We’re about to finish the year and I was thinking it might be a good idea to summarise 2012 in a post but as there are still two days left and we know that in two days many things can happen, I decided to write the article when the year is really over, so I’ll leave it for next week.
Today, we’re going back to January 1970 (what a splendid month/year regarding clothes and music!) for an interview with The Pioneers themselves. Jackie, Sidney and George talk to the Fabulous 208 Magazine and explain to them how they started and their experiences in Great Britain. A nice piece of history, hope you like it.
PRIDE OF JAMAICA… THE PIONEERS
Despite not being able to tell the time because Britain doesn’t provide enough sunshine, The Pioneers still found it ‘fantastic’ here!
Jamaica’s latest reggae export, The Pioneers, were having some difficulty telling the time when I met them a few weeks ago. They don’t usualy wear watches and our dark mornings and sunless days were throwing them out of gear.
At home they gauge the time by the sun. “When it comes pouring through yout bedroom window, you know it’s time to get up”, explained Sidney Crooks. “And when your shadow’s straight, it’s 12 o’clock”, said George Dekker. Which is all very well in sun-drenched Jamaica but not so good in rainy England.
During their first week over here, this instinctive method of telling the time got them into a bit of trouble. They were rehearsing a song in their Paddington hotel when someone knocked on the door and asked them to make less noise, it was only then that they realised it was 3 o’clock in the morning.
But The Pioneers are not the sort of people to let something like that bother them unduly. As they put it, they’re an easy-going trio who live and work from day to day.
They arrived in England at the end of November for an indefinite stay, and were inmediately bowled over by the place. “It’s fantastic”, said Jackie Robinson, the youngest and most talkative Pioneers.
“English people are very groovy. They make us feel at home. In fact I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and think I’m in Jamaica. I like the English cup of tea as well and the architecture like Buckingham Palace and St. Paul’s. And the snow is fascinating.
We were in a café one night wondering why it was so cold when someone said it was snowing, I said: ‘You must be joking’, but then we saw all these white things just falling from the sky and we were so fascinated we didn’t feel cold any more.
Of course it’s very nice and very warm in Jamaica, but we wanted to get away because we wanted a different type of experience, a different type of people and a different atmosphere”.
Last winter the boys were planned to go to Canada when Tony Cousins, the man who introduced Desmond Dekker to the British scene, went over to Jamaica. He heard them sing and liked them so much that he signed them on to make a record and come to England. The result was Long Shot Kick the Bucket which was in the charts when they first arrived over here.
What a weeping and a wailing down at Caymanas Park…
“We were rehearsing in Kingston when we first heard it had made the charts”, said Jackie. “We were excited and a bit surprised although we were rather expecting it because it was a good song”.
“We wrote it in half an hour”, said Sidney. “We do most of our songs that quickly. George sits at the piano and Jackie and I sing. The ideas just come naturally. Sometimes we make up a song and record it at the same time”.
The Pioneers spend most of their time working and say they don’t have time for much else, not even for girls. “We’re too young yet”, said George, who’s twenty. Jackie is eighteen and Sidney twenty-four.
When they’re not at a gig they’re rehearsing, and when they’re not rehearsing they’re eating. “The food is different over here and we’ve been tasting very type of restaurant to see which we like best”, said Jackie.
It’s been a pretty busy programme so far with gigs almost every night, but the response they’ve been getting has compensated or any tiredness they might feel.
“The audiences are such nice people”, said Sidney. “You can see they’re enjoying it. They wanted us to give them our bow ties yesterday, so we did”.
Have they come up against any race prejudice over here? “Not at all”, said Jackie. “I see people as people and reggae is everybody’s music. Black and white can enjoy it together”.
Sidney is the founder member of the trio. When he left school at sixteen he worked in an office as a clerk. “But I got to love singing and was always late for work, so I left and formed a six-piece band called The Mighty Pioneers, but that crashed about two years ago”.
So Sidney went solo for a while until he met Jackie. “I was an apprentice welder, but I loved singing so much that I didn’t turn up for work and got fired. One day I was at the recording studios looking for a break and Sidney asked me to accompany him”.
And that’s how The Pioneers started. A year later George joined them. He had been working for the same company as his brother Desmond Dekker, but was feeling overshadowed. “Desmond was trying to help me but I was getting bored, so I left. I met Sidney in the street one day and he asked me to join The Pioneers”.
Their first record together was Easy Come, Easy Go and their latest is Poor Rameses, which they’re hoping will make the charts pretty soon.
The Pioneers performing Easy Come, Easy Go at Wembley, April 1970. Look at the skinheads… Reggae Music rules the Earth!
They’re a neat-looking group with their uniform caps and rather swish donkey jacket-type coats. On stage they wear the early Beatle type suits and bow ties. They seem to go in for clothes and they’ve got eight suits each!
But the most striking thing about them is how well they get on with each other. “Of course we do argue but we straighten it out”. When I asked who was the boss, I got a very definite reply. “There are no bosses here. Everybody organises together, everybody moves like one”.
And do you know, I can’t remember who said it!
And as always is parting a nice little tune. This is one is my favourite by them. Masterpiece!
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