saturday morning skank spot

Dude (feat. Ms Thing & Shawnna)
  • Dude (feat. Ms Thing & Shawnna)
  • Beenie Man featuring Ms. Thing & Shawnna
  • Dude - Single (feat. Ms. Thing & Shawnna)
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Beenie Man - Dude (feat. Ms Thing and Shawnna)

The ska/rocksteady/reggae tunes which make up the soundtrack to Plebs are all from a few years before or after 1970, with just this one exception. This ribald 2004 track was used as backing music for a party scene and so qualifies for inclusion in the Saturday Morning Skank Spot’s current run of songs from Plebs.

Silly Games
  • Silly Games
  • Janet Kay
  • Trojan Presents Classic Reggae - The Soundtrack to Jamaica
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Janet Kay - Silly Games

There’s a lot of “firsts” with this record. To start with, it’s the first track by a female artist to be featured on the Saturday Morning Skank Spot. It’s also the first reggae single by a black British woman to be a top 10 hit in the UK (the London-born Ms Kay reached number 2 in the UK charts with this in 1979). This record was co-written and produced by the versatile Dennis Bovell, who produced the Slits’ debut album in the same year.

This track remains the most famous example of Lovers Rock, the first reggae sub-genre to originate in the UK. At the time of its release, I refused to like this song as I thought it was too slick and commercial to have any credibility. In the intervening decades I’ve found myself taking a more relaxed view on that sort of thing, to the extent that I now think that this is a truly wonderful record.

Chase The Devil
  • Chase The Devil
  • Max Romeo
  • War Ina Babylon
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Max Romeo - Chase the Devil

I’ve chosen this track for today’s Saturday Morning Skank Spot for the simple reason that I’ve heard it so many times over the last few weeks. My 15-year old son has a device for his electric guitar which (among other things) can make it sound like a bass, and he’s been using it to play the bassline for this 1976 Lee Perry-produced classic over and over again. He’s usually critical of my interest in vintage Jamaican music, dismissing it as “middle-class Dad reggae”, so I have been surprised to find him laying down a floor-shaking version of this quite so regularly. 

Dat
  • Dat
  • Pluto Shervington
  • Young Gifted And Black (Disc 2)
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Pluto Shervington - Dat

This week’s Saturday Morning Skank Spot is the tale of Rasta Ossie, who purchases some pork even though the consumption of pig meat is in conflict with his Rastafarian religious beliefs. A humorous song about Rastafarian dietary codes is on the face of it unlikely to achieve mainstream success, but this record reached number six in the UK charts in 1976. I’m sure that scarcely anyone who bought the record had the faintest clue what it was about (I only found out by consulting Wikipedia), they just liked the catchy tune and Mr Shervington’s cheerily engaging delivery. With last week’s freak heatwave now just a memory, this tune brings a much-needed bit of sunshine to a grim and grey Saturday.

Cricket Lovely Cricket
  • Cricket Lovely Cricket
  • Prince Far I
  • Under Heavy Manners
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Prince Far I - Cricket Lovely Cricket

Today's Saturday Morning Skank Spot is a celebration of the West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding. Recorded in 1976, this record heaps praise on Holding for his ferocious bowling in that year’s West Indies tour of England. With his combination of terrifying pace and pinpoint accuracy, as well as his liberal use of the bouncer, Holding demolished the England batting line-up. His performances were a major factor in the West Indies’ Test victories against the hapless English.

The one thing that everyone knows about Michael Holding is that during a Test match when Holding was bowling against the English player Peter Willey, the commentator Brian Johnston declared “The bowler’s Holding, the batsman’s Willey”. Sadly, there is no evidence that Johnston ever said such a thing; it would now surely be on YouTube if he did.

Insane in the Membrane (feat. Horseman)
  • Insane in the Membrane (feat. Horseman)
  • Prince Fatty
  • The Craig Charles Funk & Soul Club
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Prince Fatty - Insane in the Membrane (feat. Horseman)

The sun is shining, it looks like Spring is here and I’ve decided to start a new run of the Saturday Morning Skank Spot. This track is a magnificent re-interpretation of the Cypress Hill classic. If it doesn’t put a big smile on your face, then you really do have problems.

Christmas Time Is Here
  • Christmas Time Is Here
  • The Heptones
  • Reggae Christmas from Studio One
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The Heptones - Christmas Time is Here

Here’s another seasonally-appropriate tune for the Saturday Morning Skank Spot. Released in 1968, it will add a welcome rocksteady element to your festive playlist.

I will be giving the Skank Spot a rest for a while after today. This much-loved (in Alabama) feature will return some time in 2012, at a time when I feel I can be bothered to do it.

Long Shot
  • Long Shot
  • The Pioneers
  • Trojan Presents: Rock Steady [Explicit]
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The Pioneers - Long Shot Bus’ Me Bet

“What was the first ever reggae record?” is a question that musicologists have been pondering for decades. It’ll take a more rhythmically-aware person than me to be able to identify just when that subtle shift in the rhythm occurred which marked the transition from rocksteady to the reggae genre. Experts agree that there’s a number of candidates but the emerging consensus is that the first reggae record is this track about an unsuccessful racehorse. As the wiki entry for “Reggae" states:

The Pioneers’ 1967 track “Long Shot Bus’ Me Bet” has been identified as the earliest recorded example of the new rhythm sound that became known as reggae.“

The Saturday Morning Skank Spot is happy to accept Wikipedia’s ruling on this matter.

War Ina Babylon
  • War Ina Babylon
  • Max Romeo
  • Reggae Greats
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Max Romeo - War Ina Babylon

Singer Max Romeo has the honour of being the first artist to be featured twice on the Saturday Morning Skank Spot. His rather risqué 1969 hit Wet Dream cropped up on the Skank Spot in November last year. 

Released in 1976, War Ina Babylon was produced by Lee “Scratch” Perry. Lyrically, its themes are quite similar to the Perry-produced Police and Thieves from the same year. Like Culture's Two Sevens Clash, the song combines a quite grim subject matter with some very cheerful-sounding music. If you didn’t listen to the words, you’d think this was a very merry song indeed.

Mr Know It All
  • Mr Know It All
  • Gregory Isaacs
  • Hot Stepper: The Best of Gregory Isaacs (Spectrum)
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Gregory Isaacs - Mr Know It All

There are two records for the price of one on today’s Saturday Morning Skank Spot. The first part of this track features Gregory mocking ‘Mr Know It All’ who, despite his name, doesn’t know that his girlfriend is about to run off, most likely into the clutches of Gregory himself. It then eases into a cracking dub version of the song. What a bargain!

Dynamic Fashion Way
  • Dynamic Fashion Way
  • U-Roy
  • Trojan Presents: DJs
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U-Roy - Dynamic Fashion Way

After a surprisingly good (if short) summer, the weather has now reverted to a long succession of dull, grey and damp days. It must be time to bring back the Saturday Morning Skank Spot in order to restore some sunshine. This pioneering piece of toasting, which also features some notable tenor sax playing from Val Bennett, will almost certainly raise your spirits to a more acceptable level.

Party Time
  • Party Time
  • The Heptones
  • Reggae Greats
Play

The Heptones - Party Time

In the mid-seventies, Lee “Scratch” Perry produced three albums which have come to be regarded as his “holy trinity” of classics. Two of them, Junior Murvin’s Police and Thieves and Max Romeo’s War Ina Babylon, were both majestic state of the nation addresses, which commented on the violence and unrest which beset Jamaican society at that time. The third album, The Heptones’ Party Time, also contained much serious social commentary but it also featured a title track which explained the importance of having a good party now and again (We’ve got to live some life/Before we’re old/We’ve got to live some life/Before we’re cold”). As the Christmas party season is now in full swing, it’s an ideal time to feature the track as part of the Saturday Morning Skank Spot’s brief Christmas run. While you’re at any parties this festive season, remember the Heptones’ wise message - enjoy yourself because soon enough you’ll be dead.