History of the Thunderballs, Part 1: I Meet Rasta Early on the Beach

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Back in ’99, as the millennium was about to turn, the daily freeze, the blustery winds and feeble, barely useful sun of yet another Vermont winter had been dragging on its usual fashion, and by February it really wasn’t funny any more. Each and every year the routine is the same: in summer we live in glorious denial, as vibrant color and delicious fragrance of earth and things that grow crowd our senses and convince us that it will always be thus.

As the riot of wildflowers and the intense greenery of it all begins to fade in October, when the skies are bright and impossibly blue and the air is crisp and clean, when the cooler temperatures cause the leaves to turn a glowing, almost fluorescent red, orange and yellow, we drink cider take deep breaths of the wholesome, if chilly, country air and say “Yes! Life is good.”

Soon the land will sleep and dream it’s unknowable dreams under a mantle of pure white, a cheerful fire will blaze in the hearth, and all will be snug and cozy. Ah! the cycle of life. Yes, I can do this!”

But by February it all seems like nothing more than a cruel deception. The snow is dirty and piled so high there’s no place left to put it, the whole world is grey and somber and it’s hard to remember that it was ever any different.
One can look forward to March, the month that Spring allegedly comes in, but whoever coined that expression about March going out like a lamb wasn’t from around here. One begins to entertain feverish hallucinations that it’s 1815 all over again – the year without a summer – when the crops failed because it snowed in each of the twelve months. Maybe all that warmth and beauty was just a dream. “What if this never ends?” I said to J as we gazed out at the gloom. When she didn’t answer, I supplied my own: “We MUST go to Jamaica!”

One evening as I was taking my sunset stroll down the beach, someone with dreadlocks spilling out of a knit cap of Jamaica colors – red, gold, black and green – wearing a scraggly beard, a faded Haile Selassie t-shirt and a toothy grin, was waving to me, and as we met on the beach we began to converse.

He called himself Rasta Early; he was a drummer and singer – though today he was trudging up and down the beach trying to sell friendship bracelets, which unfortunately were for sale everywhere and of which I had already purchased several. When I asked how many he had sold that day, and he told me – I decided to purchase the remainder of his stock and now had a dozen or so Jamaica-color yarn bracelets to give as gifts.


As the great orange ball sank towards the blue waters of the Caribbean, the conversation turned to music and Early was astonished to learn that I had made a CD for my band back in the States. CD’s were fairly new, and local musicians didn’t have them. If you were lucky enough to have a recording of your music, it was a cassette tape. Nobody, but nobody, had their own CD.



Early had recorded some songs in a local studio, and now pulled a cassette tape from his pocket. He showed it to me and said,
“You mean to say, mon, dat you could put dis music onto a CD?”
       I said “Well, yeah, sure.”
     “Could you do dat fi me? Will you be coming back to Jamaica?”
I said yes and yes, took his picture for the album cover, put the cassette in my pocket, and bade him farewell. I would find out later that I was not the first to take a tape and make promises. But as a few musician friends and I were talking a few years later, one observed “Well, mon, you de only one who ever come back.”
– Written by Peter Eisenkramer