A Plain Man’s Guide To Dub (And Other Burning Issues)
The sound of now, dub, has been growing in Jamaica over the last two years until suddenly it has become the roots music of the moment.
Put simply, dub is the result of an engineer fiddling about with the tapes of an already finished record, and using all the faders, echo and phasing at his command, creating something totally different.
Thus he can cut the bass in and out, suddenly stop one instrument in a flurry of repeating echo, phase the cymbals until they put your teeth on edge, and make ghostly voices appear for isolated phrases.
More often than not, the records which are turned into dubs are big hits in their own right, and it’s not uncommon for several different dubs to be made of them.
The first example of the technique was possibly Andy Capp’s ‘Pop-A-Top’ in the late ‘60s, an instrumental the precise playing of which foxed many until they sussed that in fact the instrumental tracks were being manipulated after the recording was done.
The technique then passed through the straight Version stage, when most singles had just the backing track as flip, until the sound system DJs, who recorded their own ranting over many Versions, wanted to create something that was even more personal out of someone else’s work.
They made their own skank records by fading the original singer’s voice in and out of their own voice-overs. Now even the DJs have faded somewhat, as the engineers are currently king!
Indeed, it was King Tubby who recently stirred everyone up with his ‘King Tubby Meets The Upsetter At The Grassroots Of Dub’ album. His latest is the very even in quality ‘The Dub Master’ (Grounation GROL 502), which is full of relaxing dubs all dominated by booming bass patterns.
Top DJ Big Youth gets the best of both worlds by using great dubs behind his voice-overs, and also features many straight instrumental dubs on his album ‘Dread Locks Dread’ (Klik KLP 9001).
Melodica is a popular instrument on dubs, and it’s heavily featured on the sparse, empty sounds of Leslie Butler’s album ‘Ja-Gan’ (Trojan TRLS 112). Dub is used as the backing for relatively normal singing on Lee Perry & The Upsetters’ ‘Revolution Dub’ (Cactus CTLP 112), although the best track is a subtle pulsating instrumental called ‘Doctor On The Go’ which incorporates snatches of soundtrack from a TV doctor comedy show.
The IInd [sic] Street Dreads’ ‘Pick A Dub’ (Atra LP 1002) features all the tricks to perfection, including my own favourite fading echo on isolated clanking noises.
By no means for every disco, dub is a subtle, lazy, relaxed and stoned music that’s certainly worth getting into.
GLENN MILLER: ‘Moonlight Serenade’ / ‘Little Brown Jug’ / ‘In The Mood’ (RCA 2644)
Reissued partly as a result of interest sparked by this page, this maxi contains three of the legendary big band leader’s biggest hits – the trouble is, the sound and cut is not the greatest for discos, where more modern remakes are regrettably a better bet. RCA reckon that ‘Moonlight Serenade’ is big in the South and ‘In The Mood’ is happening up North, while my own research shows that ‘In The Mood’ is getting enormous all over the place and has to happen for someone.
CLIFF NOBLES & CO.: ‘The Horse’ (CBS 3513)
In fact never deleted, this classic 1968 Philly dancer (arranged by Bobby Martin) is being given a push again following renewed interest in it. An all-time fave, it’s a happy instrumental with a great rhythm and strong brass line which strangely enough began life as the backing track B-side to what subsequently became the flip, Cliff’s vocal of ‘Love Is All Right’. Yeah, he’s not even featured on the hit side!
THE WHO: ‘Squeeze Box’ (Polydor 2121275)
The outstanding track from their ‘By Numbers’ album, with amusing double-entendre lyrics about mama having a squeeze box on her chest, this happy romper has bits of banjo and a slight Credence feel as it bounces along.
TAMIKO JONES: ‘I’m Spellbound’ (Contempo CS 2079)
As one might expect of a 1967 Golden World side – even if it’s a remake, as in this case – the sound is hybrid Mary Wells/Supremes with a skittering sub-Motown backing. It’s full of charm, though, and Tamiko’s voice is a nice reminder of how good Mary used to be.
JEAN PLUM: ‘Back To You’ (London HLU 10514)
Actually flip of the lazily thudding ‘Look At The Boy’, which is typical Willie Mitchell, this delicate dead slowie may not be obvious disco material but it’s sure got me all tore up as Jean soulfully warbles her tale of woe.
LOUISA MARK: ‘All My Loving’ (Safari SF 1109)
Creating a bit of a stir, Louisa’s sweet reggaefication of the Beatles oldie is nice enough but gets overshadowed by the B-side instrumental, ‘Sitting By The Wayside’, which is a gentle and lovely throbber played by Tony Washington. Is that the Tony I used to know?
CAROL BROWN: ‘Touch Me Baby’ (Sound Tracs TST 104)
The Johnny Bristol tune adapts well to a semi-slow reggae rhythm and nice old fashioned brass fills, while Carol sounds – am I going mad? – like Mary Wells. Dub flip.
CLINTON TAYLOR & DANSAK: ‘Sound Of A Good Song’ (Horse HOSS 112)
Catchy clap off-beat and melodica spice this slow singalong reggae lilter, which has a strong and effective melody. On the flip, ‘Dansak Home’ (version) is a fruitily brassy repatriation tune with nice steady rhythm.
CORPORATION OF LOVE: ‘To Be True’ (Sound Tracs TST 105)
The beautiful Gamble & Huff song gets a creditably Philly-like reading from this soulful group, whose light reggae rhythm is the only Jamaican element in an otherwise exemplary US-type sound. Well worth checking out, and that’s truly true!
BRENTON KING: ‘Josephine’ (Grounation GRO 2022)
Fats Domino’s girl goes reggae with an old-style bass line and bouncy beat. Sounds fine, as does the dub flip.
JOY WHITE: ‘Idlers On The Street’ (Grounation GRO 2020)
Ska brass sound and hissing hi-hat on a chunky dancer with catchily sung message lyrics. Dub flip, strong in itself.
B. B. SEATON: ‘Free Up The Dub’ (Philips 6006493)
Originally on Jama Records, this is the spookily echoing dub flip of an otherwise straightforward pop reggaefication of the old ‘Born Free’ song! The dub’s the one unless you like sugar.
CORNELL CAMPBELL: ‘The Gorgon Speaks’ (Angen ANG 105)
Another in the popular ‘Gorgon’ series, the vocal side is nowhere near as good as the truly astounding dub version flip by the Aggrovators, in which the brass seems to play with its own echo. If you want a good example to try this type of sound, then this is better than most.
THE TEMPTATIONS: ‘Keep Holding On’ (from LP ‘House Party’, Tamla Motown STML 12006) (mentioned in Billboard column 11/15/75, Billboard chart debut 11/22/75)
Now that they’ve left the wing of producer Norman Whitfield, the Temps’ latest album finds them trying many different producers – including even Steve Cropper. However, lead track goes to this incredibly good disco dancer penned and produced by the returned-to-Motown team of Holland and Holland. That’s right – brothers Eddie and Brian, minus old mate Lamont Dozier. They’ve come up with a modern powerhouse sound that just simply pounds along with all sorts of subtle twiddly bits in amongst the exciting rhythm, like a more straightforward version of their great work with the Jackson 5 on ‘Forever Came Today’. What a treat!
TOWER OF POWER: ‘Drop It In The Slot’ (from LP ‘In The Slot’, Warner Bros. K 56155) (Billboard chart debut 10/18/75)
After traces of the James Brown sound throughout the album, this the last track on side two is almost 100 percent the sound of Brown rhythmically, while vocally it veers from Average White Band to Sam & Dave. The main thing, though, is that it’s an excellent funker and already picking up action in the funkier spots around Britain.
DIONNE WARWICK: ‘Track Of The Cat’ (from LP ‘Track Of The Cat’, Warner Bros. K 56173)
Dionne’s evidently chucked the numerology kick, as you’ll notice she’s reverted to her old surname spelling. This lead track from her new Thom Bell penned/prod album starts with the snarling of something that sounds bigger than a pussy cat, and then slow jazzy rhythms lead into a gradually speeding-up stage before the beat and vocal begin together. A pity the intro’s so long as, although effective listening, it’s useless for discos. Otherwise, the tune’s a gentle Thom Bell beater, with all the backings done in Philly and Dionne added in Seattle.
UK Disco Top 20 – January 3, 1976
01 01 Hot Chocolate – You Sexy Thing – Rak
02 04 Silver Convention – Fly Robin Fly – Magnet
03 02 Chubby Checker – Let’s Twist Again – London
04 03 Fatback Band – Do The Bus Stop – Polydor
05 13 Impressions – First Impressions – Curtom
06 16 David Bowie – Golden Years – RCA
07 07 Stretch – Why Did You Do It – Anchor
08 15 Sailor – Glass Of Champagne – Epic
09 NE Laurel & Hardy – Lonesome Pine – United Artists
10 14 Hello – New York Groove – Bell
11 NE Sam Cooke – Twistin’ The Night Away – RCA
12 NE Roxy Music – Both Ends Burning – Island
13 06 Maxine Nightingale – Right Back Where We Started From – United Artists
14 12 Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody – EMI
15 NE Drifters – Can I Take You Home Little Girl – Bell
16 NE Small Faces – Itchycoo Park – NEMS
17 RE Stylistics – Na Na Is The Saddest Word – Avco
18 NE Greg Lake – I Believe In Father Christmas – Manticore
19 NE Biddu Orchestra – Exodus – Epic
20 08 Jim Capaldi – Love Hurts – Island
NE = new entry; RE = re-entry
Appeared in Billboard:
#2 (mentioned in Billboard column 7/19/75, Billboard chart debut 8/2/75)
#4 (mentioned in Billboard column 11/15/75, Billboard chart debut 11/22/75)
#6 (Billboard chart debut 1/17/76)
#13 (Billboard chart debut 4/3/76)
#19 (Billboard chart debut 9/20/75)
No “DJ Hotline” this week.