Tuesday, June 14, 2016

40 Year Itch : Sipple Out Deh

Max Romeo : War In a Babylon

By June 1976, more than 160 Jamaicans had lost their lives in election-related violence that pitted armed vigilantes against cops and soldiers. There were fire-bombings, gunfights and lootings. Against this background Max Romeo wrote one of his best known songs, which he discussed with author David Katz in his book People Funny Boy.

I had this song "War In A Babylon" where me say "It wicked out there, it dread out there". I took it to (producer Lee "Scratch" Perry)said "You like it?" He said "Yeah!" with excitement, "But no dread and no wicked, it sipple out deh!" So I said "Yeah, that have a ring to it," because sipple mean slippery, it's slidey out there." I said "Fantastic idea : War in a Babylon, it sipple out deh", so I record the song. Scratch got $15,000 (JA) for producing the song; after production costs, he gave me $2,500. That's the only money I get to date."

The song so impressed Island records chief Chris Blackwell that he signed Romeo to a record deal. The album War In a Babylon, featuring more classic tunes like "One Step Forward" and " Chase the Devil", would come out  in September. Along with Junior Murvin's Police and Thieves and The Heptones' Party TimeWar In a Babylon is considered part of the Lee "Scratch" Perry-produced Black Ark "holy trinity".