Don Letts (Big Audio Dynamite) releasing ‘Late Night Tales’ comp, has a new memoir
Don Letts has led a very cool life. He was the DJ at '70s London club The Roxy where he turned punk crowds (and the bands) onto reggae when there were no punk records to play yet. He parlayed that into a career as a music video director, making videos for everyone from The Clash, The Slits and Elvis Costello to Musical Youth, Ratt, The Gap Band, The Pogues, and more. He's also made documentaries about The Clash, Sun Ra, George Clinton and many more. He is also a musician -- as a member of Big Audio Dynamite with The Clash's Mick Jones, his love of dub and film shaped the sound of the group. For the last 20 years Don has hosted "Culture Clash Radio" on BBC-6 where he continues to blur genre lines.
Earlier this year, he chronicled his life in memoir There and Black Again: The Autobiography of Don Letts which is thoughtful, funny, honest and jam packed with amazing stories as you might imagine from someone like Letts. Highly recommended.
Letts has also just announced he's curated a new Late Night Tales compilation titled Excursion Version. It's not your average LNT comedown comp, as this plays off the ska and reggae tradition of cover versions. "I wanted to carve out a space that was distinctly my own - something that reflected my musical journey and the culture clash that’s made me the man I am today," says Don. He's selected 20 dubbed out covers, including 13 that are exclusive to this compilation.
“A disciple of sound system, raised on reggae n’ bass culture my go to sound was dub," says Don. "Besides being spacious and sonically adventurous at the same time, its most appealing aspect was the space it left to put yourself ‘in the mix’ underpinned by Jamaica’s gift to the world - bass. But that’s only half the story as the duality of my existence meant I was also checking what the Caucasian crew were up to not to mention the explosion of black music coming in from the States. That’s why this version excursion crosses time space and genre, from The Beach Boys to The Beatles, Nina Simone to Marvin Gaye, The Bee Gees to Kool & The Gang, The Clash to Joy Division and beyond. You’d think it impossible to draw a line between ‘em but not in my world. Fortunately, the ‘cover version’ has played an integral part in the evolution of Jamaican music and dub covers were just a natural extension.”
One of the exclusive tracks is a new cover of Big Audio Dynamite's classic 1986 single "E=MC²" by Gaudi Meets The Rebel Dread ft. Emily Capell and you can listen to that, and watch the video for the original (directed by Don, natch), below.
VERSION EXCURSION - SELECTED BY DON LETTS
1. Ghetto Priest – ‘Hercules’ (North Street West ‘Late Night Tales’ Dub) (Exclusive remix) – Originally recorded by Aaron Neville
2. Prince Fatty & Shniece McMenamin – ‘Black Rabbit’ – Originally recorded by Jefferson Airplane
3. Wrongtom Meets The Rockers – ‘Dub In The Supermarket’ (Exclusive remix) – Originally recorded by The Clash
4. Gaudi Meets The Rebel Dread ft. Emily Capell – ‘E = MC2’ (Exclusive track) – Originally recorded by Big Audio Dynamite
5. Rude Boy – ‘Superstylin'’ (Exclusive remix) – Originally recorded by Groove Armada
6. Capitol 1212 ft. Earl 16 – ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ (Full Vocal Dub) (Exclusive remix) – Originally recorded by Joy Division
7. Quantic Presenta Flowering Inferno – ‘All I Do Is Think About You’ (Far East Dub) (Exclusive remix) – Originally recorded by Tammi Terrell
8. Zoe Devlin Love ft. Tim Hutton – ‘Caroline No’ – Originally recorded by The Beach Boys
9. John Holt – ‘You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine’ (Mad Professor 2021 Dub) (Exclusive remix) – Originally recorded by Lou Rawls
10. Cornell Campbell – ‘Ital City Dub’ (Exclusive remix) – Originally recorded by Marvin Gaye
11. Matumbi – ‘(I Can’t Get Enough Of) That Reggae Stuff’ – (Dennis Bovell Remix) (Exclusive remix) – Originally recorded by Kool & The Gang
12. Gentleman's Dub Club ft. Kiko Bun – ‘Use Me’ (Ben McKone Dub) – Originally recorded by Bill Withers
13. Black Box Recorder – ‘Uptown Top Ranking’ – Originally recorded by Althea and Donna
14. OBF – ‘Sixteen Tons of Dub’ – Originally recorded by Merle Travis
15. Yasushi Ide – ‘Ain't No Sunshine’ (Space Dub Mix) (Exclusive remix) – Originally recorded by Bill Withers
16. The Tamlins – ‘Baltimore’ – Originally recorded by Randy Newman
17. 15 16 17 – ‘Emotion’ (Dennis Bovell Remix) (Exclusive remix) – Originally recorded by Samantha Sang
18. Ash Walker – ‘There’s Nothing Like This’ (Exclusive track) – Originally recorded by Omar
19. The Senior Allstars – ‘Slipping Into Darkness’ – Originally recorded by WAR
20. Easy Star All-Stars – ‘Within You Without You’ – Originally recorded by The Beatles