Celebrate Good Times not only microscopically inspects the chart positions of thousands of reggae and soul albums and singles over a period of 24 years, it also retrospectively salutes the great soul and reggae music from bygone eras – from the 50s right through to the mid 70s. For me, 1975 was a very special year for a variety of reasons. 1) My baby sister was born ; 2) I left school (YAY!) ; 3) I went nuts about reggae music. These three things were pivotal events in my life. Reggae music pretty much took over my very being that year – it was like a drug and I was seriously hooked. I read everything I could about it in magazines, newspapers, fanzines. I spent all my spare time in reggae record shops. I bought as much as I could afford. I picked up mainly UK releases but also started to buy pre-release Jamaican imports. I avidly listened to Capital Radio’s TV On Reggae radio show every Saturday night. Tommy Vance even read a request out for me!
Even through ’76 and ’77 I was still tracking down tunes I’d heard and wanted in ’75. I created my very first Wants List. Trust me, it was extensive! Of course, I wasn’t to realise at the time how fortunate I was to get switched on to reggae music when it was coming into its golden era. As for the kind of reggae music that appealed to me at the time – I got into roots, dub, toasting, UK vibes, the works! It was all so exciting and new and fresh and different. I was still as much into soul and pop as ever – but this reggae bug bit me bad. Subsequently, the reggae music of 1975 still holds a big place in my heart, my soul and my mind. At the tail end of 1975, I wrote a letter to the New Musical Express about reggae which they printed as their letter of the week in the Gasbag column. The letter was post-scripted with a request for me to contact their features editor Neil Spencer. I did so and the upshot was that I got to write a few reggae album reviews for the NME whilst still only 16. Through Neil I met the reggae writer Penny Reel (whom I had already read in the Pressure Drop fanzine and the NME) who became my friend and mentor. He introduced me to the editor of Black Echoes who invited me to write for them. Things just kind of blew up from there. I was a totally inexperienced writer and really learned as I went along. Subsequently, my writing style was er…individual. And certainly not to everyone’s taste – the paper’s own letters page were chocka with diatribes about me! But for all my detractors – who maybe didn’t know I was just a teenage lad doing his best – I also had my supporters who enjoyed my insane scribblings and forgave my journalistic mumbo-jumbo.What I lacked in literary prowess I hopefully made up for in enthusiasm and a deep love of the music I was writing about.
As with the flashback to 1962 a few weeks ago, the records listed were all issued in the UK on British labels – mostly through independent reggae record companies based in London. The inclusions are indicative of the original year of release in their country of origin. In the book, catalogue numbers and information on the original Jamaican labels are listed – but for the sake of blogspace are not listed here. During 1975 there were literally hundreds of reggae records released – the majority of which are listed in my research database. Slimming it down to a mere 100 has been an epic task for me, especially since I love so many records from that year. Consequently, great records by Leo Graham, Max Romeo, Bob Andy, Keith Hudson, Dennis Alcapone, Brent Dowe, Delroy Wilson, George Grossett, Jimmy Riley, Hortense Ellis, B.B. Seaton, The Morwells, Tinga Stewart, Derrick Morgan, Freddie McKay, Junior English, Sir Lee, Ili P., The Twinkle Brothers, David & Jahson, Jacob Miller, The Heptones, John Holt, Keith Poppin, The Starlites and Lambert Douglas, among many others, are not included in the list. But what is included are what I consider to be the very best of the best reggae records released in the UK during that fateful year of 1975.
The DJ ‘toasters’ (as we called them) were among my favourite kinds of artists. I loved I. Roy best of all and was also particularly excited about a new DJ called U. Brown. The latter’s ‘Jamaica Tobacco’ was produced by Winston Edwards – a man who would, a few years later, arrange for me to go to Jamaica. The track used a ridim also included on the dub album ‘King Tubby Meets The Upsetter At The Grass Roots Of Dub’ – in addition to another 45 on the list, Euslin Gregory’s ‘You Are So Real’. I. Roy had well over 20 records issued during the year, less than half of which were issued in the UK. Six are included in my list – two in the Top 25: his thrilling take on Junior Byles’ Channel One hit ‘Fade Away’ (also listed) called ‘Rootes Man‘ and his great version of George Dekker’s 1974 hit ‘Nosey Parker’ entitled ‘Outformer Parker‘.
The late Jah Woosh (1952-2011) was another DJ making waves in 1975. He also had over 20 records released in Jamaica during that year – but ony a handful of them were released in the UK. Of those, his amazing version of Carl Malcolm’s ‘Miss Wire Waist’ (also listed) called ‘Shine Eye Gal’ remains of one of my favourite records. His cut to Levi Williams’ Peaceful Rasta’ called ‘Don’t Do That’ was another highlight.
After a few years making better and better tunes, it was in 1975 that Big Youth’s popularity escalated in the UK – with many excellent singles and the classic album ‘Dread Locks Dread’. Two of his hits make the Top 25 – ‘Big Youth Dread’ (called ‘Yabby Youth’ in Jamaica), a fantastic DJ cut to Vivian Jackson & The Prophets’ roots classic ‘Conquering Lion’; plus his fun version of Carl Malcolm’s 1974 smash ‘No Jestering’ called ‘Notty No Jester’. His ‘Hit The Road Jack’ was a massive No.1 smash in the UK the following year. The UK issue of ‘Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing’ (a cut to Desmond Young’s firin’ tune ‘Warning’) was an alternative cut to the one released in Jamaica. Being the completist I am, I had to have both versions.
Prince Jazzbo (born Linval Carter) made my favourite DJ tune of 1975 – ‘Every Nigger Is A Winner’, his own production originally released in Jamaica on his label Count 1,2,3. The mix on the record is phenomenal and was just the kind of dubbed-up echo-wrecking tune I loved at the time – Jazzbo’s dark and dread delivery is absolutely spot-on. One of the thrills of ’75 was popping into the Third World record-shop in Stoke Newington to find him toasting on a mic’ to dub behind the record-counter. It was a great moment.
A special mention must go to Dr. Alimantado for his incredible and unique ‘Best Dress Chicken’ – using a ridim previously made for a reggae version of ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. It is a masterpiece of total music madness – with sped-up vocals, wild dub effects, random singing and bonkers lyrics. A few years after the record’s release I got to meet ‘Tado and even do some work for him. He was one of the sweetest guys on the reggae scene – and certainly the only one to ever call me Spooky! The song eventually reached an international audience when featured in the Will Smith film Hancock.
Other treats of the year were some great Jamaican soul and pop covers – including Claudette Miller’s brilliant ‘Tonight Is The Night’ (Betty Wright) and ‘I Must Be Dreaming’ (Neil Sedaka), Derrick Harriott’s ‘Eighteen With A Bullet’ (Pete Wingfield), Jimmy London’s ‘I’m Your Puppet’ (James & Bobby Purify), The Unforgettables glorious take on Gene and Eunice’s 1956 smash ‘This Is My Story’, Susan Cadogan’s astonishing Upsetter production of Doris Duke’s ‘Congratulations’, Freddie McGregor’s dynamite reggae version of George Soule’s ‘Get Involved’, Ingram Macaba’s ire reworking of Sam Cooke’s ‘Sad Mood’ (called ‘Dread Mood’), the Mighty Diamonds’ hugely popular version of The Stylistics’ ‘Country Living’ and Lloyd Parks’ ‘Baby Hang Up The Phone’ (originally Carl Graves). The Godfather Pt.II film helped inspire a spate of tunes which included Lloyd’s magnificent ‘Mafia’ and the Mighty Diamonds’ ‘Back Weh (You No Mafia)’.
The Mighty Diamonds (known originally as The Diamonds but referred to – for consistency – throughout the book as the former) were my favourite group. Apart from the hits previously mentioned, they also feature another four times in the list – with ‘Right Time’ (also the name of their chart-topping album), ‘I Need A Roof’, the ravers classic ‘Just Can’t Figure Out’ and the fantastic ‘Carefree Girl’.
Home-grown reggae music was something I took to pretty much from the off – and was often surprised how dismissive some purists were of it. Admittedly, the productions were not the same as the powerful Jamaican ones – but many benefited from being much more focused on interesting musical arrangements. Classy UK reggae included in the list are some more great soul covers: Locks Lee’s lovely version of the 1957 Donnie Elbert smash ‘What Can I Do’ (with a nice ‘Cherry Pie’ introduction from the ’54 Marvin & Johnny hit); The Starr Bounds’ lick of The Temptations’ ‘Heavenly’; T.T.Ross’ proto-lovers version of the old Dick Lory/Skeeter Davis country song ‘Last Date’; and Jesse Green’s glorious take on The Chi-Lites ravers smash ‘Go Away Dream’. Record of the year was another soul cover – Louisa Mark’s awesome take on Robert Parker’s 1967 b-side smash ‘Caught You In A Lie’, produced by Dennis Bovell with Lloydie Coxson. It remains my favourite reggae record of all time. For the record.
Excellent original British music came from Buster Pearson (1941-2012), father of soul group Five Star, with his track ‘Take It Easy’, Strecker Decker’s great Mike Dorane production ‘Girl You Have Left Me’, The Meditations’ ‘Sympathy’, Honey Boy’s ‘In A Game’, Byron Otis (soon to join vocal trio The Blackstones) with ‘Sugar Bum’, ‘Freedom Train’ by Winston Curtis and John Brown’s revival of Roscoe Gordon’s ‘Let ‘Em Try‘
Reggae remakes include The Maroons’ (actually The Cimarons) version of Bob Marley’s ‘Talking Blues’ – which became the first British reggae record to top the Jamaican charts. Errol Dunkley did a wicked version of John Holt’s ‘I’m Your Man’.
There were plenty of rootsy one-off hits in ’75 – including Silford Walker’s almighty Joe Gibbs production ‘Burn Babylon’, Lizard’s ‘Satta I’, Fred Locks’ ‘Black Star Liners’ and the very popular ‘None A Jah Jah Children’ by Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus.
The hot one hundred, right here…
1. CAUGHT YOU IN A LIE | Louisa Mark | Safari
2. TALKING BLUES | The Maroons | Horse
3. BACK WEH (YOU NO MAFIA) | Mighty Diamonds | Locks
4. TONIGHT IS THE NIGHT | Claudette Miller | Jama
5. EVERY NIGGER IS A WINNER | Prince Jazzbo | Live & Love
6. ROOTES MAN | I. Roy | Love
7. SINNERS WHERE ARE YOU GONNA HIDE | Justin Hinds & The Dominoes | Pama
8. MAFIA | Lloyd Parks | Cactus
9. MISS WIRE WAIST | Carl Malcolm | Black Wax
10. BIG YOUTH DREAD | Big Youth | Lucky
11. BEST DRESS CHICKEN | Dr. Alimantado | Sun & Stars
12. JAMAICA TOBACCO | U. Brown | Fay Music Inc.
13. MORE SLAVERY | Joe Higgs | Grounation
14. RIGHT TIME | Mighty Diamonds | Locks
15. TAKE IT EASY | Buster Pearson | K & B
16. SHINE EYE GAL | Jah Woosh | Locks
17. NATTY IN A GREENWICH FARM | Cornell Campbell | Action
18 .WHY SEEK MORE | Dennis Brown | Trojan
19. BURN BABYLON | Silford Walker | Locks
20. OUTFORMER PARKER | I. Roy | Attack
21. I’M YOUR PUPPET | Jimmy London | Horse/Jama
22. THIS IS MY STORY | The Unforgettables | Nationwide
23. CONGRATULATIONS | Susan Cadogan | Klik
24. NOTTY NO JESTER | Big Youth | Action
25. CHECK YOU DAUGHTER | Joy White | Love
And the best of the rest…
GIRL YOU HAVE LEFT ME | Strecker Decker | Mich
WHAT CAN I DO | Locks Lee | Kiss
LONG WAY | Junior Byles | Dip
KING TUBBY MEETS ROCKERS UPTOWN | Augustus Pablo | Island
WELDING | I. Roy | Love
JUST TELL ME | Leroy Smart | Ethnic Fight
I NEED A ROOF | Mighty Diamonds | Black Wax
SUGAR BUM | Byron Otis | Love
GO AWAY DREAM | Jesse Green | Sunbeam
I’M YOUR MAN | Errol Dunkley | Third World
FADE AWAY | Junior Byles | Eagle
BONGO NATTY | Owen Gray | Horse
THE MIGHTY GORGON | Cornell Campbell | Klik
BLACK STAR LINERS | Fred Locks | Treble C/Grounation
JUST CAN’T FIGURE OUT | Mighty Diamonds | Attack
JESTERING | Shorty The President | Nationwide
ONCE IN MY LIFE | Jackie Parris | Reggae
CAN’T YOU UNDERSTAND | Larry Marshall | Ocean
SATTA I | Lizard | Black Wax
I WILL NEVER CHANGE | Cornell Campbell | Attack
ROCK AWAY | Gregory Isaacs | Horse
LET LOCKS GROW | Barrington Spence | Horse
EIGHTEEN WITH A BULLET | Derrick Harriott | Trojan
YOU ARE SO REAL | Euslin Gregory | Fay Music Inc.
PRAISE JAH ALL THE TIME | Errol Dunkley | Kiss
TEA POT | I. Roy | Nationwide
DREAD MOOD | Ingram Macaba | Ethnic Fight
IN A GAME | Honey Boy | Penguin
DAT | Pluto Shervington | Opal
WHAT GOOD AM I | Jimmy London | Jama
I MAN A GRASSHOPPER | Pablo Moses | Treble C
FREEDOM TRAIN | Winston Curtis | Penguin
GORGON WISE | U. Roy | Grounation
VILLAGE SOUL | Michael Chung | Black Wax
C.B. 200 | Dillinger | Lucky
DO YOU LOVE ME | Johnny Clarke | Horse
WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING | Big Youth | Trojan
SUNSHINE | Pat Kelly | Black Wax
MIDNIGHT RIDER | Paul Davidson | Tropical
LIVING IN THE SLUM | Well Pleased And Satisfied | Cactus
I MAN TIME | I. Roy | Lucky
GET INVOLVED | Freddie McGregor | Sol-Fa
BLOOD DUNZER | Pablo Moses | Treble C
LAUGH IT OFF | Phil Francis | Love
SYMPATHY | The Meditations | Love
THE ROAD IS ROUGH | Leroy Smart | Grounation
HEAVENLY | The Starr Bounds | Horse
LET HIM TRY | John Brown | Fat Man
LOVE I CAN DEPEND ON | Raymondo | Third World
BABY HANG UP THE PHONE | Lloyd Parks | Trojan
MY TIME | Dennis Brown | Morpheus
I MUST BE DREAMING | Claudette Miller & The Ebony Sisters | Jama
ON THE BEACH | Owen Gray | Horse
LAST DATE | T.T. Ross | Lucky
RUNAWAY GIRL | U. Roy | Virgin
POISONOUS STING | The Scorpio | Fay Music Inc.
LOVE MY LIFE | Susan Cadogan | Black Wax-
FORWARD YAH | I. Roy | Love
NONE A JAH JAH CHILDREN | Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus | Grounation
CAREFREE GIRL | Mighty Diamonds | Grounation
RED, GOLD AND GREEN (IN MY GARDEN) | Delroy Williams | Treble C
MELTING POT | Dillinger | Carib Gems
BEGGARROUND TOWN | Gladstone & The Ducanes | Dip
NO WOMAN, NO CRY | Bob Marley & The Wailers | Island
HIT THE ROAD JACK | Big Youth | Trojan
ANOTHER LONELY NIGHT | Sidney Rogers | Ethnic Fight
DON’T CUT OFF YOUR DREADLOCKS | Linval Thompson | Attack
BUSHWEED CORNTRASH | Bunny & Ricky | Attack
COUNTRY LIVING | Mighty Diamonds | Black Wax
DON’T DO THAT | Jah Woosh | Lucky
SUNSHINE FOR ME | Gregory Isaacs | Black Wax
TENAYISTILLIN WANDIMAE | The Abyssinians | 2nd Tracs
BABYLON A FIGHT RASTA MAN | Ras Alla | Grounation
OLD MARCUS GARVEY | Burning Spear | Island
JUDGE I O’ LORD | Tapper Zukie | Locks