VINYL JUNKIE: Joe Lawrance Part III, His First Reggae Record

As a record collector it’s always a pleasure to meet like minded people. We can chat about rare records, records we want, label art anything really that has to do with our love of old vinyl. There are certain collectors though that have taken their love of collecting to an extreme. They’ve been collecting for 30 years or more and go to great lengths to get the records they desire. It’s like a drug to get a new piece of vinyl and drop it onto the player to hear those sweet grooves whistle with those classic sounds.

So in this second feature on another of these special people we highlight a true vinyl junkie! He was kind enough to sit down and give us a huge history about his years collecting and his passion for all things Reggae!

Read: Part I | Part II

Somewhere along the way, probably from about the Autumn of 1968 and with a mate of mine (called Martin), we started to take a bit of an interest in his older brother’s records. This brother (called John) had been a Mod and had a few records, typically black Atlantic and Motown, but also a few Rocksteady records, which aroused interest and became favourites.

Tunes he had like Roy Richards’ HONKY PANKY (on UK Studio One), the Ethiopians’ TRAIN TO SKAVLLE and COOL IT AMIGO (on UK Rio and Doctor Bird respectively) soon became favorites, as did the lesser-known ALWAYS (on Blue Cat) by the Grey Brothers – the latter two I forgot about until over 30 and 40 years later when ALWAYS appeared on Owen Grays’s SHOOK, SHMMY & SHAKE Trojan anthology in 2004 and I happened across COOL IT AMIGO on a WIRL re-press in 2010 which had THE WHIP on the other side, just as per the Doctor Bird release).

Swan Lake The CatsBy late 1968, I‘d already bought my first Reggae record (SWAN LAKE by the Cats on BAF – this even scraped into the bottom of the UK Top 50 for a week or two!), having heard it several times on “Mike Raven’s R&B Show”, essential early Sunday evening listening on BBC Radio 1 (this show had previously been aired on one of the pirate radio stations, I think), as there’d be plenty of Soul and probably some Rocksteady and early Reggae. I recall hearing the Versatiles’ CHILDREN GET READY on the radio in the Summer of 1968 – I guess that would have been on this same radio show.

So by that time, I’d begun to develop an obvious interest in Jamaican music, though other than simply enjoying the songs as and when I heard them, I wasn’t looking to actually buy any of these records – in any case, they weren’t that easy to get hold of where I lived (I was still in Greenford) on the Western edge of London and I was only earning £2 per week – the price of 6 singles – plus any tips I might occasionally, plus there was a fiddle on the deposit on empty beer bottles from which I got a few extra shillings most weeks.

Come early 1969, little did I know it, but my growing appreciation of the quirky rhythms coming out of Jamaica was fairly well-ensconced. I was still delivering booze to the “needful” in the evenings and when ISRAELITES started to wend its way up the UK charts, it wasn’t long before I’d nipped down to the local electrical store and bought this still much-treasured Pyramid single.

I was still at school then and I remember, during the half-term holiday in late May 1969 while trying to revise for my upcoming ‘O’ level exams, my mate Martin stopped by to tell me that this same electrical store was selling “bluebeat” records for 1/6d (7.5p). I didn’t waste much time getting down there, plus it was only about 1/3rd of a mile away and having asked in the shop if they had any left, I was pointed to a couple of hundred mint “bluebeat” singles stacked somewhat casually in a box.

Strange labels I’d never heard of – Ska Beat, Giant and Caltone, but anyway, they’re “bluebeat”, I thought, so I shelled out for maybe 8 or 10, costing not much more than the price of a couple of regular singles. A bargain I reckoned, until I got them home and put them on the radiogram at home.

What a disappointment!

Who’s this bloke Roy Shirley? What awful singing (this was GET ON THE BALL on Caltone) and what on earth is this boring instrumental on the B side (Johnny Moore’s SOUND AND SOUL).

The Maytals’ – who are they? – MY DARLING (on Ska Beat) wasn’t even “bluebeat”, although the other side, the Charmers’ BEST FRIEND, was a bit brighter. MEMORIES OF YOU (credited to Wilbert Francis & the Vibrators, also on Ska Beat) wasn’t “bluebeat” either and its B side, NOW THAT YOU’RE GONE (Chuck Jacques), which I later realised was a pretty good Rocksteady workout, was inaccessible to my ears.

GiantThe only decent (or so I thought at the time) record I bought that day was Don Martin feat. Dandy & the Superboys’ KEEP ON FIGHTING (on Giant) – a very catchy UK Rocksteady song that I played over and over again.

The other records I just put to one side and probably didn’t play any of them again for several years.

COMING NEXT: MORE REGGAE GOODIES

I've been involved in the Los Angeles music scene since at least 1995 going to shows, promoting, spinning records and running labels. Ska and Early Reggae are my passion among other things of course.