Maura Magazine | Football Dub

Football Dub

Calling the meek and the ‘umble
Welcome to Blackboard Jungle.
So don’t you fumble
Just be ‘umble-umble-mble.

—Introductory incant to “Black Panta” from the Upsetters’ 14 Dub Blackboard Jungle

1st DOWN

Shadowing the past few campaigns of the National Football League like a corner in man-to-man coverage has been the medical revelation of irreparable brain damage caused by merely playing the game. With every post-game recap, there seemed to follow even more news on helmet-to-helmet hits, new scientific studies revealing the depths of such trauma, all of it lingering over the game like post-concussion symptoms. Commentary has aired on 60 Minutes and in Time (in 2009, a deflated pigskin illustrated a cover with the headline “The Most Dangerous Game”) and The New Yorker, where Malcolm Gladwell’s article “Offensive Play” discussed the brown tau and beta-amyloid stains that appear on the brains of players who have suffered too many head-on collisions. He noted that NFL players suffered five times higher than average diagnoses of “dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other memory-related disease” after their playing years were behind them, adding a lineman’s description of a standard downfield drive: “Every play, collision, collision, collision… literally, these white explosions—boom, boom, boom—lights getting dimmer and brighter, dimmer and brighter.”

A few issues on, Gladwell returns to the gridiron as it pertains to social drinking: “Put a stressed-out drinker in front of an exciting football game and he’ll forget his troubles… Drinking relaxes the man watching football because the game is front and center, and alcohol makes every secondary consideration fade away.” But what if the televised game of football were in fact the libation, the relaxer, the drug that dissolves every woe? Could the clash of helmet to helmet, battering for yardage each and every down somehow affect viewers’ heads from the comfort of their own couches? Could the very act of watching football do something to the fan at home?

• • •

“By throwing stones to stones I start to hear sounds.”

Rainford Hugh Perry’s name has gone through countless permutations, each echoing the man who bears it: Lee Perry, Little Perry, Scratch, The Upsetter, Jah Lion, Super Ape, Pipecock Jackxon. The miscreant scamp—who danced the chicken at dancehalls, recorded the most crucial early Bob Marley sides, and grew to be the dub don of the decade—learned his trade the hard way. Under the heat of the tropical sun doing back-breaking construction work out at Jamaica’s westernmost tip of Negril, Perry began to receive “miracle gifts” and “blessings from a God,” as recounted to author Dave Katz in his biography, People Funny Boy: “When the stones clash, I hear the thunder clash, and I hear lightning flash, and I hear words…these words send me to Kingston.”

A record peddler for the soundsystems of Sir Coxsone Dodd and Joe Gibbs upon his arrival to Jamaica’s capital, Perry’s own sides drew on the natural reverb and echo that soundtracked the tedious rhythmic plod of manual labor in the countryside. As Scratch began to section off drum hits and bass throbs and throw them down an aural canyon, he heard anew those stones clashing like thunder and lightning, boom boom boom, the natural reverb of hits and collisions occurring in the studio space. Whether he was recording homages to Clint Eastwood (on 1970’s Eastwood Rides Again album) or the Colonel’s secret recipe (see “Kentucky Skank” from Double Seven), Perry’s booms and rumble have informed everyone from Bob to the Beastie Boys and underpinned reggae music for decades. With such sounds echoing through his skull, Perry enacted it to reverberate through listeners’ heads as well, and, via Bob Marley and the Wailers, he made reggae and dub music the gateway drug of choice for dorms and island resorts the world over. [...]