TROJAN UK HITS BOX SET (TJETD010) - During the second half of the twentieth century, the music of black America reached a point of near ubiquity and became an integral and accepted part of the soundtrack to the era, yet it's difficult to understand why the music of Jamaica has never achieved that same level of prominence. It's influence and attitude, both directly and indirectly, have been all pervasive in every area of popular music yet it's role is consistently ignored and under-rated and Reggae music still remains largely unacknowledged.

This set represents only a fraction of the tip of a very large iceberg and, in the strictest terms of the music's historical development, the selection might appear to be almost arbitrary, and at times perhaps wilfully haphazard but it was the record buying public alone that made these records hits. Starting in 1965 with the Skatelites' interpretation of the theme music from the blockbusting film "Guns Of Navarone" which for many was their first taste of the real authentic sound of Jamaica due to it's championing by London's mod audience and probably also one of the first records to be termed a "club hit". On through years of musical developement to finish off with Dennis Brown's 1979 pop hit "Money In My Pocket", superficially a light-hearted love song, but dig a little deeper and it can just as easily be seen as a cry from the heart of the dispossessed poor.

All the records here have achieved various degrees of crossover success, initially in the UK, and all of them will be well known and perhaps over familiar to even the most casual and disinterested listener of popular music. As such it's a near perfect collection of Jamaican music  that is well known and well loved by audiences outside of Jamaica, and while it is perfectly capable of standing on it's own merits, ideally it should be used as a starting place for a thorough investigation into the heart of Jamaican music. With the obvious exceptions of a couple of cases of classic one hit wonders (who never recorded again and on whom little more is known) every artist and producer featured here is more than worthy of further investigation. It showcases all the styles and fashions in Reggae beginning from the period that Jamaican music was first heard worldwide and to Bob Marley's global superstardom.

It's a truism that no-one really knows how to make a hit record because if this was the case then everyone would be doing it, or perhaps already have done it enough times to comfortably retire for the rest of their lives, and yet everyone goes into the recording studio convinced that they're working on the next big thing. The majority of the records here were made originally with the specific intention of pleasing only the Jamaican sound system audience and would have already built up a solid and committed following through repeated sound system play and subsequent prolonged exposure in the UK discotheques and youth clubs before they ever even approached the lower reaches of the National Charts. Quite what that certain something was that they so obviously had is as difficult to pin down now as it was at the time. Some of them were never actually hits in Jamaica and many of the people involved are far better known in the Reggae world for their other work. In the later stages records were put together in the UK on the back of this crossover success and were designed specifically for the newly found market whose attention span was notoriously brief and proved, as ever, to be both nebulous and short lived. But can anyone now spot the difference?

A select few were hits due to radio exposure and John Peel's championing of Althea & Donna's "Uptown Top Ranking" is a prime example. To those in the Reggae know it was a timely and witty answer version to Trinity's massive Jamaican hit "Three Piece Suit" (itself a version of Marcia Aitken's version to Alton Ellis' "I'm Still In Love With You") where it only ever made any sense if you understood it's allusions to the previous recordings. And yes, genealogy is totally irrelevant and proved to be totally unnecessary too as the record soared straight to Number One! But the BBC's refusal to play Max Romeo's "Wet Dream" (which Maxie himself had originally refused to sing) or even say it's proper name on the Sunday afternoon top twenty show announcing it only as "a record by Max Romeo" no doubt only added to it's illicit attraction and appeal. Do we really want to get caught up in the old "do people like what they hear or do people hear what they like on the radio" argument though?

Some strange anomalies are brought to light however. Any student of Jamaican deejay music will know that the history of Jamaican deejats is bound up with U-Roy, I-Roy, Dennis AlCapone and Big Youth - the progenitors of rap - yet the magnificent and criminally under-rated Dave Barker (of Dave & Ansel Collins) was the only pioneering deejay to ever have a hit record outside the Reggae charts with "Double Barrel" although Winston Scotland did come close. And now everyone knows about dub and Lee "Scratch" Perry, King Tubbys, Prince Jammys and Scientist but veteran Rupie Edwards was the only producer to ever enjoy a hit record with his dubbed up and echoed to oblivion deconstruction of Johnny Clarke's "Everyday Wandering" with Rupie himself sliding in and out of the mix throughout impersonating musical instruments.

So this set can be seen as a near perfect example of all the contradictions implicit in the history of Jamaican music but far too much time has already been spent analysing what the music actually means and identifying all of it's sociological and political ramifications in a long series of books, articles and radio talk (as opposed to music) shows searching for patterns and an underlying philosophy where probably none exists. Unfortunately the opposite is also true where deep and meaningful songs are seen as nothing more than mere novelty items. Desmond Dekker & The Ace's wonderful "Israelites", an incisive  and sustained social comment on the plight of the Jamaican underclass, placed their suffering in the context of the wandering, displaced Tribes of Israel in the Old Testament and their oppressors as Jamaica's land-owning elite, yet ever since it's original release n 1968 it has been an object of contempt and ridicule usually focusing on Desmond's allegedly impenetrable patois. But it still reached Number One in both the UK! As for Desmond's obeah inspired Reggae hit "It Mek" (which became his follow up crossover hit) it's unlikely that very few of his newly found audience had even the beginning of a clue about what that was all about. People bought into the sound of the music and as such it is very surprising that there were not more instrumental crossover hot records.

An individual examination of each record could provide further revealing anecdotes: How did "Return Of Django" become a hit despite the fact that the series of Django films that inspired it had never been screened in the UK? Why did the requiem for a dead race horce, "Long Shot Kick De Bucket", make it when the Pioneers original tribute "Long Shot" failed to chart? Was it true that Bob Dylan described "Vietnam" as the best protest record he had ever heard? The Melodians' 1970 version of "Rivers Of Babylon" might sound familiar but that's probably because of the Boney M version that made the National Charts some years later and who could genuinely say that they really knew Bob Marley's ethereal "Sun Is Shining" before the recent Ibiza remix? And why did the BBC never playlist Rupie's "Ire Feelings"? But stop reading now and just listen to this extraordinarily well-stocked introduction to the vast scope and range of Jamaican music and what at first might seem like a random selection is in fact a microcosm  of the very arbitrariness of the history of Reggae where everything (including the kitchen sink) has been included in the mix over the years.

So start here, but whatever you do don't stop, because once you've shown this amount of interest then there's no going back...

Harry Hawke




Guns Of Navarone
The Skatelites
I'm In The Mood For Ska
Lord Tanamo
007 (Shanty Town)
Desmond Dekker & The Aces
Rudy, A Message To You
Dandy Livingstone
Train To Skaville
The Ethiopians
Desmond Dekker & The Aces
Return Of Django
The Upsetters
Wet Dream
Max Romeo
Dollar In The Teeth
The Upsetters
It Mek
Desmond Dekker & The Aces
Red Red Wine
Tony Tribe
Many Rivers To Cross
Jimmy Cliff
Long Shot Kick De Bucket
The Pioneers
The Harry J. All Stars
Pickney Girl
Desmond Dekker & The Aces
Sweet Sensations
The Melodians
Monkey Man
The Maytals

Wonderful World Beautiful People
Jimmy Cliff
Skinhead Moonstomp
Jimmy Cliff
Sun Is Shining
Bob Marley & The Wailers
Rivers Of Babylon
The Melodians
Young, Gifted & Black
Bob & Marcia
You Can Get It If You Really Want
Desmond Dekker
Double Barrel
Dave & Ansel Collins
Love Of The Common People
Nicky Thomas
Montego Bay
Freddie Notes And The Rudies
Black Pearl
Horace Faith
Snoopy Versus The Red Baron
The Hot Shots
Black And White
Let Your Yeah Be Yeah
The Pioneers
Monkey Spanner
Dave & Ansel Collins
Bruce Ruffin

Pied Piper
Bob & Marcia
Give And Take
The Pioneers
Big Six
Judge Dread
I Am What I Am
Big Seven
Judge Dread
Suzanne Beware Of The Devil
Dandy Livingstone
Moon River
Big Eight
Judge Dread
Big City
Dandy Livingstone
Help Me Make It Through The Night
John Holt
Crying Over You
Ken Boothe
Ram Goat Liver
Pluto Shervington
Everything I Own
Ken Boothe
Ire Feelings
Rupie Edwards
Hurt So Good
Susan Cadogan
Uptown Top Ranking
Althia & Donna
Money In My Pocket
Dennis Brown

Time - 47:43

Time - 46:47

Time - 54:09

All material Copyright Trojan Records