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Rock Against Racism: On the front line with The Clash, Specials, Undertones & Elvis Costello

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It all began in 1968 when an old Tory coot Enoch Powell gave a racist speech against immigration and anti-discrimination legislation at his West Midlands constituency in England. Powell claimed he was horrified at what he believed was an unstoppable flow of immigration that would eventually swamp the country where “in fifteen or twenty years’ time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.” It was an incendiary and offensive speech full bile and hate, and became known as the “Rivers of blood speech” because of Powell’s quotation from Virgil’s Aeneid about “‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood.’”

Many of the white working class supported Powell, most shamefully the London dockers’ union staged a one day strike in his favor. Powell became the pin-up of the far right and his words appeared to sanction their rise, in particular the odious neo-Nazi National Front that promoted its racist policies with the boot as much as the ballot. Against this rose Rock Against Racism—“a raggedy arsed united front” co-founded by Red Saunders, Roger Huddle and others in 1976.

At first, Rock Against Racism was just an idea—a way to bring together a new generation of youth against the stealthy rise of the far right. It may have remained just an idea had it not been for Eric Clapton announcing during a concert in 1976 that the UK had “become overcrowded” and his fans should vote for Enoch Powell to stop Britain from becoming “a black colony.” Allegedly Clapton then shouted “Keep Britain white.” His racist tirade led to Saunders and Huddle writing a letter to the music paper NME pointing out that half Clapton’s music was black. The letter ended with a call for readers to help establish Rock Against Racism. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

In April 1978, 100,000 people marched across London in support of Rock Against Racism, which was followed by a concert at Victoria Park headlined by The Clash and the Tom Robinson Band. It was a momentous event, which singer and activist Billy Bragg correctly described as “the moment when my generation took sides.”

Photographer Syd Shelton documented the rise of Rock Against Racism during the 1970s and 1980s from its first demonstrations, the concert in Victoria Park, to the gigs, bands, musicians (The Clash, The Specials, The Undertones, Elvis Costello, etc), the young activists and supporters who stood up and proudly said: “Love Music, Hate Racism.”
 
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More rocking pictures against racism, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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‘Sacred Love’: The Bad Brains song that was recorded over the phone from prison
07.29.2013
07:23 am

Topics:
Punk
Race
Reggae

Tags:
Bad Brains


Bad Brains t-shirt from The Rudy

Washington, D.C. hardcore punk-reggae legends Bad Brains have had a tumultuous career since forming in 1977. The band started out playing jazz fusion along the lines of Chick Corea and John McLaughlin until they were introduced to punk via The Dead Boys and The Sex Pistols. They remain one of the very few all-black punk bands. The band members became devout Rastafarians after seeing Bob Marley perform in 1979 and singer H.R. (Human Rights, real name Paul D. Hudson) wanted to steer the band into more reggae rather than punk and heavy metal. Songs like “I Luv I Jah” and “Jah is Calling” were open professions of their faith. However, H.R. left the band a few times, along with his brother, drummer Earl Hudson, and concentrated on reggae with his band Human Rights. But for the past 15 years both men have remained in Bad Brains consistently.

One of the best stories about Bad Brains has to do with the recording of their third album, I Against I for Greg Ginn’s SST Records.

In 1986 H.R. was arrested and convicted on marijuana distributions charges. Rather than scrap the album or wait until H.R.’s release from prison, the band kept the recording sessions in Massachusetts going at the encouragement of producer Ron Saint Germain. H.R. provided the vocals for the song “Sacred Love” over the phone from Lorton Reformatory in Laurel Hill, Virginia. H.R. unscrewed the mouthpiece of the telephone so that there could be no background noise and sang into it.  Saint Germain still describes “Sacred Love” as “the best makeout song ever written.” 
 

The studio/jail version of “Sacred Love”
 
Bad Brains performing “Sacred Love” at The Ritz, New York, December 27, 1986, below:

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
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Ska’s politically incorrect battle of the sexes: Prince Buster’s ‘10 Commandments’ (and the reply!)
07.06.2013
07:34 am

Topics:
Music
Reggae

Tags:
ska
Prince Buster


 
75-year-old ska legend Prince Buster’s “Ten Commandments” has to be one of the most howlingly politically incorrect tunes ever recorded. It is also, somehow, sublimely charming, and the perfect accompaniment for the aggressive sunshine we are currently staggering about beneath.

In the all-too-true words of YouTube commenter “MitholX”

This song is so sexist. Wait…what the—
What’s happening to my foot? It’s…tapping AAARRGH THIS SONG IS TOO CATCHY!

Commandment Seven, for instance, declares that:

Thou shalt not shout my name in the streets
If I am walking with another woman
But wait intelligently until I come home
Then we can both have it out decently
For I am your man, a funny man
And detest a scandal in public places

Whereas Commandment Nine reveals some pretty dramatic double standards:

Thou shalt not commit adultery
For the world will not hold me guilty if I
Commit murder

Which looks horrible on paper, but which is almost guaranteed to make you smile on record. I can prove it:
 

 
How great was that?!?!? And happily, an equally delightful—no, no, an even more delightful—version, “Ten Commandments (of Woman to Man)”, was then recorded on top of the original by a certain Princess Buster in 1967. Posing (I presume) as the Prince’s new wife, the Princess offered many witty refashionings of Buster’s edicts, such as Commandment Six...

Though shalt not commit adultery
Because the world cannot hold me guilty
If, for spite, I date your best friend

Nice one, Princess!
 

 
Hearty thanks to “Princess” Rebecca M.

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Discussion
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Bob Marley and The Wailers live and soulful in Edmonton, England, 1973
02.06.2013
02:25 am

Topics:
Music
Reggae

Tags:
Bob Marley


 
Happy birthday Bob. We miss you.

Bob Marley and The Wailers at The Sundown Theater in Edmonton, England. May, 1973

“Slave Driver”
“Stop That Train”
“Get Up, Stand Up”

According to reports at the time, most of the audience at this Wailers gig didn’t “get” the group. Marley was still somewhat of an enigma and the Wailers were sonically much more adventurous than some of the other acts on the bill that day. In his book Wailing Blues: The Story of Bob Marley‘s Wailers, author John Masouri experienced something extraordinary:

Marley is a vibrant, charismatic figure with his wild hair and tight trousers.  He’s full of smiles as he strikes rock poses, playing around with the phrasing of certain songs and joining Tosh on a highly charged, semi-acapella version of “Get Up Stand Up”.  Livingston is again hunched over his congas, and Lindo’s playing is more free form than Bundrick’s studio embellishments.  It’s a joy to see him dancing behind his twin keyboards as the Barrett’s anchor proceedings with transcendent drum and bass. The sound quality is good too which must have made a welcome change.“

To me, this is Marley at his nitty grittiest and I love it.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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R.I.P. Lloyd Charmers, reggae pioneer and NSFW tunesmith

Lloyd Charmers

 
Reggae singer/session keyboardist/producer Lloyd Charmers’s death in London a few days ago brings into sharp focus the steady passing of musicians from a generation that saw Jamaica become independent during their 20s. But it also sees the passing of one of the island nation’s premier producers of the dirty reggae song artform.

Charmers was born Lloyd Tyrell in 1946 in the Trench Town district of Kingston, Jamaica, and very little is documented of his early life. After getting his feet wet in Jamaica’s late-‘50s shuffle R&B scene, Charmers started his first group, the Charmers in 1962 with Roy Wilson, and after they split, he kept using the Charmers name for many of his subsequent records. 

When The Charmers split, he joined Slim Smith and Jimmy Riley in The Uniques, a group that unleashed a crucial clutch of hits like “My Conversation”…
 

 
…and others which in true Jamaican style would be redone and revived as a “riddim” countless times to generate a bunch of other hits for the dancehalls, as represented by this mix…
 

 
After the jump: More on the Charmers legacy…

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Discussion
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‘This Is Ska’: hi-energy documentary on Jamaican dance music from 1964
12.03.2012
11:15 am

Topics:
Dance
Music
Reggae

Tags:
This Is Ska


 
1964 documentary This Is Ska has been viewable on YouTube in chopped up form, but now you can watch all 40 minutes of this wonderful slice of musical history without missing a single beat. Skank God.

Jamaican Ska - Byron Lee & The Dragonaires
Sammy Dead-O - Eric ‘Monty’ Morris
One Eyed Jack - Jimmy Cliff
Wash Wash - Prince Buster
Treat Me Bad - The Maytals
She Will Never Let You Down - The Maytals
So Marie - The Charmers
Rough ‘N’ Tough - Stranger Cole
Two Roads Before Me - Roy & Yvonne
I Don’t Know - The Blues Busters
Sammy Dead-O - Byron Lee & The Dragonaires
King Of Kings - Jimmy Cliff

Your host: Tony Verity.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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‘Bongo Man’: Superlative documentary on Jimmy Cliff

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Some of the bloodiest violence in Jamaica’s history took place in the lead-up to the country’s 1980 elections. The battle for political leadership between socialist Prime Minister Michael Manley’s Peoples National Party and Edward Seaga’s Jamaican Labour Party, brought the country to the verge of civil war. The conflict started in 1976, and arose out of the PNP’s plan to form closer links with Cuba. The JLP wanted to bind Jamaica closer to the USA and a free market. Both parties used gangs (posses) to enforce their will within Kingston - Seaga accessing weapons via America. This violence culminated in the 1980 elections that left 800 Jamaicans dead, as Seaga was elected Prime MInister.

It was against this background, the documentary Bongo Man was filmed. Bongo Man told the story of Jimmy Cliff, as he traveled across Jamaica to Kingston, in an attempt to unite the country through the power of Reggae.

Cliff’s philosophy was simple: ‘Politics divide, Music unites’. The legendary Cliff is a fascinating character and this is an exceptional and engrossing documentary, containing excellent concert footage and some of Cliff’s best songs.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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One of the first and best reggae documentaries ever made
08.06.2012
08:54 pm

Topics:
Reggae

Tags:
Horace Ove
"Reggae"


 
British film maker and writer Horace Ove’s Reggae was the first documentary to capture the early days of reggae’s UK invasion and its growing popularity outside of Jamaica. In this mix of performances filmed at Wembley Arena in 1970 combined with footage shot in the West Indies and interviews and commentaries providing social and political context, we are introduced to reggae as an art form that transcends music and becomes an articulation of a complex culture and a powerful medium for change.

The Heptones - Message From A Black Man
The Pyramids - (Pop Hi!) The Revenge Of Clint Eastwood
Noel And The Fireballs - Can’t Turn You Loose
The Pioneers - Easy Come Easy Go
Laurel Aitken - Deliverance will come
Black Faith - Everyday people
The Beatles - Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da/Get Back
John Holt - I Want A Love I Can Feel
Dave Barker (Tommy and The Upsetters) - Lockjaw
Count Prince Miller - Mule Train
Millie Small and The Pyramids - Enoch Power
Mr Symarip - Skinheads Moonstomp
The Maytals - Monkey Man
Desmond Dekker - Israelites
Bob & Marcia - Young, Gifted & Black

Reggae has not been released on VHS or DVD. Finding it on Youtube made my day. These are the groups and artists that revived my passion for pop music before punk came along.
 

 
Photo: Horace Ove.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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The King meets the rockers uptown: Elvis Presley ina rub a dub style
08.01.2012
04:54 pm

Topics:
Music
Reggae

Tags:
Elvis Presley
Reggae


 
The King remixed in a reggae style.

01. Return To Sender
02. In The Ghetto
03. Blue Moon
04. Fever
05. It’s Now Or Never
06. Baby I Don’t Care
07. Suspicious Minds
08. I’ll Remember You
09. Are You Lonesome Tonight?
10. Crying In The Chapel

Video contains some nudity.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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A video compilation of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s Guinness commercials


 
A highly enjoyable video montage of Lee “Scratch” Perry shilling Guinness beer. He’s dublin’ dublin’ bubblin’ bubblin’ for you!
 

 
Via WFMU

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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