King Tubby's Essentials: Mikey Faith, the Emperor of sound...
Mikey Gordon-Martin, aka Mikey Faith, was born 'under the clock' (of halway Tree) as they say in Jamaica, with a silver spoon in the mouth. He once ran one of the most iconic sound systems in Jamaica, Emperor Faith. He was known for playing the most Studio One Dubs in the world—these songs were cut on dub machines (most of the time at Tubby’s) and offered exclusive mixes of regular songs. Dubs were expensive, and most sound systems were playing both regular 45s and Dubs. Not Mikey. The early deejay Lizzy laughs: “Him never play a 45, man! Strictly Dub plates. We had our box of 45s, and him have him box of Dub plates!”
Mikey never play a 45, man! Strictly Dub plates.
In the late 1960s, at lunchtime, Mikey would go to Trench Town to buy some ganja. He ended up hanging at Mortimer Planno’s yard—Planno was the Wailer’s Rasta mentor. Mikey soon became close to Bob, Peter and Bunny. He did all he could to help them out. And he even gave them the money to record Trench Town Rock! Later on, just as he was about to have his international break, Bob Marley asked Mikey to become his manager. “I made the biggest mistake of my life,” Mikey told me. “I refused.” But he was already hooked on sound system.
He bought his first set from Juba, and renamed it Emperor Faith. King Tubby would mix most of his Dubs; he also built some KT amplifiers for him. Mikey became very close to Tubby, and he spent hours at 18 Dromilly Avenue, spending fortunes on Dubs. We can still hear the sound of Emperor Faith on a few recordings from way back that are available on the Internet. And it was... heavy—heavy enough to defeat the King Tubby’s Hi-Fi in 1975. The clash took place at the National Arena, in Kingston. And when Mikey played three exclusive Dubs freshly out of Studio One, he defeated the best sound system of all times. The Dubs became known as the Death In The Arena riddim. 45 years later, it was Mikey’s best musical memory. To defeat the Hi Fi once is enough to fill a soundman’s life.
Mikey gladly welcomed me in his villa in the hills overhanging Kingston. And he talked for hours, laughing, unveiling fascinating stories involving Coxsone, U Roy, Bunny Lee and King Tubby. He was talking about Dubs like others talk about women or cars. He was still in love with Dubs, and I could feel it in every word he uttered.
It was a privilege to talk to Mikey Faith, who unfortunately passed away a few months later. He was not given the opportunity to read this book that would never have been what it is without his testimony. Rest In Dub, Mikey Faith.
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