I grew up collecting comic books and baseball cards. Having a radio show for 25+ years gives me the necessary “excuse” to collect Reggae.
Like my mom who collects beanie babies, I collect and seek out herb tunes. In the same way an art collector doesn’t need to be able to paint to know and enjoy art, same with I on collecting and curating herb tunes for the Smile Jamaica Ark-Ives.
The above photo is a portion of the herb tunes wing of the Smile Jamaica Reggae Ark-Ive. (Ark as in Black Ark)
In a 3 hour show every third Saturday in April, near 4/20, I rent a Uhaul, (well not really, but…), and pack in 2 60 CD Suitcases; a 30 CD Suitcase for Mutant Dub cannabliss; a crate of vinyl for LP’s , a red carry case of 45’s, a Rasta bag for 10″s & 12″s plus my trusty red vinyl cleaning mitt and a partridge inna pear tree.
Most 3 hour Ark-Ive editions of Smile Jamaica average 30-35 songs. The secret stash from that photo is probably 250.
I have at least 800 herb tunes in the Ark-Ive including 1 digital that I wrote about for KUER Music: Jim Stafford’s “Wildwood Weed”.
Smile Jamaica presents the award “Excellence in Kaya-tude” to Johnny Osbourne for his herb tune “Mushroom” off his album Fally Lover.
The crack staff at the Smile Jamaica Ark-ives is crafting a little award in the shape of a Golden Seven Leaf.
In the early 90’s I worked with a guy from Iran named Amir at the University of Utah. When he learned I hosted a Reggae radio show, I offered to make him a Smile Jamaica Greatest Hits Mixtape. On actual tape. Cassettes.
Some people sing, some people sketch, some people write. I build custom Mixtapes. I put together a Best of the Rest of Motown for my sister and brother in law in Jah-buquerque. They were playing the disk –CDs. On actual aluminum byproduct composite — at a barbecue gathering. One of the guests liked the music so much she asked my sister Stacey, “What’s the title of this CD so I can buy a copy?”
I don’t remember what I put on the 90 minute cassette for Amir but the song that he remembered was Johnny Osbourne’s “Mushroom”
I was raving with two dawtas all night. Alright! Everyone was feeling fine, feeling fine. Party time!
The only thing the dawtas asking for all night. My gosh! Was a stalk of mushroom. What is that? My gosh!
Don’t want no mushroom to go to my head Gimme the good sinsemilla instead
Don’t pee in my garden. Ca’ mushroom will grow Don’t pee in my garden. I don’t want your mushroom to grow Sensimilla. That I want fe grow
I don’t want no mushroom to go to my head Just give me the good sinsemilla. That’s better instead
All she keep on asking for: mushroom all night long All I had is a bump of sensi, right here in my hand
Don’t smoke it. Don’t drink it Smoke the sensi instead. Mushroom ain’t good for your head
So for 90 minutes of Roots, I got a Persian feast. I met Amir, his wife and daughter for dinner at their place. While having tea, Amir whispered something in Farsi to his 4 year old, Shiva. She busted out, “Don’t peeeeee in my gaaaarden or mushroooooom will groooooow!!!!”
This little songbird didn’t remember any other lyrics. But she gave a couple more spirited repeats as Amir and I laughed and her mom shot me the hairy eyeball.
But hey, at 4 years old? Makes sensi to me!
So way to go Johnny Osbourne for showing us little kids’ love of bodily fluids is universal. Or I-niversal
Peter Tosh must be looking down from Jah’s Heavenly Choir with guitar in hand, spliff in mouth and smile on face.
“Legalize It, I will advertise it”. The penultimate herbtune in the Reggae canon. I wish he could see the progress of his missionary work on behalf of the Seven Leaf 25+ years after his gruesome murder.
It was the summer of 1987. I had really gotten into Reggae music. Started collecting it on these new inventions called CDs. Vinyl from around SLC (Cosmic Aeroplane, Randy’s*, Smokey’s Records, Starbound, Raspberry Records, The Mad Platter, etc.).
(*The only shop still in business 25 years later.)
I would travel and couch surf with relatives in the Bay Area and buy up all the cheap Reggae vinyl that was in all their great stores from Reno, Sacramento, San Fran, Berkley, Oakland, San Jose, Rasta Cruz, Mill Valley. Everyone was shedding vinyl for CD upgrades.
I had my student loan check in hand from Uncle Ronnie (Reagan that is) and I would binge on $4 vinyl discards that fetch $40 and more today on Ebay.
I even did a little half-assed Reggae show called Positive Vibrations on the University of Utah’s KUTE radio station which broadcast only in the Student Union.
Peter had a new album out called No Nuclear War. I figured the chances were excellent that he would go on tour in the States and I would get to see at least one of the Big Three since Bob had passed in ’81.
I remember I was in the airport picking up my sister Stacey for a little visit. This was in the wooly days before 9/11 when you could queue up to the gate to meet your party. I grabbed a coffee and a paper and waited for her plane to touch down.
Headline on the top of page 2: “Reggae Star Peter Tosh Murdered in Jamaica”. The date: Sept. 11, 1987.
Spooky eh? The usual senseless drug violence.* (See the movie Red X for how this went down from survivor testimony.)
*There is an alternate theory of why Peter was killed. But I’m not telling that story. “Ask me no questions and I”ll tell you no lies.”
Peter played one last trick on the shitstem of Bobby-wrong and wreaked havoc on the Crime Ministers s(h)itting in the House of Representa-thief of A-sad-ica. “Because there is nothing ‘merry’ about America”. He crashed the stock market on his birthday that year: Oct. 19. A mere five weeks later.
Before the Great Recession of ’08, Oct. 19th, 1987 was one of the biggest stock market collapses since the Great Depression. It’s known by the ominous term Black Monday. I’m certain Peter would have loved the irony.
Peter Tosh paid a personal price for his Cannabis devotion. A famous concert took place April 22, 1978 in Jamaica. It is known as the One Love Peace Concert. “The Woodstock of Reggae”.
This was a Reggae music festival hailed as the return of Bob Marley from exile. (He had been shot in the run up to the last major Jamaican attempt at a music benefit: The Smile Jamaica Concert; Dec. 5, 1976)
The concert movie Heartland Reggae is the artifact of this show. Peter took to the stage to harangue the two leaders in Jamaica. Michael Manley (left wing, PNP party); Edward Seaga (right wing JLP). Such a high profile public rebuke was a bold and reckless thing to do in a country that was at the point of a ghetto civil war.
It would be like Obama and Romney going to the Kennedy Awards dinner and getting called out for their failures and venality by Bob Dylan. Very impolitic and a response came soon enough.
About a month later the Jamaican police nearly frog stomped Peter to death. They paid special attention to beating him on his hands. Imagine the double viciousness to try and destroy a guitar player’s hands. It would be like putting a surgeon’s fingers in a meat grinder. The Reggae rebel had to feign death to get away.
Check this sound clip about the attack with author Stephen Davis. This is taken from the dubble disk set that includes Peter’s performance at the One Love Peace Concert called Talking Revolution (Pressure Sounds). It’s a great piece of musical history. Peter Tosh was fearless and Old Testament righteous. He definitely lived up to his nickname The Stepping Razor from the stage.
<Tosh I-view about his police beating 3 min.>
Peter wrote about the incident in his album Wanted Dread & Alive.Especially his “court transcript” set to music: “Cold Blood”
Every time I see Babylon my blood runs cold Every time I see the wicked men my belly moves
You say after me sir I solemnly swear That the evidence I shall give Shall be the truth The whole truth And nothin but the truth
So help me God So help I Jah(3x)… Rastafari Every time I see the wicked men my belly moves
You are brought before this court For having ganja in your possession Guilty or not guilty Not guilty your honor
How could one man do such a thing… ganja It is totally impossible your honor
I can remember yeah When I was framed and jailed, brutalized The grudge would find me guilty For an exhibit they could not find
Every time I see Babylon my blood runs cold Every time I see the wicked men my belly moves
When I see the condition I said it’s a curse For the past 400 years ago Things get from bad to worse
Every time I see Babylon my blood runs cold Every time I see the wicked men my belly moves
(Yes, that’s Keith underneath a halo of smoke)
Wanted Dread and Alive means everything to me. Is this gross? I broke my cherry I lost my “Reggae virginity” on (with?) this record. The very first Reggae artifact in the Smile Jamaica Ark-Ives of several thousand. I got this Christmas ’81.
I would always put records on my Christmas list. My mom would simply take that list into the local record store in Great Falls, Montana (Eli’s Records; now known as the Hastings chain). She would give that list to the clerk. She would come back an hour later. Trim the stack – No Ted Nugent Wang Dang Sweet Poontang – and wrap the winners in one big obvious present under the tree.
I was always an impulse buyer and would often buy an album because I liked the cover. That was the case here as well with the great cover of Peter right out of the Wild Wild West. It wasn’t until Bob Marley’s Legendin 1984 that I picked up Reggae gem #2. Me and millions of others. “Satisfy My Soul” indeed.
So full circle to Peter Tosh and the price he paid for his advocacy, in America at least. Collie-rado and Washington succeeded in “legalizing it” with another dozen states going to the polls in 2014 and 2016 to do the same.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has been tenacious in their efforts to decriminalize and legalize a plant that has zero overdose deaths in the 8000 plus history of human cannabis consumption. They have been the first line against cannabis prohibition whose purpose was always to criminalize a lifestyle.
Here is Peter’s very own Cannabis Service Announcement for NORML back in the good old days of when “only” 400,000 Americans were arrested and jailed for a “lickle herb stalk”. Half of what it is is today.
I pay tribute in “kind” to Peter with weekly Cannabis Service Announcements and yearly Cannabis Service Shows on Smile Jamaica. The least I can do to return the favor. “Everybody wants to go to heaven. Nobody wants to die.” Peter Tosh “Equal Rights”
Thanks to the democratization of media you don’t have to own your own radio station to do “radio shows”. KRCL used to allow us to stream shows off their website, but changes in the system put the kibosh to all that.
I am feeble at social media but I do know that people don’t expect to consume any media “live” as it happens. That’s why we have DVR’s for TV and podcasts for Radio Shows.
So my easy access to uploading Smile Jamaica Ark-Ives was in limbo. I might have carped about this on air and was glad that a listener, (Nerdshow – based in Ogden), turned me on to the wonders of Mixcloud.
So I can put up a sort of digital media archive or Ark-Ive for Smile Jamaica. As I say on air, “Listen on your time not my time”. When a listener complained about slogging through Public Service Announcements, Radio Underwriting/Advertising and other interruptions, I started editing that stuff out and just have the streams pump Reggae, Dub and me talking about it. Telling stories.
But since I have a personal studio I have started doing online only content. No commercials. No time limit.
My musical fascination is what I call Mutant Dub: the crossover electronic bass and modern effects with Rasta themes, ricochet echo and orthodox Jamaican drum & bass. Not quite electronica nor lounge but heavier and “out on the perimeter” from Roots Reggae. By tradition, I tend to spend the last half hour in this sound during each edition of Smile Jamaica.
In a 3 hour show I figure that last half hour can be the experimental, challenging and odd stuff that keeps me motivated doing media for 25 plus years.
I try to use Smile Jamaica to enlighten people about this niche that appeals to a rather small subset in both the Reggae and Dance markets, I have built some special Mixcloud only shows devoted to Episodes that I call What Is Mutant Dub?
I have produced 3 so far:
Episode 1: What Is Mutant Dub?
Episode 2: Adrian Sherwood’s ON U Sound Label: LP 1-20
Episode 3: Dubwize Halloween
So now I am working on What Is Mutant Dub? Episode 4: Space Dust. Little green men toking juicy green herbs. I have 2 hours done so far. It incorporates all my favorite cannabis sound bytes. Especially the anti-marijuana hysteria high school industrial films that warn “one puff will lead to murder!”
So I’m on my way to 4 hours and 20 minutes from Mutant Dubbers like Dub Syndicate, Zion Train, Thievery Corporation and Audio Active. A World Tour devoted to the Seven Leaf.
<Smile Jamaica Mini-Dub Symphony, 40 sec.>
I will debut this Special Digital Dubplate Show the morning of April 20th. Sunday soundtrack to yr Wake ‘n’ Bake! 4 hours and 20 minutes
(***The operator of the Smile Jamaica Ark-Ives wishes those reading to know that we do not endorse, encourage or engage in illegal activity. These writings are in spirit with anti-authoritarian subcultures and are meant solely for informational and or educational purposes only. Edutaiment isn’t illegal….yet***)
Everyone knows about the 12 Days of Christmas. But what about the 20 Days of Cannabis? 420 that is. Anyone who has listened to Smile Jamaica over the, well, decades now knows that April is pretty much in bloom with the Seven Leaf Saturday Afternoons on Community Radio Station KRCL..
For going on twenty years – on air between 4 and 7 PM Saturdays – every 4:20 is given over to what I euphemistically call “herbtunes”. I call it the Cannabis Service Announcement. A spin on non-profit radio and its promotion of *Public* Service Announcements. These Reggae and Dub boomshots sing praises to the Wisdom Weed.
The closest Saturday to the 20th day is devoted to an entire show of herbal meditations on all formats and styles: vinyl, singles: 7″, 10″ & 12″, cds and digital*; Roots Reggae, Mutant Dub and Rockers doing Reggae. 180 minutes celebrating free speech and diverse lifestyles. Selah!
*I even have Bob Marley’s Kaya (with the title track and “Easy Skanking” spliff tales) on 8-Track. No player to hear it on, alas.
Because of my job as Audio Engineer in the Marriott Library, I have a slick ProTools digital recorder. So my job pretty much requires me to be a whiz at editing digital files (a skill I originally honed at KRCL on 1/4 inch tape). So I edit a whole heap of sound clips to enhance the mood elevated listening experience. Clips from Cheech and Chong, George Carlin and Steve Martin. Movie dialog from Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown and Saturday Night Live.
I taught myself the DVD audio-track ripper Handbrake just so I could chop a soundbyte out of the Reggae documentary “Land of Look Behind”. From crowd footage at Bob Marley’s funeral, a youth steps forward and shouts “Bob Marley smoked 100 splits a day! A 100 splits a day mon”.
<Bob Marley’s ganja prowess>
Saturday, April 19th. 4-7 PM Mountain Time on krcl.org or 90.9FM in Salt Lake City region.
My annual April Cannabis Service Show. Yeah. It’s silly and obnoxious and totally rude. It’s my favorite show of the year. A lot of my Reggae deejay fraternity are disallowed by their Program Directors to play even a single marijuana ditty. Praise Jah for anything goes KRCL. “Your station that rules the nation!”
Here is the story behind why I decided to livicate (not dead-icate) a potent blast of pot propaganda 20 minutes into each and every Smile Jamaica. And then some.
This could have been about 20 years ago. I was chatting up one of KRCL’s Drive Time deejays in a record store. His show was on one of the Week Days between and 3 and 6 PM. He got the clever notion to bust out a little weed set during his show that he called 4:20 Funk
Alas, someone at the station put the clampdown on his little exercise in musical free speech. 4:20 Funk was banned. Of course, when he told me his tale of woe I made sure the very next Saturday to debut my own Spliff Tales that I christened Cannabis Service Announcements. You have to be fearless and not back down because freedom of expression is under assault.
So in the Spirit of the Season on this Smile Jamaica blog, I will post 20 Cannabis related posts. I’m behind obviously so I’ll do two a day till I catch up.
Facebook: None. I hate Facebook. They spy for the Security State. Tom Green said of Facebook, “Voyeuristic narcissism”
I toil as a University Librarian at the Marriott Library, University of Utah. My title is Manager of the Audio Studio in the Digital Scholarship Lab.
This is my attempt to use New Media/social media to showcase how my avocation (Community Radio) intersects with my vocation (Academic Librarian/Digital Humanities)
So here is what I hope to accomplish with yet another blog on the Internet.
My Terrestrial Radio experiences: (KUTE 1987; KRCL 1988-); Postive Vibration, 3 o’clock Roadblock, Global Gumbo, Smile Jamaica, Radioactive
Smile Jamaica Ark-ives: Playlists, Podcasts/Mixcloud, Music reviews, reggae/music news, deejay/radio tips and stories, autobiography: 25+ years of radio, Mutant Dub Files
Cratedigging: music collecting, cataloging, organizing, obsessing, autobiographical story telling, vinyl formats, reggae archives, Itunes archives/playlist hierarchy, rock/soul/techno/world interest
Academia: New Media, Multi-media Archives, Digital Humanities, University audio projects/digital archives, Interviewing for Research, Media Trends, Mass Media, KUER Music, Middle East Library, Curriculum Library/Education, Religious Studies: Islam, Eastern Rite Christianity, Rastafari
Interests: Progressive Politics, Ancient Aliens, UFO Watching, Seven Leaf, Green Bay Packers, San Francisco Giants.
All my heroes are named Bob: Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, Bob (R.) Crumb
Magazines subscribed to: Rolling Stone (Lifetime Subscription), Mojo, Uncut, Mixmag, The Nation, Sports Illustrated, Vice Magazine
I have a steep distrust of social media long before Edward Snowden and really have a steep learning curve on social media. This is the first time I’ve not embraced the new media trend. iTunes was the last media trend I jumped into from the start. Social media baffles me. I have no instinct for it. So I will stumble along til it’s second nature.
So I am calling this The Empty Barrel. From the Jamaican saying, “The empty barrel makes the most noise!”
Smile Jamaica is hosted by Robert Nelson on 90.9 FM KRCL in Salt Lake City, Utah (Saturdays, 4-7 p.m. MT). Ark-ives available weekly here at the Smile Jamaica blog.