The Story Behind The Song: Anthony Red Rose’s ‘Tempo’

Dancehall singer Anthony Red Rose says it was legendary music producer and sound engineer King Tubby who urged him to officially voice his 1985 breakout hit Tempo while predicting that the track would become a classic amongst sound systems.

Tempo, which was the first hit from King Tubby’s new studio at the time, was Anthony Red Rose’s first song and was recorded using rhyme schemes popularized by his compatriot, the late singer Tenor Saw.   

According to Red Rose, he initially had not thought of officially recording the song as a single and had limited it to just dubplates and for his stints singing on sound systems.

“Tempo… I used to go to dance and sing it around the sounds, because a song weh mi a sing bout sounds.  Suh I neva have di intention seh mi a guh voice it pon a 45.   Suh we used to go dance and get people forward,” he said before crooning the line: “Tempo, my God, dis yah sound inna tempo”.  

Red Rose told PreeDis that he had accompanied one of his colleagues to King Tubby studio to record some dub plates on the fateful day, when he was recruited by the dubmaster who heard him belting out the song.

“Suh so one day mi guh roun a Tubby’s.  Dis a mi first time going roun a Tubby’s.   A falla mi falla a singer name Bunny Lie-Lie, caw mi used to live a Spanish Town dem time deh.  Suh mi just jump inna a cab wid dem an guh ova deh.   Mi guh deh fi guh sing some special.   Suh mi sing di Tempo pan a special.  When mi sing it, King Tubby come outta him office, an seh to mi ‘come here yute’ and mi guh to him and him seh: ‘yuh know what dat you sing?’  Di man seh ‘yuh know how much sound inna di world?  Every sound inna di world a guh want play dat weh you sing’,” he recalled.

“Yuh nuh need radio station fi dah song deh buss.   Him seh ‘mi want yuh come record it dung here, but mi a guh build a riddim fi it’,” Red Rose said recalling Tubby’s words. 

Red Rose said that Tubby immediately sprang into action, gathered his musicians and his other crew members and started creating the beat for the musical masterpiece, which was recorded in one take.

“An him call in di musician dem and play di riddim an mi guh back roun deh.   Tubby seh ‘yuh can voice dah sound yah straight?’  An mi seh ‘how yuh mean, den mi nuh sing it every night a dance and sing it pan dub an dem ting deh’.  And him seh ‘well, voice it’.   And wi mix it same time.  And him mix it same time and mi jus voice it,” he recounted.

When asked how he felt when he heard the song being played on the radio for the first time, Red Rose said he went into a state of shock.

“Mi tun eediat.  Mi caan believe seh a my voice dat deh paa radio.  Trust mi, mi tun fool man.   Is like mi a look inna space; is like yuh get a lick inna yuh head, an yuh nuh know yuhself, a suh mi feel,” he said.

“A dah feeling dem mi get when mi hear mi song pan di radio and mi seh ‘Jah know’.  And mi family an mi likkle bredda dem a seh ‘Tony, a yuh dat?’” the Under Mi Fat Thing hitmaker added.

Red Rose said that as King Tubby had predicted, the song became one of Dancehall’s most iconic sound clash songs and has been sought after for dubplates even to this day.

“Tempo take me everyweh inna di world.  Everyweh, inna di world.  Di same thing weh King Tubby seh – a it happen.  Every sound man waan be mi fren; every sound man come fi dah song deh, up to dis day.  Mi caan stop sing it,” he said.

Anthony Red Rose’s other hits include Intimate, a collab with Bounty Killer, Family Man and Worries Again.  However, over the years, he went into music production, and has among his production credits Terry Linen’s Couldn’t Be The Girl For Me and Storm is Over.

In a June 2009 interview with The Gleaner newspaper, Anthony Red Rose had said that when Tempo was being created, the riddim was “bare bones drum and bass” before “Tubbys call Asher to put on the keyboards”.

“Mi get the opportunity an mi no waste it. Them time me hungry – one pants, one shoes and with this talent,” Red Rose had said.

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