A trio of British Reggae bands who emerged around the same time and were landmarks in their own ways in the evolution of British Reggae. They helped shaped a curious teenager in the strength of politics in music. Two of them hailed from Handsworth area of Birmingham, a stone’s throw from where I lived and was brought up as a child so I’m a touch bias!
When I started writing and performing performance poetry in 1984/5, these all had a profound influence on both my style and narrative
Steel Pulse – Klu Klux Klan (the whole album Handsworth Revolution is worth a listen).
I will resist quoting the whole lyrics – the simple but effective opening line walking along just kicking stones reminds me of my youth (and I still do it even today!) and how it builds from that into some powerful hard-hitting stuff:
To let me go was not dem intention
Dem seh one nigger the less
The better for the show
Stand strong black skin and take your blow
Aswad – had the pleasure of seeing them live at their hay days at Reggae Sunsplash (those were the days). Their live and direct album for me is still one of the all-time greats. Favourite track? African Children – wait till you get to the musical rift in the live version about 3.30mins in – wicked! Total pleasure
All of the nation are/Living in these tenements
Crying and applying to their council/for assistance
Their tribulation it’s so sad/their environment is so bad
High rise concrete/No back yard for their children to play
UB40 (long before they started doing covers!)
The double A-side King and Food for Thought from the Signing Off album with it iconic sleeve cover of a UB40 Unemployment Benefit Attendance Card. I’ve still got my original duly filled in and signed!
Food for thought - it is believed that the band wanted this to be a Christmas anthem highlighting the hypocrisy of Christmas - starving people in Africa whilst we sit around eating our Christmas dinner and praising the Lord. This was the first single to reach Top 10 without the backing of a major record company.
Hear the bells are ringing, Christmas on it's way
Hear the angels singing, what is that they say?
Eat and drink rejoicing, joy is here to stay. Jesus son of Mary is born again today.
King – tribute to Martin Luther King and ask in its lyrics: “Where are your people now, Chained and pacified