“Uptown Top Ranking” is an infectious hit single that knocked Wings’ Christmas blockbuster “Mull of Kintyre” off the #1 spot on the British pop charts in February of 1978. Although it only reached that peak for a single week after climbing the charts for months, the playful and whimsical rap, performed by teenaged Althea Forrest and Donna Reid, or Althea and Donna as the duo were known, is still fondly remembered. I’m surprised it hasn’t been used in a car commercial. Perhaps it already has been?
The number was produced by reggae great Joe Gibbs, apparently for fun. Perhaps it was intended to be a novelty record of sorts, as it was a female “answer” song aimed as a comeback to Trinity’s hit “Three Piece Suit and Thing.” Both tunes utilized the riddim from a soulful and romantic Alton Ellis song from 1967 titled “I’m Still In Love with You.” It was popularized in the UK by BBC DJ John Peel.
Forrest and Reid, were just 17 and 18 years old, respectively, when their unmemorable album was recorded and frankly they probably had just the one good song in them. But hey, what an amazing song it was! Their brief Wikipedia entry doesn’t really say what happened to Althea and Donna after their brief brush with pop fame.
They were named-checked in the lyrics of the Psychedelic Furs song “We Love You” in 1980:
I’m in love with Althea and Donna and
all that shit that goes uptown top ranking
“Uptown Top Ranking” performed on ‘Top of the Pops’:
The Trinity song “Three Piece Suit and Thing,” also produced by Joe Gibbs (and sometimes credited to Dillinger):
And then there was Trinity’s answer song to Althea and Donna’s answer song, “Slim Thing”: