Will the REAL Shark Wilson please stand up?
“Listen – Shark Wilson & the Basement Heaters – Make It Reggae – MP3″
“Listen – Shark Wilson & the Basement Heaters – Make It Reggae (Version) – MP3″
I hope all is well on your end as we gather together to commence another week of soulful bloggery.
A little over two years ago – far too long if you ask me – I brought to you a week of Jamaican tracks, presented under the banner of the Funky16Corners Jamaican Trip. I figured that the time was long overdue for a reprise, and so this week will see three excellent examples of reggae, ska and island funk.
I’ve been a Jamaican music for a long time, at least since the days of the first ska revival in and then more intently when I was hanging with some mod/ska scooter boys on the periphery of the mod/garage scene. As I mentioned the first time around, while I’m no expert, I am a big fan.
The very first record that made me seek out the sounds of ska was – brace yourself – a demo by the Hooters* which got played frequently on the big Philadelphia rock station WMMR. This had to be around 1980, and I fell in love with the song ‘Man In the Street’. It was a little while later that I discovered that the tune was a cover of a song by trombonist Don Drummond, who had played with the Skatalites. I picked up the volume of the ‘Intensified Ska’ reissues on Island that contained the OG (which I’m pretty sure is where the Hooters found it too). It wasn’t long after that that I got my hands on the Trojan comps of early ska hits, many of which had been covered by reggae and ska revivalists, from the Two-Tone crowd right on through to UB40.
As the years went on, I was lucky enough to have friends who exposed me first to dub (Eek A Mouse, Scientist) , and then later to stuff like Bob Marley and Burning Spear.
Though I have a bunch of ska, rock steady and reggae at my disposal, almost none of it is original vinyl. This is due in large part to the fact that I’ve never had the access or the diggers know how to collect much in the way of original Jamaican vinyl**.
However, I occasionally find cool stuff in the field, and when a song really grabs me I go out of my way to secure a copy on vinyl. Such was the case with a couple of Jamaican Hammond items (Jackie Mittoo and Winston Wright), and the case of today’s selection, a very solid piece of Jamaican funk.
A few years back I picked up both volumes of the ‘Funky Kingston’ comps put out by Trojan. Both of these comps are essential, but the track that absolutely blew my mind the first time I heard it was ‘Make it Reggae’ by Shark Wilson & the Basement Heaters. If you haven’t pulled down the ones and zeroes, do so now, because once the tune starts playing it ought to be immediately obvious that what you’re hearing is the music of the Godfather of Soul (‘Make It Funky’), traveled to Jamaica, jerk seasoned and whipped up hard and heavy.
I haven’t been able to find out anything about Shark Wilson, but the vocals are intense, and the guitar is – as the kids say – next level (I’m also posting the “version” so you can check it out a little more closely. When Shark drops in and announces
I don’t know what to play
But whatever I play
It must be REGGAE!
ONE TWO THREE
MAKE IT REGGAE!
Shit – as they say – is on.
The record – which was released originally on the Moodisc label (in Jamaica, I think) and then issued in the UK on the Ashanti label*** – was produced by the legendary Harry Mudie.
Oddly enough – and this may be only a coincidence – Shark Wilson was also the name of a character in the Aquaman comic book. Whether or not this is where the singer got his nickname I can’t say, but since I couldn’t find a picture of him, I figured it couldn’t hurt to post a picture of the cartoon shark). At the very least it’s an odd bit of synchronicity.
I hope you dig the tune, and I’ll be back on Wednesday with a bit of sweet, soulful reggae.
*Yes, those Hooters. The ones who were all over MTV during the 80s, who got their start as a ska-influenced, melodica tooting combo. I got to see them live – back in the day when the entirety of their discography was limited to two self-released 45s – at King Tut’s City Gardens (crazy name but NJ heads know the deal) in Trenton. Back then they had a cool sound, mostly pop with heavy ska/reggae and Beatle-ish threads running through it. They had a fairly big (as these things go) regional college radio hits with the original version of the tune ‘All You Zombies’ which was eventually rerecorded for one of their LPs and a great pop-ska tune called ‘Fighting On the Same Side’.
**Especially since so much of it seems to have been repressed endlessly, in Jamaica, the UK and here in the States
***And the reissued a few years ago, again, on Moodisc (which carries a 2006 date on the label). Should you come across a copy of the JA or UK OG, prepare yourself to pony up a serious pile of dough (bigger pile if you plan on paying with nearly worthless USD)