Bitty McLean- Over the river

Release Date: Apr 95
Chart Position: 27

Bitty Mclean, a man who’s first name adequately sums up his recording output, is again the subject of this week’s (ok week is generous given the current output of the neggae blog, tri-weekly is probably more accurate) entry. It will be no surprise to regular readers that it’s again a cover version, made famous by Justin Hines and the Dominoes. The Dominoes later abandoned the ska sound, dropped an E and became Derek Clapton’s backing band in the seventies when they reached the apex of their recording career with the release of ‘Layla’. Strangely this song has also been championed by maverick caller Thorsten Dudziak on the German hoe-down scene. This is a link to the moves in case you ever want to recreate the dance in your local discoteque and here’s a video so you can make sure that you’re along the right lines. It all looks like amusing harmless fun until you realise it’s combining the cultures of the American south and Germany which are two of the most racially intolerant societies in modern history, makes you think eh? These people need keeping an eye on, from Einfach Klasse to Furchtbar by the process of logical conclusion.
Bitty’s version goes straight in, no messing, with an explosion of Ska tinged horns and Bitty’s sweet vocals with the whole production being pretty true to the original. There’s a nice piano break behind it which is a bit reminiscent of ‘Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da’, which allegedly was borrowed by Macca of this bloke. The production carries on in this vein, and whilst being old fashioned and reasonably simple it’s none the worse for it. Lyrically it’s about a long distance relationship between Bitty and his gal who’s moved to Notting Hill from the Carribean, a word to the wise Bitty, it’ll never work, she’ll be on those blues and jazz fags before you know it and you’ll be long forgotten, David Beckham was reduced to cheating with a woman who wanks off pigs on channel 5 when Posh refused to move to Madrid with him. There’s also a line about a big oak tree which seems to have no context to the rest of the song and a more cynical person might argue it’s purely there for rhyming purposes. The video unsurprisingly starts with a TV which is a staple of Bitty videos and makes me wonder if he has a Telly Addiction on a par with Noel Edmonds. The television in question is just a normal television this time round though rather than a time machine or portal to the wild west so maybe he has calmed down a bit. To cement the idea that the two star crossed lovers are far away we get a handy subtitle informing us Bitty is in Kingston, Jamaica rather than Surrey as the two are easily confused due to having a similar climate and reggae scene although I’m not sure the one in Jamaica has a Bentall centre. To further highlight the distance the video features an Indiana Jones type map of the plane journey between the two places although looking at the flight pattern I suspect Denzel Washington was the pilot. Whilst his girlfriend is watching a stuffy looking doco on immigration from the West Indies to England Bitty is living it up in the studio with his boys and it looks like she’s got the rough end of the stick but all becomes clear as the postie arrives and delivers a copy of the record the boys have been recording to cement the bond between the lovebirds. Bitty then gets on the blower to her and you can tell she loves it, basically the whole thing turns out irie, nice.
When skies are grey and you’re a bit down play and watch this, you’ll feel a bitty better – 7/10

Now it may seem like a real first world problem to have, but I am writing this under intense pressure! I am returning from my holiday, trapped on board Monarch Flight ZB 249 and the young girl (maybe about 4 or 5 human years old?) sat in the row behind me has kicked the back of my chair now to a regular two beats per minute for the last two and a half hours. The mother – who without being presumptuous has a neck tattoo, her hair in dreadlocks (and not fun in the sun, happy go lucky, Islandy type dreadlocks either….. these are bad dreads that look like Satan has platted his pubes to create some kind of ‘cap of evil’, spat on her head and affixed!) and wearing a Jack Daniels vest – seems to be reveling in the glory that her young apprentice is more than capable of inflicting pain and misery to the world while she has a quick snooze. We have another three hours to go and I think the chances are pretty high of me at least talking big about punching this 5 year old bitch in the face!
Although on the plus side…..we have just been given an eye full of arse from the chick across the aisle from us as she stretched for something in the over head lockers. Even Nicki gave it a slight nod of approval at the display effectively giving me the all clear to whoop a little and gesture to the guy sitting behind her. He floated acknowledgement back by means of a standard man-speak nod and smirk. He’s cool! Me and him would be good mates if we knew each other properly!
Anyway, the point of this was not to brag about the fact that the ongoing civil unrest and political instability has resulted in Egypt being a far more affordable seven day break than before and we have taken full advantage of that. It was to point out that despite having bags of time to write this review I am struggling to give this the emotionally unbiased effort that it deserves. But here goes………
Bitty smashes the crap out of this ultimately simple and highly enjoyable skank. It’s true Bitty from start to finish, uncomplicated, effective and loads of fun. The celebratory horn section at the intro gets you highly interested from the off and it gets better and better as the song progresses. The tempo is fast and upbeat and although its teases us at about two mins in when it stalls for a few bars, it swiftly pushes us right over the edge again and gives us little time to catch our breath.
Lyrically Bitty gives us a master class in delivery, keeping it to the point with very little bells and whistles round the edges. Just a great, simple, catchy and feel good tune. It would be the type of track that you would play when you wanted to crank it up a notch at a BBQ or had something to celebrate. Like if the window next to the spawn of Satan sat behind me were to break and she were sucked out of the plane never to be seen again! Me and the dude that acknowledged the arse earlier would put this on, order up some in-flight miniatures and get the party going! He’s well mental like that… mate!
Bitty never really cheats the island of the type of music it has given us and that is what I like about him. The same cannot be said about some of the other outfits we have reviewed who seem to have somehow lost what it is really about. Catchy, feel good stuff with nonsensical lyrics, it’s that simple! Bitty in this effort ticks all neg boxes.
No video on the version I downloaded, but I am not going to let that ruin it much. I bet if there is one it would be well smart!
9/10 from me on this beauty!

Delroy greets us this week with “Over the River” a slow and tropical choon that hit the dizzy heights of #27 in 1995 in the UK charts. I’ll be honest I don’t recall this one from back in the day. I’ve listened to it a few times and it still doesn’t jog my memory. How can this be, I thought that I was a Bitty supporter, a fan. I feel bad for letting this one slip through the cracks of my musical library.
Some amazing things were happening in ’95 that must have captured my attention. Nick Leeson got caught with 800m quid in some sort of dodgy account as part of the Barings Bank scandal, Eric Cantona was kung fu kicking that Crystal Palace supporter who threw a cuppa at him, Princess Dianna was spilling her guts to the world about James Hewitt and last but not least, Waterworld, that iconic movie that cost a bazillion $’s and essentially destroyed Costner’s credibility and more than likely credit. Although that may have had something to do with the fact that I missed this one, it is more likely to be down to fact that we lived at the Litten Tree back then.
So, back to it. I’m now getting into the Jamaican feel of things, slowly supping on Redstripe, while listening to Bitty do his thing. I really like the horn intro to this, it’s smooth and sets the tone for the rest of the song, Bitty then rolls into his traditional islandic rhythm. His voice is so distinct and soothing, it pairs well with Redstripe, the song gets better and better with each and every sip.
I’m not sure about video, according to the subtitle, we have a scene in Jamaica and a scene in London. At no point in the video do I see a palm tree, ocean, sunshine or pineapples. I therefore conclude that this video was shot in London or possibly Birmingham with the help of UB40 and their creative talent division.
Enough of that, Bitty is a happy soul, really into his music and seems content. That’s good enough for me. Chalk me up for 7/10.
Well done Delroy, sorry I didn’t catch this on first time around. This is head bobbing music, Redstripe or Malibu worthy.

A welcome return of Neggae’s young apprentice himself Bitty Mclean, with a lovely cover of Over the River by Justin Hinds And the Dominoes. I have to admit this is one of my favourite ska cuts,so my scoring will be somewhart biased. Bitty’s basically going to have to go some to nause this up. I discovered thr track by way of living legend DJ Derek and his marvelous LP Sweet Memory Sounds. Well worth a purchase:
But that’s enough of the old school, let get down to the neggezzae. Bitty doesn’t disappoint; the retread doesn’t dick around with the original – retaining the horn lines and general skank. In typical Neggae fashion Bitty has digitized and modernized the beats somewhat – but the sone still retains it joyous overall tone. And Bitty himself delivers another trademark tenor vocal, giving the song the enthusiastic vibe that ensured the yout’ dem all go to Woolworths and buy de t’ing. Or something.
Videowise, we are yet again transported back to the 60s. Judging by the fact that we know Bitty and the UBs were pals – I’d go as far to assume they’ve used the same director, studio, props and lead female actress in this video as in Baby Come back. That’s certainly the UBs with him berking about in the studio In Kingston Jamaica.
The narrative I think is supposed to suggest some sort of long-distance unrequited love affair, with Bitty’s paramour stuck in rainly old 60s Britain, in a cold flat watching a crappy black and white telly. She pines for Bitty, while he spends all day on a tropical island in a recording studio cutting dubplates and getting blunted with the Yowbs. I imagine she’s going to be waiting for him for quite a while.
SCORE: A very pleasant 7/10

Keith De Vivre
Transcribed by long standing friend of Keith’s – Master Paul Coleman.

It is with heavy heart that I write these words to you…
I’ve just left Keith’s bedside. (I say bedside, in truth, it was a plush couch in a private booth at Beavers gentlemans club, Watford.)
Keith has passed.
Already racked with guilt about not being able to give the time and commitment of 32 minutes a week/fortnight that a solid neggae review required, nay deserved (something about work pressures, but I don’t buy that) he said he was possibly going to ask you to pass the baton to someone else, someone with more Neg in their blood. But it seems this decision was taken away from him…
His final moments were both moving and textbook Keith. As a nubile, eastern european poledancer writhed nearby to the strains of Shabba Ranks, he both managed to say his goodbyes to the staff, move a cushion from his lap to show the dancer his appreciation AND give his final review to Bitty Mclean, Over the River. He simply said
“It’s fun… I like it… and the video’s quite colourful… 7 out of 10…”
His final words will be noted as “Tell the elders I tried. A bit…” and – as a rolled up, stripper destined 20 pound note fell from his once mighty hand – a final, barely audible “Boom Shakalaka” passed under his massively-hairy top lip, and he left us.
I guess some people just can’t handle the Neg…”