Tag Archives: reggae

Jimmy Cliff

JIMMY CLIFF’s role in Perry Henzell’s seminal 1972 feature The Harder They Come simultaneously introduced Jamaican reggae to the outside world and catapulted its star into the international spotlight.

Playing talented bad boy Ivan Martin, Cliff is the focal point of Henzell’s effortlessly authentic tale of a country boy corrupted by the big city after getting involved in the drug trade and worse, the music business.

Based on the true story of armed robber/folk hero Wappie King, The Harder They Come is an unflinching portrayal of the lot of Jamaica’s ghetto youth, the ‘sufferers’ at the bottom of the pile – and the amoral establishment which exploits them.

A simply superb soundtrack includes spine-tingling renditions of Many Rivers To Cross, You Can Get It If You Really Want and the film’s theme tune by Cliff, as well as classics by Toots & The Maytals, Desmond Dekker and the Melodians.

“It’s one of those movies that has relevance throughout generations,” says Dr Cliff – he received an honorary doctorate of letters from the University of the West Indies – on a visit to London. “You can still find today a young boy from maybe Glasgow coming to London to make his fortune and, you know ..”

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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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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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Good Thing Going by Sugar Minott (RCA)

IN MANY ways, being able to get into the football club discos and pigeon fanciers dinner-dances which were held at the village community hall was merely a fringe-benefit of getting served in the White Lion.

I must’ve been about 14 when me and Sally from down the road – blonde, blue-eyed, beautiful, blessed at an early age with a mesmerising, gravity-defying bosom, and utterly oblivious to my hopeless, clod-hopping adoration – summoned up all the courage we could muster, took off our school ties and went into the White Lion to buy advance tickets for some do at the community hall one dinnertime.

It was obvious that Sandra behind the bar would’ve been as happy to sell us booze as she was tickets. We had to get back to school but I promised myself I’d return to try my luck the following weekend.

Unfortunately, getting the tickets for the do didn’t really get me any further with the hypnotically unattainable Sally, although it did teach me a couple of lessons which would prove to be invaluable in later life – when it comes to illicit fun after dark, you have to brazen it out and look the part, even if you’re not. And while girls are often quite impressed if you can get them into night clubs, they’re not that impressed.

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Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare

CLAD in baggy, faded denim dungarees and baseball cap, locks carefully tied-up at the back, Lowell ‘Sly’ Dunbar is stretched out on a wicker sofa in his record company’s offices in Notting Hill, west London.

Only a wide variety of conspicuously chunky gold jewellery betrays the veteran drummer’s status as one of the most successful – and influential – musicians ever to emerge from the Caribbean.

Robbie Shakespeare, who accompanies Dunbar’s thundering drum patterns with an equally-apocalyptic bass sound, is absent, having just flown in from Jamaica, and he‘s sleeping off his jet-lag. The pair are in town to promote their new album, Strip To The Bone, which they recorded with U2 and Bjork producer, Howie B.

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Babylon Original Soundtrack by Various Artists (EMI)

IT WAS Barry Norman, smug doyen of the comfy press junket and arch purveyor of bitter, misanthropic and slightly rightwing movie reviews, who first brought Babylon to my attention – though I’ve no recollection what drivel the miserable old sod spouted about Franco Rosso’s gritty tale of disaffected Sarf London youth when he reviewed the film on Film 80.

I was more than likely on the lookout for some idiotic new sci-fi movie but in the end it was the clip which accompanied Norman’s no-doubt nonsensical views on Babylon which transported me to another world entirely; a world every bit as strange, exotic and alien as Altair, Vulcan or Tattooine – and it seemed, as a chubby, unfashionable 14-year-old with a bad haircut, sitting in the familial living room in a Dark Ages village miles from anywhere, one I would be as likely to ever visit.

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