Thursday, 16 August 2007

" `76 ah come out to wail " (Mighty Sparrow)

Sparrow lovers will no doubt recall this to be opening line from his 1976 calypso title *Statue*. I do happen to remember that year particularly well as being the first occasion I got to enjoy Sparrow “Live” on stage.

I think it must have been around 1970/71 and back in my courting days that Sparrow made an appearance at The Gaumont State, Kilburn, London. Unfortunately, due to business commitments I was unable to attend but did manage to acquire a ticket for my fiancĂ© Theresa to see the show which she said was terrific. But having personally missed out on that one, I could only look forward to checking out Sparrow at some time in the future when he would no doubt be back playing London town again. The chance came some time later, I`m not sure exactly when but it was approximately 1973/74?. Sparrow and Byron Lee with The Dragonaires were booked during The Nottinghill Carnival to hold their own show at the London Olympia, I purchased a couple of tickets and with great anticipation got over to the venue in good time. Unfortunately I hadn`t taken into account that this was a wholly Trinidadian staged event and sure enough it seemingly was run to an “any time is Trinidad time” timetable. Although we arrived there 30 minutes before the published start, we seemed to be the only paying customers around. Somebody did ask us who we were so I quickly decided on a promotion and introduced myself as “Sparrow`s UK Fan Club President”. Good thinking it turned out as we found ourselves being ushered up stairs to a plush front row low balcony and ideal for the stage. It was just as well we were comfortable as nothing was destined to happen for ages. The rest of the audience filled up over time but still no sign of a show with just a few roadies occasionally moving equipment around. Whatever was bugging them all behind the stage finally got settled before midnight and Byron Lee eventually opened the show with a few numbers. The sound unfortunately didn`t seem right to me for this huge non intimate venue and so it proved when Sparrow came on to perform, a distinct echo was present which really spoiled it for me. I mentioned that we were first in to the show and I can tell you we were certainly the first out too, just half way through Sparrow`s 2nd calypso we were gone!.

And so to my 3rd Sparrow reference and the reason for quoting “`76 ah come out to wail”. Theresa and I visited Trinidad on holiday especially to take in the 1976 Carnival. Although staying down in San Fernando we came up all the time to P.O.S. as we had some events pre booked, even managing to get both days seats in the Grandstand. The Saturday Junior Carnival on the street (photos) was delightful but the highlight of our stay was the evening attending Sparrow`s O.Y.B. tent in Wrightson Road. Here at last I had a close up view and perfect chance to hear “The King” on his stage at his regal best just where it was really meant to be experienced, in a calypso tent amongst his subjects. Yes, I did enjoy it!.

Looking back I`m not sure of Sparrow`s set that evening, he may not even have given us *Statue* on that occasion. However I do remember vividly his outstanding performance that night of his one and only *Sol Fish* with encore, a calypso that will always remain to be one of my favourites.

Pictures are of the 1976 “Junior Carnival” at the inaugural event that took place in Port of Spain. On this first occasion it was restricted to a few streets before becoming the full blown parade which we now know as “Kiddies Carnival”.

Sparrow`s 581 different titles are listed :-

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