TROJAN RUDE BOY BOX SET (TJETD055) - Too often dismissed as mere hooliganism, the social ramifications, implications and the attendant repercussions of Jamaica's Rude Boy phenomenon reached far outside the confines of the ghettos of Western Kingston to echo throughout Jamaican society. The antihero Rude Boys were freedom fighters in that harshest of arenas - the ghettos of Western Kingston - but contemporary documentation of their exploits is virtually non existent and is almost entirely confined to records made during the era and photographs from a handful of contemporary LP record sleeves with the young stars parading and showing off their Rude Boy finery. It is almost as if a soundtrack exists without the film to accompany it and, as plentiful and as insightful as the music is, one can't help but feel that even at the height of Rude Boy behaviour no one, apart from the music fraternity, was willing to admit to their existence.

Almost every major (and many not so major) artists recorded Rude Boy songs. Many, such as Alton Ellis, whose stance was unwavering and unequivocal, sang in outright condemnation of the cult, whereas the Wailers were so outspoken in their glorification of the Rude Boys that their debut LP for Studio One also named them as The Wailing Rude Boys. Their first hit 'Simmer Down' was reworked over a decade after its initial release by Johnny Clarke and it is his updated version that you hear on this collection. However the majority of the records took a rather more ambivalent stance that usually somehow managed to both praise the 'Rudies' behaviour while simultaneously condemning their lawlessness and warning them all of the inevitable retribution to come.

The massive migration of young men from the countryside to the city in the early sixties proved to be a major factor in the rise of this tide of lawlessness. A large proportion of these rural hopefuls failed to find work and they soon realised that there was no hope of employment either in Kingston's overcrowded ghettos, and as Lee Perry stated in his 1964 courtroom opus, 'Set Them Free', 'A hungry man is an angry man'. Independence had seemed to throw of the yoke of Colonialism only to see it replaced with the shackles of a cultural imperialism based on consumerism and very little real change was felt in the deprived ghetto areas. At the start of the ska era music had been the dominant driving factor and although some of the early ska recordings occasionally alluded to the Rude Boys, the space that the slower and less frantic rocksteady gave to vocalists allowed them to voice the discontent that was simmering in the ghettos. Previously music itself had been sufficient to communicate solidarity and togetherness, but now language became a particularly effective means of defying the forces off oppression and of objectifying the seething discontent. The lyrics could now carry this message of disaffection fuelled by a smouldering resentment towards both the status quo and the ruling elite that could only be fully articulated through the medium of music. The Rudies were harbingers of a dramatic change in the social order and the fabric of Jamaican society and these Rude Boy records can be seen as a barometer of that social change.

Accused of causing trouble simply for the sake of it, to many the Rude Boys were heroes on a level with the mythical cowboy and gangster figures who blasted their way through the films that they loved and viewed in a near participatory manner. The glamour of an outlaw existence was glorified in films that became almost like rule books for Rude Boy behaviour and the 'spaghetti westerns' of Sergio Leone and lesser known Italian directors, with their recurrent themes of vengeful violence coupled with studied detachment, exercised so great an influence that many subsequently adopted the names of their favourite characters and actors from the silver screen. James Bond was seen as the ultimate archetypal Rude Boy and '007 (Shanty Town)', a litany of all things Rude from Desmond Dekker & The Aces, carried the cult to the rest of the world in a crossover smash hit in 1967 that is probably the most enduring record of the genre. But most of these real life legends of the Kingston ghettos are almost invariably real dead and have now assumed the mythical and legendary status of the celluloid heroes that they aspired to emulate. Their refusal to become victims of their deprived social status meant that instead they became victims of another kind.

The fact that there is such an incredible abundance of Rude Boy records serves to demonstrate the ubiquity of the cult and of just how much it touched upon all levels of Jamaican society and it is of paramount importance to never lose sight of the fact that there was always much, much more to the Rude Boys.

'With increasing urgency, these gangs are gaining some sense of purpose other than self-interest... as noted before, Rudie is aware of a wider role [that] transcends gang and neighbourhood boundaries and arises because Rudie is acutely aware of the suffering of people of his own class and because he is convinced that this oppression stems from the other 'have' society'.
Garth White

And as time progressed and their situation signally failed to improve, so their disenchantments with the system began to change, from sporadic acts of personal vindictiveness towards a more meaningful type of aggression. They began to see that perhaps there could be a point to their disruptive behaviour and that there was a real possibility of working towards the eventual overthrow of a system that denied them all that they felt was rightfully theirs:

'...the point of violence. The only restraining factor may be the lack of comprehensive organisation... Rude Boy is that person, who is totally disenchanted with the ruling system... and the hatred is pointed... to all that class of persons who occupy the middle rung of society'.
Garth White

How ironic that it would not be long before the plethora of Rude Boy records and the standing that they gave to the Rudies was initially envied and then emulated by the very class is despised.

'The number of Rudie tunes on the airwaves reflects the increased status accorded Rudies by this other Afro-Jamaican society. Here it must be admitted that radio requests are often from middle class youths who have to some extent acquired, or are acquiring the symbols of Rudie culture... such as shoes, hats, music, stripped bycicles etc. It can lead to a near total rejection of middle class standards and values'.
Garth White

For once it was not the music business that had jumped on board the bandwagon for, as almost the sole chroniclers of the whole phenomenon, the musicians' role had been pivotal in popularising Rude Boy behaviour.

'Ska is one of the means of expression of the 'lower class'. It is a propagandistic music and with increasing force it has acquired the role of commentator on the society. It now is reflecting the increased militancy of the class it represents'.
Garth White

The Rude Boys had pointed the way forward through their extremes of behaviour (remember that yesterday's terrorist rapidly becomes looked upon as today's freedom fighter) and their militancy was to form the core of Jamaican musical attitude from now on in. It was a rebel music that fought against oppression on all levels, physical and metaphorical, and this would become the defining characteristic of reggae music. Without the input, impetus and influence of the Rude Boys it could never have happened.

'Rougher than rough
Tougher than tough
Strong like lion
We are iron
Rudies don't fear'

'Tougher Than tough' - Derrick Morgan

Harry Hawke

Reggae, Rastas & Rudies - Dick Hebdige - Resistance Through Rituals - Hutchinson University Library 1976
Rudie, Oh Rudie - Garth White - Caribbean Quarterly - September 1967 - (Reprinted in Pressure Drop - The Worlds Reggae Read - Compendium Books 1975)
Rudies All Round - Rude Boy Records 1966/1967 - Various Artists - Trojan CDTRL 322
The Rough Guide To Reggae - Steve Barrow & Peter Dalton - Rough Guides 1997




Guns Fever
Baba Brooks & His Band
Dance Crasher
Alton Ellis & The Flames
Rude Boy Gone A Jail
Desmond Baker & The Clarendonians
The Preacher
Alton Ellis & The Flames
Gunmen Coming To Town
The Heptones
Count Lasher with Lyn Taitt & The Baba Brooks Band
Blessings Of Love
Alton Ellis & The Flames
Donít Be A Rude Boy
The Rulers
Soldiers Take Over
The Rio Grandes
0.0.7 (Shanty Town)
Desmond Dekker & The Aces
Denham Town
Winston & George
No Good Rudie
Justin Hinds & The Dominoes
Rudie Gets Plenty
The Spainishtonians
Guns Town
Clancy Eccles
Rudie Bam Bam
The Clarendonians
Drop The Ratchet
Stranger Cole & The Conquerors
The Rulers

Cry Tough
Alton Ellis & The Flames
Rudy Got Soul
Desmond Dekker & The Aces
Stop Them
Hazel & The Jolly Boys with The Fugitives
Rude Boy Confession
Romeo & The Emotions
Cool Off Rudies
Derrick Morgan
What Can I Do
The Tartans
No More Trouble
Lloyd Robinson
Rude Boy Train
Desmond Dekker & The Aces
Beware Of Rude Boys
Henry Buckley
Rudies All Around
Joe White
The Overtakers
Rudies Are The Greatest
The Pioneers
Why Oh Why
The Black Brothers
Bad Man
Joe White
Guns Fever (Blam Blam Fever)
The Valentines
Rudy A Message To You
Dandy Livingstone

Tougher Than Tough (Rudie In Court)
Derrick Morgan
Set Them Free
Lee Perry & The Sensations
Donít Blame The Children
Lee Perry & The Sensations
Court Dismiss
Derrick Morgan
Dreader Then Dread
Honeyboy Martin & The Voices
Judge Dread In Court
Derrick Morgan
Some Of Them A Bawl (aka Having A Bawl)
The Pioneers
Stop The Violence
The Valentines
Bobby Aitken & The Caribbeats
Ratchet Knife
Amiel Moodie & The Dandemites
Johnny Too Bad
The Slickers
Johnny Gunman
Jackie Edwards
Rudieís Medley
Peter Tosh & The Soulmates
You Canít Win
The Slickers
Cool Down
The Untouchables
Hooligan Change Your Style (aka Donít Fight Your Brothers)
John Holt
Simmer Down
Johnny Clarke

Time - 43:41

Time - 40:05

Time - 50:12

All material © Copyright Trojan Records