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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
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 | Leave a comment
David Rodigan: reggae’s unlikely veteran soldier

It was all over for British pre-teen David Rodigan in 1962 when he saw ska crooner Millie Smalls sing the Cadillacs’ classic “My Boy Lollipop” on Ready, Steady, Go! He was in complete and utter love with Jamaican music and would collect and spin as many great reggae records as he could in a lifetime.

Over the next 48 years, Rodigan went from DJing school dances to legendary show slots on Radio London, Capital Radio, and Kiss FM, humbly championing reggae throughout the UK and getting royal respect with every visit to Jamaica. Most famously, he’s made his name as a champion in reggae sound clashes. His dapper fashion sense, professional demeanor, and historian’s aura at clashes* worldwide have made him known variously to reggae fans as “the rude gentlemen,” “the James Bond of sound,” or simply “Fadda” (father).

Below you’ll find Rodi in action at the UK Cup sound clash a couple of years ago, playing the role of selector as his assistant operators play the actual dubplates. His mastery at hyping tunes is evident…but first, for the uninitiated…

A primer on sound clash:

In the reggae world, sound clashes are events in which two to five “sound systems” or “sounds” (DJ teams) battle each other by playing tunes that garner the most audience approval.
Audiences respond best to dubplate specials—popular tunes commissioned by a sound and custom re-recorded by the original singer so that he or she can name and praise that sound. These one-of-a-kind tunes can be expensive, so the more dubplates that any sound can play at a clash, the more dedicated they’re perceived to be, and the more crowd response they get.
In regular reggae dances, when a regular record gets enough crowd roar, the DJ stops and rewinds the record, lifts the needle, and plays it again. In a clash, a dubplate gets a rewind and then usually it’s on to the next tune at a frenzied pace.

After the jump: unearthed new footage of Rodigan spinning a hectic dance in 1985 at legendary producer/sound man King Jammy’s yard on St. Lucia Road in the Waterhouse district of Kingston, Jamaica…

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
Documentary on DJ Derek, reggae’s oldest living selector

The original DJ Derek, a badman
Thanks to the great Mixmaster Morris for the heads up on this. For many years, white DJs have played a key role in popularizing black music in the US and Britain. In the British reggae scene, alongside pioneers in the sound system game like Jah Shaka, Jah Observer, Channel One, and others, paler-skinned music fanatics like the legendary David Rodigan have been working respectfully to promote the music became a worldwide phenomenon.

Just before Rodigan, however, a guy called Derek Morris from out of Bristol started his 50-year love affair with American R&B and Jamaican music, becoming an obsessed record collector. Here’s video director Jamie Foord’s excellent short vid documentary of the extremely charming and gruff-voiced DJ Derek—still spinning reggae, chatting patois on the mic, and rolling around England on the bus.

DJ Derek pt. 1 from Grand Finale on Vimeo.

After the jump: part 2 of the DJ Derek story…

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
The Equals: British Multiracial Soul

Before he went off to make a mint singing about the main market street in Brixton, Guyanese-born London resident Eddy Grant put together the Equals, one of England’s most stomping multi-racial soul-rock bands.

Before the Equals scored their first hit in the UK with “Baby Come Back,” it went #1 in Germany, from which the first clip below originates, featuring a rather bossy 19-year-old Grant. It would take Top of the Pops a full year until they booked the Equals to perform the same tune. Oh yeah, they tossed over the song in clip #2 to a bunch of punks a few years after they recorded it in ’69.

Original North London skinhead psychedelia!



Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment