Monday, December 11, 2023

Reggae Singles

I don't recommend doing this but if you ever want to get into early reggae music you need to buy Jamaican 45's.  I don't recommend it though because it is an addiction more habit forming than cocaine and almost as expensive.

But beautiful none the less.

Jamaican Reggae music in the 1960s and 70s was really a singles market. Local music studios like Randy's studio, Black Ark studio, Channel One studio, the legendary Studio One, Joe Gibbs studio and more were all churning out hundreds of songs and pressing them into 45 rpm singles for the local dance halls and for the music listening public.  The idea of the Reggae LP really didn't catch on until Bob Marley made it big in the late 1970's.  Up until then the music came out as singles.  Millions of singles.  You'll live your entire life and you'll never hear all of them.

I got into buying reggae singles sometime in the mid 1980's. At first I used to just buy the occasional disc from Rhino Records but then doc, it became an obsession.  Lol.  Seriously folks.  I went nuts.  I loved buying those pretty little records.  

I bought a lot of singles from eBay for sure.  But the serious jones came when I found out about Reggae lists. Enterprising people would go down to Jamaica and buy up reggae singles and then sell them by mail order in the states.  I used to receive sale lists in the mail.  The sellers knew me.  I used to go through the song titles on the lists like a kid in a toy store.  The lists usually had two sections.  A set price list and a "bid" list.  The bid list had the special records and you were on your own when it came to how much you would offer.  I remember distinctly seeing this record Madness by the Mighty Maytones on a bid list.  It was a dream record for me.  I HAD to have it so I sent in a bid that was astronomical.  The seller sent me back a message saying, "Don't worry dude, you got it lol" or something like that.

  • song: Madness
  • artist: The Mighty Maytones
  • label: Mango

Winro Records was a California record label that was in some way associated with Clemet "Coxsone" Dodd's Studio One label.  I always looked for Winro Records because they were usually good Studio One music on clean American vinyl.  For a while I actually had a copy of Burning Spear's album "Rocking Time" on Winro.  Nice record that was.  

This particular song, Dread Oppression by the Melodies, was a song that Hank Holmes used to play on the Reggae Beat radio show  (KCRW Santo Monica College).  The Melodies were one of a thousand obscure Jamaican reggae artist who put out just a few singles.  Early Jamaican music was filled with scores of local artist who put out a few great singles that never made it to LP.  That's why we buy singles my friends.  This is a sweet tune.  I picked this up from a record list as well.

  • song: Dread Oppression
  • artist: The Melodies
  • label: Winro

Bongo Man was another label owned by Coxsone Dodd.  Dodd put out Studio One music on so many different labels.  Here's a list of Studio One record labels listed by Discogs:

Antics Disc, Blue Mountain, Bongo Man, Budget, C and N Records, Collector's Series, S.O. World, Coxson, Coxsone Records, Faze Four, Festival 71, Festival 72, Forward Records, Iron Side, Iron Side Disc, Media Records, Money Disc, Mu-Zik City Records, Music Lab, ND Records, Oldies, Rolando & Powie, Sight 'N' Sound, Sight 'N' Sounds Records, Sight & Sound New York, Studio One, CLD-12", Series 1, Super Natural Disc, Super Six, Supreme Records, Tabernacle Records, and Winro Records.

All record labels put out by Coxsone's Studio One.

Pretty amazing huh?  I bought records from many of those labels.  Bongo Man, Studio One, Money Disc, Coxson, Music Lab, Super Natural Disc and they all sounded like Studio One music.  I don't really know why Dodd put music out on so many different labels but my hunch is it had to with evading royalties.  As much as the world loves Clemet Dodd he was an infamous skinflint. 

But as I have said elsewhere the music put out by Studio One was always so great that we forgive the rough edges.

Clemet "Coxsone" Dodd

This record "Jah Jah Way" by Jackie Bernard was one of my first reggae single purchases.  It's a beautiful song in and out.  I picked it up as a new record at Rhino Records sometime in the early 1980's for $0.99.  When I moved to the Philippines I sold it for a cool $200.00.  Thank you Mr. Dodd.
  • song: Jah Jah Way
  • artist: Jackie Bernard
  • label: Bongo Man

Another reason why we buy singles is because Jamaican artist are famous for putting out multiple versions of the same song.

I used to go see the Itals backed by the Freedom fighters play at the Music Machine in Santa Monica during the 1980's.  Those were some great shows.  The Itals singing to the blasting Reggae groove.  The dancehall filled with ganja smoke. I wish I was there now.  

The Itals were a great Jamaican trio fronted by lead singer Keith Porter.  They put out several LP's on Nighthawk records all of which are well worth checking out.  

The Itals didn't receive the attention that other groups received but they were one of my favorite vocal groups.  Their most famous song was "In A Dis Ya Time."  It received a lot of air play on reggae radio shows in LA.  I remember my joy when I saw it listed on a reggae set sale list.

I purchased the record and much to my surprise when it came in the mail the recording turned out to be a totally different version than the version played on the radio.  And better!  I've actually never heard this version played on the radio or anywhere else for that mater.  To my knowledge this version has never appeared on an LP.  Just one of those treats that came out of nowhere.

That's Reggae music my friends.

song: In A Dis Ya Time
artist: The Itals
label:  Hopewell Survivors Production

Now this record...

One Saturday I was listening to Chuck Foster's KPFK radio show "Reggae Central" and Chuck closed his show with a very nice song.  It was the show closing song so about halfway through the song the music faded and the KPFK station break began.  Luckily I was recording the show but since it was the last song there was no information given as to who the artist was or what the song was but I HAD TO HAVE IT.

The more I played the part of the song I captured on tape the more I wanted it.  I even went to visit Chuck Foster at his home one day and while there I asked him what was that song he played that day?  I couldn't remember the exact day so I tried to sing it to him.  "How long will the wicked reign"  I sang to him but I'm not a great singer and he just shook his head.  He was nice and he tried to sing along with me but finally he said "Sorry I can't place it."  Damn.  No luck. 

And that's how it was for a couple of years.  It was a record I HAD TO HAVE but I had no clue what the record was called. Or who the artist was.  Nothing.   And then one day I was saved.

It was beautiful.  Some of the people selling reggae singles will send along with the song lists sample tapes.  Cassette tapes with short segments of the songs so the customers can have an idea of what they were getting.  I might even have a couple of them lying around.  Anyway, one day I received one such tape and there it was.  In amazement I played the sample tape there was the song I had been searching for.  I about dropped a brick.  I couldn't believe my ears.  

The song was "Selassi I" by Roots of the Field pressed on the Roots of the Field label.

I bought it without hesitation.

Talk about obscure.  Discogs lists ONE single by Roots of the Field and only one single on the Roots of the Field label.   And it's a gem.

That's reggae music my friends.

  • song: Selassi I
  • artist: Roots of the Field
  • label: Roots of the Field

PS - downloading trick.  I recently found out that you can download most youtube videos by going to the web address and deleting the "ute" from the web address and entering it.  Like if the youtube web address is something like www . youtube / videoname  change the address to www . yout / videoname and it will take you to the download page... Try it!  Have fun my friends.


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