It was a prefect at my private school who first recommended Linton Kwesi Johnson. I think he was called Matthew Taylor (but not that one): we were so posh, we didn't call them prefects, but something else in Latin that I've forgotten. So there's always been a bit of a Holiday-in-Cambodia frisson about listening to him. But what's the alternative? Not to listen to him because it's not for me or of my culture? For us mollycoddled white boys, records like this were the only way we could get ourselves a liberal education. We'd never hear perspectives and attitudes like these through school in a hundred years.
And it is an education. Right from the off, Di Eagle an' di Bear "living in fear of impending nuclear warfare — but as a matter of fact, believe it or not, plenty people don' care whether it imminent or not." This was indeed news to little old CND-marching me.
It was rare at the time — indeed still is — for a new release to come with sleeve notes, but this one does: brief notes on each song and an extended essay from fellow former British Black Panther Darcus Howe. The essay refers throughout to LKJ, which reminds me of another Johnson, LBJ, and the old formula for working out what your name would be if you were reincarnated as a West Indian cricketer: your first name is the surname of the US President when you were born, and your surname is the last English seaside town you visited. Which makes me Johnson Flushing. Hmmm, it doesn't work so well with the contemporary team who just gave England such a drubbing: it is now conceivable that a future US President could be called Sulieman; but Fidel?!
Ah, I somehow worked the subject round to the safe territory of cricket — what a surprise. So here we are living between Brixton and New Cross in a part of London that's been gentrified and whitened by people like us in the quarter century since Making History came out. To illustrate, Lucy comes bouncing into the music room, "I love this: Making History isn't it? I've got this too." It turns out she also got it while at university, a recommendation from her convent-school-educated best friend.
It does sound great, despite being recorded at the height of the '80s worst production fashions — much better than last Tuesday's Black Uhuru production. Credit, I guess, to Dennis Bovell, whom I heard playing live on Mark Lamarr's programme at the end of last year.
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