Given his American-gangster name by Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, who also produced his first recording, Dillinger started out as a DJ and became famous in the late 70s and is best known for his 1977 hit ‘Cocaine/Cokane in my brain’ (a number 1 hit in Holland).
Dillinger at his best sounds like no-one else. His voice has real authority that when matched with the right producer, the overall effect is something truly unforgettable, simply because of the force of his delivery. Take this single ‘Bun Bagga Wire’ as a starting-point; the way Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee layers the various sound elements is so rich and impressive; layering the voice and gun-shot sound effect in a way that still sounds modern.
I first came across this song on the Dillinger 12” Collection release which has got a lot of interest but ‘Bun Bagga Wire’ jumped out at me, forcing me to take notice.
It’s true that when you listen to a lot of Dillinger, his preferred sound (preferred kind of song) is so dominant it can sound a bit repetitive; you would never say this was an artist keen to play with moods or tone, but then again with such a distinctive musical style that would have been a bad move. He was, he became, his own trademark.
Here’s Dillinger’s first Lee Perry produced single, ‘music to make you stagger’ indeed …
My other favourite Dillinger track is ‘Flat Foot Hustling’ from the King Tubby produced compilation, 14 k Gold Golden Hits released in 1979 (there’s a reissue from 1996 on Scandal Bag) as Dillinger’s delivery is different here, becoming more conversational and almost intimate. It sounds like he’s expressing something personal. The straight delivery reminds me of contemporary hip-hop emcees, getting you to sit down and listen to their story of origins (and the gentle backing vocals track offers a fine contrast).
Dillinger appeared on MOJO’s 2014 list of '50 Greatest Reggae Albums' for his CB200 release (Island Records, 1977) that included his hit ‘Cocaine/Cokane’ in my brain’. Check out this uber-Soul Train video with all the chic groovy groovies getting down:
There's a nice exchange beneath the video about the weird lyrics: ‘I wanna spell New York, "a knife a fork, a bottle and cork" prompting the reply: 'it's just Jamaican patois babble ,and refers to the knife(tip) to scoop the powder, a fork to squash it, and the bottle and cork ,the container where it came from. A somewhat simpleton view, but as long as it rhymes no one's complaining.’
Dillinger was part of the Jamaican/London nexus in the late 70s and name-checked in The Clash’s ‘(White man) in Hammersmith Palais’
Totally love this live recording from Dillinger in Germany, 1979, especially the opening track ‘Natty don’t need glasses’ (For info on the record, go here). 'Punk rock/Reggae'