The Ice Man — Trinidadian street cries preserved in song

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 16.26.09This ice man is not Sir Ernest Shackleton or George Clarke Simpson, but an ultra-rare calypso 7″ by Lord Melody, that preserves some of the Trini street cries of the day. ‘Street cry in the city really does amuse me!’ he begins:

‘Plantain to boil and fry! Plantain to boil and fry!’

And, ‘Bottles! Bottles! Bottles! Lady any bottles today!’

But the nicest cry of them all, is when I hear the ice man bawl:

‘Ice! Ice! Cold ice! Hard ice! All kind a ice!’

The song — which according to the label was recorded in ‘Feb 60’ — is written by Pat Castagne who also wrote the national anthem of Trinidad and Tobago. Vocal harmonies are provided by The March of Dimes, and the whole arrangement is by Cyril Diaz and his Orchestra.

The record belonged to a good pal of mine named Dave Blair in Leeds in the mid-1980s, who had bought it at Portobello Market in the mid-1960s, along with a job lot of ska singles on the Blue Beat and Island labels – by Jackie Edwards, the Blues Busters, Stranger Cole, Theophilus Beckford and many more – and a couple of pounds of cheap tomatoes. Long-short, it was a mistake to have put the tomatoes in the same bag as the records and then forgotten about them on such a hot day. The whole squashed mess got put in a cupboard and forgotten about for a couple of decades, until the subject came up in conversation. I was and remain a massive fan of Jamaican music as well as what a Jamaican friend of mine once called ‘small island music’, and I was particularly hungry for some new and rare ska tunes. So I volunteered to clean Dave’s singles up so we could listen to them. It wasn’t easy getting that decades-old and rock-hard tomato pulp off the wax. I had to soak them overnight, then wash each disc very carefully in warm water and washing up liquid. It took ages, but once they were cleaned up, we made a tape.

I looked for many years, but never did find a copy of ‘The Ice Man’ on vinyl, though the screen grab of the label reproduced here came from a copy that I sadly missed on ebay a few years back. This MP3 is extracted – to preserve it – from my rather battered cassette, which was recorded off the record in the mid-1980s, so the quality is not great, but what a song!

All together now: ‘Ice! Ice! Cold ice! Hard ice! All kind a ice!’

As ever, feel free to extract the file from the WordPress player if you want to listen on your own device. The Firefox add-on ‘Download Helper’ is a good way of doing this.

P.S. A warm welcome to the many visitors from Trinidad and Tobago who find their way to this page to hear this incredible song! Greetings to you from London. May 2020.