Roots stylist Johnny Clarke got his start early, even forming a band at school with Ibo Cooper of Third World and Roger and Ian Lewis of Inner Circle; hanging out at Studio One with Jacob Miller after school, he nearly managed a debut there, finally cutting ‘God Made The Sea And Sun’ for Clancy Eccles in 1973. The following year, ‘Everyday Wondering’ made an impact after Rupie Edwards released it in England; then, once Clarke voiced ‘None Shall Escape The Judgement’ for Bunny Lee in place of the song’s writer, Earl Zero, his future was assured. He became one of Lee’s biggest hit-makers of the roots reggae era, and although he cut a few tracks for other producers, he remained a big part of Lee’s stable throughout the 1970s and 80s. Pitching up in London for an extended period in the early 1980s, Clarke cut some excellent work, such as the Yard Style LP released by Mad Professor. But perhaps the most outstanding effort to surface was ‘Guidance,’ produced by Dennis Bovell at Studio 80 and issued in slim quantity in 1982 on a Red Nail 12-inch; interestingly, the song re-works Matumbi’s 1977 track ‘Guide Us,’ but sets the lyrics to a completely different rhythm. The equally enjoyable B-side, ‘Protection,’ gets its melodic direction from guitarist John Kpiaye, another key player on the British lover’s rock scene that would go on to become a regular backer of Linton Kwesi Johnson, along with Bovell.
David Katz ©