Mel Cooke, Freelance Writer
The man sitting on a bench at Devon House, St. Andrew, with the long fingers of one hand holding a digital recorder smiles as he tells The Sunday Gleaner "Ansell Collins a de firs' man go on the Billboard chart with a deejay and instrumental. We a the first one do it before Shaggy an' every one of them".
In fact, the keyboard player, along with Dave Barker on vocals chanting "I am the magnificent … ", did it when Orville 'Shaggy' Burrell was three years old, 'Double Barrel', peaking at 22 on the American charts and topping the listings on the British side of the pond.
Considering that Collins uses Shaggy as a reference point, it is ironic that the song was recorded at West Indies Recording Studio, 16 Bell Road, St Andrew, the year that he was born. Vincent Whyte was on bass guitar, Sly Dunbar ("A young Sly," Collins chuckles) played drums, guitars were courtesy of Bobby Aikens and Lloyd Parkes and Collins was on organ and piano.
Ansell Collins' role
Although there were a number of musicians, though, Collins emphasises, "Ansell Collins write Double Barrel bassline, all the line, the piano melody". And he paid for the recording session (Lynford Anderson of RJR was the engineer) as well as the musicians.
"Well me get a idea. I was in a band called RHT Invincibles and we used to play all 'bout the place, country, everywhere," Collins said, adding that GT Taylor was the MC. "A little Rasta man named Father Gooden, him did have a bakery down Spanish Town Road …. This time we down Olympic Way," he said.
So, after one rehearsal there, "Sly and myself leave. And me sey 'Sly, lissen to dis idea', and we sit down and work out the tune together".
"And it becomes a big hit," Collins said, recorded on all of one track.
Double Barrel was kept under wraps for a while, though, and if it wasn't for Anderson, chances are it would have been a tale with a different ending. "Lynford Anderson tell Winston Riley (of Techniques) about the song. Them get in touch with me and get Dave Barker to do the 'I am the magnificent'. I don' have no control over that part," Collins said.
"It come out in Jamaica first an' go on with a thing and fly over to England and do bigger things."
He did not expect Double Barrel to be so successful. "Me surprise yes. But Sly predict it long time. Sly Dunbar sey 'this tune gone, it sell millions'. And it did. Everywhere that song was very, very big".
top of british charts
He heard that it hit the very top of the British charts while he was living on Central Avenue, off Lyndhurst Road in St Andrew.
Hitting it big in England meant cross-Atlantic trips to perform there, Dave Barker and Ansell Collins doing 'Top of the Pops' and also TV shows in European countries such as Belgium and Holland, as well as concert performances in England.
And Collins chuckles as he remembers those days, long before music videos were commonplace. But the 'Top of the Pops' clip is still there to mark the early Double Barrel days.
Steven Stanley (left), Ra-umi Alkebu-lan and Ansell Collins in the studio. - Contributed