Renovations for downtown musical heritage sites
Vinyl records have again been pushed into the spotlight with the recent announcement by Mrs Patricia Chin, director and co-founder of VP Records, that she intends to resume the production of the much sought-after commodity.
The very ardent record collector and musical businesswoman is known to have travelled hundreds of miles from places such as South America, Germany and Japan in search of particular vinyl records valued at upwards of US$1,000 each. Although Miss Pat (as she was affectionately called), may not necessarily be catering for that level of extravagance, this new thrust by VP Records will allow millions of so-called ordinary record lovers, who still own a turntable and have a passion for vinyl, to once again put their hands on some prized pieces and be able to play their favorite records.
There is hardly any doubt that the veteran producer's own passion for vinyl records has propelled her in this direction. In her own words, "It's like gold, it never changes and you get the real sound."
This passion and the 'real sound' Miss Pat speaks of dates back to the early 1960s, when she and her husband, Vincent, started a record shop, followed by a recording studio at 17 North Parade in the heart of downtown, Kingston - the bubbling melting pot of Jamaica's popular music. Vincent, who originally worked in the jukebox business and then opened his first shop along Barry Street in Kingston, moved to the North Parade location in 1961, taking with him his experience and the discarded jukebox records to bolster his business. They named the store Randy's Records after an American late night radio show named Randy's Record Shop. Vincent, a keen listener of that programme, was so thrilled by it, that he also named his record label, Randy's.
The label provided the earliest exposure to aspiring artistes like The Maytals, John Holt, Alton Ellis, and the duo of Ken Boothe and Stranger Cole, whose original version of Home Home, became a popular draw at dances in the early 1960s. The store became a buzz of activity during the 1970s, attracting hundreds of record collectors and music lovers, searching for hard-to-get vinyl recordings, both local and foreign. Being numbered among the collectors at the time, I remember the common clichÈ being, "If Randy's doesn't have it, it's not around".
By the late 1970s, the family relocated to New York and established the world famous VP Records (V for Vincent, P for Patricia), becoming the leading distributor of Jamaican music in the world. The Randy's legacy, however, continues in Jamaica, with family member Carl Lauder, who has been around the business since a teenager, striving in his own way to keep Randy's, the vinyl and the analogue tradition alive in a 21st-century digital world. The business, on a reduced scale, continues to be operated by Lauder, but years of wear and tear have wreaked havoc on the building.
Fortunately, The Sound and Pressure Foundation, working with property owners and caretakers, plans to renovate Randy's and 15 other sites that have been identified as being important to Kingston's musical heritage. The project is part of the revitalization of downtown Kingston, being organised by the Urban Development Corporation and comprising several groups, co-ordinated by The Kingston Redevelopment Committee.
According to Sound and Pressure CEO, Julian 'Jingles' Reynolds, funding is now being sought locally and internationally to undertake phase one of the project, which includes Randy's Records and Joe Gibbs Studios along North Parade; Nanny's Corner at Love Lane - the first home of Coxson's sound system and by extension Studio1; Prince Buster's Record Shack and Big Yard - Dennis Brown's birthplace along Orange Street.