Caught by the River

Caught By The Reaper – Mikey Dread

20th March 2008

Mikey Dread, 1st January, 1954 – 15th March 2008

Must have been around 1978 that I gave Paul Simonon a C-90 (that’s an audio cassette to you young ‘uns) of Dread at the Controls, a legendary radio show in Jamaica. That set in motion a sequence of events that led to me becoming friends and working with the sadly departed Mikey Dread.

The tapes had been passed around on the reggae circuit and had soon become a roots must have. But I’m running ahead of myself. Michael Campbell was the maverick radio DJ whose radio show on JBC (Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation) which notably started in ’77, musically revolutionized the island. He was dropping exclusive dub plates and 45’s bringing the dancehall vibe live and direct to the airwaves. We’re talking custom made jingles, sound effects and sampled bits of dialogue. This at a time when all the other local radio shows were playing bland foreign music. I should point out that this coupled with the social and political climate of the time is exactly what fueled England’s punk movement. ‘Dread at the Controls’ was Punk Rock. He broke Althea and Donna’s ‘Uptown Top Ranking’ and Gregory Isaacs’ ‘Soon Forward’ for Christ sake.

Back in England the Clash had become pretty popular themselves. It was Paul Simonon that suggested they bring Mikey to the U.K in 1980 to join them on the 16 tons tour. Now I ain’t here to give you a history lesson (go buy some bloodclaat books!) but rather pay respect to a bredrin’ that would go on to produce ‘Bankrobber’ and was to be an integral part of the Clash’s flawed masterpiece ‘Sandinista’. By this time Mikey had quit JBC re-invented himself as a singer/producer and in a D.I.Y stylee started his own label, D.A.T.C. Check his ‘Dread At The Controls’, ‘African Anthem’ and ‘World War III’ to get Mikey in full effect.

Michael Campbell passed away on March 15th 2008 and let me say that although he was indeed ‘Dread’ he was also easy going, funny and importantly open to ideas. Mikey we miss and salute you.


Don Letts

Download podcasts and buy records from Mikey Dread’s website