5 Questions with Michael Barnett
Michael Barnett plays on radio, organises the long-running Startime concert series, collects vinyl recordings and DJs on the party circuit. This multiple involvement in popular music, made in Jamaica and overseas, gives him a good vantage point and today The Gleaner delves into his cache of memories.
1. What is your favourite Startime memory?
A memorable moment was with Gregory Isaacs, this time at Peppers Nightclub in June 1996. It was eight years after he helped to launch the very first Startime at Oceana Hotel. Gregory had lived in England for about five years, and had not performed in Jamaica all that time, so the Jamaican audience was real hungry for some Gregory. The Startime crowd went berserk just to see Gregory in his white suit and white beaver step up on a Jamaican stage again and he gave the performance of a lifetime. After three encores, pandemonium broke out and the audience kept on clapping and shouting for more Gregory. Our MC Oona Lyn tried to introduce the next artiste and the audience wanted none of it ... they started chanting Gregory !! ... Gregory !!! ... Gregory !!!! nonstop until it got to crescendo stage. By this time, Gregory had left Peppers via the back gate in his red BMW and I wisely decided to chase his vehicle some ways up Waterloo Road and pleaded with him to return to the venue. He pushed his head out of the vehicle and listened for some seconds, and all we heard was the crowd shouting "Gregory !! ... Gregory !!! ... Gregory !!!!" I'm standing at the driver's window and he looked up at me and cheekily sang "dem still want more" (a line from his famous song Hard Drugs. We both laughed hard, and Gregory turned around his vehicle and came back to Peppers. When the audience realised he was coming back on stage, they let out a massive roar, and Gregory proceeded to literally flatten Peppers that night. We had to book Gregory to perform again the following month. Gregory Isaacs and Dennis Brown were two of the most humorous artists in the business.
2. What is your least favourite Startime memory?
We staged Startime for one show in the parking area we fenced off, leading to the grandstand at the National Stadium. I remember the date very well, Saturday, March 5, 2005. Keith Brown and I (MKB) had flown in Alton and Little Roy from England, Keith and Tex from (New York and Canada, respectively), and Ken Parker from Florida, so our budget was stretched. Well, it was one of the hottest days in the year and while we were setting up the venue, my team and I had to drink gallons of water to keep hydrated. We had a large crowd of over 2,500 in the venue by 10 p.m. and things were looking great! Keith & Tex and Little Roy gave excellent performances, then it was Ken Parker's turn. His third song was True True True a hit he had recorded at Treasure Isle back in the '60s. The words of True True True go:
"Not every day is gonna be the same, oh no
not every day is gonna be a day of sunshine
Well there must must be a little rain
to cool down the times and it's true true true"
As Ken Parker reached "well there must must be a little rain", incredibly on this very hot night, the skies just opened and the rains came down in bucketloads for about two hours. It finally eased up about midnight, and would you believe some Startime patrons had to run for cover under the National Arena and were waiting for the show to restart. We had to call off the show, sadly refund them and, of course, we lost a lot, having extended ourselves to bring the overseas acts to perform.
3. Which performer have Startime audiences requested most, who you have tried to get to perform but did not?
For a long while back in the '90s, the call was for Desmond Dekker and Millie Small from England. We made an appointment (from Jamaica) with Dekker's manager and Keith Brown actually flew to England to meet with them and encourage them to return to perform in Jamaica. However, there were a number of stumbling locks and it just never did work out. Over the last few years, the call has been for Beres Hammond and Sanchez. (Sanchez is in the line-up for Startime at Mas Camp on May 5).
4. Do you prefer organising Startime or playing at your party series?
I prefer organising Startime, as it is much more challenging. You're catering to and attempting to satisfy the tastes of thousands. It definitely keeps me on my toes and thinking more for a much longer period.
5. What is the first vinyl recording you bought and about how many (LPS, 45 rpms and 12 inches) do you have in your collection now?
The first vinyl record I bought was Nat King Cole's Greatest Hits as a birthday present for one of my aunts. I was 12 years old, at the time, and it made a tremendous impression on her. The first record I bought for myself at 13 years old was Phyllis Dillon/Hopeton Lewis' Get On The Right Track. I'd prefer not to give exact totals of my collection, but let's say I have a few thousand. If you listen to Kool97 you will hear them. That's all I play. Vinyl is final!