“Listen – Winston Groovy – Please Don’t Make me Cry – MP3″
We return to Part 2 of the Funky16Corners Jamaican Trip with a tune that might very well be familiar – especially of you’ve ever owned a copy of UB40s ‘Labour Of Love’.
Oddly enough, though I listened to UB40 (the 1980-1983 comp was a fave back in the day), I didn’t hear their version of Winston Groovy’s ‘Please Don’t Make Me Cry’ until after I heard the OG.
As I related in Monday’s post, my first exposure to ska and reggae was via the Two Tone scene, and then more deeply through the Mods in my acquaintance. I’d heard covers of Jamaican tracks in the 70s (by Taj Mahal and the Clash among others) it wasn’t until I started to groove on the second wave of ska, and dug deeply enough to discover how many of those records were covers that my interest in Jamaican sounds went to the next level.
My personal “Rosetta Stone” was the first volume of the Trojan ’20 Reggae Classics’ anthology series, which included tracks by the Harry J All Stars, Slickers, Melodians, Maytals, Pioneers and Dandy Livingstone among many others. As a result I heard ‘Please Don’t Make Me Cry’ in the original version long before I heard the cover*.
Winston Groovy – born Winston Tucker in 1946 – moved to the UK in the early 60s, where he worked with Laurel Aitken among others. He recorded for Pama, and then in the early 70s moved on to Trojan, for whom he recorded ‘Please Don’t Make Me Cry’ in 1974.
The tune – with its instantly recognizable keyboard opening – was has a wonderful, percolating reggae beat and of course Groovy’s soulful vocal. The record was his biggest hit and though he had continued chart success through the 70s and 80s, the UB40 cover of ‘Please Don’t Make Me Cry’ gave him fame with a much larger audience. He eventually re-recorded the song with UB40 for a 1998 LP.
It behooves me to mention that amongst reggae fans, UB40 doesn’t exactly have a stellar rep (which I think is somewhat unfair). There are those who would avert their gaze in disgust, noses upturned with accusations of carpetbagging and slickery (and who among us needs to hear ‘Red Red Wine’ again?), I’d remind them that UB40 (a band who’s early stuff I genuinely like) did a lot to popularize songs from the heyday of ska and rock steady. They certainly weren’t the first (mostly) white artists to dip into those sounds. You can look back as far as Georgie Fame’s early 60s blue beat experiments (like his covers of Prince Buster’s ‘Madness’ and Eric Morris’ ‘Humpty Dumpty’), right on through to the Specials (who also borrowed liberally from the Prince Buster catalog, as we shall see on Friday), Madness (same there), Paul Young, the aforementioned Clash who made quite the sideline for themselves covering reggae material and others.
Certainly, those who dig the decidedly grittier sounds of the original versions of these songs might find UB40’s ‘Labour of Love’ to be somewhat lightweight, but I can guarantee you lots of folks used that album as a gateway to the original material, much as I have with other cover material my entire life.
Either way, I hope you dig the original (whether you’re familiar with the cover or not), and I’ll be back on Friday with a tune that might surprise you.
*For folks in the UK this may seem chronologically askew as Labour of Love came out before the comp I mentioned. However, my exposure to UB40 was via ‘I’ve Got Mine’ and ‘Sing Our Own Song’, both of which got college radio airplay over on this side of the pond. Though their version of ‘Please Don’t MakeMe Cry’ was a hit in the UK I didn’t get to hear it until years later.