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Clive Chin: From 17 North Parade to the World

Clive Chin: From 17 North Parade to the World

Clive Chin: From 17 North Parade to the World

By on - Photos by Carlo Crippa / Rototom 2012 - Comment

Clive Chin at Rototom Sunsplash Reggae University.

Part two of a history packed Reggae University session focused on a Chinese-Jamaican producer who chair David Katz described "A man with a lot of musical history behind him – and a lot more to come as well".

Clive Chin at Rototom 2012

Clive Chin took over from his father Vincent as producer at Randy's on 17 North Parade, not far from Winston Riley's base on Orange Street where previous guest Johnny Osbourne had his first hit with Warrior in 1969. According to Clive, Randy's – which later grew into the New York based distributor VP – "started back in 1958 by my father Vincent. He adopted the name of Nashville radio station Randys" which played the jazz and R&B which Chin Senior loved.

The former Jukebox emptier started his first Randy's shop on East Street in downtown Kingston – before moving central to 17 North Parade in 1961. There Vincent cut important records like the ska boogie Rico Special (as a send off to the great trombonist Rico Rodriquez before he went to England) as well as the calypso independence celebration Independent Jamaica with Lord Creator. Creator, a Trinidadian, "knew nothing of independence so he had to be briefed."

The construction of a recording studio upstairs from the shop meant the Chin family missed out on the rocksteady boom of the mid sixties but by 1968 they were ready for the new reggae beat. As well as recording the Wailers, and taking bookings from independent producers like Lee Perry and Bunny Lee, the busy music space was visited by Quincy Jones and the South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela. Clive would meet Hugh again and reminisce on his father while giving a recent talk in South Africa for Red Bull Music Academy.

By the early seventies Clive had followed his father into production. "It was easy because he set the pace for me – he knew one of his children had to carry the flagship to four corners of the world."

Clive Chin at Rototom 2012Working with his schoolfriends the engineer Errol Thompson and the organist/melodica player Horace Swaby AKA Augustus Pablo (a "nice guy and good cool brethren") Clive had a hit with the early dub melodica instrumental Java. "In those days when you record song you can know the feel of song is a hit" said Clive. "It was written by a schoolmate called Dennis Wright but he couldn't handle singing the song. So we decided to abandon the vocal and not throw the riddim away."

The Do It Yourself ethos at Randy's also came into play for Alton Ellis' 1972 cover of the Cornelius Brothers' Too Late To Turn Back Now. When the guitarist couldn't handle the rhythm required, Clive had percussionist Sticky Thompson play a cheese grater to get the record's crisp muted sound!

Today Clive is in the process of documenting and preparing for the release of eight and a half thousand reels of lost archive tape from Randy's – comprising unreleased recordings by him and his dad. The tragic death of his producer son Joel last year inspired Clive to make the recordings available. "For me to do anything for that boy is to do what he asked me to do" said Clive, fighting back tears.

At Katz' request, Chin played Rototom some exclusive previews from the archives – which included the distinctive voice of Gregory Isaacs, among others.

He also spoke about the legacy of the Chinese Jamaican community in reggae – touched on by Tyrone Downie in the opening session. He promised to spin the landmark Byron Lee Chinese folk song put to rocksteady Always Together when he played records at Rototom Ska Club that night.

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