Keith Allen in Gay Rasta Scandal

Or: Pseudo Gay Rastas part one

Sex Boots Dread – Tickle Tune (Rinka, 1980)

A nice bit of traditional toasting over the Pick Up The Pieces riddim:

Me think about the lion as him rest upon the sand
Me tink about the help that me have from white man
And me want to crying
Becah me listen to the lying
Me know when me talk that me [real break something – not sure?]

Me know that me mix up with real good friend
Good [earth or ‘erb ration – not sure?]
It not absurd situation
Because me black and me proud and me Rastafari
Me and yah people we nah see eye to eye

Which then deviates jarringly, and hilariously, from the norm:

There’s a difference in me lifestyle
There’s a difference in me dance style
What a difference in me case file
Because me black and me proud and me Rastafari
And me homosexual
Homosexual
Homosexual

The lyrics then move on to some explicit and jaw-droppingly funny descriptions of gay sex, before concluding with some more philosophical musings:

And me mind goes asunder with the wonder of life
‘Ow people give you pressure for to pick up a wife
And me know it not a sensible
Brrrrr! me know it not a sensible.

Because me like all me brother and me like all me sister
Me like everybody and me not a resister
Me open up me mind guy
Me open up me mind guy

And me love, me love, me know about love
me also think of sex and me know it from above
and me like a man cocky style

East west north and south
I take it up the arse and I take it in me mouth
North south west and east
I play the beauty and me boyfriend play the beast

North south east and west
Sexual freedom – always the best!

Sex Boots Dread – Pentel (Rinka, 1980)

Pentel (aka Pentil) is in a similar vein, covering Mr Boots Dread’s relationship with an a young Indian bloke – their love life taking place in his parent’s cornershop with an increasingly bizarre variety of the merchandise used as props.

I like these tracks – they are very well done with an obvious affection for reggae and a who give a fuck attitude to the prevailing sexual codes of conduct. And they are very funny.

I first heard of Sex Boots Dread on Woebot’s blog. These tunes came out on a 12″ and were rumoured to have been given a great review in the NME because of their pro-gay lyrics – something unheard of then and now for what seemed to be a Jamaican artist.

But there are a few clues, just from listening, that suggest everything is not what it seems. For example “think” is pronounced think and the more patois tink in the first two lines. And the sexually explicit content is very different from the usual “slackness” of the genre.

Sex Boots Dread is rumoured to be the work of comedian and personality Keith Allen.

The actual evidence for this is a bit sketchy, especially as I haven’t read Allen’s autobiography, “Grow Up” (Ebury Press 2007). But I’m more interested in writing about the context the record might have been made in, than who actually made it. So there.

West Side

Sex Boots Dread also appears on an album entitled The Roughler Presents The Warwick Sessions Volume 1, which came out in 1987.

The album also features Keith Allen, and is a product of the eighties Ladbroke Grove scene in West London. The Roughler was a fanzine which was set up to cover news of the Rough Trade cricket team (a concept nearly as incongruous as occult order the Ordo Templi Orientis having a baseball team, but apparently this is also true – I’ve never had much of a grip on sport) which operated out of The Warwick pub.

As fanzine veteran and West London historian Tom Vague puts it:

“Of all the local mags, the Roughler most definitively represents Notting Hill and the area’s contrasting psychogeography. Originally the scoresheet and fixture list programme of the Rough Trade cricket team, the Old Roughians, the satirical mag/fanzine/website etc was founded in the early 80s by the local pub legend Welsh Ray Roughler-Jones.

The Roughler covered the scene at the Rough Trade pub, the Warwick Castle at 225 Portobello Road, and the activities of Keith Allen, the Comic Strip actor who was in the local groups, the Atoms and Tesco Bombers, and arrested in the ’76 Carnival riot. In the mid 80s Allen achieved further local notoriety with his ‘first gay Rasta’ spoof record, Boots Sex Dread’s ‘Tickle Tune’.”

[link to whole publication – Entrance to Hipp: An historical and psychogeographical report on Notting Hill compiled by Tom Vague for HISTORYtalk Vague 44]

Tom also states that Keith was involved with legendary reggae pirate radio station Dread Broadcasting Corporation.

I’ve not found any corroborating evidence for that, but here he is interviewing Lepke of DBC for Channel 4 in 1982:

It seems like Keith had a project called “Breakfast Pirate Radio” which was either a station or released on cassette or both. Either way, that also featured Sex Boot Dread tracks:

(relevant section commences 56:30)

The show also includes Gerry Arkwright, the “northern industrial gay” character and a very camp presenter. Allen clearly felt homosexuality was great source material, and it is certainly worth remembering how transgressive this must have felt at the time. There are also a fair few pops at politicians and middle class people which suggest an anarchist influence.

Ian Bone and an early incarnation of Class War used to knock about in Ladbroke Grove too. According to Bone’s autobiography “Bash The Rich”, Keith once played drums in his band “The Living Legends” and filmed several hours’ worth of footage of Class War’s “Bash The Rich” excursion to the 1985 Henley Regatta. Although it’s fair to say Mr Bone was less than impressed with one of Mr Allen’s latest ventures.

Dogging

A piece in the News of the World reveals the source of the record label name:

“Keith becomes uncharacteristically coy when he records a night of lust with one of the biggest stars in British drama. He refuses to name her but teasingly reveals she was later honoured with the title Dame.

He won her over with the bizarre story of how he came by his tattoo of a dog’s head and the word Rinka.

Keith had it done in a fit of anger over Seventies Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe being found not guilty of plotting to murder male model Norman Scott, his alleged gay lover.

In the drama leading up to the case Scott’s dog Rinka had been shot through the head. It was an odd chat-up line to a top actress but Keith reveals: “An hour later we were in her bedroom snorting amyl nitrate—her with a pair of headphones on, listening to opera, and me with my tongue all over her. And no, it wasn’t Judi Dench!”

Rinka Records also released a seven inch by The Atoms in 1979, featuring Keith Allen on vocals and piano. That record has a catalogue number or R23, but it may explain the Rinka2 imprint on the Sex Boots Dread label.

Sex Boots Dread: The Movie

“Tickle Tune” appears in the 2001 Larry Clark movie “Bully”, which I haven’t seen – but apparently it’s playing in a nightclub.

The track credited as follows, but does not appear on the official soundtrack CD:

“Boots Sex Dread”
Performed by Rinka
Written by Rinka and J. Cafritz
Published by Just Send the Money to Us Music (BMI)

“J. Cafritz”?! Well that turns out to be Julia Cafritz, former guitarist of Pussy Galore and now of Free Kitten infamy.

Kim Gordon and Julia Cafritz

Julia confirmed her awesomeness by dropping me an email and asking about the track when she found me discussing it over at the Chatty Mouth reggae board. I was happy to bung her an mp3, and took the opportunity to ask her what the crack was:

“it was a mythical track, in my mind some total concoction of Thurston [Moore, Sonic Youth] and Byron’s [Coley, music critic best known for his writing in Forced Exposure, now writes for The Wire amongst others]…since they had a hand in it getting on the soundtrack.”

That’s the only reason for me to be falsely given writing credit. ‘Just send ALL the money directly to us’ was Free Kitten’s publishing company…they even got that wrong.

The track must be a total joke. Having spent my entire childhood traveling to Jamaica every year, there were definitely some gay rastas on the down low…but none with such a keen sense of humor in such a homophobic culture.”

Sure enough Byron Coley bigs up the record in this piece for Vice Magazine:

“Sex Boots Dread” – Rinka – worth $1,000
I have the only copy of this 12” you’re ever going to see outside of Jamaica. It’s from the early 80s and it’s about Rinka coming out of the closet and and getting into heavy toasting about the pleasures of anal sex. Larry Clark used it for a club scene in the movie Bully.

So there you have it, a cracking record with quite a story behind it. I guess all of this might explain why Lily Allen, Keith’s daughter, has so much of a reggae influence in her work…

10 Comments

  1. DUBVERSION says:

    this record will come up again and again won’t it? Which is a good thing..

    I still have a ropey cassette of it somewhere, from about 1986 or so, with both tracks. Thanks to Woebot I have the mp3 of the A-side, but never the flip, although it’s good to see it’s on youtube…

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by bat020, Zone Styx Travelcard and Moonbootica, Lee Fisher. Lee Fisher said: RT @johnedenuk: New blog post: Keith Allen in Gay Rasta Scandal http://www.uncarved.org/blog/2010/09/keith-allen-in-gay-rasta-scandal/ […]

  3. UNDELETED says:

    Fantastic piece John. You are my kind of nerd

  4. BYRON COLEY says:

    we got two copies of the 12″ into the rhino store when i worked there back in the early ’80s. it was my impression they came from jamaica, since the store’s manager did a lot of direct-buys with distributors down there. but i may well be mistaken. i always thought it sounded like dillinger, but what do i know?
    anyway, a friend of mine was working as a film editor for larry clark, and he got in touch with me to see if there were any gay reggae tracks for use in a club scene in larry’s new movie. i told him i could only think of one gay reggae record ever (not that i am a vast source of knowledge on the genre), and this was it. i sent a cdr and larry really liked it and wanted to use it. the problem was that there was no publishing info at all, which made it problematic. i contacted a few folks like roger steffans, but nobody was able to steer me towards anything solid. at the time, i was managing julie cafritz and kim gordon’s duo, free kitten, so i figured i’d just slap julie’s name on it, since she had spent so much quality in jamaica. that was pretty much it.
    a bit later, vice got in touch about rare records. that one was sitting out, so i mentioned it. they insisted i put values on the things, so i did. it’s a very funny record, and exquisitely bizarre in the context of reggae. but i suppose i’m not surprised to find out it was a goof more than an actual celebration of “the manly arts”.

    anyway, that’s the extent of my involvemnet
    cheers
    bc

  5. JOHN EDEN says:

    Thanks for taking the time to drop by and let us know, Byron, that’s great!

  6. MARKMAC says:

    I have a copy of the 12″ single. It has a white label with the words “Boots Sex Dread” printed on one side. I purchased it from a record clerk in St. Louis after having read about it in ‘The Face’ magazine. The article and record purchase date to 1983. The guy who sold it to me was very familiar with Kingston, JA, and I am under the impression that this is where he purchased it. Unfortunately, the seller was involved with IV drug abuse and I have no idea whether he is alive or not to confirm this.
    From what I have gathered, the backing tracks are Channel One products. Dennis Brown’s “Whip Them Jah Jah” on “Wolves and Leopards” uses the same backing track as the A-side.

  7. […] previously looked at the legendary Boots Sex Dread record with my “Keith Allen in Gay Rasta Scandal” piece. Thanks to all the lovely people who left comments, especially Bryon Coley for clearing up […]

  8. […] I won’t bore you with the whole history of Boots, Sex Dread – I’ve mentioned it before and you’re better off reading Eden’s account. […]

  9. JONNNY BOLAX says:

    Great radio show, BRING IT BACK. Sex Boots Dread, Prince Buster, Blowfly and what is that funky tune by Chas Barton & Luke Lanelli???