TROJAN SUEDEHEAD BOX SET (TJETD169) - The Suedehead is something of a mythical beast. Many say they saw the fashion paraded around town, but few actually admit to passing through Suedehead as they moved from Skinhead to Smoothie. Old Mods recall Suedeheads as far back as 1968, while young (or not so young now) Skins state it was a passing trend around 1971 - 1973. But then was the 1973 Suedehead really a Smoothie in disguise? It all seems to boil down to what fashion your particular group followed and quite markedly where you lived. And indeed, what you deemed to call your particular look.

London and the South seemed to move quickest into longer hair and Doctor Martens shoes, while further up the country the old boots 'n' braces still graced the trendsetters body. The Harrington wearing Smoothie zipped into being so quickly in some places that the Skinhead's hair didn't have time to register that it had passed through Suedehead on the way to being the latest fashion icon. So how did you ID a Suedehead from the crowd?

Obviously the length of hair, which was some half-inch long in comparison to the Skin's tight crop, but the real give-away, was the clothing and footwear. Like the Smoothies that followed, smart shoes were essential, some places favoured Doctor Martens 3 hole lace-ups - preferably not in black as Mr Plod liked those along with black DM boots - Sta-Prest looked good, pulled short with bright socks (solid colours only - no patterns), a crisp Brutus button-down and topped off with a coloured Harrington in red, blue or green. But then 10 miles away, it was dogtooth check Harringtons and heavy Squires tassled loafers. Every town had its own look, and listened intently to its own musical sounds. A big record in one club would be turfed-off the turntable just a few miles up the road, and as with the Skinheads previously, each group or gang had its own favoured brands and identity.

As Suede moved to Smooth, Reggae music had become decidedly unfashionable and Bowie and Bolan took the place of Perry and his Upsetter gang. Spikey Ziggy Stardust cuts graced the head while garish multi-patterned 'Rupert' trousers flapped around the legs. The 'Rupert' was derived from the cheerful little scarf-wearing bear whose newspaper strip antics had enthralled kids for generations, and wore such frightening trousers that they would even be laughed off a golf course today.

The so-called 'Skinhead Reggae' had all but disappeared by the end of 1971, although of course, like every emerging style of Jamaican music the crossover period was lengthy. The new Reggae sound emerging from London was bright, breezy and lacquered with strings, with much hope put upon it to claim the chart placings of the Skinhead era. But it was failing as Glam rocked in, and as the clubs and discos pledged allegiance to the new sounds, so the Suedes and Smoothies started buying them. They didn't go too much for the happy Reggae sounds of London and as for the new stuff winging over from Kingston, well, you couldn't dance to that new slower beat and what on earth were they going on about with all this 'Jah' and 'Rasta' stuff?

So in all honesty, by the time of the Suedehead and Smoothie, Reggae music itself had alienated many of its white audience by evolving beyond jumpy rhythmic dance music into an outspoken commentary on the very rough times live by the majority of the artists. The DJ revolution was underway with U Roy taking the lead, and that did win of friends with Skins and ex-Skins as they grabbed Dennis Alcapone and Scotty, but as the new breed of rapper, like I Roy and Big Youth moved in, with their message of Red Gold and Green and sufferation, interest waned with the not so shaven headed masses.

A flick in a Suedehead's record box in 1971 will find social protest almost outnumbering the jolly 'Double Barrel' and 'Cherry Oh Baby' tracks. 'Blood & Fire', 'Rivers of Babylon' and 'Better Must Come' all shouted out for recognition for the sufferah in the ghetto, and the hope of a brighter world with the new dawn. The pop charts didn't like it and the Skin-Suedes couldn't understand it, or shuffle their feet too much in time to it, so the sounds moved back underground.

By 1972 the division was wide with Reggae lovers buying the now underground sounds like the Heptones' tough 'Meaning Of Life' or the Sir Harry's snappy DJ cut of the Abyssinians 'Declaration Of Rights', entitled 'Musical Right'. A very young Dennis Brown was already forging a reputation for quality compositions such as his succinct 'What About The Half', or taking age-old love songs to new horizons such as the Rays 'Silhouettes', which is included here.

The clubs that still played Reggae after the Skinhead boom swung from the very popular DJ work like Shorty's rocking 'President Mash Up The Resident' and Cat and Nicky's 'Hammering', through the still-mad instrumentals of Lee Perry to the new sweet sounds that would evolve into Lovers Rock by the middle of the decade.

Although JA-recorded, 'La La At The End' from Noel Brown of The Chosen Few showed the future for many London performers with a sweet soul tune skilfully given a sympathetic Reggae work-over. It was to be Roots or Lovers by the middle of the decade for the UK arm of the music and many performers rose in those times. Brittle voiced teenage girls like Louisa Marks and Janet Kay were soon joined by mellow males such as Peter Hunningale and Vivian Jones to recount the pain of love and loss as Lovers Rock took hold of plenty of dances.

But this was all happening behind the back of the now freaked-out, bunny collared Smoothie with his wide thick leather shoes (known in some parts as 'Kipper shoes' so bulbous were the front half). The soles and heals of these clomping heavyweights increased in thickness until they arrived at the high-healed, ankle-cracking 'Stacks' so beloved by Gary Glitter and his face-painted cronies.

By this time, as far as the now transformed Smoothie to moustache wearing-floppy haired 1970's man was concerned, Reggae was gone, although the pop-pickers still dallied with the Reggae beat, while labels still tried hard to gain interest in their wares. Some made it through the pop minefield, but lack of distribution, promotion and most of all, airplay put pay to many a hopeful, and indeed worthy, record.

A few did crack the market, such as Bruce Ruffin's jolly 'Mad About You', although the song had been drastically altered post Bruce's original vocal, with studio trickery and added voices. Others went for the Soul to Reggae option, and Pat Rhoden's 'Boogie On Reggae woman' was a big hopeful for Trojan, retailing plenty of copies - not as many as Stevie's original though, as it failed to gain a chart placing.

So to present a collection of records grouped as The Suedehead Box Set in reality shows the dive of the new Reggae back underground, and the still-happy chart hopefuls that were issued in the desperate hope of re-enlightening the masses to the beat. While in between sat the clubs and nightspots trying to please the hardcore Reggae-man and the new Smoothie Glam-boys.

To many ex-Skin-Suede-Smoothies driven by style, as Reggae became 'out', it was in the bin with the old records to make room for the next big thing. But to others, a love of that single Skinhead period of Reggae instilled itself - the soundtrack to their misspent youth would always be within them, but Rock horizons beckoned, as did soon-to-be wives and blossoming families.

The new Reggae painted Red, Gold and Green horizons, along with the fearsome insistence to listen to the reality in its lyrics. It spoke of many things and became the lynchpin of the oppressed the world over, offering a ray of hope in trying times.

The Skins and Suedes may have ditched it, but it was on the way to becoming the most potent force of music on this angry and befuddled planet we live on.

Michael de Koningh




Meaning Of Life
The Heptones
Lionís Den
Weather Report
The Tennors
Tesfa Mcdonald
Chairman Of The Board
Bongo Herman & Les & Bunny
Jungle Lion
Lee Perry & The Upsetters
Dennis Brown
Donít Try To Use Me
Horace Andy
Boat To Progress
Richard & Glen
Whatís Going On
Pat Satchmo
Weary Version 3
Glen Adams
Sunshine Showdown
The Upsetters
My Confession
Cornell Campbell
Play It Cool (Aka Rock On Time)
Alton Ellis
Black Ipa
Lee Perry & The Upsetters
Musical Right
Sir Harry
The Crystalites

Hammering Version
Nicky & Cat Campbell
J.J. All Stars
President Mash Up The Resident
Shorty The President
Bucky Skank
The Upsetters
Back A Yard
The Vulcans
Forman Versus Frasier
Big Youth
I Roy
Here Come The Heartaches
Delroy Wilson
La La At The End
Norman Brown & The Chosen Few
Hot Line
Dave Barker
Take Time Out
The Three Tops
Dock Of The Bay
Big Youth
The Reggae Strings
High School Serenade
Lennox Brown
Musical Liquidator
Dennis Alcapone
Space Flight
I Roy
Chenley Duffus

Mad About You
Bruce Ruffin
At The Club
Sidney George & Jackie
Sing A Little Song
Desmond Dekker
Reggae From The Ghetto
John Holt
Living For The City
Pat Rhoden
The Deltones
People Make The World Go Round
Errol Brown & The Chosen Few
Louie Louie
Toots & The Maytals
I Am What I Am
Nose For Trouble
Winston Groovy
Lottery Spin
Zap Pow
Karate (Aka I The Third)
Dave & Ansel Collins
Emergency Call
Judy Mowatt
Boogie On Reggae Woman
Pat Rhoden
Geoffrey Chung & The Harry J All Stars
Snake In The Grass
Jimmy Shondell

Time - 54:16

Time - 52:31

Time - 52:22

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