Al Baker is a veteran of Manchester's underground music scene. However, Al is not a producer, he doesnt carry a record bag, he never prints a flyer and you'll very rarely see him on the mic.
So what i hear you ask gives him such veteran status. Al has been photographing Manchester's underground for probably more years than he'd like to admit.
Im pleased to say as Editor of Example a magazine which attempts to represent the Manchester Underground wherever possible that Al Baker will now be writing a monthly illustrated column in Example Magazine to give us a blast from the past and an veteran's insight to the ever changing club culture in Manchester.
So here's his first one...
One Saturday afternoon in Nowhere Town, I was about nine or ten years old, I return home to discover my eldest sister has acquired herself a new boyfriend.
The evidence for this simple, singularly important event is a smattering of smart young men leaning nonchalantly on various surfaces around our kitchen.
They are Rude Boys: skinheads and mod revivalists. All of them are dressed impeccably. Top to toe: Neat hair, cropped short or shaved close; button-down Ben Sherman check shirt; ubiquitous Harrington jacket with tartan lining; one-size Army parka hung like a wet tent; Fred Perry polo-shirts, various colours; thin red braces hanging over bleached drainpipe jeans; black Brogues; brown loafers; shiny Doc Martin boots that travelled all the way up the shin: Seeing them slouching there in our kitchen my ten year old eyes grew really big: It was the coolest thing I had ever seen.
Over the next few weeks my eldest sister introduced me to the music, the style, the fashion.
She taught me how to wear my inch-wide tie and (after I persuaded my Mum) how to lace up my boots! I poured over lyrics, practised my dance-steps and played my sisters records over and over again.
My other sister taught me how to ride a bike, how to climb trees, cool childhood things, but it was my eldest sister who introduced me to the wonderful world of the teenager, and its soundtrack was Ska!
Numerous afternoons later and I came home one Saturday to find a new collection of young men arranged around our kitchen. This time though they wore their hair long and in curls; thick leather motorbike jackets; and patchouli drenched denim: Heavy Rockers!! It was a shock, a sudden familial betrayal.
My sister had switched her affections and allegiances. On my next birthday though my cash-strapped sister wrapped & donated all her early Two-Tone 7” singles as a present and she was forgiven.
Forever! God bless her and all her fickle hormones and chromosomes!! I had started my own record collection. ‘Rat Race’ by the Specials is the first I bought with my own pocket money.
‘Sir’ David ‘Ram-Jam’ Rodigan began his own personal addiction to bass-culture in similarly white English middle-class surroundings. Born in Oxfordshire to a military family, an impressionable thirteen year old David was religiously viewing Ready, Steady, Go! (Like millions of other teenagers in 1964, watching the ever shifting fashions, copying latest dances), only tonight sees Jamaican singer Millie Jackson perform ‘My Boy Lollipop’ and its’ joyous, unremitting beat captures the heart of young Master Rodigan first time!
He spends the early 70’s collecting & researching his new obsession: Buying & selling records in Oxford & Putney while he studied & dropped out of Economics.
His first deejay spot was at Radio London in 1978. His subsequent Roots Rockers show ran on Capitol Radio for an amazing eleven years, before more recently finding a home Sunday nights on RinseFM
David Rodigan has made it his mission to offer everyone an excellent education in Blue-Beat, Ska, reggae, dub, Trojan, Studio One, digi-dub, dancehall, jungle & beyond!
His selector knowledge comes a close second though, to his own infectious enthusiasm for his favourite subject and (you get the feeling) the love of his life!
The sheer amount of ‘specials’ cut for Rodigan (exclusive versions, usually an alternate chorus which mentions Rodigan by name) by the great & mighty from Jamaican musical royalty is simply staggering! Especially when you hear them back-to-back!! It only goes to show the high regard with which he is held back in Jamaica for ‘Sir’ David and his tireless promotion of roots music.
The live show is no nostalgia-fest for trustafarians either, believe! This guy is a one-man enlightenment machine. He is track-selector, emcee, deejay, educator and host: All rolled into one.
Buried in vinyl & cds; then talking to the crowd. Run the track. A little celebration dance! The guy is 60! Back on the mic -PUUUULL UUUUP!! Snatches it back for a rewind: Working feverishly and loving every minute of it!
He tells tales along the way. Explains the ‘who & why’ around certain important records; King Tubby’s very first foray into dubscapes; Who brought the first computer into Jamaica and who used it to make the first digital dub; to General Levy, the Junglist Massive; and the whole world-wide pantheon of drum’n’bass and dubstep that has followed in its wake!
And for those that don’t know: David Rodigan recently made a guest appearance alongside Newham Generals on the Breakage dubstep clubber ‘Hard’. Get to know!!