TOUCH – 30 years since 1st Road March title
Editor: This year 2019 is 30 years since the musical band TOUCH won its first Road March title. The defeat of “Back Off” in 1988 had taught the band one thing; if it was to win the Road March it had to market its offerings and systematically manage its Carnival programme. So, the following year with “Jam Dem,” no stone was left unturned. Several blocks of radio time were purchased and open-air concerts (or block-o’s) were held. To be short, the machinery was put to work and it did work. “Jam Dem” copped the title. The song went on to rule the airwaves and dancehalls in the various soca markets. The Caribbean singer turned guru producer Eddy Grant, approached me in 1993 to re-record the song. It was included as a classic on his Soca Baptism in 1994 (track B3). By copping the 1989 Road March, Touch became the second musical band in the history of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to win a Road March. The first musical band to do so was Asterisks. It won the 1981 title with “Yuh Can’t Wine.” Incidentally, Bryan Alexander was a member of Asterisks when the band achieved that feat.
The fate suffered by Back Off will later to be experienced by Blacksand (later renamed Blaksand) “Afro-Caribbean/Jump Up” and “Whistle” as well as Dalphin’s “Bumper.” No one would question the popularity of these songs, but popularity is not necessarily synonymous with copping the Road March title. When asked by a journalist, “Does Touch have the roadmarch formula?” the band’s marketing manager at the time, Junior Bacchus replied, “I think basically we know the rules that dictate how to play the game and we play by them.” Bacchus went on to explain that the Road March was not judged from airplay but from what was played between J’Ouvert and Carnival Tuesday night. Bacchus also explained that Touch’s Road March song was released early enough for the steelbands to practice it.
One noted critic of TOUCH was Alston “Becket” Cyrus. His views of the band are chronicled in three songs: Touch Jamming, Screw and Buy a DJ. In Touch Jamming, Becket basically accused DJs of failing to remove Touch records from the turntables and CD players, that is, of jamming/playing Touch’s music “too much, much too much, too much.” While Touch jamming criticised DJs for Touch’s popularity, Buy a DJ was an indictment of the band. This track accused the band of supporting payola. Screws, a double entendre, was merely poking fun at band members in particular Bryan Alexander who was part of management at a local hardware store where this woman in Becket’s song went to purchase the ‘screws’ but did not get any from Bryan.
I leave readers with a few quotes from interviews on the TOUCH legacy conducted by Maxian Harry and Dr. Halimah De Shong:
Ronnie Marks: “The major achievement of TOUCH is – revolutionized the entire system.’
Glen Jackson: “The band TOUCH was much more than a band. The band Touch was an institution.”
Hugh Raguette: “TOUCH was perhaps one of the greatest of all musical bands, which has passed through the annals of big band sound.”
Michael Peters: “St. Vincent and the Grenadines was fortunate to have a band like TOUCH.”
Cleve McD Scott PhD