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This is BrukOut! Seani B reflects on Greensleeves

CELEBRATED: Dr Alimantado

THE term ‘legendary’ is much over used and equally under appreciated. Our subject for this week’s column, however, definitely comes into the ‘legendary’ category.

If you, like me, were growing up in London as a fan of music from Jamaica, I can almost guarantee that somewhere in your parents’, aunties’ or grandparents’ record collection there will be an album with a large ‘G’ on it.

As a kid growing up, I would always remember the record sleeve. I could never count how many times I’ve just sat and looked at the sleeve. There was something about the how it was laid out along the sleeve. I can see the two police officers now as I write.

My history with Greensleeves runs even deeper than that, though. When Greensleeves relocated from Ealing to Goldhawk Road, Shepherd’s Bush, that is when my relationship with them started. I was still at primary school.

The bus stop that me ands my brothers would wait at for the 105 bus was right outside Greensleeves. Every day, I would peer into the shop when I heard the rumble of music coming through. This was my first introduction to a record shop. I was intrigued. The role of Greensleeves in the shaping, development and showcasing of reggae and dancehall is without question.

The label came into being in west London - and began as a small record store ran by Chris Sedgwick and Chris Cracknell. 1977 was an important year for reggae, with a new found passion being nurtured from many quarters, including the counter-culturalists such as the punks across the UK.

As well as Bob Marley, the roots movement gathered pace across the country, and a new consciousness was awakened with it. With social difficulties becoming a growing concern for most of society, the public looked to music to ease their everyday woes, and reggae definitely helped to fill the void.

“Greensleeves’ timing was good, launching just as the ‘77 independent label and distribution network revolution was really taking hold,” says former Greensleeves executive Chris O’Brien. “Being a record shop meant Greensleeves was perfectly placed to respond to the fast-moving world of reggae music - perhaps a good example being Clint Eastwood and General Saint busing gate lyrics 'Another One Bites The Dust' at a stage show.

PICTURED: Freddie McGregor

"The following morning, many customers came to the shop requesting the tune, although it had not been recorded. Greensleeves had the tune voiced in the shops in less than two weeks."

A sure sign of having the ability to cater for customer demand. The world, and to a greater extent, the music markets, were very different back then to now – but the quality displayed by Greensleeves set them apart from many of the day to day labels.

“What made Greensleeves was the ability to always move forward, from dancehall into the digital age and while always acknowledging Jamaica is the great mother,” adds O’Brien. The digital revolution was an era that defined the label, with the legendary ‘Under Mi Sleng Teng’ forming part of its portfolio.

It helped push the portfolio out to a wider core fan base, and revolutionised the music as a whole.
Time and time again, Greensleeves has been able to look at the market and adapt for its customers. Dancehall has also be known to have several different songs on one instrumental (a ‘juggling’). This was a very expensive trend to keep up with for DJs.

Buying 15 7” singles for one riddim juggling was my shopping basket on a weekly basis.
But then came the Greensleeves riddim albums. This was the company looking at the market and thinking about its customers. I can hear many DJs saying ‘Amen’ for the double vinyl albums that helped save those pennies.

We also have to give praise for breaking records like Beenie Man’s ‘Zim Zimma’ and Mr Vegas’ ‘Heads High’ into the mainstream. And let us not forget that this is the company that signed the ‘Worl’ Boss’ Vybz Kartel at the beginning of his world domination of dancehall.

Fast forward to 2017 and Greensleeves is now part of the same parent company that owns VP Records, while still holding its own in the marketplace. Its catalogue of classics is huge and we still see it re-releasing them to this day, to the gratitude of younger reggae fans. I’m so glad of this, as it is important that the younger ears hear the magic that I grew up listening to.

I still get a buzz playing one of my favourites that ended up on the Greensleeves imprint – Ranking Dread’s ‘Fattie Boom Boom’. Congratulations to them for a sterling job over the past 40 years – and here is to many more to come.

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