Mon | Sep 23, 2019

STORY OF THE SONG: 'Tea Bread' takes time to soak in

Published:Sunday | September 30, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Richie Spice

Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer

Earth a Run Red was not singer Richie Spice's debut to the reggae-loving public at home and abroad, but his wail about degenerating social conditions ("Earth a run red/ten-year-old a look dem owna tea bread") gave him that all-important break.

It has lasted, too, long after being released in 1998 - and that long shelf-life includes a six-year span before Earth a Run Red hit in 2004.

"Is a song never come in like it old," Spice said.

It starts out as a general warning ("You watch those places you walk and mind the way you talk/watch out fi de vampire who will sneak up in the dark/Watch out fi de big-time tief who claim say that them smart,."), which Spice puts down to looking ahead.

"It was coming up and seeing certain things, going on even before the world bad like now. Is like you a vision things, see it from far," Spice said.

INSPIRATION FROM MEDITATION

He wrote the lyrics for Earth a Run Red in Portmore, St Catherine. He was alone and "a meditate deep and look far out and come in forward". It was recorded at Anchor on Windsor Avenue in St Andrew, with the Firehouse Band and 'Lenky' Marsden on keyboards. It took more than one try to get Earth a Run Red right.

"When mi record it mi carry it home and listen it and Spanner Banner listen it and say mi need to record it over and deliver some of the words more powerful and confident," Richie Spice said. He took his brother's advice, doing over the song with a second verse which starts with a biblical reference:

"Di mark a di beast a come een under sneaking under man feet/A Revelation time check the signs of the time dem no feel di heat"

With the recording process finished, he was confident in the song's strength.

"Mi say yes. This one solid. Mi can leave this one and go search for the second one."

Earth a Run Red became a part of Richie Spice's live set, as "it was a song that go out and people hear it at stage show and get it response. But it was a song that was there and other songs come and come. But is a song that can play in the same rotation with other songs".

So while the song was kept current by its adaptability to songs which were released after it, Earth a Run Red kept current but did not blow up. Then came a change in the structure around the singer.

"It is there until Fifth Element come now and make a video it catapult the song," Richie Spice said.

And that was the shot in the arm it needed, Spice saying "it go right round the world and buss hereso, buss thereso, then when it come back here it buss again".

THE BIG BREAK

Part of that 'bussing' was Spice hearing Mighty Mike play Earth a Run Red on the radio, the first time the singer was hearing the track on the airwaves.

"Him pull it up and him pull it up and mi say, 'Yes!'" Spice said.

The lyric "ten-year-old a look dem owna tea bread" is a striking way of describing the hustling lifestyle of many youths. Spice said he heard the 'tea bread' phrase "as a youth. Me never know what it is. Me think tea bread was you provide your own meal, til mi get to understand is a little bread".

As his catalogue of songs has grown, Earth a Run Red has been shifted from a show-closing slot to further up the order, coming in at about third.