Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Without an arsenal of specials, a sound system cannot even think about playing in the big leagues, much less becoming revered as a 'champion sound'.
As far as champion sounds go, there is no leaving Stone Love Movement out of the elite. And, as the organisation run by Winston 'Wee Pow' Powell celebrates its 40th anniversary at the Red Stripe Oval, Spanish Town Road, on Saturday, he knows which of his thousands of specials - customised recordings for a specific sound system - is the most special. It is the Wayne Wonder/Buju Banton version of Forever Young which established itself in the early 1990s.
"There is no other song that go around it," Wee Pow said. Using Sophia George's mid-1980s song Girly Girly as an example, he pointed out that it normally takes repeated radio play for a song to get popular. On the other hand, while the Wayne Wonder/Buju Banton combination Forever Young is very popular, Wee Pow emphasised that it is "a song that is on the radio only when we do an interview or a pass through. If Stone Love go at a place and not play that song ... ."
Forever Young starts with Wayne Wonder's testament to Stone Love's longevity, as he adjusts the Laura Branigan lyrics on a theme visited by Bob Dylan and Rod Stewart to proclaim "Stone Love is gonna play forever and ever".
Then comes the almost disdainful taunt from Buju Banton to any potential sound system challengers. Buju invites:
Tell dem come fi tes' we nuh
Come tes' wi nuh
If oonu tink oonu wicked like a wi
Try move we nuh
If oonu fel oonu bad like a wi
Try push wi nuh ...
A nuff soun' a chat an a big up dem ches'
Bout dem run tings an dem is de greates'
True Stone Love sound never ready yet
Stone Love's personalised version of Forever Young is on the Real Rock rhythm, the remake of the Studio One classic done for Stone Love by Mafia and Fluxy.
"I used to voice hundreds of specials. I did not have a studio personally, so I used Black Scorpio, Tubbys, King Jammys, Channel One and Penthouse," Wee Pow said.
The Black Scorpio sessions were run on Tuesdays, where Wee Pow said entertainers would gather in the evening after doing the rounds of other studios during the day.
On the day Forever Young was voiced, Wee Pow said "Wayne Wonder wanted to do the song on the Real Rock. Mid-way the song I said to Buju 'Why don't you and him do a combination?' Him just jump round in the voice room. Wi come from top and that was it. The whole place mash up".
So Buju's part of the special was totally spontaneous and there were no chances to do it over - the one-off recording was done in one take. Still, Wee Pow said, "the studio light up, but I never really see it to be a bigger song than Ice Cream Sound".That outstanding special is also on the Real Rock and done by Johnny Osbourne and Shabba Ranks. Wee Pow also names another specials that were stronger than Forever Young - Thriller U's Stone Love tailored version of My Love. Then there was Nitty's Gritty's dismissal, "good morning sound boy long time Stone Love reach ya", on the Stalag 17.
However, Wee Pow said, "Forever Young come in and creep up and take over the world".
The dub plate was first played at House of Leo on Cargill Avenue, near Half-Way Tree, on a Thursday night when "the whole a Red Hills Road in deh". The special tore the house down.
Still, Wee Pow was not aware of the song's impact until he started going abroad with Stone Love after the Forever Young special was established.
"People used to come out and request it," he said.
Love being able to play multiple sessions on one night, there are many
copies of the special, but Wee Pow still has that first vinyl cut of
Forever Young. "Long time me no see it, but it still
there," he said.