Shadow :: Sweet Sweet Dreams? Time Will Tell!

We are in the 1950‘s, a young boy growing up in his grandfather’s farm is listening to a mysterious American broadcast on the radio. The protagonist of the show is described as a dark, brooding man who stalked the night. Scary, spooky and discordant music introduced each episode of the serial, followed by sinister laughter (even Orson Wells gave his voice). In the boy’s hands is a magazine depicting a strange figure of a man wearing a black cloak with red lining, a high collar and a broad black hat. Suddenly the narrator’s voice makes the introduction: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? …The Shadow knows”.

Master of hypnotism, an invisible avenger, a fighter against crime, a defender of science, simply the man who knows how to be in others people minds, was the description for Shadow, one of the most famous adventure heroes of the 20 th century. What impression gave this sinister, ominous, dark character to the young Winston Anthony Bailey?

Seems to be, at least, half part of the inspiration from which Bailey made his enigmatic persona sometime in the late 1960s. No other singer is more enigmatic, mysterious or controversial in the calypso music than him. He had chosen a nickname by himself for his upstart career when other calypso artists received their nicknames from more senior members of the calypso family (like receiving a title from a closed guild or brotherhood). Another big influence, for the young Winston, was the raw style of Mighty Spoiler (Theophilus Phillip, 1926 – 1960), one of the most popular singers in Trinidad, the great exponent of humorous and imaginative calypso.

The name Shadow is enough to make the eyes whirling of any true calypso fan. A “Bassman” who came out of hell to play with your mind, the dark rider of the carnival rhythms, the offbeat magician, the synthetic fiber between darkness and happiness.

Born on the 4 th of October 1941 in Belmont, a suburb of port of Spain, in Trinidad, but grew up in Les Coteaux, Tobago, with his grandparents. He sold his soul into music in an early age, began composing at nine, though his grandfather had different plans, he wanted him to become a lawyer.

Winston had made his decision, music has to be his moon walking , he joined the group Fire Sticks that provided backing vocals at Mighty Sparrow’s tent (calypso tents are venues in which calypsonians perform during the Carnival season), appeared solo there at 1970 but forgot his lines! Then he joined Victory tent led by Lord Blakie and moved at 1973 to Kitchener’s tent for three seasons. He won first and second place in the Road March contest in 1974 with “Bass Man” and “Ah Come Out To Play”, breaking the stranglehold on the title kept for eleven years by Kitchener and Sparrow. He reached Calypso Monarch final at 1974, but despite having the crowd in his hands with “Bass Man”, he was piped by Sparrow. Tunes “King From Hell” and “Rap To Me” from “King From Hell” album got him into Calypso Monarch final. Moved to Sparrow’s tent at ‘76 and released “Constant Jammin” and “Shift Yuh Carcass” which get him into Monarch final again. In 1977, during the Carnival off-season, he released “Dreadness”, where song “Jump, Judges, Jump” was an attack on the judges of the Calypso Monarch contest, concluding their “degrees in stupidity”. One year later he moved to the Kingdom of the Wizards calypso tent. “De Zessman” album included Road March contender “Sugar Plum”.

In 1979 he headed his own Master’s Den tent. “If I Coulda, I Woulda, I Shoulda” from the same year is probably his best album, included the calypso-soca bomb anthem “Dat Soca Boat” . Ironically, even If his being recording and performing every year and also appearing on many TV shows, he never get the reputation he deserved. Though, he became famous for his unique dance in which he jumped to the tempo of his music in “skip-rope style”, with two hands stuck on the body and both feet in the air at the same time.

But let’s get in the subject of this article, sweet sweet dreams…“Sweet Sweet Dreams”, came out in 1984. The enigmatic cover can fill you with questions about the sound, a shadow of a man, almost like a statue, thinking about his favorite pursuit, music, having behind him a melancholic purple sky as thoughts pass by like clouds, sweet sweet dreams. Never know. Time will tell.

Opening track of the record is ‘Way Way Out’, the bass drum and the hi-hat creating an indefinite step followed by an unstoppable hard hitting on a woodblock as the bass moves through the rhythm and an electronic stroke, made by synthesizer, appears in every two bars. Second comes the monster cosmic disco dancefloor tune, a synth cross genre anthem, ‘Let’s Get Together’, that can stuck to your mind, like a chewing gum on the sole of your shoe, once you hear it, you can’t go too far without think of it. Next is ‘Dreaming’, a synth driven song, sound like a frog croaking and jumping around the rhythm section, and ending with an amazing solo on keyboards. Side b starts with ‘Let’s Make It Up’, the beats go higher, Shadow yelling “Yeaah” as singing “we‘re gonna have a party” with the help of the chorus. The wobble rhythm dominates the atmosphere, as amazing drummer Errol Wise (Wild Fire, Arrow, Eddy Grant, Andre Tanker, Merchant) flaming on the snare drum and moves his hands between offbeat hi-hat and the toms, a soca rhythm lesson. A monotony heavy bass phrase is here, as we try to make a step in the ‘Moon Walking’, imagine Sarlo try walking in the moon with the help of an open umbrella. Sounds echo friendly! Last song is ‘Without Love’, Shadow is preaching and the bass sends the message deep in your spine, like a godsend present for the dancefloor. Easy to say, an experimental electronic soca disco funk reggae album, far ahead of its time.

In 1984, when this outstanding album came out, music aficionados described it as unique. However it never reached the market. It was buried by critics and held on the dusty shelves of old record stores and inside the record collections of few music lovers.

Album has been reissued last year in two different versions. One by the german label Analog Africa and another by the French, Jamwax. Try it. Now you know. Time has shown. Sweet sweet dreams is pure pure magic.