We’re all human, and, to paraphrase George Orwell, some of us are more human than others. I may have been wrong about the record JP played as a tribute to Ian Curtis (and am still awaiting definitive proof): but I was DEFINITELY wrong in my last post.
I have received an email from a very pleasant and knowledgeable guy named Rowen Smith, who politely challenged my assertion that only two reggae tracks were ever voted for in the Festive Fifty. Fool that I was, I blatantly ignored these.
Culture was a Jamaican group originally known as the African Disciples, were formed in 1976. The leader was one Joseph Hill, who had a powerful way with words and a great voice. They recorded a slew of highly-rated singles and albums (including Two Sevens Clash) before splitting in 1982. Nevertheless, Hill used the Culture name to record an uneven album named Lion Rock, of which the title track (All-Time FF 2000 #48) caught John’s listeners’ ears. As allmusic.com have it:
Only the title track, awash in close harmonies and featuring a bubbly keyboard, breaks the mold, bolstered by the singer’s righteous anger. “We don’t want to hear no more about your Francis Drake,” Hill adamantly sings, a forceful rejection of Eurocentric history. Although independent since 1962, Jamaica’s ties to Britain remained largely unbroken; the island was still governed by a political and judicial system based on England’s, while British heroes and cultural icons were still part of the Jamaican school curriculum. “Take back your money with the sign of the dragon on it,” the singer insists, an allusion every schoolchild understood; England’s mythological dragon is an iconoclastic image on par with the U.S.’s own Uncle Sam, even if it was famously slain by Saint George. It’s a scathing reference to the economic and social ties that still bound Jamaica to her colonizer, while his demand to “bring back the money with the sign of the lion on it” alludes to Ethiopia and Haile Selassie, and Hill’s desire to turn instead to Jamaican’s true home Africa and the mighty Jah. Set to a strong rhythm and an infectious melody, “Lion Rock” was one of the album’s standouts.
Sadly, after reuniting Culture and recording into the new millenium, Joseph Hill died last year on stage.
Gregory Isaacs has had a prolific recording career stretching from the 60s onwards, and has worked with anybody and everybody. Night Nurse (1982 FF #52 (!)) has been his most commercially successful song to date (I seem to remember the tune being borrowed for an ad for cold medicine!!), and was his first single for Island Records’ Mango label, to which he had just signed after an unsuccessful career at Virgin. (However, it reached the UK charts at no. 13 in 1997 in a bastard offspring coupling of Sly & Robbie, Isaacs’ old producing partners, and Simply Red.) He still records to this day, having racked up over 500 albums.
I hope this has been penance enough, and, although I will tackle the following at a later time, Rowen is right to point out the following:
– Although there was no F50 in ’77, Peel did his own Top 13 (!) which featured: Althea and Donna’s Uptown Top Ranking at no.2 and Jah Hayes/Ranking Trevor’s Truly at no.13.– Zion Train and Dreadzone had a heavy reggae / dub influence and featured a lot in mid-90’s F50’s.– Reggae songs given a punk makeover featured highly in early F50’s: The Clash’s versions of Police & Thieves and Armagideon Time and Stiff Little Fingers’ version of Johnny Was.