Throughout the early 80’s Chicago-based ska/punk/new wave outfit Heavy Manners built a huge cult following in Chicago and the Midwest opening shows for The English Beat, The Clash, Third World, Jimmy Cliff, and Peter Tosh among others. They opened a sold-out show for Tosh at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom on September 4, 1982. Tosh, impressed by their energy on stage, that he offered to produce a recording session with them. Studio sessions were soon set up in Chicago and Tosh flew in from Jamaica to produce along with his guitarist Donald Kinsey and his engineer Dennis Thompson.
Those Tosh produced tracks were released as a part of a collection of new and vintage Heavy Manners cuts called ‘Heavier Than Now’ in 2010. Around the same time, Heavy Manners released a 12″ single called “Get Me Outta Debt.” On the flip side of that 12″ is a rare dub track that the band had from the recording session. The dub track called “Could Not Get Enuff Dub” is produced by Peter Tosh and Donald Kinsey, and features both on backing vocals.
This is an excerpt of an interview with Heavy Manners from http://marcoonthebass.blogspot.com/
How did you meet Peter Tosh?
Jimi: Peter was standing just off stage as we were playing as his warm up act at the Aragon. When we finished our set, he came up to me and said “nice dance, I’m going to be in Chicago around Christmas, let’s make a record”. He took my phone number and said he would be back in Chicago in a few weeks to visit a girlfriend here. He called me on his arrival in Chicago and said “get a studio and some herb and let’s make a record”. He had been working with Don Kinsey, a guitar player in Chicago that had played with Bob Marley. He also brought along Dennis Thompson as an engineer, who was Marley’s live engineer.
What was it like to go into a recording studio with Tosh? What was he like as a producer? Did he have specific ideas about how the songs should sound?
Shel: Peter Tosh was probably the most laid back producer we could have worked with. He listened to what we were doing and made suggestions but he didn’t try to change the band. We weren’t a Jamaican reggae band and he knew it. Tosh let Heavy Manners be Heavy Manners and simply worked on fine tuning the studio performances to get us to play our best. He let us know if there was something he didn’t like and we’d go back and do another take. Guitarist Donald Kinsey, who was recording and touring with Tosh at the time, was also in the studio with us acting as a co-producer. He worked closely with us, helping produce some of the the guitar leads and other solos.
Kate: I was surprised he selected ‘Say It’ as the first cut he wanted to record. It’s a rock song with a ska skank, and the subject is where the woman is kind of scolding the man. It just didn’t seem like Peter’s style. But he really liked that song, Donald Kinsey opened up a can of woop-ass on the guitar solo.
With Tosh as a producer was there any talk at the time of a major label record deal?
Shel: We had representation at the time and the demo we completed with Tosh was shopped to a number of major labels. The record companies just didn’t seem to know what to do with us. They heard reggae and ska, with a dash of rock and roll and weren’t sure where to go with it. In 1982-1983, the only thing the major labels wanted was a hit record. They weren’t convinced that we’d be able to chart with the sound we had. In the meantime, we were drawing the largest crowds of any local band in Chicago, which we thought was proof enough that the music could be brought to a larger audience. It all comes down to marketing. If we had been in New York or LA and the record executives had seen our live shows and the crowds that came to them, we probably would have had the major label deal that never came our way.
Kate: We had been trying to get a major deal since Flamin First. We were rockin college radio and indy stations, but suddenly the 80’s had British hair bands with synths and they became the rage. I think we were in the wrong country — ska was big in Britian.
Here is my vinyl rip of the dub track from the JUMP UP RECORDS 12″.