ROCK | Studio 17: The Lost Reggae Tapes

Studio 17: The Lost Reggae Tapes

Widestream Films and Iambic Dream Films, in association with BBC Music, present ‘STUDIO 17: THE LOST REGGAE TAPES’. The feature-length documentary premiered on BBC 4 and was selected for a number of film festivals prior to the Coronavirus pandemic. It had its U.S. debut starting on February 1, 2021 for Reggae Month on Qwest TV, Quincy Jones’ video-on-demand service for lovers of great music.

Studio 17 was located above the record store ‘Randy’s’ in the heart of downtown Kingston, first established in the late 1950s. Both were generically referred to as ‘Randy’s’ – Randy, being the nickname of founder Vincent Chin. With its central location, Randy’s Studio 17 became the nerve center of Jamaica’s music revolution that followed the country’s independence from Great Britain on August 6, 1962.

Shot in Jamaica, London, New York and Hamburg, the film follows Clive Chin, Vincent Chin’s son, as he retells his extraordinary story from his childhood memories of the studio, as a magical musical playground, through his work as a pioneering music producer and the impact of the political turmoil that later engulfed Jamaica and ultimately forced ‘Randy’s’ closure.

Clive’s emotional roller-coaster of a journey is underscored by an evocative soundtrack of music, featuring original Studio 17 recordings by Bob Marley & the Wailers, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Peter Tosh, Gregory Isaacs, Delroy Wilson, Dennis Brown, Alton Ellis, Carl Malcolm, Jimmy London, The Skatalites, Lord Creator and many more.

When the Chins fled Jamaica for New York in the late 1970s, the master tapes were left abandoned in a store room above Studio 17. The film follows Clive as he battles to retrieve, remaster, and ultimately reclaim ownership of the tapes.

Tragically, Clive’s son Joel Chin was murdered on a visit to Jamaica. Joel had been head of A&R for VP Records, having worked with dancehall stars like Sean Paul & Beenie Man.

Since then, in honor of his son, Clive has devoted his life to releasing the once lost reggae tapes to the world.

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About This Film

STUDIO 17: THE LOST REGGAE TAPES includes original interviews with iconic figures like Jimmy Cliff, the late Lee “Scratch” Perry, Sly Dunbar, Maxi Priest, Ali Campbell of UB40, King Jammy, Lord Creator, Ernest Ranglin, the late trombonist Rico Rodriguez, and the late producer Bunny Lee. The film tells the tale of the birth of reggae as it rose from humble beginnings to become a worldwide phenomenon.

The in-depth documentary also tells the story of how Lord Creator fell on hard times after recording early hits for Randy’s and other producers. Years later, he was homeless and destitute until the British reggae band UB40 covered his classic song “Kingston Town” and changed his life forever.

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About The Studio

Located in the heart of downtown Kingston at 17 North Parade, Randy’s Records and Randy’s Studio 17 were founded by Vincent and Pat Chin, becoming a nerve centre of Jamaica’s vibrant music scene. Amidst the political strife of the late 1970s, the Chin family relocated to America to start a new life. Years later, Vincent’s eldest son Clive Chin returned to salvage hundreds of precious reels that were left behind, painstakingly restoring these lost recordings by many legends of ska and reggae.

During the late 1950s, Vincent “Randy” Chin was working for a jukebox company, changing out worn records all over Jamaica. Instead of throwing the used records away, Vincent had the bright idea of selling them at a reduced price. By his side from the start was his wife Pat, who had given up a career in nursing to join Vincent as he travelled around the island. Together they set up Randy’s Records, just as a spirit of excitement was starting to grip Jamaica with the onset of independence from Great Britain. In 1962, Vincent produced his first record, “Independent Jamaica” by Lord Creator, a charismatic singer of the time. The song became a huge hit, launching Vincent Chin into a lifetime of record production.

The Randy’s archive contains hundreds of reels featuring many unheard and unreleased songs by The Wailers, Peter Tosh, Dennis Brown, The Skatalites, Alton Ellis, Gregory Isaacs and many more legendary stars of Jamaican music. Somehow these precious tapes survived years of neglect as well as looting, Hurricane Gilbert, and intense tropical heat. The songs were produced by Vincent “Randy” Chin and his son Clive Chin at Randy’s Studio 17, which was located upstairs from the family’s bustling record store at 17 North Parade, forming Jamaica’s first fully integrated production and sales outlet.

In its prime, Studio 17 was a magnet for top Jamaican talent, including Bob Marley & the Wailers, Peter Tosh (who also worked there as a studio musician), Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Alton Ellis, Ken Boothe, Carl Malcolm, Jimmy London, The Skatalites, American soul star Johnny Nash and many more. Legendary producers like Lee “Scratch” Perry and Bunny Lee booked out Studio 17 regularly while Vincent mentored his son Clive Chin in the art of engineering and production. Clive’s sessions with Augustus Pablo yielded the historic Java Java Java LP, the first dub album in music history. But the good times would soon come to an end.

Political turmoil gripped Jamaica in the late 1970s, forcing the Chin family to flee to New York, abandoning the recording studio and hundreds of session tapes in their haste. Vincent and Pat went on to establish VP Records, which became the world’s largest independent distributor of reggae music. Meanwhile in Jamaica, stacks of original session tapes languished inside Studio 17, surviving violence, looting, Hurricane Gilbert, and sweltering tropical heat.

Years later, Clive Chin undertook a mission to rescue the treasure trove of original Studio 17 tapes. Inspired by the tragic death of his son Joel Chin, a VP Records employee who was murdered in a still-unsolved shooting in 2011, Clive resolved to digitize and remaster these stunning recordings from reggae’s golden age. Listening to session tapes with ace musicians bantering between takes is like stepping into a time machine, an experience that unleashes a flood of wonderful memories from Clive Chin’s years working alongside his father.

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