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Ska royalty RIP: The legendary Prince Buster dead at the age of 78
05:54 pm


Prince Buster

Word is making its way around various Jamaican and now UK media outlets of the sad news that the great Prince Buster, the legendary ska musician, music promoter, songwriter, producer and businessman, has died this morning in a Florida hospital at the age of 78, after suffering a series of strokes.

If you’re a reggae fan, then Prince Buster needs no introduction. Called the “king of Blue Beat,” he is credited with coming up with a distinctive rhythmic structure that emphasized the after-beat instead of the downbeat. His older ska hits were slowed down to a less frantic pace to form the backbone of many “rocksteady” hits of the later 1960s and of course rocksteady paved the way for reggae.

It would be impossible to be a “deep” fan of Jamaican music without going through a Prince Buster phase. I know I sure did. I love his music. Trying to think of an American musician of his era to compare him to and the best I can come up with is maybe Smokey Robinson. Not for his voice (which is nothing special) but for his style and his influence. Many a young Jamaican musician saw what Cecil Bustamente Campbell was getting up to, the way he dressed, and the celebrity circles that he traveled in (Muhammad Ali converted him to Islam) and aspired to be as fucking cool as he was. White boys, too. The UK ska revival of the late 70s that started with the 2-Tone label took his music as its very DNA and introduced Prince Buster to a new generation of fans.

The first single by Madness, released on the 2-Tone record label, was a tribute to Campbell called “The Prince.” The B-side was an actual cover of a Prince Buster song—“Madness”—and that’s (obviously) where they got their name. Their second single was a spirited cover of the Prince’s “One Step Beyond” which went top ten and became a bit of a classic.

The Specials relied somewhat heavily on cribbing Prince Buster for their sound, too, recording cover versions of his “Too Hot” and “Enjoy Yourself” and nicking bits from his “Judge Dread” and “Al Capone” for their songs “Stupid Marriage” and “Gangsters.” Additionally, The Beat covered his tunes “Rough Rider” and “Whine & Grine” on I Just Can’t Stop It, so as you can see, Prince Buster’s primary influence on the ska revival was somewhat analogous to the influence that the R&B greats had on the young Rolling Stones. His music also anticipates rap. The guy was truly an original—the blueprint for “rude boy”—and the world is a less cool place without the Prince.

If you want the best introduction to Prince Buster, this would undoubtedly come from the classic Fabulous Greatest Hits compilation album that originally came out in 1968. Probably—no definitely—my favorite Prince Buster song is his cheeky and humorously misogynistic hit “Ten Commandments”:

More of the fabulous Prince Buster after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Rated X: The DIRTY (and very funny) reggae of Judge Dread
01:03 pm


Prince Buster
Judge Dread

Judge Dread was a white reggae and ska recording artist who had a string of hit singles during the 1970s. He sold millions of records, and was the second biggest selling reggae artist—only beaten in album sales by Bob Marley, though Dread scored more hit singles than Marley—and had the dubious distinction of being the most banned recording artist ever—with a total of eleven singles deemed unsuitable for broadcast during his career.

Born Alexander Minto Hughes in Snodland, Kent, England in 1945, Dread first became a fan of reggae in the 1960s while living with a Jamaican family in Brixton, London. He was passionate about the music and became friends with the legendary ska and rocksteady artists Prince Buster and Derrick Morgan, who were to have an influence on his musical career.
Dread was a giant of a man, weighing in around 250 pounds, which more than helped with his choice of work as a club bouncer, wrestler (under the monicker “The Masked Avenger”) and eventually debt collector for the ska record label Trojan. It was while working for Trojan that Dread cut his first self-financed single “Big Six.” The track was inspired by Prince Buster’s banned 1969 underground hit “Big 5”—a catchy number about weed, sex and spunk, which Dread used as basis for his own salty take on traditional nursery rhymes in 1972.
Dread was a master of the smutty double or perhaps more correctly stated, the single entendre, and although some songs were explicit, he always claimed the innuendo was all in the mind of the audience, as the lyrics to “Big Five” show:

There was an old sailor, who sat on a rock,
Waving and shaking his big hairy…Fist
at the ladies next door in The Ritz,
Who taught all the children to play with their…Ice-creams
and marbles and all things galore,
Along comes a lady who looks like a…Decent young woman,
who walks like a duck,
She said she’s invented a new way to….etc. etc…

After the success of “Big Six” more hits followed in a numerical order with “Big Seven,” Big Eight” and “Big NIne” before Dread recorded his own novelty versions of “Je t’aime… moi non-plus,” “Come Outside” and “Y Viva Suspenders.” Most weeks his mug with his Brian Connolly haircut and paintbrush beard was regularly flashed onscreen during the chart rundown for Top of the Pops but his songs were never played. Which makes Judge Dread’s success all the more incredible, as he never received any airplay—or perhaps it says more about the (lack of) taste of the record-buying public during the 1970s? Whichever—Judge Dread was once a major phenomenon, who continued performing through the less successful 1980s and 1990s until his sudden and untimely death right after a gig in 1998.

Understandably, TV footage of Judge Dread is rare, but here is the reggae giant performing “Big Six” in front of group of topless dancers on Musikladen from late 1980.

Listen to some more of Judge Dread’s smutty reggae, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Ska’s politically incorrect battle of the sexes: Prince Buster’s ‘10 Commandments’ (and the reply!)
10:34 am


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 | Leave a comment
Superb documentary series: ‘Reggae - The History of Jamaican Music’

If you love Reggae, if you love music, then you’ll love this excellent 3-part documentary - Reggae: The Story of Jamaican Music. Originally shown on the BBC in 2002, parts of this documentary have been on YouTube over the years, but now some kind soul has uploaded the whole series for our delight. How wonderful. Enjoy.

Parts 2 & 3, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Prince Buster gets his ass handed to him, ska-style in “answer” song to ‘The Ten Commandments’
07:35 pm


Prince Buster
Princess Buster

Most reggae and ska fans have heard Price Buster, the 60s Blue Beat king’s wonderfully offensive and comically misogynist “Ten Commandments”—it’s been a staple of my record collection and a perennial mix tape favorite for 25 years:

But what I did not know, until today, was that there is an answer song from “Princess Buster”—listen below as the cocky street tough of the earlier song gets kicked to the curb by his better half:

Via So Many Records, So Little Time


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment