Roots Reggae / Rebel Music 1978 – 1983


1978 – 1980


1 MATUMBI / Empire Road / Seven Seals February 1978

2 BURNING SPEAR / Institution / Social Living March 1978

3 DR ALTIMANTADO / Poison Flour / Best Dressed Chicken In Town March 1978

4 DENNIS BROWN / Promised Land / Joseph’s Coat Of Many Colours April 1978

5 GREGORY ISAACS / Storybook Children / Mr Isaacs April 1978

6 AUGUSTUS PABLO / Memories Of The Ghetto / East Of The River Nile May 1978

7 LEE ‘SCRATCH’ PERRY / Roast Fish And Cornbread / Roast Fish, Collie Weed And Cornbread June 1978

8 ISRAEL VIBRATION / Why Worry / The Same Song July 1978

9 STEEL PULSE / Ku Klux Klan / Handsworth Revolution August 1978

10 WILLIE WILLIAMS / Armagideon Time / Armagideon Time March 1979

11 MIKEY DREAD / Barbers Saloon / Dread At The Controls April 1979

12 JOHNNY OSBOURNE / Children Are Crying / Truth And Rights June 1979

13 LINTON KWESI JOHNSON / Fite Dem Back / Forces Of Victory August 1979

14 I ROY / African Herbsman / African Herbsman October 1979

15 BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS / Zion Train / Uprising June 1980

16 SCIENTIST / Seconds Away / Heavyweight Dub Champion July 1980

17 MIKEY DREAD / Mental Slavery / World War III August 1980

18 BARRINGTON LEVY / Robin Hood / Robin Hood September 1980

19 BLACK UHURU / Leaving To Zion / Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner October 1980


1981 – 1983


1 WAILING SOULS / Kingdom Rise Kingdom Fall / Fire House Rock January 1981

2 PETER TOSH / Wanted Dread And Alive / Wanted Dread And Alive March 1981

3 ASWAD / Ghetto In The Sky / New Chapter Of Dub May 1981

4 SCIENTIST / Beam Down / Scientist Meets The Space Invaders June 1981

5 SLY AND ROBBIE / Fire And Brimstone / Raiders Of The Lost Dub July 1981

6 ECHO MINOTT / Youth Man / Youth Man Vibrations September 1981

7 TOYAN / How The West Was Won / How The West Was Won October 1981

8 EEK A MOUSE / Operation Extradition / Wa Do Dem February 1982

9 MAD PROFESSOR / Freedom Chant / Dub Me Crazy February 1982

10 YELLOWMAN / Duppy Or Gunman / Mister Yellowman May 1982

11 GREGORY ISAACS / Night Nurse / Night Nurse June 1982

12 FREDDIE MCGREGOR / Holy Mount Zion / Big Ship August 1982

13 JOHN HOLT / Police In Helicopter / Police In Helicopter September 1982

14 HUGH MUNDELL / Rasta Have The Handle / Mundell September 1982

15 BLACK UHURU / Youth / The Dub Factor March 1983

16 SUGAR MINOTT / Babylon / With Lots Of Extra May 1983

17 DON CARLOS / Ababa John I (Father Majesty) / Spread Out June 1983

18 CLINT EASTWOOD & GENERAL SAINT / Nuclear Crisis / Stop That Train September 1983


   Bob Marley was a man of many faces – a third world visionary and first world pop star, a prophet of national revolution and messenger of global peace, a Rastafarian mystic and lascivious lover. He was never popular amongst punks, who liked their heroes a little more obscure, but we could all appreciate the mans mind-boggling determination and drive to succeed. In 1978, with Marley leading the way, roots influence had not only spread to predominantly white punks but also to young British West Indians their parents having emigrated in the fifties with the promise of work and a better life. Those dreams had soon turned sour as they suffered discrimination at work and school, and were openly targeted by police using the notorious SUS – stop and search – laws. Rastafari offered an oppositional culture, giving a sense of self-respect and identity.

   Young blacks in British inner cities did not simply absorb Caribbean music. As an established community they created their own to reflect their life in Britain. Matumbi, Steel Pulse and Aswad rose up but the most militant was poet Linton Kwesi Johnson. He mixed heavy dub with revolutionary politics attacking racism and apathy. It was uniquely British rebel music, street music that knew who the real enemy was in an institutionally racist society.

   The Clash’s love of reggae had a massive influence on white British youth. Inevitably as their word spread their adoring legions sought out the originals of their cover versions like Willie Williams Armagedeon Time. Mikey Dread was The Clash’s reggae mentor, lending them an authenticity they could so easily have lacked, but his finest moments came on his own Dread At The Controls and World War III, roots classics both.

   Dub had continued to progress, with Lee Perry and King Tubby still innovative forces until Tubby’s protégé Scientist nicked the key to the Kings echo chamber and became the undisputed heavyweight champion of Jamaican dub with ridiculously themed Jah free albums that smashed the seventies mould. Strangely Britain became a new centre for dub production, the Mad Professor being the most admired as post punk bands and even lightweight shite like UB40 popularised the revolutionary medium.

   It would be easy to say that the roots movement died with Bob Marley on 11th May 1981, but the truth was a new form had already overtaken it. The idea of reggae going international in the wake of Marley’s phenomenal success had forced it to readdress its reasons for doing what it did in the first place. New technology was changing the way music was made and there was a generation of musicians who naturally wanted to try something different.

   And so dancehall was born. Just as roots had blended almost unnoticed with early reggae, so dancehall blended with roots. Barrington Levy was the 16-year-old dancehall sensation in 1980 but it was Sugar Minott, Eek A Mouse and Yellowman who built the foundations from the blueprints drawn by dancehall creator Henry ‘Junjo’ Lawes. If seventies roots was red, green and gold, eighties dancehall was gold chains. What began as ‘slackness’, a Carry On film like slant, rapidly mutated into a nasty, homophobic, criminalised, gun toting load of macho bullshit but as roots retreated back into the shadows that’s another story.

   Despite its withdrawal from the mainstream, even in Jamaica, roots had already fulfilled its original purpose, albeit in a subtle way. Bob Marley remains as reggaes only World star but its influence, particularly sonically, is all around in techno, jungle, drum and bass, house and ambient music to name just a few. And think on this. In the late sixties a 12-year-old boy called Clive Graham moved to the Bronx from Jamaica. Emulating the Jamaican sound systems that had dominated his early life, and continuing to listen to roots from afar, he began DJ’ ing block parties. That boy was Kool Herc who alongside Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa is acknowledged as one of hip hops founding triumvirate, a genre that has taken over the planet. You can’t get much more influential than that.

April 2007