Sunday, February 19, 2012

Vinyl Obscurities 10 - Ska Classics

Growing up in South London in the sixties I was exposed to Jamaican music and came to love ska, rock steady and early reggae. As a teenager I would often go to Brixton and sometimes landed up in West Indian blues clubs and shebeens where the girls were sexy and the music was loud. I didn't buy many ska records new at the time, and by the time second hand ones turned up they were often knackered and with the title and artist scratched off so that rival would-be DJs wouldn't know what they were listening to. Today many of these 45s are highly sought after and I am always on the lookout for them.
At the time we called the music Blue Beat, as this was the best known label of the genre. But there were many other great labels of the period, many of which appeared and then disappeared within a few months. These included Doctor Bird, Ska Beat, Rio, Black Swan, Amalgamated, Carnival, Coxsone, Island (later to go global of course), Technique, Treasure Isle, and, slightly later, Trojan and Upsetter. Here are a few singles in my collection which bring back fond memories of that era.
1. Ethiopians - The Whip/ Cool it Amigo. Released in 1967 on Doctor Bird DB 1096. Mint value £45.
The Ethiopians (sometimes spelt with a middle E as on this record) Produced some great ska and rock steady sounds including Train To Skaville, Dun Dead A'Ready, Hong Kong Flu and this classic The Whip. Their labels included Ska Beat, Rio, Doctor Bird, Crab and JJ. Desmond Baker & the Clarendonions - Rude Boy - Gone Jail/ Sharks - Don't Fool Me. Released in 1966 on Island WI 295. Mint value £25.
There were quite a few 'rude boy' records in the sixties - songs about sharply dressed Jamaicans who often landed up on the wrong side of the law. The term spread to the 2 Tone ska revival of the late seventies and the Specials revived this song. This Coxsone produced record was the only UK single by Desmond Baker but is a classic of the genre.
3. Justin Hines & Dominoes - Rub Up Push Up/ The Ark. Released in 1965 on Island WI 194. Mint value £25
Another Duke Reid ska classic by Justin Hines (or Hinds) who had singles released on a number of labels including Ska Beat and Treasure Isle. It was featured on Club Ska 67, one of the classic LPs of the era. Justin died in 2005.
4. Heptones - Gunmen Coming To Town/ Tommy McCook & the Supersonics - Riverton City. Released in 1966 on Rio R 104. Mint value - £70.
This Coxsone Dodd single begins with a clip from William Tell and was the first Heptones 45 released in the UK. The trio went on to produce some of the best rock steady and early reggae records of the time and also recorded instrumentally as the Soul Vendors.
5. Prince Buster - Ten Commandments of Man/ Sting Like A Bee. Released in 1965 on Blue Beat BB 334 (reissue of 1963 record). Mint value £15.
Prince Buster produced and released a huge number of records during the 60s and became the best known Jamaican artist of the time. This rather non PC record was one of his biggest hits and other big selling Prince Buster classics included Madness and Al Capone. I saw Prince Buster play the Electric Ballroom in Camden Town in 1999 and the place was packed.


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