Saturday, May 23, 2009

Some Call it Tampee

Recently, I went to “The World's Largest Yard Sale” in Stormville, New York. There were tons of crap, as would be expected, but my wife and I were quickly hip to the great record shopping we could do. So we dove in and surfaced with Purple Rain by Prince, a 10CC record, The Fifth Dimension by The Byrds, Tango in the Night by Fleetwood Mac, Half Breed by Cher, but most important to me, Legalize It by Peter Tosh (1976), which brought on a surge of love for all in the name of Jah. (We spent about 10 dollars total.)

This album was a really big deal to me as a teenager, for obvious reasons, but now it serves as a great album, musically and lyrically, with all the inherent nostalgia. As I was listening to it (and this copy was miraculously perfect), studying the cover design, I thought, “I wonder who designed this thing..” And so it says on the back that Andy Engel did. Who is Andy Engel? After a great deal of online research, I’ve come up with very little. There is an Andy Engel design firm in Ojai California, but that's not adding up. And there is an Andy Engel who seems to have designed Pump by Aerosmith, Off the Wall by Michael Jackson, and Springsteen’s Born to Run. This makes more sense, but there is no hard fact I can find about the relationship. Maybe they’re all the same guy..

The point is that this album cover is effortlessly perfect. The image of Tosh, intently smoking a pipe in a field of weed (the perfect plume of smoke curling amidst the requisite Rastafarian coloration) is a true icon. The hand-drawn type and sketchy red, yellow and green borders are perfectly balanced with the image.

As a designer and educator, I tend to know the creators of my favorite work. So, for the designer of this album cover (that has taken real-estate in my mind for so long) to be unknown to me is unusual. But we must investigate! If I find out more, I will add what I find.

While we’re on the subject, I want to direct attention to Rockers (1979), a favorite movie, which includes Tosh’s song Steppin' Razor (a nickname he earned for his volatile personality.) Rockers captures amazing late-70s Jamaican fashion, is endlessly quotable, and jammed with amazing music. It is subtitled because of the thickness of the Jamaican wording and dialect. It's pretty much a perfect movie. Just see the opening scene..
Once when I was on a bus crosstown on 79th street, there was an Asian girl sitting across the aisle, with a Rockers pin on her backpack. I didn't think the movie was very popular at the time, so I had to mention that I knew about it. It turned out that she was sitting next to her boyfriend, Patrick Hulsey, the producer of the movie. They gave me the pin, and I, in turn, gave the pin to my friend, Matt, who first introduced me to the movie.
Another favorite musician/producer from Jamaica is the prolific Lee Scratch Perry. Below are some pictures from his studio (inside and outside) from the late 70s.

And finally (of communicative interest) are some of Tosh’s words — twists and inventions on existing words, varying, by degrees, from silly to profound.

“America” —> "Asadica”
“Buckingham” —> "Buk-In-Hamm”
“Bureaucrats” —> "Bureaucraps”
“Christopher Columbus” —> “Christ-t’ief Come-rob-us”
“City" —> “Shitty”
“Disc jockey” —> “District johncrow” (johncrow is a Jamaican vulture)
“Ganja (Prohibition)” —> “Gone-Jah”
“Germany” —> “Germs-many”
“Judge” —> “Grudge”
“Inequity” —> “Out-a-quit-ty”
“Kingston” —> “Killsome”
“L.A.” —> “Hell A” (Los Angeles)
“Lawyer” —> “Liar”
“LSD” —> “Lucifer Son of Devil” (referred to as the drug of the devil)
“Managers” —> “Damagers”
“Marco Polo” —> “Marc O. Polio”
“New York City” —> “Boo York Shitty”
“Politics” —> “Politricks”
“Prime Ministers” —> “Crime Ministers”
“Situation” —> “Shituation”
“Technology” —> “Tricknology”
“Trinidad” —> “Trinibad”
“Unicycle” —> “I’n’I-cycle”
“Understand” —> “Overstand”