GET READY 2 DO DE ROCKSTEADY
"When first I heard Rock steady/thrilled me to the bone/when I talk of rock steady/you need a riddim of your own/Rock steady easy/steady rock easy"
-Bob Marley, 1968
This week's continuing 1966 series continues with Jamaica's morph from ska into rock steady as Saturday is Jamaican Independence Day from British colonialism. Not that that improved living conditions in the poor impoverished third world country - indeed it would get much worse in the mid seventies, crime wise, before it would get better.
Still, signature ska collective The Skatalites skanked out "Independent Anniversary Ska" in commemoration of the occasion and their last single. Among the vocal melody makers of nascent reggae that they backed in 62-65 were The Wailers. A sea change was in the Caribbean air as early as December 1965 and Bob's "I'm Gon Put It On", with its slower, if not slow, still jaunty, riddim. Emphasis on the downbeat bass was a clue of what would soon come. Bob and Bunny's "Lonesome Track" updated their ska original. Still saxy, and still featuring that silly chuggatrain vocal vamp.
What a difference a few months made. March 1966 at Coxsone Dodd's Studio One saw Peter Tosh record the first version of his "Sinner Man", later updated as "Downpressor Man". This was the first indication of the militant rasta's risible nature: this is a serious cat we deal with! An almost mournful descendant bass riff was not characteristic of the upful ska sound. Nor were Tosh's words of foreboding:"where you gon run to?"
Scary stuff. But still, this is sound system era JA. One could still put on ones "Dancing Shoes" as Bunny Advised in March 1966. Nice up de dance Jah Bunny. He continues the pre rasta vibration with "Let Him Go", the last time The Wailers would speak of "rudie", that unfortunate OG thug. I say good riddance.
Another couple of oft recovered Bunny selections: "Who Feels It Knows It", and of course, the lovely, lilting "Dreamland" complete the ‘66 selection.
As for non Wailers music, The Maytals' "Bam" for Leslie Kong, producer, is memorable to say the least. The rude, not rudie, Prince Buster testified of a "Hard Man Fe Dead" - creepy. And the proto lovers rock Desmond Dekker recorded "Shanty Town" two years ahead of its famous inclusion in The Harder They Come.
As for the mighty Upsetter, Lee Perry? Hell, he was just getting started. But that’s another heartical. In the meantime - happy Independence Day. Cheers and Jah bless.
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