19
Nov 06

DAVE AND ANSEL COLLINS – “Double Barrel”

FT + Popular51 comments • 6,697 views

#299, 1st May 1971

 

Like many of the immigrants who brought the music over from Jamaica, reggae found Britain a land of indignities as well as opportunities. The marketing savvy of Trojan Records pushed the sounds to the commercial peak that “Double Barrel” represents – at the same time, Trojan’s policy was to sweeten the sound for the UK market, with plenty of remixed string arrangements and cover versions of pop tunes, especially as more skinheads and suedeheads got into glam and the reggae boom faded. Now reggae cover versions are a Good Thing in my book, and I honestly haven’t heard enough “stringsed-up” reggae to know if it was as baleful as historians like Lloyd Bradley claim. But I do know that it’s seven years before a Jamaican single as lively as “Double Barrel” hits number one again.

“Double Barrel” is strings-free: the only real problem Dave and Ansel Collins faced was that Dave Barker’s identity got somewhat subsumed in a Collins brand. Dave was a toaster called in to spruce up a fairly successful instrumental (which according to Bradley’s Bass Culture he didn’t even like much) – its smash success surprised both men and yoked their careers together, at least in the lucrative UK market. Bradley describes how seeing it on Top Of The Pops was a definingly thrilling moment: unremixed Jamaican culture, barely supported by radio, at the top of the charts.

It may have seemed strange to a wider public then: it may seem even stranger now. The evolutionary descendents of early 70s toasting, flourishing in hip-hop and ragga, have devoured their ancestor: there’s no real reference point in recorded music for the disconnected, improvised MCing Dave does on this track. Toasting works as a kind of real-time commentary on a tune, slipping on and off the beat as whim and passion dictates. Dave is at once Ansel’s partner and the number one fan, his extravagant, spontaneously reaction to the groove encouraging the rest of us listeners to loosen up, feel it, shout it, work it. That particular bridge between beat and audience survives on radio and in the clubs, but it’s lost to the studio.

There’s no question that it works for “Double Barrel”, turning a jaunty – even balmy – ska instrumental into something with a lot more gusto and swagger. The serene organ-led breakdowns in the track stand out all the more, as hard-won moments of calm amid the hustle. With all credit to Ansel, there’s no question as to who the star here is – he is the magnificent double oh-oh-oh, bursting with life as his style briefly conquers Britain.

{democracy:21}

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Comments

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  1. 26
    Marcello Carlin on 22 Nov 2006 #

    :-)

  2. 27
    DR.C on 24 Nov 2006 #

    Terrific record! Anyone know the track it was based on, Ramsey Lewis’s ‘Party Time’? Well worth digging out if you get the chance.

  3. 28
    Mark Grout on 27 Nov 2006 #

    reference point: James Brown?

    Also, see the subsequent McKay’s “Take me over” song.

    A lot of these instrumentals existed as
    1) Song (i.e. straightforward with words)
    2) Instrumental
    3) “Toast” version

    Was this one pre-existing? I dunno.

    Oh, and I do own “Hot Line” by Dave Collins, just to prove it was true.

  4. 29
    Heidi Hog on 1 Jan 2007 #

    Some of the commenters are mistaken and the author is totally wrong in giving this a 8! Double Barrel was as significant as James Brown ‘Say it loud, I’m black and proud’. Or, as important as the Sex Pistols ‘Anarchy in the UK’. And definately more important than NWA ‘Straight outta of Compton’.

    What this record did is launch onto a world a musical genre that went on to become a major influence on the culture which once despised it. Without Double Barrel you would not have had Two Tone, UB40, Culture Club, Acid House, Drum and Bass Garage or any of these sub-genre’s.

    Glad to see the record has at last been given the recognition it deserves.

  5. 30
    Tom on 2 Jan 2007 #

    I think this is overclaim for the specific significance of Double Barrell to be honest – it was the peak of a reggae boom, not the start of one.

  6. 31
    koganbot on 20 Feb 2007 #

    slade *were* a skinhead band — possibly under their earlier name which i haf forgot — but (in my personal formulation) were GLITTER than than GLAM

    Well, as Marcello points out they were first the N Betweens and then Ambrose Slade, but the crucial additional point – I have not heard this music, but I read about it in an book, so it must be true (was reading in a store, don’t remember name of author (Dave Somethingmultisyllabled, I think) – is that they were an hippie progressive rock band and the album cover has them looking like such! They were also an commercially unsuccessful hippie progressive rock band so manager Chas Chandler suggested that they take on the image of skinhead, even though the band had no connection to or affinity with skinheads, and persuaded Lea or Holder that this was a good thing, and together they browbeat the rest of the band into going along, even though rest of the band did not really want to. (So, Slade point on an old thread that’s not even about Slade and the post probably won’t even post because of WordPress strangeness.)

    James Brown connection is not the toasting (toasting was common among Jamaican soundsystem DJs from the ’50s, but didn’t hit on record until the late ’60s) but the bass line, which like pretty much all of reggae, does the funk thing of clustering notes and surrounding the clusters by space (though Brown and his band got the inspiration from Caribbean music, but exaggerated the syncopation and pushed the tightly between the measure bars)(what I just said prob’ly makes no sense, but then describing sounds is not easy).

    [Strangely I get logged-in to the rest of Freaky Trigger but not to Popular, so we will see if this posts.]

  7. 32
    koganbot on 20 Feb 2007 #

    Actually, right after the start there are some James Brownish vocalisms, but then the interjections become more toastal.

  8. 33
    Marcello Carlin on 20 Feb 2007 #

    Slade’s biggest hit was actually a rewritten remnant from their unsuccessful hippie progressive days but more about that when we get there.

  9. 34
    Waldo on 21 Feb 2007 #

    “Double Barrel” was in actual fact released on one of Trojan’s subsidiary labels, namely Technique. It was the first record I ever bought myself and I still love it.

    Dave “The Magnificant” Barker has lived in the UK for many years, whereas Ansel Collins remained in Jamaica. Excellent arrangement from Ansel and producer Winston Riley, and the ludicrous boasting (rather than toasting) from Dave made this surprise Number One distinctly memorable to the reggae-loving skins and to those of us a bit younger.

  10. 35
    Doctor Casino on 16 Dec 2007 #

    wwolfe inspired me to track down “Delegates’ Convention ’72,” and if it’s not exactly non-stop entertainment, it has some solid moments. Kissinger’s “GOTTA FIND A WOMAN! GOTTA FIND A WOMAN!” is def. the highlight. Need to track down the track that’s from, no question…

  11. 36
    Travis G.L. on 6 Sep 2008 #

    OHHHHH YEAH!!!!

    This is going to get a little incoherent. Being a young lad in Michigan who is only now nearing his Saturn Return, my journey into 70s roots reggae is prolley a bit more labyrinthine than anyone else’s in here.

    1995: I’m fourteen years old and I live in a small nowhere town planted firmly in the desolate southwestern Michigan region. I get the big orange book–SPIN’s Alternative Record Guide (remember, lord sukrat?)–at a bookstore in a mall, and it changes my life. I bought it for the entries on the bands I liked at that time (obv. Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, The Breeders, but also Pixies and Sonic Youth, who no one else in my high school listened to, but whose names I came across in different articles about these bands), but what it does is open up a whole new world to me in music. There’s a list at the end, SPIN’s Top 100 Alternative Records of All Time: I vow to at least listen to every record on this list.

    Three years ago: One of the records on this list is Lee Perry and the Upsetters’ Some of the Best. I now live in Brighton with my grandmother, and tagging along with her on a trip to the Salvation Army, I pick up a secondhand cassette copy of this for like 50 cents. I go home and listen to this, and it’s…interesting. I didn’t know much (read: anything) about reggae at the time, and though the tile implied a greatest-hits album, it seemed a lot stranger and screwier than any greatest-hits album I ever heard. The toasting does sound very odd to a modern and uninitiated ear, but even stranger was the multiple ‘versions’ (at least to someone who mostly listened to radio-rock through most of his youth). Certainly the most jarring moment on this particular album, on first listen, is hearing “Shocks of Mighty” which has Dave Barker toasting and exhorting like James Brown over an infectious track, and then after it ends, hering [i]the exact same track[/i] starting up again, the only difference is now Dave is singing like Smokey Robinson.

    The album makes reggae and rock steady sound like some rough-hewn, surreal mutation of soul and R&B (thank you Scratch), and it doesn’t take long for this to become one of my favourite albums.

    Over the next couple of years, this become one of only four albums that receive constant rotation in my car stereo (the other three: Dragnet by The Fall, Compilation by The Clean, and the Madvillain album) Yes, with the world going to hell in a handbasket, and culture getting more and more bland and controlled (this is just before US pop radio turned into the viscous, hypnotic entity it is right now), retreating into insularity, an underground of one’s own design, becomes a weapon of resistance.

    Three weeks ago: I live in Midland. The night before, I drank heavily and slept at the nearby apartment of an overnight acquaintance. I take off early in the morning and decide to get some breakfast before making the drive home. In the restaurant, the radio is playing loudly. Casey Kaem’s Top 40 is on, but he’s introducing an old song by the Undisputed Truth. “What’s going on here?” I say.
    The waitress tells me that it’s the oldies station playing, and on Sunday mornings they play old Top 40 programs from different year. Okay, I say, and sit back to listen to Riders on the Storm. This song comes on and it is like God entering my brain with a pink laser beam. “Holy s***!” I think. “What’s the guy from Shocks of Mighty doing on the radio?”
    Seriously, the effect is schizophrenically exhilirating. It’s like someone piped into my private fantasy world for three minutes and broadcast it all over the Tri-Cities area. I go home and find out that, indeed Dave Collins is Dave Barker, and he had a No. 1 hit in UK in 1971 (it made it to #22 in the US) I find it the next day, and listen to it often now.

    It’s not my favourite reggae song (honor goes to Shocks of course) but I would not be true to myself if I did not give this a 10 and wonder why I couldn’t rate it higher…

    (is there TOTP appearance on Youtube, does anyone know?)

  12. 37
    Billy Smart on 7 Sep 2008 #

    It is!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAujhAFx8wU

  13. 38
    Travis G.L. on 7 Sep 2008 #

    Awesome! Thanx!

  14. 39
    Billy Smart on 7 Sep 2008 #

    TOTPWatch: That Dave & Ansell Collins performance of ‘Double Barrel’ comes from the edition transmitted on April the 29th, 1971. Also in the studio that week were: McGuinness Flint, Shirley Bassey (two songs – ‘Breakfast In Bed’ and ‘You Don’t Care No More’), The Mixtures, Lulu, The Faces, and Rod Stewart, plus Pan’s People’s interpretation of ‘Mama’s Pearl’. The host was Tony Blackburn.

    Just for once, miraculously, “full edition exists”!

  15. 40
    DJ Punctum on 8 Sep 2008 #

    Dame Shirl doing “Breakfast In Bed” – the tray boggles.

  16. 41
    Mark G on 8 Sep 2008 #

    The album makes reggae and rock steady sound like some rough-hewn, surreal mutation of soul and R&B (thank you Scratch), and it doesn’t take long for this to become one of my favourite albums.

    Album OTM

  17. 42
    Doctor Casino on 20 Mar 2009 #

    Not that anybody could possibly be waiting on this information, but the “GOTTA FIND A WOMAN!” bit from “Delegates’ Convention ’72″ is from “Troglodyte” by the Jimmy Castor Bunch. Highly recommended.

  18. 43
    wichita lineman on 13 Dec 2009 #

    Re TOTP appearance. I just landed a dvd of this entire show – with no Shirley Bassey! But it’s a pretty enjoyable programme, even McGuinness Flint’s post-Band novelty. Tony Blackburn informs us that “hot rex” has been no.1 for 6 weeks, and introduces The Faces as the theme from Get Carter plays in the background. Talk about a time capsule. This being no.1 is still entirely bizarre, even with the full ’71 context.

  19. 44
    Jimmy the Swede on 1 Sep 2011 #

    DESERT ISLAND DISCS WATCH:

    Ian Rankin, Writer

  20. 45
    Jimmy the Swede on 19 Sep 2011 #

    Driving back from work yesterday afternoon, I was tuned into Johnnie Walker’s Sounds of the 70s (a fabulous show from my great hero) and there was an interview with “Toots” Hibbert from The Maytals. Johnnie was suitably captivated, as was I. “Monkey Man” and “Reggae Got Soul” were aired and Toots chatted happily about his time touring with The Who, amongst others. Wonderful stuff.

    This morning, back at work at Gatwick, a colleague is called to the departure lounge to question a passenger travelling to Jamaica with a large quantity of cash. It turned out to be Toots returning home and my colleague, who is also a good mate and of exactly the same vintage as The Swede, returns with a signed pic and a Grand Canyon smile. Sometimes this job does have its perks. Had it been me, I would have inquired after Ansel Collins, whom I believe still lives on the island, unlike Dave Barker, who has been long settled in the UK.

  21. 46
    Ken Shinn on 25 Mar 2012 #

    “The Magnificent W-O-O-O”, surely?

    Love this song.

  22. 47
    Lena on 15 Jun 2012 #

    The Magnificent M-O-O-O: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/genuine-imitation-waldo-de-los-rios.html Thanks for reading, everyone!

  23. 48
    Waldo on 16 Jun 2012 #

    Hi Lena

    I’m sure you’ll want to turn that Magnificent M into a W!

  24. 49
    Waldo on 16 Jun 2012 #

    Ah, wait a second.. I think I see what you’ve done now!

  25. 50
    James BC on 13 Sep 2012 #

    You do see a modern equivalent of this kind of MCing occasionally, eg Fatman Scoop and various other hip-hop novelties.

    Could you even draw a line between this and Black Lace’s Superman?

  26. 51
    hectorthebat on 18 Jun 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    Pause & Play (USA) – Songs Inducted into a Time Capsule, One Track at Each Week
    Elvis Costello – The Best Songs from the 500 Best Albums Ever (2000)
    Hervé Bourhis (France) – Le Petit Livre Rock: The Juke Box Singles 1950-2009
    Jamaican Poll – The Top 100 Jamaican Songs of 1957-2007 (2009) 32

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