In music, there are insiders who are in the know before the public gets a whiff of what is happening. Then there are the movers and shakers who decide what is going to happen.
And then there are a few persons like Donovan Germain of Penthouse, who refuse to be moved and shaken and follow the latest trends, who build institutions.
Penthouse Records, with its standout logo of the moon behind a lit upstairs window, is an institution in Jamaican music. It certainly did not begin in the 1990s when Buju Banton memorably deejayed “is like de Penthouse logo/De worl’ haffi seet” (Good Body), but it was in that bumper decade that Penthouse stamped its name on dancehall. And Germain’s productions go back to the late 1970s in New York, leaning heavily on the roots of Audrey Hall and Freddie McGregor in the late 1980s.
But it was from the studio on Slipe Road, near Cross Roads, that Germain’s productions rocked dancehall in the early 1990s. Buju Banton was the main man (there is a story about Buju going to Penthouse with Man Fi Dead and Germain checking just who the man behind this menacing tune was), with a slew of hits. There was also Tony Rebel (Chatty Chatty), Terror Fabulous, Wayne Wonder, Cutty Ranks and Garnet Silk. When Penthouse put the older roots rocking artistes with the younger, more stylistically edgy set, it was magic.
That’s how songs like Who Say (Buju and Beres) and the remake of Bob Andy’s Fire Burning (Marcia Griffiths and Cutty Ranks) were made. Then there were the remixes like Buju and Nadine Sutherland’s Wicked Dickie.
Penthouse moved base to Ballater Avenue about six years ago and Germain has, in a way, moved out of the thick of the dancehall fray, producing Romain Virgo and intent on breaking artistes like Torch and Shuga.
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