Various – Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records
Various – Rudeboy: The Story Of Trojan Records
Label: Trojan Records/BMG/Pulse Films | Format: CD-DVD | Street date: January 8, 2021 | Website label
- Derrick Morgan – Lover Boy
- Justin Hinds & The Dominoes – Carry Go Bring Come
- Derrick Morgan – Blazing Fire
- Justin Hinds & The Dominoes – No Good Rudie
- Derrick Morgan – Tougher Than Tough (Rudie In Court)
- Dandy Livingstone – Rudy, A Message To You
- The Maytals – 54-46 Was My Number
- Derrick Morgan – Seven Letters
- Dandy Livingstone – Reggae In Your Jeggae
- John Holt – Ali Baba
- Desmond Dekker & The Aces – 007 (Shanty Town)
- Harry J All Stars – Liquidator
- Derrick Morgan – Moon Hop
- The Untouchables – Tighten Up
- The Upsetters – Return Of Django
- The Pioneers – Long Shot Kick De Bucket
- Desmond Dekker & The Aces – Israelites
- The Maytals – Monkey Man
- Bob & Marcia – To Be Young Gifted And Black
- Dave & Ansel Collins – Double Barrel
- Desmond Dekker – You Can Get It If You Really Want
- The Pioneers – Let Your Yeah Be Yeah
- Ken Boothe – Everything I Own
- The Maytals – Pressure Drop
With vast tracts of the globe under lockdown in some shape or form, this 85-minute movie documentary on the roots of reggae will prove a welcome distraction for many. Though the focus here is on the music, the story cannot be told without numerous nods to the social and historical context within which it surfaced.
As the film acknowledges, ‘the story of TROJAN is a British one’, but this story cannot be told without tracing its umbilical cord to Jamaica. And the movie does this in delightful fashion, to a sublime soundtrack, interspersed with insights from the musicians and many more who were on the ground at the time.
Hence, this invaluable contribution to the music’s history – from the soundsystem and ska to roots – is told by a host of heroes, with accompaniment from the sounds of the day. The interviews and musical backdrop are provided by artists that include Derrick Morgan, Bunny Lee, Dandy Livingstone, (the too cool) Lloyd Coxsone, Marcia Griffiths, Toots, Lee Perry, Pauline Black, Don Letts, and Ken Boothe.
Starting with the demise of the ‘big band’ era in favour of the soundsystem and Duke Reid – ‘a no-nonsense ex-policeman’ – the story recounts how the London-based TROJAN record label (founded in 1968) played a central role in the spread of reggae’s rhythms, ultimately allowing Marley and his roots aficionados to flower at around the same time as the label went into liquidation in the mid-70s.
The sublime soundtrack neatly dovetails with the tale of Jamaican immigrants to Britain to do ‘any kind of job’ in the post-Second World War reconstruction era – a fact that is often forgotten by the more racist-oriented Brexiteers. Hence, it offers numerous visual delights, contrasting old black and white clips and vignettes with high-quality credible contemporary reproductions, without losing the feel of either the era or the story being told.
Hence, tales of racism, violence and societal change ensure that the movie is as much a musical as a social history. And TROJAN – now under the ownership of the multi-million BMG music publisher and record label corporation – is perfectly placed to tell this story, as ‘TROJAN had all the artists’ – and so it had.
Inevitably, given the nature of people and music and TROJAN’s remarkable commercial success, Dandy Livingstone poses the question: ‘What happened to the money? I don’t know… Money is a tricky thing’. Unfortunately, the movie fails to satisfactorily answer this particular question. And with TROJAN founder Lee Gopthal gone west, it’s unlikely we’ll get an answer to it any time soon. However, some speculate that the cost of broadening reggae’s appeal, via re-mastering and overdubbing string arrangements, took a heavy financial toll.
At the personal level, it was striking to hear Marcia Griffiths reprise ‘Young, Gifted and Black’ as the Selecter’s Pauline Black recalled the seismic impact this record had on her self-image and confidence. Likewise, Derrick Morgan’s first time hearing his record on the radio – ‘I want a girl to dance with me’ – evoking the sensation that: ‘I think I was in heaven. Oh God, let me die here’. Some sadists may also enjoy seeing BBC dj Tony Blackburn eat his (demeaning) words on reggae, as he introduces the No. 1 ‘Double Barrell’ to a fawning ‘Top of the Pops’ audience.
And the good news is that BMG – which now owns the TROJAN catalogue and has a slew of ‘Independent Publisher of the Year’ awards to its name – has also secured the rights to a range of other reggae classics, via RAS records and many more. Looks like this is going to be a long and lively musical ride. And it’s very welcome.