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Sunday, 10 May 2015

Alphabet Beats #124: R is for....Reggae (Part One)

R is for....

With one more to go tomorrow of our extended trip around The Letter R I couldn't pass up the opportunity to focus upon Reggae Music. Like most genres of Music Reggae also has many sub-genres and maybe in this post you might get to see and hear a few of them.

I've loved Reggae Music for years and one of the first songs I can remember as a kid was 'My Boy Lollipop' by Millie Small. It was actually released a couple of months before my first birthday in 1964. It is considered to be one of the first ever International Ska Hits! One of the things I found out about it a few years back was that it was recorded when Millie was living in Forest Hill, South East London (a place that looms large in my own musical history). Island Records boss Chris Blackwell brought Millie over from Kingston, Jamaica and her fourth single ( a cover of a 1956 American song 'My Boy Lollypop', originally released by Barbie Gaye, a 14 year old singer from Brooklyn, New York.) was to give her a worldwide hit. I cannot claim that I remember the song from the time it came out (that would make me a most remarkable person!), but I do recall hearing it maybe when I was about five or six years old!

When Punk came along in 1976 there were not many records around at first and Reggae Music was a pivitol sound for many of the bands and also the followers of the scene. The Clash of course were probably the first to show how Punk and Reggae could co-exist when on their debut album in 1977 they included a cover of Junior Murvin's 'Police and Thieves' (a song originally released as a Single by Murvin and produced by Lee Perry in 1976). Bob Marley would further cement that by including 'Punky Reggae Party' on the B-Side  of his 1977 hit 'Jamming'(written after hearing The Clash cover Junior Murvin! They even get a name check in the song: "The Wailers will be there, The Damned, The Jam, The Clash – Maytals will be there, Dr. Feelgood too").

As a teenager I was fortunate that my eldest sister was dating a guy who had a huge collection of Reggae Singles and Albums and that came in handy many times! There was also a great shop in Sydenham, South East London that specialized in Reggae that I would often frequent (a place that I also bought a Sex Pistols Bootleg - under the counter of course!).

In the charts a Reggae Single would every now and again hit the big time, and of course for many the only Reggae act they knew was Bob Marley and the Wailers, but there were Singles on the Trojan Records label that were hits also for the likes of Bob and Marcia, Desmond Dekker, John Holt,  and other artists on various labels like Dennis Brown, Althia and Donna, Aswad, Janet Kay, Jimmy Cliff and many more.

I also remember a place in Forest Hill that sold a lot of junk and they had boxes of Singles without sleeves (so scratched up like crazy) that they would sell for ten pence each and it was in that hovel that I can remember finding a whole stack of Singles on the Blue Beat label, especially by Prince Buster (and this was quite a few years before the whole Two Tone Scene erupted!).

Last and not least John Peel was a vital source for listening to Reggae on the radio as was David Rodigan on Radio London and Capital Radio.

"Enough with the talking", I hear you say! Indeed, let's get down to some serious tunes. What follows is a mere selection of firstly my favourite Reggae Albums - 30 of them and then, tomorrow, we will focus on my favouite Reggae songs. They are in no particular order of preference apart from the first one in each section which I deem to be my favourite all-time Album or Song.

On with the show! Click on the links to enjoy the music.

Best Dressed Chicken in Town - Dr Alimantado.

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