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Studio One Rude Boy (SJRCD 148 - 2006)

Jackie Opel - You Two Bad
Johnny Osbourne - Murderer
John Holt - Change Your Style/Hooligan
Keith McCarthy - Everybody Rude Now
Owen Gray - Ballistic Affair
Roy Richards - Get Smart
Dillinger - Stop The War
Jim Brown - Love In The Dance
Desmond Baker & The Clarendonians - Rude Boy Gone A Jail
The Wailers - Good Good Rudie
Dennis Brown - Make It Easy On Yourself
Wailing Souls - Don't Fight It
Dub Specialist - Peace Theme
Mr Foundation - See Them A Come
Dudley Sibley - Run Boy Run
Dennis Brown - Johnny Too Bad
Bob Andy - Crime Don't Pay
Soul Brothers - Mr Kiss A Bang Bang
 
The original Rude Boy gangster, Ivanhoe 'Rhygin' Martin died in a shootout with police on September 9, 1948, in Lime Cay, Jamaica. Rhygin is the inspiration for the hero of the film 'The Harder They Come', the story of a naive young man from the Jamaican countryside who comes to Kingston hoping to break through as a singer, but finds crime and politics hand in hand with music in the city.

Rude Boy culture is inextricable from reggae music and the evolution of dancehall culture in Jamaica. From the late 1950s through to the end of the 1960s Clement Dodd's Downbeat sound system ruled Kingston, regularly defeating rivals such as Duke Reid at sound-clashes. The mostly-friendly musical contest would sometimes become a little heated as unscrupulous promoters sometimes employed small gangs to 'crash' (or upset) other dances by starting fights cutting cables and otherwise causing a nuisance. An ex-policeman, Reid had direct links with the criminals of West Kingston and the Charles Street Spanglers gang became associated with the promoter's Trojan sound system. Another gang, Salt City - later re-named Phoenix City - provided the Skatalites with the titles of one of their best known tunes.

Rude Boys first appeared on records in 1963/4. A couple of years after the rush of independence, these mainly unemployed, disaffected youths became 'gangsters' with a sartorial elegance that has not been matched since. Coming from the poorest areas of West Kingston - like so many of the musicians - rude boys were into clothes, money, violence, drugs and music. They carried German ratchet knives, machetes and sometimes guns. They also dressed sharp - in 3-button tonic suites and trilby hats. This style reflected the image of gangsters in popular Hollywood B-movies shown in Kingston at the time and was in sharp contrast to their dilapidated surroundings. For the dance promoters, Rude Boys were generally trouble. Rude Boys came to mash-up the dance. Promoters often responded by making the same youths 'security' to protect themselves as well as to mess up other promoter's dances - and with this reggae entered a new age from which it has never fully emerged. Rude Boys were the original Dance Crashers. Rude Boy culture, gun culture, drug culture has always been bound up with music in Jamaica. Dennis Alcapone explains this as, "Bad man in Jamaica like the best of everything - best clothes, best music".

The Wailers had been one of the very first groups to talk about rude boys on record. With their first hit for Studio One in 1963, 'Simmer Down', the group began a dialogue with Rude Boys with a much closer understanding of rudies than most: The Wailers, like the rudies, were teenagers from West Kingston. The image of the group of the front cover of this album mirrors both the attire of their American musical heroes, The Impressions, as well as the sharp-dressing rude boys - right down to Peter tosh's dark glasses. The Wailers, like the other young groups at Studio One, were describing life in West Kingston, which was of course the key to their success. Mixed up in the violence and negativity of rudies were more complex issues of identity and affirmation - as with the Black Panthers the embodiment of youth culture and style ran alongside the militant endorsement of anti-establishment individualism, anti-colonialism, and anti-authoritarianism, anti-whatever. As well as being gangsters, rude boys were also oppressed, the outsider, the rebel. (Of course The Wailers were to put forward these ideas throughout their careers, with Peter 'Stepping Razor' Tosh perhaps the 'rudest' of them).

Some of the rude-boy values had already been espoused by the Rastafarian faith. Rastas also chose to live 'outside' society. Ever since the 1930s, when Leonard Howell set up the Pinnacle camp, housing over 1000 rastafarians in the countryside, this new faith had been at odds with mainstream Jamaican society. Whilst remaining a peaceful faith, Rastafarianism preached radical views. It was anti-colonial, anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian, with elements of Marcus Garvey's Black Nationalism and spiritualism. By the end of the 1960s Rastafarian-inspired roots reggae music was on its way to becoming the original rebel music, dominating the next decade of Jamaican music. The musical messiah of this rebel sound in the 1970s was Bob Marley, the same teenager in The Wailers who had indentified elements of righteousness in rude boys in the early 1960s.

As themes within rude boys life we must add to music and violence a third ingredient - politics.

The nationalist movement in Jamaica began in the late 1930s. Two cousins, Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamente, became the dominant forces in Jamaican politics. In 1938 Manley formed the People's National Party. Four years later Bustamente formed a new trade union, the Bustamente International Trade Union, and subsequently a new political party, the Jamaican Labour Party. after losing the 1944 elections to Bustamente, Manley in turn formed his own trades union, the Trades Union Council, in order to compete for workers' support.

Highly charismatic, these leaders inspired great passion with their retrospective supporters. Although Manley was a socialist and Bustamente avowedly more of a 'pragmatist', the parties held many similar values, and allegiance was often based on preference for the personality of the individual leader - both of whom employed violent rhetoric at times. Supporters were passionate and political rallies often led to confrontation.

In the years following independence a lack of economic rejuvenation brought with it growing despondency among the masses and increased tension between JLP and PNP supporters.

In 1966, as new elections approached, Edward Seaga (ex-music producer, then current minister for housing and development for the ruling PNP, and future Prime Minister) ordered the 'clearing' of the slum/squatter area known as Back-O-Wall in his own parliamentary district in West Kingston, in order to make way for a new housing scheme, Tivoli Gardens. Violence erupted as residents refused to leave and Seaga decided to call upon local gang members to act as 'enforcers'. Residency of Tivoli Gardens was then given to JLP voters thus securing Seaga's re-election in the upcoming elections. Rarely had gerrymandering been so ruthless and with this one move politicians had legitimised the gangs. Soon every district of Kingston was divided into either JLP or PNP supporters, controlled by a local gang who gave their affiliation. Graffiti along the lines of "You are now entering a PNP zone" remains the norm in Kingston.

The optimism of emancipation was long gone by the time The Ethiopians sang 'Everything Crash', describing the strikes, gang warfare and state of emergency that followed Tivoli Gardens.

The rivalry between the various politically aligned gangs was also fuelled from outside. By the time of the 1967 elections the CIA - worried that Manley's socialist views would encourage another Cuba - was supplying Bustamente supporters with guns; Manley, in turn, had asked for help from Russia and Cuba. Henchmen became as much a part of political life as the ballot paper.

Add to all this the burgeoning drug trade that was beginning in Kingston and you have a snapshot of the major problems still facing Jamaica today.

Politicians continued to co-opt both musicians and criminals into their world. When the PNP was re-elected in 1972, Delroy Wilson's 'Better Must Come' was it's anthem. Manley courted the Rastas, saying he had been given Joshua's Rod of Correction during a stay with Haile Selassie in Ethiopia.

At the end of 1976 the Wailers appeared at the newly-elected Manley's Smile Jamaica concert, in defiance of the attempted assassination of Marley - first chronicler of the rude boys - the day before. two years later political violence was so fierce that opposing gang leaders asked Bob Marley to appear at a rally on stage with the two rival leaders - Manley and Seaga - in order to quell tension; the Peace concert held at Kingston's National Stadium on 22nd April 1978.

The tracks on this album are all in a way contributions - over the decades - to the rude boy debate. disapproval ranges in tone from Jackie Opel's blistering anger and disgust, through the sternly paternal concern of Bob Andy's reasoning, to the brother-to-brother advice offered by Dennis Brown. Several cuts celebrate the verve of rude boy style - though Dudly Sibley for one has no time for the kind of bad boy posturing he sees in Mr Foundation (aka Zoot Simms): "when the cops and soldier come we gonna see if you nah run... run, rude boy run". A few see the campaign against the Rudies as a strategy to hold back the youth. The police no better than thieves. several just want social living and peace. And whilst Owen Gray's 'Ballistic Affair' and Jim Brown's 'Love In The Dance' are musically and chronologically  a long way from Desmond Baker's 'Rude Boy Gone To Jail', the same commentaries on tribal warfare and global and local politics prevail - both a sad observation of the continuing troubles within Jamaican society and a positive reflection of the beauty of Jamaican music to constantly update itself.

 
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