Chin Music

How one mom-and-pop record shop climbed to the top of the reggae world

In the background, but still loud and clear, Clive can be heard playing some of the old music he recorded during the fertile period from 1972 to 1975. The original album release of Randy's Dubwas limited to a mere 200 copies, but five years ago was reissued as Forward the Bass: Dub From Randy's, credited to Impact All-Stars. Clive is recording it for a friend this afternoon. As he speaks, a squiggly, sharply invasive tape manipulation bursts through his speakers, just a few seconds into "Extraordinary Version." It sounds like one of the infernal Chipmunks being flattened through a wringer.

"That likkle sound you heard was me rewinding a reel-to-reel seven-inch tape backward. We would just catch it and record it. Just catch a likkle piece of it, y'know. So all of that is just tape spinning backwards. Like I said, we were just experimenting. In those days we didn't have any electronic stuff. Everything was done manually, so we'd find our own little effects."

Today the old master tapes from Randy's Studio 17 are in Clive's control; he is in charge of overseeing the archives left behind by his father. Some have been released already -- Skatalites & Friends at Randy's, for example, and Lord Creator's Greatest Hits. He promises it will all eventually see the light of day, but it'll be on his terms; he certainly won't be turning the reels over to Atlantic.

Miss Pat and Vincent Chin behind the counter at Randy's, circa 1960
Miss Pat and Vincent Chin behind the counter at Randy's, circa 1960
The first family of reggae gathers as Vincent Chin is laid to rest in Hollywood, February 8, 2003
The first family of reggae gathers as Vincent Chin is laid to rest in Hollywood, February 8, 2003

"I have been approached by major labels," he confirms, "but I want to keep the catalog as one entity. I don't want to break it up, because I feel it will become fragile. When you keep something whole, it's more firm than if you take pieces out of it. I'm not keeping it for myself or my family. You'll have the enjoyment of hearing this music in the future. I'll just be putting them out as I see fit." Upcoming archive projects, he says, include A Rough Guide to Ska and another Impact All-Stars collection of soul, funk, and rarities.

"With the old stuff, if you package it right, people enjoy it. Atlantic commercializes too much. Me go right down to the groundwork and let the music speak, because the music is timeless!" roars Vincent Chin's eldest heir. "And whoever is keeping it alive, it's lovely, and me love dem for that."

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