Bovine Ska and Rocksteady 6/23/15: The Torpedo Label

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A fine cut on Briscoe’s Torpedo Label


So, after last week’s misfire with Mixcloud (it sadly seems that the limit for tracks from a single artist is four) we decided to turn our attention this week to the thunderous and at times daffy early reggae sounds of England’s Torpedo Label.  That of course started at the midway point of the podcast.  We began the show with two sumptuous sets of rocksteady, beginning with a rare cut from Merritone that you must hear called “Fountain Bliss.”  After a mento set that featured a Lord Fly composition called “Mabel.”  After a long a frenzied ska set, we went right into our spotlight of the Torpedo Label.

Lambert Briscoe ran the Hot Rod sound system in Brixton, and from the popularity of his soundsystem, emerged the Torpedo record label, which was founded by Briscoe and Eddy Grant, yes the same Eddy Grant of The Equals and eventually Electric Avenue fame. Torpedo was founded in 1970 and was short lived; it folded in the same year but was eventually revived for a stint 1974. As a result of this, we will split this spotlight according to the birth year and the rebirth year of Torpedo, beginning with the very first single released on the label, Pussy Got Nine Life by the Hot Rod All Stars, the Torpedo label’s house band, consisting of Ardley White, Danny Smith, Earl Dunn, and Sonny Binns. Originally known as The Rudies, they were renamed after Lambert Briscoe’s soundsystem as the Hot Rod All Stars, and somewhere between the transformation from The Rudies to the Hot Rod All Stars, the group also spurred off and developed into The Cimarons, who would become the pre-eminent backing band for the English reggae scene. In addition to Lambert Briscoe himself, Larry Lawrence also produced for the Torpedo label, most notably, he was the producer of Errol English’s cover of The Small Faces, Sha La La La Lee.
With 1970 marking the height of the skinhead reggae movement, characterized by a fast, danceable rhythm, the English market was dominated by Trojan and Pama, two heavyweights that had many subsidiary arms and stables with major artists, making it difficult for a small label like Torpedo to survive past its first year, which it unfortunately did not. Then, by 1973, the skinhead reggae of the previous years began to lose traction, signed especially by the folding of reggae specialized music shops. But as the late 60s/early 70s fast reggae left the spotlight in 1973, roots reggae with its markedly slower skank took its place, particularly due to the release of Bob Marley’s To Catch a Fire. Consequently, with this resurged interest in reggae, Eddy Grant opened up the Torpedo label again in 1974, but now focused the releases on more of a roots reggae sound. We kicked off the highlights from the Torpedo revival with Johnny Jonas’s Happy Birthday, a track produced by Eddy Grant himself.

Check out the full 6-23-15 Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady podcast on Mixcloud HERE!

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Bovine Ska and Rocksteady 6/9/15: The Viceroys

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The pirate-themed rocksteady of “Ya Ho” on Studio One

We started off this past week’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady podcast, our second since leaving Boston with two sets of joyous fast ska beginning with The Checkmates “Invisible Ska.”  We ended our first hour with two version to version excursions, ending with Delroy Wilson’s ” I Want To Love You,” followed by Big Youth’s sublime version,”Not Long Ago.”   The second hour began with our spotlight on Studio One vocal group, The Viceroys.

The Viceroys began singing together after Wesley Tinglin, Daniel Bernard, and Bunny Gayle met in West Kingston near Spanishtown Road. Tinglin had been singing at Joe Higgs’ music classes in the company of Alton Ellis and Ken Boothe, and after picking up some guitar, he was ready to begin to record with a group. The Viceroys first auditioned for Duke Reid with two tracks written by Tinglin, but Duke Reid was not interested. Consequently, the group went over to Coxone Dodd, who recorded their first single, Lose & Gain, a track also written by Tinglin then arranged by Jackie Mittoo and backed by The Soul Vendors and this was the track that kicked off our spotlight on The Viceroys

Yo Ho was inspired by Tinglin’s interest in The Caribbean Reader, which contained stories about Morgan the pirate and other pirates. After their time with Coxone Dodd, which ended with dissatisfaction with the usually disappointing business practices of Studio One, The Viceroys went over to Derrick Morgan. Our second set began with their rocksteady recorded for Derrick Morgan, Lip and Tongue.

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Bovine Ska and Rocksteady 6/2/2015: The Rulers

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Superb rocksteady from The Rulers prod by JJ

After a one month hiatus where we packed up and moved across the country, Lily and I are back this week to continue the Bovine Ska and Rocksteady as a weekly podcast through Mixcloud being uploaded every Tuesday at 9PM (PST) midnight (EST).  The show’s format will remain the same as it has since 1996, concentrating on early Jamaican music from 1955-1975,with a mento set and artist spotlight midway through the program.  What is new is that we will report out on live Jamaican music happening in the Southern California area as well as Boston area music updates.  We began this week with four versions of The Melodians “Everybody Bawling” that we always send to our friend, Magnus Johnstone.  We ended the first hour with a set of ska which fed directly into a spotlight on the JJ Johnson produced vocal group, The Rulers.

Surprisingly, there is not much known about The Rulers considering their track, Wrong Emboyo, which was originally produced by JJ in 1967, would become one of the many Jamaican songs that would gain notoriety by being covered by The Clash.  What we do know about The Rulers is that the aforementioned track and many of their others have a writing credit to Clyde Alphonso. We also know that JJ’s preferred house band was Bobby Aitken and the Carib Beats, who backed up all of The Rulers’ releases we will hear this evening, for they were all produced by JJ Johnson for his JJ label. Given that the preponderance of their releases are during the rocksteady era, it is no surprise that many of the tracks’’ lyrics are concerned about rude boys. Similar to Alton Ellis, the Rude Boy tracks cut by The Rulers condemn the actions of the rude boys, such as the first track on this evening’s podcast from 1966, Don’t Be a Rude Boy.

This week’s podcast which will remain up for one week, can be heard here:

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Lily and Generoso