Release Date: July 1993
Chart position: 2
Another release from the Bostin’ Brum Neggae scene, it’s a Neggae cover but a completely different kettle of fish from the last one. The production’s had a bit more thought going into it than ‘press the Neggae button, Shabba!’ which is probably due to Bitty producing some of Yow B Fowty’s tunes. I actually prefer this to the original Fats Domino version, as the singing doesn’t sound like an inebriated ‘Bunk’ from ‘The Wire’ having a mild stroke.
As soon as it starts it defies you not to smile and tap your foot, if you manage to resist go and have a check up at the local GP, because you’re dead inside my friend. A nice nod to the original with the sampling and Bitty’s Neggae shouts at the start of the song are made effective by their minimalism, which certain others could do with learning, Shabba! Bitty’s vocals come in and are lovely, you can close your eyes and let it wash over you like a tide of Malibu.
This goes along nicely until it reaches the break at about 2.30 which is pure badman riddim, the beat then kicks in and takes you on a wonderfully relaxing journey to the end of the song, if Virgin trains did Neggae this would be their flagship. The lyrics are about him being left by ‘er indoors and she ain’t coming back, usually this would lead a somber, melancholy affair but Bitty is so happy he sounds like he’s dodged a bullet frankly, she must be right pain in the arse, I imagine their home life to be similar to this, well shot of her Bitty my son.
The video starts with Bitty dancing with an umbrella in the rain, the theme of which was clearly stolen by pretend cripple George Sampson in his winning routine for ‘Britain’s got Talent’, oops wrong clip, I meant this. Bitty has roped in four of his celebrity pals to help out, an angry Sean William Scott, Busta Rhymes in rollers, Michael Stipe killing a flower and Issac Hayes in a café, although Issac I’m not sure wearing a dressing gown and doing this in a café is considered the height of etiquette in Solihull.
Although upset at the start these boys start listening to Bitty and by the end of the song they’re fully in agreement with his sentiment. Basically this is a song that can fit any occasion, and can also be used to comfort your Auntie when all those allegations about your Uncle turn out to be true and he’s doing a 12 stretch in a nonce wing.
Score: Bitty ‘pon dem case, ‘ear me? Yes Bitty I do – 10/10
Just as it did in the 70s, through Neggae Birmingham once again rose to become a powerhouse of sweet UK reggae music. A combination of a fertile live music scene, strong DIY Work ethic (it wasn’t called the City of Thousand Trades for nothing) and ethnically diverse population created the perfect breeding ground to produce this wonderful British art. That and the sweet smell of sensimilla that drifted around Handsworth and Edgbaston.
Bitty McLean was a product of the Bostin’ Birmingham Reggae Finishing School, serving his apprenticeship in Brum Soundsystem battles of the early 80s. He learnt from the YowBees, as an engineer and producer on LPs such as Promises and Lies. And when the time came for Bitty to enter the limelight with this song, Ali Campbell returned the favour and added some UBQuality backing vocals.
On this record, the student teaches the masters how you do a Neggae cover. No bloody Elvis here, just a rare Fats Domino R&B cut that skanks and rattles along like a piano being pushed along Brighton Beach. Bitty takes an already great record and creates an outstanding one from it.
He retains the lairy brass and gentle guitar plucks, and then digitizes the f*ck out of the rest of the song. Huge drum break, massive b-line. In the middle of the song everything gets cut away except for the riddim; you’re transported from 60s Kingston to the latest Notting Hill Carnival. And all over the song rides Bitty; toasting here, multi-layered harmonies there. All those years at the mixing desk paying off in 4 minutes of pop perfection.
As for the video, well what a dapper chap Bitty was; in 1993 I basically wanted to be him. Dark double denim, top button done up, shirt untucked but ironed to military standard. Natch. Then a quick change into the white cotton shirt and woolen waistcoat look. Pristine. And his moves! Bitty basically introduced me and thousands of other British white teenagers to the bogle – the key Neggae dance move. It’s like skanking, but slightly different. You skank to the beat, but you bogle around it. Check him out on TOTP doing both and owning the place.
I bought this song, but alas could not help it get to Number One in August 1993. It was cruelly held at Number 2 by this pile of Teutonic Techno Twattery. I do despair of the British public sometimes.
Score: 10/10 for the Strawberry Fields of Neggae
Yes! Another one of those special moments on this great journey and one of the reasons for this being such an enjoyable chore every Thursday evening. Bitty McLean announces his arrival on the scene with this unforgettable classic tune that typifies everything great about neggae, music and life in general. First interesting fact of the minor research conducted was that the original version released in 1961 was written by two fellows. The first was Fats Domino; arguably one of the greatest singers of all time and a beautiful coincidence because as I am writing this I am tucking into a Large Mighty Meaty (standard base, not stuffed crust – that’s just weird.) The other guy was called Dave Bartholomew, who I assume is no relation to the infamous Bushwacker no2? The second fact was that Bitty started working with UB40 and also sang a little with the band (not sure if that is as good as the Fats Domino fact, but close).
As I opened the link to the video a few things instantly struck me. I immediately thought of great times as its the type of song that somehow accesses the part of the brain where only good memories are stored, almost like it is a key to some kind of hidden vault. I instantly started thinking about days at the beach (by that I mean Guildford Lido) and cruising round town with the windows down checking out the ladies (by that I mean waiting at Guildford station waiting for a train home as some girl looks at me a says “what the fu*k you looking at you Perv?!) Great times! The next thing that hits me is that I was completely unaware that Movember was up and running back then (they must have delayed the release of the video until July), Bitty must have raked in a fair bit as he’s got a beautiful little thin one on the go that can be there for no other reason.
The song is a lovely upbeat tale about a guy losing the one he loves and by the end of it we almost feel happy that she did leave. We wouldn’t be listening to the song for starters and secondly it takes us to a place where everything is better. By the end we are thinking “ah well, better off without the selfish bee-yatch. Always giving it ‘whap whap whap’ in my earhole about who knows what. Go away and don’t come back until you can deal with how great I am. Close the door on the way out and let me know if your sister changes her mind about sleeping with me.”
The tempo eases us in gently and builds throughout and the background horn section are there to ensure we remember the island influence of the cover The video is a bit cheap, but somehow that adds to the simple charm of the whole thing.
Score: Its raining, but don’t worry, this will definitely cheer you up! 10/10 from me (note: that’s my first full house to date.)
Bitty McLean the Birmingham born lad with deep Jamaican roots has put out an instant Neggae classic. Heavily influenced by Ali Campbell and UB40, Bitty has carved out a pretty nice career with his unique voice, going slightly against the grain than the more aggressive Dancehall Negs around in the early to mid 90’s. The song lacks a little depth but in my opinion but has some major upside, it’s not too long, great beats and a good mix of island talk and some sweet vocals. It is definitely Barbecue material and rates highly on the Lilt scale.
I’m not going to breakdown the video too much although it is borderline weak. Low budget and typical for this era as some other Neggae entries didn’t even bother with a vid. Bitty’s style and delivery doesn’t lend itself to a fast, action packed grindfest so I guess the umbrella works…. Question marks are still floating around the other ponces in the vid, especially the chap with pink rollers in his dreads. At least at the end of the day, life is better and they’ve all cheered up and ready to roll again.
At this point in the review process, I think we need to give Birmingham some serious credit for producing some heavy hitters in the neggae hot 90!
Score: A well deserved 7.5/10 – easy neggae listening
Delroy “Bitty” Mclean’s 1993 debut into the Neggae fold is a lovely piece of feel good coffee table Neggae. Pals with Ali Campbell, he got his first break into the UK Music Charts at 21 after working for the UBs and occasional vocalist. Until earlier this week I was completely unaware that this was a cover, Fats Domino I believe was responsible for the Original in the mid 50’s?
Neggae covers have come to annoy me in recent weeks, but with all due respect to the fat man, I think in this instance the boy from Brum actually surpasses him with his Neggae rehash. Although the individual elements of the original are pleasing on the ear, the song sounds a bit empty. This is its downfall. There’s not a great deal of difference in Bitty’s cover but he does tackle this problem.
All of the original elements are there. Great horn section and nice Reggae Strings. Bitty just seems to beef up the drums slightly, increase the tempo and supply a slicker vocal. The big difference for me is the layered backing vocal and the off beat stuttering break at the bridge. I think these tie everything together well and fill in what would otherwise be long empty sections of this record.
That said it could still do with another level. The song does get repetitive despite Team Mclean’s best efforts to fill the void. I think there’s only 10 lines in the whole song. These are repeated for the best part of 4 minutes. For me, this makes it very hard to get carried away with It Keeps raining. A good entry from Bitty a nice foot tapper, but it only plods it way into the Neggae hall of fame.
Score: Not reeling or rocking, more walking the floor. 7 from me.
NEGGAE SCORE: 8.9