My Top Ten – Reggae Music!

The opposite end of the musical spectrum to air guitar metal and rock!  But I love it just as much. Like most kids of my generation, it was Bob Marley who first drew me into reggae – the “Live!” album of 1975, with “No Woman No Cry” as the lead single was crucial. But even more it was the affinity between punk and reggae.  My favourite punk band was the Clash and they really did have a feeling for reggae.  See my “Have You Heard – Clash Reggae” on the subject – check the sidebar.

Like all these tens, it’s almost impossible to narrow down.  I could easily do a fifty. I’ve been strict and only allowed one track per artist. Otherwise Bob Marley could swamp the whole thing.  Or Sugar Minott in his rub-a-dub style.

Hear any of this out of some massive speakers and if you don’t want to dance I’d be so surprised. The bass will probably hit you hard in the rib cage and your feet won’t be able to stop moving.

You can hear all of the following tunes on my Spotify playlist TFW510 – Reggae Music

10. Zungguzungguzungguzeng – Yellowman

Just trying to remember how to write the title makes my brain hurt!  This is just one of those pure feelgood reggae records.  It’s veering towards the dancehall sound. Yellowman is an Albino Jamaican and a bit of a lad, as the lyrics suggest…

9. MPLA Dub – Tapper Zukie

The MPLA were the freedom fighters/ terrorists (depending on your perspective) in Angola in the 70s, as the Portuguese influence was shaken off. This track has no lyrics – it’s just a mighty piece of dub, that makes you want to stride that bit harder as you walk along the street. So the MPLA connection is non-existent really.  But was a good title at the time, the late 70s.  I have this record on a wonderful collection complied by Don Letts, called “Dread Meets Punk Rockers Uptown”, a celebration of the reggae music that the punks were into. A double hit!

8. Man In The Hills – Burning Spear

Burning Spear is the sound of rural Jamaica.  Spiritual music.  “Man In The Hills” epitomises that sound.

7. Max Romeo – Chase The Devil

I remember popping into a record shop in Ealing with my kids when they were little and this song came on over the PA.  All three of them started rocking… and rolling. I think the whole shop was skanking!  The rhythm is so infectious. The Prodigy sampled this song for their early track “Out Of Space”.

6. Augustus Pablo – King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown

There well may be a consensus amongst afficionados that this is the signature dub record. The inspiration for many others. I have a couple of dubby tracks even higher on my list, but I accept that this is the template.

5. Althia and Donna – Uptown Top Ranking

This was a number one single in the UK in 1978. It has such a wonderful rhythm, slightly off-tune musical backdrop and lyrics: See me in me ‘alterback, see me gi’ heart attack!

4. Talkin’ Blues – Bob Marley and The Wailers 

Bob Marley is one of the absolute greats.  When I do my top ten of his music I must remember to put this number one!  Or maybe I won’t because there are so many songs I love that I don’t know where to start. He, along with Michael Jackson, must be the most truly international artist. (Oh yeah, the Beatles too). Find yourself in a beach bar anywhere in the world and I’ll bet there is Bob Marley playing. This is a song from his album “Natty Dread”. Just before he hit the big time. Maybe his best?

3. Sugar Minott – Inna Dance Hall Style 

In the UK Sugar Minott would be best known for his lovers reggae hit “Good Thing Going”.  He has the sweetest soulful voice.  The Smokey Robinson of reggae. But like most reggae artists, he churned out loads of music in all sorts of styles in the Jamaican studios. In the eighties,  I bought loads of  reggae albums, hoping to find the absolute classics. One such was “Slice Of The Cake”by Sugar Minott.  It had this track on it. The most wonderful dubwise tune.  Like all great dub it’s all about the space and echo.

2. Mi God Mi King – Papa Levi

Eleven minutes, including the dub version, on a white label twelve inch single. Which I bought from Virgin records, so it wasn’t that exclusive at the time. A brilliant rolling reggae rhythm, a kind of reggae rap, which in the reggae world is more likely to be called toasting, and some dub interventions.  It has everything. For me this is one of the greatest records ever, reggae or otherwise. It has such a vibe.  I’m not sure whether the singer is actually Maxi Priest, but it could be. The voice is similar. I found a version on You Tube, which is good, but you can hear the full version on my Spotify playlist.

1. Junior Murvin – Police and Thieves

This is such a wonderful tune. Junior Murvin is another singer with the sweetest of voices. But the subject matter is dark.  The tragedy of the political conflicts in the 70s in Jamaica.  I heard the Clash version, off their “1977” album, first. That is magnificent too and it inspired me to investigate the original. So I bought a four track twelve inch single by Junior Murvin from a record shop in Oxford, where I was studying.   Four versions of this fantastic song: dub, saxophone, toasting as well as the main track.  It is so powerful, so cool.  You can dance to it and be hugely moved.  Probably my most treasured vinyl record.

I can’t believe that I’ve left out these songs…

Under Mi Sensi – Barrington Levy

Dub Fi Gwan – King Tubby

I Need A Roof – The Mighty Diamonds

Two Sevens Clash – Culture

Night Nurse – Gregory Isaacs, The Cool Ruler

Water Pumping – Johnny Osbourne

Those Tricks – Carlton Livingstone

Done with It – Michael Palmer

Back To Africa – Aswad

Wolves and Leopards – Dennis Brown

Girls Wear Yuh Size – Lt Stitchie

Well, that’s cheating because that makes it twenty-one, but really, they are all so good, and there are so many more!

And here again is the link to the Spotify playlist, which gives you these wonderful songs as I remember them. I’ve limited the No 1, “Police and Thieves” to the first track, the main song, but if anyone would like to hear the full 12 inch single let me know.

TFW510 – Reggae Music

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. I’ve written a novel called “The Decision”, a futuristic political thriller, and first of a trilogy. I’m also the author of a book on music since the 1970s called “ I Was There - A Musical Journey” and a volume of poetry about youth, “Growin’ Up - Snapshots/ Fragments”. All available on Amazon and Kindle.
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17 Responses to My Top Ten – Reggae Music!

  1. Eva says:

    This is easily one of the best Top Ten lists on music I have ever read! Too many times, lists that cover a niche music style tend to be glossed over with more mainstream options. This list, however, is a deep look at a style of music that is thought to be more of a “mood” (especially when you consider tomorrow’s date) than a legitimate form of expression. Kudos!

  2. John S says:

    Eva, thank you for this fantastic comment. I don’t know what the reference to tomorrow’s date means though!

  3. surroundedbyimbeciles says:

    Great ones all! Some of Jimmy Cliff’s stuff ranks up there as well.

  4. Osama Rahman says:

    Great list. If I did a list, I think I would have to include some Linton Kwesi Johnson.

  5. Osama Rahman says:

    And perfect timing. Read the blog while watching a repeat of Reggae Brittania on BBC4

  6. Todd says:

    Wow, great list. Very extensive through the history of reggae. I know The Clash doesn’t qualify as raggae, but I would love to see Guns of Brixton (or numerous other tracks of theirs) on a raggae list sometime. Have you ever seen Jonny Greenwood’s reggae compilation? It’s pretty great. Check out the track listing here >>

  7. Pingback: Reggae forever « PhotosLyrics

  8. susielindau says:

    This is such a great top 10 list and the bonus is now I have awesome music to work to!
    I hope you have fun clicking away at my blog party! You brought the tunes! You rock literally! Okay that is a pun on several levels….. 🙂

  9. Jo Bryant says:

    This is a fantastic list…I have not heard of most of these and I love finding posts where I learn something new.

  10. aFrankAngle says:

    Followed your link via Susie … Reggae is simply fun!

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