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Pop Beat : 'Nancy': A Protest On Home Turf

February 01, 1985|RANDY LEWIS | Times Staff Writer

Some people think big. Then there are those like reggae enthusiast Roberto--he uses only a given name--who think BIG.

In discussing the first release from his new ORA International label, a four-song "maxi-single" featuring General Public's Ranking Roger and the Blue Riddim reggae band, Roberto said his long-range goals are not limited to record sales and radio air play.

"I want to raise the young people's consciousness," said Roberto, 22, known to Southern California reggae fans as host of the weekly "Reggae Revolution" program on Long Beach radio station KNAC (105.5 FM).

"This is not a materialistic-gain type of thing," Roberto explained during an interview Wednesday. "There is a lot of rage inside of me, and this is my way of letting it out."

The record, "Nancy Reagan Re-Election Remix" consists of four versions of Kansas City-based Blue Riddim's song "Nancy Rea gan," a stinging attack on the Reagans.

Even the record's packaging was designed to reflect Roberto's message: the jacket features a newspaper-style layout with the headline "Special $18 Million Inaugural Edition" over a striking Paul Bedard painting of Nancy Reagan holding a bowl of jelly beans while five starving black children stand at her feet.

The $18-million figure, Roberto said, represents the amount spent on the recent inaugural celebration. "I can't see how they can spend $18 million on a four-day gala when there are people dying of starvation in this world," he said. "There is a time and a place to party, but that is just too much."

Roberto first conceived the recording as a showcase for Blue Riddim, an all-white reggae group. But he scored a couple of coups in landing the help of reggae enthusiast David Lindley, who mixed the "Nancy Reagan Re-Election Remix" side, and of Ranking Roger, who is featured on "America & Russia/Selective Service System" and a free-style "toast" (Jamaican rapping) over the basic "Nancy Reagan" track on Side Two.

"When people have asked what kind of music it is, I like to say that it's a revival of '60s protest songs, since those have almost died out," he said. "It's a real political diatribe." He is hoping the record can follow on the coattails of another politically pointed hit, "Two Tribes," by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

A long-time reggae fan, Roberto said, "I was the oddball. When my friends were sitting in the parking lot drinking beer and listening to Led Zeppelin, I would slip in a Bob Marley or Peter Tosh cassette. He first met Ranking Roger in 1981, when Roger and fellow General Public founder Dave Wakeling were still members of the popular ska band, English Beat.

"Roger did not have to do this (record)," Roberto said, "but he was sympathetic with my concerns and my concept that came from being fed up with the current administration." While recording one of the songs in New York, Roberto tracked down veteran Jamaican producer-engineer "Maxi" McKenzie, who mixed the two tracks with Ranking Roger.

Although just released this week, the record has been played on KROQ (106.7 FM), KPFK (90.7 FM), KCRW (89.9 FM) as well as KNAC and a few other other area stations.

Working as a one-man record company, Roberto, who lives in La Habra, had spent the last several days delivering the release to record stores in Orange County, Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. (It is currently available at Music Market and Discount Records in Costa Mesa, Camel Records in Huntington Beach, Peer Records, Newport Beach, and Sound Spectrum, Laguna Beach, and has been accepted by a major Orange County record distributor.)

"There was one record store in Santa Monica that banned it because the owners are hard-core Republicans and they didn't like it," Roberto recalled, but he said most merchants have been receptive.

Since Orange County is known as Reagan country, it would appear that Roberto couldn't have picked a more difficult base from which to work.

"It might be an impossible task," he admitted, "but you've got to start somewhere. Those who are offended will be offended anyway. But if I can open some eyes, raise some people's consciousness, then I'll be satisfied."

HAVEN'T WE MET SOMEWHERE BEFORE?: Deja Vu, Costa Mesa's longtime Top 40 nightclub, will be showcasing original music on a weekly basis beginning Tuesday with a concert featuring the white punk-funk of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Also on the bill: Psychobud and White Boy. The 18-and-older club is at 2285 Newport Blvd. . . . . Eldorado Oldies, in Garden Grove, Orange County's best source of vintage records, is having a three-day sale and swap meet beginning today to reduce its stock of old singles. Tens of thousands of 45s from the '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s will be sold for 50 cents each. Eldorado is at 11023 Chapman Ave.

LIVE ACTION: Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre will get an early start on the 1985 concert season with a March 8 performance of General Public. Tickets go on sale at 3 p.m. today at Ticketmaster outlets. Tickets will not be sold at the amphitheater's box office. . . . Jack Mack & the Heart Attack will be at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach Feb. 8. John Hiatt will play the Golden Bear Feb. 14. . . . The Red Devils will give a noon concert at Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 27.

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