Boss Sounds

By AnimalsWHN
updated over 4 years ago

Chapter Three of the book "Boss Sounds: Classic Skinhead Reggae" in discogs list form. Chapter Intro:

"As you'll have seen from chapter two, there were just so many labels issuing ska, rock steady and reggae in the UK that the potential punter is often left confused about what to buy and what to avoid. this chapter will concentrate on the quality and quantity of skinhead reggae and rock steady released on UK labels between '67 and '73. An A-Z of the labels follows which takes account of roughly two-thirds of those listed in chapter two. Those I've omitted released ska (which falls outside the main remit of this book) or later reggae and other types of music which probably won't be of interest to the average skin.

From first-hand experience, I know that a lot of collectors of Jamaican music tend to buy records based on the labels, the artist or the producer without ever having heard them (I've done this myself plenty of times). For instance, I remember buying a single, "My Girl", by the Ethiopians on Duke a few years ago on the assumption that, if it was by The Ethiopians, it must be a sure-fire belter. I was proved wrong when it turned out to be a slow soul track. To give another example, Pama's Crab subsidiary has always been of special interest to skinheads, but the quality of music (even the Derrick Morgan cuts) really starts to peter out towards the end of the series. So buying records on the basis of label, artist or producer alone can be a pretty risky business. I hope the following at least steers you in the right direction.

Following each label profile is a list of what are, in my view, the best skinhead reggae singles released between 1967 and 1973 on a cross-section of UK labels (ie a large chunk of those listed in two). Again, I've used the term "skinhead reggae" quite loosely since the late ska and rock steady releases listed would certainly appeal to a lot of skins.

Any personal selection is obviously bound to be highly subjective. Where this one differs from earlier efforts is that it covers what I consider to be the best stuff in alphabetical order by label and catalogue number. It isn't therefore ranked in order of 'superiority' - if it was, you'd all be asking why "Israelites" wasn't top of the list.

Before we kick off, I should just mention why there isn't a similar hit parade for albums. Basically, there are two reasons for this. First, the bulk of reggae albums were put out by Trojan and Pama during the peak reggae years and, with a few exceptions, most of them are worth having. Second, and this is really the main reason, a high proportion of original reggae and rock steady LPs are now out of the reach of most people's pockets. I for one never really bothered with 45s until about five years ago when the prices of albums really started to skyrocket. As random examples, LPs like Derrick Morgan's "Seven Letters" on Trojan and Amalgamated's "Jackpot Of Hits" compilation could be found quite easily back then for about six or seven quid a throw but now go for upwards of £25 each. Anyway, enough of my excuses, and on with the boss sounds."

Made a similar list for the book Spirit of '69: A Skinhead Bible which is here:

  1. 1

    Here is a label that seemed to change its colours from issue to issue! The first release, Ruppie Martin's All Stars "Death In The Arena" is a fast organ instrumental in the Lee Perry mode. Well worth picking up, this one. Otherwise there are two highly recommended Laurel Aitken issues ("Sin Pon You"/"Every Night" on ACK 106 and "Pussy Got Thirteen Life"/Singer Man" (ACK 104) on white labels, Dave Barker's Studio One cut of "Johnny Dollar" (ACK 113) and Girlie and Paul's "Decrimilization" on ACK 124, which was a Joe Mansano production. The DJ cuts by Dennis Alcapone and Lizzy are good, but the label as a whole tends to be a bit patchy.

  2. "Death In The Arena"/"Natural"
    Rupie Martin's All Stars
    Ackee ACK 101 (1969)
    Produced by Junior Lincoln (UK)

    Some pressings credit Nationality as the artist.

  3. "Sin Pon You"/"Everynight"
    Laurel Aitken
    Ackee ACK 106 (1969)
    Produced by Laurel Aitken

    Issued on white label only.

  4. "Whispering Bells"/"Whiplash"
    Owen Gray/Clancy's All Stars
    Ackee ACK 123 (1971)
    Produced by Clancy Collins (UK)

    B side is in fact "Jacket" by Dave Barker.

  5. This is one of the few labels with hardly a duff release. As Island/B&C (and later Trojan/B&C's) outlet for JA productions from Joe Gibbs (aka Joel Gibson), the label notched up a total of some 73 releases by the likes of Lee Perry, The Pioneers, Ken Parker and Stranger And Gladdy. Probably the only real blip in the series is on the B side of The Leaders' "Tit For Tat" (AMG 804) which is a gospel thing by The Marvetts. LP wise, there was a Pioneers album, "Greetings From The Pioneers", and two compilations, "Explosive Rock Steady" and "Jackpot Of Hits", all of which are well worth having.

  6. "El Casino Royale"/"Dee's Special"
    Lynn Tait & the Jets (with Count Machuki)
    Amalgamated AMG 810 (1968)
    Produced by Joel Gibson (Joe Gibbs)

    A side can also be found on WIRL's "Club Rock Steady" compilation album (ILP 965).

  7. 9 For Sale from $9.90

    "Give Me A Little Loving"/"This Is Soul"
    The Pioneers/Lynn Tait & the Jets
    Amalgamated AMG 811 (1969)
    Produced by Joe Gibbs

    A side also to be found on The Pioneers' "Greetings From . . ." LP on Amalgamated (AMGLP 2003).

  8. "Now I'm All Alone"/"Fall And Rise"
    Victor Morris
    Amalgamated AMG 813 (1968)
    Produced by Joe Gibbs

    A very interesting disc - if you can find it!

  9. 24 For Sale from $4.55

    "Long Shot"/"Dip And Fall Back"
    The Pioneers
    Amalgamated AMG 814 (1968)
    Produced by Joe Gibbs

    Also on "Club Rock Steady"

  10. 12 For Sale from $30.00

    The Pioneers/The Creators (actually Lee Perry)
    Amalgamated AGM 821 (August 1968)
    Produced by Joe Gibbs

    A side on "Greetings From The Pioneers" and later re-issued on the label's short-lived CSP series to promote the "Jackpot Of Hits" compilation (CSP 3), which it was also on!

  11. 2 For Sale from $68.18

    "Hurry Come Up"/"Off Track"
    The Crashers
    Amalgamated AMG 834 (February 1969)
    Produced by Joe Gibbs

    Amalgamated's first release of '69, The Crashers were none other than The Ethiopians. Also on "Jackpot Of Hits''.

  12. "Them A Laugh And A Ki Ki"/"The Hippy's Are Here"
    The Soul Mates/The Hippy Boys
    Amalgamated AMG 836 (March 1969)
    Produced by Joe Gibbs

    The Soul Mates were one of the many pseudonyms for The Pioneers. This track is also on "Tighten Up Volume 2".

  13. "Wreck A Buddy"/"Push It In"
    The Soul Sisters/The Versatiles
    Amalgamated AGM 839 (May 1969)
    Produced by Joe Gibbs

    A side is very similar to the Buster-produced "Pon Pon Song" by The Sexy Girls on Dice (CC 100). Also on "Tighten Up Volume 2".

  14. 1 For Sale from $247.52

    "On The Move"/"Jump It Up"
    The Soul Mates
    Amalgamated AMG 842 (June 1969)
    Produced by Joe Gibbs

    As these are largely instrumental tracks, the credits are almost certainly wrong. The flip side is possibly by The Viceroys

  15. "Franco Nero"/Version
    Joe Gibbs' All Stars (A side is actually by Count Machuki)
    Amalgamated AMG 858 (1970)
    Produced by Joe Gibbs

    The same rhythm track was later used for (Sir) Lord Comic's "Jack Of My Trade" on Pressure Beat (PB 5507)

  16. 16

    Attack was originally set up by Graeme Goodall, who also ran the Doctor Bird group of labels. The early issues on Attack from '69 and '70 are rarely seen these days. Don't pass up copies of "Su Su Su" by The Soul Directions on ATT 8011 as the group were actually The Pioneers, or Winston Groov(e)y's "You Can't Turn Your Back On Me" on ATT 8019 as Pama Dice does his thing on the B side with "The Worm". Otherwise, much of the label was given over to Goodall's Philligree stable, which included Symarip, Family Circle, Ray Martell and Nyah Shuffle. Most were pretty run-of-the-mill. Attack resurfaced again in '72 as a Trojan label with some good DJ releases by Carey And Lloyd and Dennis Alcapone.

  17. 3 For Sale from $6.03

    "The Worm"/"You Can't Turn Your Back On Me"
    Pama Dice/Winston Groovey
    Attack ATT 8019 (1970)
    Produced by Laurel Aitken (UK)

    This is not the same as Lloyd Robinson's "The Worm" on Camel (CA 41). Groovey's number is mediocre-ish. A lot of early Attack stuff, particularly by the likes of Family Circle and other Philligree stable acts, is pretty lame.

  18. 18

    Dutch group The Cats had a minor UK chart hit with a reggae version of "Swan Lake" in '69 on this short-lived independent. Beware of anything by Ray Pereira and Four Lads And a Lass (!). In fact, if it's not by The Cats it's not worth bothering about.

  19. 19

    The most memorable sounds on this label came early in the series. some plaintive vocals from Ken Parker with "My Whole World Is Falling Down", Alton Ellis's "Better Example" and the Heptones' "I Shall Be Released" (actually a re-issue from the Studio One label). Bamboo aslo housed Laurel Aitken's "Moon Rock". A lot of good instrumentals by Jackie Mittoo and Sound Dimension, but also the odd roots tune by the likes of Burning Spear ("Door Peeper") and The Heptones ("Choice OF Colours" and "Message From A Blackman"). A label well worth collecting (as it's 99% Studio One material) but with a lot of slower, funky reggae type efforts.

  20. 21 For Sale from $10.23

    "My Whole World Is Falling Down"/"Choking Kind"
    Ken Parker
    Bamboo BAM 1 (1969)
    Produced by Coxsone Dodd

    Also on Attack/Bamboo's "Big Bamboo" sampler (BDLPS 217) put out in '74.

  21. 2 For Sale from $485.15

    "Better Example"/"Lick It Back"
    Alton Ellis/Duke Morgan
    Bamboo BAM 2 (1969)
    Produced by Coxsone Dodd

    One of Alton's best cuts from this two year sojourn at Studio One. Never put on album unfortunately.

  22. "Moon Rock"/"Cut Up Munno"
    Laurel Aitken
    Bamboo BAM 16 (1970)
    Produced by Laurel Aitken (UK)

    A real Bamboo one-off, this was issued on white label only and is a real rarity.

  23. 1 For Sale from $56.82

    "Dancing Groove"/"Peanut Butter"
    Jackie Mittoo/Black And George
    Bamboo BAM 51 (1970)
    Produced by Coxsone Dodd

    A side is the late Jackie's organ version of Delroy Wilson's "Dancing Mood" on Island (WI 3013), but the flip is actually better!

  24. 6 For Sale from $11.66

    "Rhythm Rebellion"/"Reggae Children"
    Lord Comic/Roy Richards
    Bamboo BAM 66 (1970)
    Produced by Coxsone Dodd

    The only DJ track on the label (most were off-loaded onto the sister label, Banana).

  25. The releases on Banana were of a similar nature to those on Bamboo, except that there was a more liberal sprinkling of Studio One DJ sides by the likes of Dennis Alcapone, King Stitt and King Sporty, all of which are worth picking up. Highlights include The Classics' "Mr Fire Coal Man" (actually by The Wailing Souls) and Alton Ellis' "Sunday Coming", but as with bamboo, if slower reggae isn't your bag then most of the label's output probably won't appeal to you.