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Earl Lewis was the bass player who introduced me to the Caribbean way of life - and there was a real contrast between playing with him at The Empress where he would sing Bill Withers and Lionel Richie songs whilst playing some of the funkiest bass I had heard, and the parties, festivals and concerts that he steered my way.  Having worked with Tropicana for a while I soon learned how to create my own style of music within the infectious soca music genre and was up for it when I was asked to be a part of the band accompanying calypso kings Blue Boy and Explainer at a concert in North London.

 

But was I really?  To begin with, I had to navigate myself through the pre-concert dressing room routine.  Suffice to say that this was designed to get everyone into the right state of mind prior to facing the screaming masses who had started arriving at North London's Pickets Lock venue well before we got there.  By the time I walked on stage my stomach felt like it could not take any more laughter, and the noise and atmosphere of the place was overpowering.  We had not done a proper sound check and that in itself presented real difficulties when it came to hearing the lead singer and the rest of the band.  Apart from my memories of the scale of the concert I recall some words of wisdom from Blue Boy who advised me to keep writing songs because when the day was to come (which it would, he assured me) when I would need repertoire all I had to do was to open up the bottom drawer and dig the pieces out.

 

The next big gig was a year later when Arrow and Explainer returned for a brief London tour, and the venue this time was the Commonwealth Institute.  We arrived to find its multi-layered galleries filled to capacity with vibrant people filled with expectation and this time the gig went off a lot better for me in that I was able to play a more dominant role in laying down the various rhythms, thanks to a better quality onstage sound and a better prepared band.

 

The West Indians have an attitude towards life which reflects in their party spirit, and this was like a sunshine-filled breath of fresh air in the sometimes-stuffiness of England.  But those frequenting the reggae clubs didn't care much for sunshine - darkened rooms with high powered speakers stacked from floor to ceiling, low frequencies reaching down into the solar plexus, and boy - did they play loud!  This must have been some sort of therapy because I always felt good afterwards.

 

And their sense of time?  I was once told to be at the gig (a club in Dalston) for 6 pm which I did, only to find the mamas and their children were the only ones there, starting to prepare the food.  Six hours later we started our set!  Then, at about 4:30 am as I was leaving the club (the sun rising), I noticed some Rastas stick their heads out of the doorway, and as soon as the light hit their faces, like two vampires, they receded back into the safety of the darkened room behind them - and the reggae played on ...