Tag Archives: 1980

Signing Off by UB40 (Graduate Records)

I WAS on a school trip to see The Mousetrap in the West End the same week that UB40 released their debut album, so I nipped into Soho to buy it before we went to the theatre.

And yes, a year after my not-so-life-changing Florida holiday romance, with the level of my attractiveness to the ladies being in direct inverse proportion to the level of my desperation, I may have had a mooch round the sleazier side of the area too.

Visits to the big, bad city were few and far between in my early teens so I always tried to make the most of them when I could.

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Filed under hip replacement, reggae

Magic Reggae by Various Artists (K-Tel International)

THIS is where it starts getting tricky. It’s getting on for three decades ago since I first heard this album, so you’re just going to have to bear with me if it all gets a bit sketchy.

Magic Reggae, a collection of music by Island, Creole, Trojan, Gull, WEA and Lightning Records artists put together by the TV advertised compilation behemoth K-Tel, has got ‘hastily purchased birthday present from Auntie Denise’ written all over it.

Well, it hasn’t. This particular copy of Magic Reggae actually has a green and white sticker saying “3.50, exclusive of VAT” on the back.

But it’s precisely the kind of thing my young, clued-up aunt would have bought me for my birthday. You can see her logic: “Our expletiveundeleted likes reggae, that album has got reggae in the title – job done. Now then, where’s the Tia Maria?”

Having said all that, I could easily have bought Magic Reggae myself. I was as happy with compilation albums as I was with the original releases – and unfortunately not many 10-inch dub plates made it from JA to Scunthorpe, so low-cost samplers and compilations came in handy.

Historically, in 1980, the full extent of Thatcher’s psychotic megalomania had yet to become apparent. The exhilarating, inspiring, inclusive 2Tone phenomenom was at its height.

The year before, I’d somehow had a holiday romance with beautiful, sweet, sultry Lynne from Jacksonville, FL who gently showed me the delights of physical love on a moonlit white-sand beach (it was all very From Here To Eternity), but when I got back to the UK I was utterly dismayed to find that I wasn’t the cute, exotic English kid anymore. As far as everyone else was concerned I was the same old speccy, dorky spaz as ever, totally into Star Wars, reggae, comics and skateboarding, totally uncool – and totally unshaggable.

Doing it once and then not doing it again for about two years was probably even harder than not doing it at all. Not a lot I could do about it though. Obviously, I tried. Without any success. Whatsoever.

This was my frustrated, alienated, love-lorn mindset in the summer of 1980.

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Filed under hip replacement, reggae

LKJ In Dub by Linton Kwesi Johnson (Island Records)

I HAVE a vague recollection of buying LKJ In Dub with Christmas gift vouchers from the exotic and exciting Record Village in town. I think it had been out for a while, but it was probably one of the first dub albums I ever owned – as opposed to having my enlightened uncle’s copy on extended loan.

No doubt, I would have run home from the bus stop and disappeared up to my freezing bedroom in the attic where I could play my booming reggae, shouty ska and shoutier punk rock well out of the way of the rest of the family. I’d crank up the music and listen to it perched on a storage heater which was hot enough to properly burn my arse but, irritatingly, not actually hot enough to properly heat the bloody room itself.

There’s room here for a big, tortuous metaphor tying in the wintry, discomforting atmosphere of the country at the time with the sub-zero temperatures of my bedroom but, amusingly enough, I’ve got a stinking headcold and I just can’t be arsed. It’d be a bit shit anyway.

I think I’d heard my uncle playing Linton Kwesi Johnson’s Dread Beat An’ Blood, Bass Culture and Forces Of Victory albums and was impressed as much by the throbbing backing music as the rich, exotic timbre of Johnson’s voice. My interest was heightened by a BBC documentary about LKJ which was made by Franco Rosso, who immediately went onto to direct the seminal Brit-reggae flick Babylon.

Johnson’s family came to Britain from Jamaica when he was 11 years old and settled in south London. Inspired by conscious black writers such as Marcus Garvey and WEB Du Bois, Johnson joined the Black Panther party while he was still at school and later became a committed Marxist. Simultaneously, he developed his poetic voice with the Rasta Love group of poets and drummers and in 1977 was awarded a C Day Lewis fellowship and became writer-in-residence for the London borough of Lambeth.

Johnson’s verse came from a Caribbean oral tradition. He spoke in the rich, sing-song cadences of Jamaica without apology or explanation and while his live performances gave his work a powerful authority and physicality, crucially it lost none of its vitality on the page.

He was working as a reporter for the BBC World Service when he interviewed the one band who could survive a Sunday evening Gong Show-style contest at the Four Aces Club in Hackney. The band was one of the first reggae bands to come out of the UK, Matumbi, and their bass player was Dennis Bovell.

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Filed under hip replacement, reggae

Grotesque: After The Gramme by The Fall (Rough Trade)

“‘GROTESQUE’ is the new LP by The Fall .. The Fall are the group who keep being brought up and slagged by other insecure bands – this automatically invokes a curse on them which usually takes its toll. This is true. Most people who like The Fall don’t like other groups anyway and don’t own coffee tables.

‘GROTESQUE’ contains very few choruses but a lot of beat and the raw edge of The Fall is retained. If they were psychotic, they’d think every other group was mad except – them. This band thrives on being in tight spots, odd knots, and calling the shots .. SHUUT UP! ENTER

JOE TOTALE: As he writes this weak TV rock filters through from the adjoining room. SMITH SAID ‘78 was the year of the average man. WELL IF That’s true ’80 is the year of the average band. The Fall are the GROTESQUE EXCEPTION.


Get this – ‘GROTESQUE’ also tells stories ..”

And what stories.

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Filed under hip replacement, The Fall

I Just Can't Stop It by The Beat (Go-Feet)

WITHIN a year or so, I’d find myself making shapes to The Message and Klacto Vee Sedstein on this very same sticky parquet dancefloor, but tonight it was all about the punky reggae party that was the 2Tone ska revival.

I was tagging along with my cousin Nicky and a load of his mates on a trip to the cavernous Top Rank in Sheffield to see the Beat on their first headlining tour, around the time their debut album I Just Can’t Stop It was released in 1980.

Before the gig started, I bought a couple of big A2 posters, a really nice pink and black one based on the album cover and a crappy cheap-looking black and white photomontage of the band.

I ended up getting them signed by Ranking Roger, who was sitting around in the upstairs bar – which was just extraordinary in itself – chatting to a couple of girls. He barely looked at me as he quickly scribbled his moniker on both posters. I don’t know what I would have said to him if I’d got the chance but I remember feeling a bit disappointed that he was more interested in talking to attractive young girls than me.

I had a lot to learn about rock‘n’roll. I had a lot to learn about everything.

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Filed under 2Tone, hip replacement