Arthur Kay writes...
It all started for me in 1962. Their was Lenny and me, two kids on a street corner in London. It was one of those nights that you never forget, a time when teenagers in ballrooms all over the UK were dancing the Twist to Chubby Checker, Sam Cooke and Gary US Bonds. I felt really sharp in my blue Prince of Wales check suit and winkle-picker shoes. I remember seeing the film 'Twist Around the Clock', the same night I heard for the first time Dion sing 'The Wanderer' and discovered three things I wanted from life: An anthem, an ambition and Dion as a mentor.
The Next Collection
By 1965 I had become a fully fledged South London mod complete with Lambretta and Hofner 'Paul McCartney' violin bass. I joined my first band 'The Next Collection'. We were a typical mod outfit playing Tamla and Stax soul plus a few original songs. Our first big gig was at the Ram Jam Club in Brixton, just one week after Jimi Hendrix performed there. A couple of weeks after we played the Ram Jam I was in a Streatham club, Prince Buster singles were being played by the DJ - it was my introduction to reggae/ska music. Soon the sound of Jamaican ska music was pumping out of every club in Brixton. Around this time my band were recording in a studio on south London's Old Kent Road. Our first session was for Decca Records with Harry Becket and trombone legend: Rico, now with Jools Holland's Rhythm n Blues Orchestra.
One year later our manager: Vic Keary, together with Bluebeat Records boss Emill Shallet founded Chalk Farm Recording Studios in Camden, London. It was here that the vast majority of Trojan reggae hits were recorded. I played on many a recording session with Vic and Emill for Trojan. At this time I quit The Next Collection in order to concentrate on song writing. In 1970 The Next Collection changed their name to 'Second Hand' and signed to Polydor, recording two albums: Chillum and Death May Be Your Santa Claus, both of which are now rare collectors albums.
10 years later I was living near Exmouth Market in Clerkenwell, right next to my favourite eel-pie-mash shop in London. Here I wrote songs that would later form a large proportion of the ' The Originals' repertoire. The big buzz in London at that time was a movie Pete Townsend was making about the sixties mod movement - Quadrophenia. I was recording in Islington near to a café called Alfredos which the film crew were using for shooting coffee bar scenes. Seeing all the Lambretta's and Vespa's lined up outside reminded me of my mod days in South London.
Chalk Farm Studios sound engineer Mike Craig relocated to Kent in 1975 and, together with local musician Chris Ashman, founded Europa Sound Studios, Folkestone in 1978. Mike invited me to record my song 'Ska Wars' in order to test out their new studio facility. The session featured drummer Steve Wyse whom I first met at Oakwood Studios three years earlier when he was in the prog-rock band Gizmo.
An acetate test pressing of Ska Wars was made which Chris and Mike took to a local disco in order to gauge people's reaction to the, then new, UK Ska music - It went down a storm. Chris Ashman organised an official release on Red Admiral Records of 10,000 pressings. Even with only limited radio play, the Ska Wars single sold out immediately, making Chris a very happy record company boss, but without the backing of a major label, went largely unnoticed by mainstream radio and TV stations and so never made the official music charts. It must be mentioned that the Ska music scene was yet to happen in this country.