Chaka Demus & Pliers – Murder She Wrote

Release Date: Mar 94
Chart Position: 27

My immediate reaction to this was ‘Christ, Jessica Fletcher looks different  to how I remember’, a bit of research cleared up the confusion though. This song was originally going to be the theme tune to a Jamaican reboot of ‘Murder She wrote’ with Rusty Lee taking the Jessica Fletcher role and Dave Benson Phillips playing Mr Cunningham from ‘Happy Days’. Unfortunately the project never came to fruition as Rusty Lee went on a four day crack binge and had to be sectioned for two years on the comedown.
I think this song might be the only instance in the Hot 90 that’s an artist covering themselves, Pliers had previously released this song as a solo project with not much success but decided to re-release it with Chaka when they cemented themselves as the greatest Carribean partnership until Kenwyne Jones and Dwight Yorke played up front for Trinidad and Tobago.
This song doesn’t mess about, straight in with the greatest bassline in Neggae and a sweet Tropical beat, in fact they were such fans of the production they decided to use it twice on the same album, and who says cannabis makes you lazy? The lyrics are about Tracey Shaw’s character in Coronation Street, the tragic story of Maxine Peacock. Maxine unwittingly walked in on street serial killer Richard Hillman who brutally bludgeoned her to death with a crow bar, as Maxine was taking her last breaths she tried to leave a clue for the Police and started trying to write the word ‘murder’ in her own blood.
She died before she could write the whole word and only got as far as the first four letters, Weatherfield Police assumed she was writing a French profanity but this song is sees CD and P taking on the roles of Mike Baldwin and Gail Tildsley pleading with the police as to the actual message she was trying to convey.
The video is standard neggae with the main protagonists clad in pyjamas inspired by Hammer Man and a bevy of bogling beauties whose dance moves inspired a whole generation of travelling folk. There’s a pub scene, with a surprising amount of blonde bobs on display, then it switiches to a crowd scene with the boys giving an impromptu performance in the street. This was actually the second video they made for the track, this was the first, I suspect they had a bigger budget for the second attempt.
This song is a neggae standard with enduring appeal and led to them appearing with Alicia Keys (who only got into Neggae after she heard my CJ Lewis tape in my converted garage in Woodham) for a performance in 2007 and the production has been used recently by professional fat arse Nicki Minaj.
Score: This is quite simply the best song in the Hot 90, so I have to give it a Spinal Tapesque 11/10.
(Vince: “Of course we cannot start giving out elevens, it would break the internet. 10/10.”)
murder she wrote
“A pretty face and bad character.” Ain’t that the truth Chaka, ain’t that the truth.
So after lust (Tease Me), love (She Don’t Let nobody) and ‘the dance’ (Twist & Shout), ChaPliers are here to tell us about heartbreak and heartache. If Cliff Richard had grown up in Kingston, Jamiaica rather than Kingston-Upon-Thames, this is what Devil Woman would sound like.
There’s a classic switcheroo on this record, with Chaka Demus running t’ings while Pliers takes more of a back seat. What’s interesting his the slightly tougher delivery from Pliers, beautifully switching from crooning to almost toasting. The lyrical content from him too is harsher, no ‘holding hands’ here. In fact, the lines criticising his errant missus for getting up the duff by other baby-fathers are pretty outragreous:

“now every middle a de year dis gal go have abortion,
fi de coolie, de white man an de Indian,
A jus de odda day me see har six mont’ pregnant,
A now she deh pon road not a baby inna pram

And therein lies the murder. Heavy stuff. I might not agree with all of Pliers views here, but bloody hell that’s incredible storytelling. Apparently it’s all a true story, so no wonder he sounds pissed off.
As for Chaka, he delivers some quite simply sensational toasting, dipping and diving in and out of the riddim. And what a riddim, an update of the Toots, classic Bam Bam, which begat Sister Nancy’s effort, and would influence Taxi Gang’s Santa Barbara… you know how Jamaican music works by now.
The fact the that beats were produced by Sly Dunbar explains why they’re so crisp. As far as I can tell, this song is Moombahton‘s Daddy. There are no faults to this record (I still play it when I DJ out these days), and listening to it closely has made me love it even more. Pure murderation.
Score: 10/10

Chaka Demus and Pliers are back at it with the solid island tune Murder She Wrote. Chaka brings us in with a nice little toasted intro followed by Pliers and his usual sweet vocals. I must say that when the link was sent through for this week, I had a peek at work. As I don’t have the most private workplace it quickly became apparent that this video was not exactly safe for a professional working environment that I like to promote. Now, if I was working for Proctor &Gamble it may have been OK, but off it went after 30 seconds with a couple of looks over my shoulder to make sure that I was still looking as cool, calm and collected that I usually do.
I’m a massive CD & P fan but in this particular song, it’s all about Chaka. He takes it to a new level in island rap, blending and working with the bassline superbly. This is a more serious and efficient Chaka who really takes control and finishes strongly. It’s rapping of almost UsainBoltesque speed and strength with almost a minute of rap from 2m 43s onwards. Pliers does a nice job, moving the song along, doesn’t cause any problems and doesn’t really detract from Mr Demus.
Back to the video, and it’s very simple as we are brought a slice of island lifestyle in a heartbeat. It’s also a little risque. Just as I am writing this, my 3 year old boy just walked in and said “Dad, what the heck are you watching?” as the hip thrusting girl in the gold outfit caught his eye. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond so just said “Neggae son, it’s Neggae”.
All in all, this is a really solid effort from CD & P, smooth, silky, great pace and content.
Score: 8/10 – This probably gets an extra point or so because it follows the Feggae (fake neggae) that was on offer last week.

So Chaka and Pliers go stripped back and acoustic. It’s no Noel Gallagher does Oasis, but is a fair effort from the Neg Fathers to demonstrate their continuing versatility within the genre. It’s a nice change if pace and style from these boys and although they will struggle to hit the heights of Tease Me this does nothing to damage their reputation.
Score: Angela Lansbury could not have done better – 6/10 from me.

Murder She wrote is definitely a dance hall classic. We’re now almost 20 years on from the Neggae explosion and the infamous Summer Of Dread, yet MSW still stands the test of time, it still works. If you go to Notting Carnival this year you’ll hear it in some shape or form, whether the original, an extended mix or just a DJ tool using the killer guitar hook which is instantly recognisable.
Chaka is at his best, given as much time as he’s had on any track until this point to toast and freestyle. He takes this with aplomb, finally teeing up Pliers with the subtlety of Les Ferdinand sledge hammer… “here this!“. Pliers then croons and swoons about his new squeeze “Maxi”.  Slow and sultry to begin, then later on seamlessly changing pace with the ease you’d expect from a fit Paul Gascoigne.
The video sees lots of dutty winding and grinding. Starting at CD & P’s bachelor pad before taking the show into the local tenement  for an all out block party. Its grittier than Tease Me or Twist and Shout but it fits.
Unfortunately for me, it lacks a certain something. The hook and the beat are massive, but as a Neggae single it plods. If I’m honest, listening to it start to finish, I’m a little disappointed. After looking forward to this single since beginning of the blog its not quite as good or as quick as I remember. Probably because I’m use to hearing it at Carnivals or in a DJ set with a slightly quicker tempo.
In that sense it is very 1994. I feel like the 12 year old boy who looked forward to USA 1994 for two years, before being told your not going to the party, because of a short sighted brummy turnip and a late Peter Van Vossen penalty. Murder she wrote feels a bit like the Ireland Away kit I wore down the park that summer. Yes it was white and from a long way away you might think it was England, but look closely and its not quite the same, its altogether different.
I actually prefer Tease Me, I think its more interesting. More break downs, more going on. After 2 minutes Im done with MSW, perhaps harsh but that’s what happens when you set yourself the sort of standards that the Standard bearers of Neggae have since their arrival on the scene one year prior.
That said its still a very good tune and will no doubt give Neggae’s favourite sons another well deserved stake in the ground as Neggae Pioneers.
Score: 8.5 out of 10 for me. 



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