage show with him in and then we’re going to shoot him there.” I got the next day to do my session, I told Bingie the time is 10 o’clock tomorrow, if he don’t come he is going to die. Bingie went and told him. When I arrive at 9 o’clock, everyone was there from about 8 o’clock waiting on me. I saw them and laughed and went into the studio, he was also laughing and said, “What kind of message that you sent yesterday?” I said, “And you better believe what I said was true, don’t play with me.” That was the greatest LP they’d ever played, you would think it was Sly and Robbie was playing, the album, ‘The Other Side Of Love,’ the tunes were awesome from the first to the last song. U-Roy came and said, “Al, give me some of those tunes, and I gave him about six songs to play on his sound. ‘If You Want My Love’ that’s their theme song, Stero Graph”.
When I sent the tape to Greensleeves, he said, “Al, album is wonderful.” I gave them eight tracks all of them went to number one, ‘Really Really Love You,’ ‘I’ve Got To Love You’, ‘Rub-A-Dub Style’ all went to number one. If I went there in those days and said Chris, “I don’t have any money”, he’d go to the bank and withdraw money and give to me, because he made a lot of money because of me. I took Jammies to him also, because I saw that he and Bunny Lee was going to have problems. He tried Barry Brown on the rhyme, but it was weak, like a rat. When I say you have to lock with a rhythm, I made those rhythms. Barry Brown can’t lock with the rhythm like me, he’s not that skilled. So I sense that he was going to do something to Jammies. So I told Jammies to come to Greensleeves. And Linval Thompson too, when Junjo went in I told Linval that he could go in too. I had advised him that for the tunes Junjo would be making that he should use different artist, and I told them which artist to use. But in the heights of them making money they forget who helped them.
PB: That’s usually the way, isn’t?
AC: Yes. They forget me. And they are acting like they’re a bigger start than me. I was the one who help Junjo to go to England, with Lord Koos the plane ticket for him because we tricked him into believing that he a lot of Cornell Campbell. When Junjo got to England, Lord Koos realise that it was the same tape that Linval have taken there and had already sold all of Junjo stuff without him knowing. When Junjo found out he was angry, and wanted to kill him. But I told him, not to arm him. Let him sing some other songs for him. And he did, ‘Look How Mi Sexy’, Junjo made a bit hit out it and then parted ways with him. Now you see a lot of people don’t know.
I remember when Jacob Miller was at his home singing and I took him to Studio One. When we got there Coxsone said, “Leroy! The little man has taken another little man to sing.”
PB: You said, Jacob Miller? You took Jacob Miller?
AC: Yes, I took him to Coxsone, and he sang [singing] ♫love is a message
Mr. Dodd went like this-----and then he sang the other tune ♫ my girl has left me and gone away♫. The tune that he sang, ‘80 Thousand Carless Ethiopians’ is my song, I wrote it and gave it to me he’s my friends. And I hear Freddie doing an interview and lying, talking about Dennis Brown, when Dennis Brown came to Studio One he wasn’t three, he was in the country. Why does he want to talk the truth, why does he talk that I came for him from the country. They hide the truth and act like their big pop star, people want to know the truth stop telling lies. They all lie when they get interview not even mentioning me. I’ve listened to some person been interviewed and they don’t call my name at all, it like I don’t exist. One time they were interviewing Gregory Isaacs, they were giving him an award, honouring him at the Jamaican Embassy over here. And someone was saying things that weren’t true and he went and spoke the truth saying, Al Campbell was the one who put my tune to number one making people know about Gregory Isaacs. I’ve heard him said that.
PB: He tells the truth?
AC: Yes, he tells the truth.
PB: Not everyone is like that.
AC: No. I’ve seen persons that has gotten help and when they reach to the top and is being interviewed they said, “That person never did anything for me.” Let me give you another joke about me and Scratch. I went to France at a big show that they had with Scratch, Jacob took me there. I got the backstage pass and went in. The big boss that was keeping the show loved Scratch, he was his top artist. He gave Scratch two boxes of crayon, because if Scratch saw a white wall he’d draw or write thing on the walls. Security saw him and said, “What are you doing?” The boss call the security and said, “Come here, I gave him the crayons, this place is going to be famous, leave him alone.” And Scratch drew the Lion of Judah and King David’s Star. Person there saw what Scratch was doing, they then took food because Scratch wasn’t eating it and went outside leaving me and Scratch alone. Jacob had gone to look for Macka B he had opened the show. I was thinking to myself, look at the lovely Scratch that I once knew, he’s in a world to himself.
I only heard when he said, “What’s happening Al?” I almost fell out the chair.
I said, “Nothing.”
He said, “How is Pratt?”
I said, “I don’t even want to hear Pratt's name, Scratch,” Because I was feeling hate toward Pratt, this was after I went for my royalties. I said, “I don’t want to hear about Pratt, Scratch”.
He said, “No Al, come let me tell you something. You don’t know the position these men have to face when they leave Jamaica and come here, they have to pay rent every week for housing, they have to maintain themselves to earn some money so you can get money also.”
I said, “That is I haven’t gotten anything.”
“Well maybe when he have it he’ll give you something. Remember that he used his money to record you.”
That statement gave me a realisation that I’d never taught of before. Because it was true that Pratt had use his money to record me because I had no money to record myself at that time. I felt lighter after that and wasn’t angry any more at Pratt. People may think Scratch is insane but he isn’t.
PB: No, he’s a very clever man. Smart man.
AC: He’s been around the world long enough and know the ins and out. He’s what you’d call, a wise man. I always laugh when I reflex on Scratch, what he had said to me calm me down. And his word came to pass, I went by Pratt on day and he gave me £300. And I said, “Is about £3000 you should give me for myself.”
And he said, “Small parcel, grateful thanks.” The Pratt and Scratch saga, but Scratch is a good man though.
PB: Thank you.
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