Big up yu batty, gyal II

Constant Spring Road runs north-south, from green-leaved uptown to Halfway Tree. No one knows what the tree was halfway between, and there is no longer a tree to be seen amid the exhaust fumes from the bus terminal and the chronic traffic congestion as the uptowners stream towards their offices in New Kingston and others head further south to the wasteland of downtown or swing round to Hagley Park Road lined with second-hand car dealers, leading much further down to the docks.

Little did I know in 1978, watching Althea & Donna on Top of the Pops, that I would one day drive down their famed Constant Spring. Althea with the huge Afro; Donna in gold lamé ‘alter back and batty riders. It was a huge hit in the UK and we all sang along with it at school, although the only words I could make out were, “see mi inna pants and ting (ooh!) hmm hmm hmm uptown top ranking (ooh!)”. The “oohs” were a bit inconsistent and you could end up feeling stupid if you “oohed” in the wrong place. Ahh, childhood memories …

I saw Althea & Donna a while back on a Dutch TV series, “One Hit Wonders” – as the title suggests, they never had another hit, but they were still the best of friends as they had been since school. They were a refreshing contrast to most ego-explosive band breakups.

Ah gwan wit yu … here it is.

See me in me heels and ting
Dem check sey we hip and ting
True them no know and ting
We have them going and ting
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots

See me pon the road I hear you call out to me
True you see mi inna pants and ting
See mi in a ‘alter back
Sey mi gi’ you heart attack
Gimme likkle bass, make me wine up me waist
Uptown Top Ranking

See mi in mi Benz and ting
Drivin’ through Constant Spring
Them check sey me come from cosmo spring
But a true dem no know and ting
Dem no know sey we top ranking
Uptown Top Ranking

Shoulda see me and the ranking dread
Check how we jamming and ting
Love is all I bring inna me khaki suit and ting
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots

Watch how we chuck it and ting
Inna we khaki suit and ting
Love is all I bring inna me khaki suit and ting
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots

Love inna you heart dis a bawl out fe me
When you see me inna pants and ting
See me inna ‘alter back
Sey me gi’ you heart attack
Gimme likkle bass, make me wine up me waist
Uptown Top Ranking

See mi pon the road and hear you call out to me
True you see me in me pants and ting
See me inna ‘alter back
Sey me gi’ you heart attack
Gimme likkle bass, make me wine up me waist
Gimme likkle bass, make me wine up me waist
Love is all I bring inna me khaki suit and ting
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots

You shoulda see me and the ranking dread,
Check how we jamming and ting
Love is all I bring inna me khaki suit and ting
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots

And what could be a more fitting accompaniment than a subject I shot last week, and who caused the traffic to slow down to a crawl in order to check out her … green curlers.

Lettin' it loose on Constant Spring

Note: Apart from boosting the contrast and saturation, the image is faithful to the reality, even the text!

See Big up yu batty, gyal I

8 thoughts on “Big up yu batty, gyal II”

  1. How you mean, no one remembers what the tree was halfway between?

    “Throughout Jamaican history, other cotton trees have given their names to places, including Spur Tree Hill and Half-Way-Tree (the latter named by the English for the tree’s location half way between Kingston Harbour and Spanish Town; the tree, which no longer stands, was used as a marker between the three plantations once owned by the wealthy Spaniards, Liguaney, de Yalis and Lizama. It was also used as a resting place by slaves and English soldiers on long marches.”

    The above was taken from the Gleaners “Pieces of the Past” series, in particular, the story about Tom Cringle’s cotton Tree

    Bwoy, its been awhile since I last heard that song! Memories…. Re the picture, that girl needs to exercise that butt, man! It looks like it wants to take over her entire body! I wonder if theres and alien in there?

  2. I linked to a BBC archive clip of Althea and Donna singing Uptown Top Ranking and to a recording of the Canadian singer Scout Niblett singing a very odd cover version (check it out if you can find it online, otherwise I’ll mail you the mp3) almost two years ago – and I still get two or three people a week coming by on Google queries like “Althea Donna one hit wonders” or “Uptown Top Ranking what it mean?” – Now I know where to direct them. Thanks so much for posting the lyrics. Though I must admit the first time I read them I misunderstood the line “True you see me inna pants” and got lost in some very weird pseudo-philosophical conjecture about just what “inner pants” might be and why I wasn’t in touch with mine…

  3. Mad Bull: If Half Way Tree was between Kingston harbour and Spanish Town, it would mean the harbour was somewhere near the peaks of the Blue Mountains! Think about it. So stet my statement about no one remembers what the tree was halfway between.

    All that is known is that the tree marked an important crossroads, as it does today. “In its shade stood a tavern”, adds the Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage and continues: “The first written record that we have of Half Way Tree is dated 1696 and notes the behaviour of some men who were drinking in this tavern.”

    Seventeenth century rudies!

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