“More than any other track, I’m thinking Guns of Brixton is what hooked me to the Clash. Because as much as I’d enjoyed their punk and powerful raving and drooling, this was obviously something else. Reggae, I guess, but not really. Because there’s way more going on here than just some white people ripping off Jamaican sounds, making it all sound like tourist music. Nah, Guns of Brixton is dangerous. What do you do when the cops bust in?” (Philip Random)
The Clash’s second album Give ‘Em Enough Rope may not be their best, but it sure delivers with Safe European Home, the-only-band-that-mattered captured at peak ferocity, moving beyond mere punk into a realm that is best thought of as superlative. And the words aren’t entirely stupid either, though the same perhaps can’t be said of Rudy.
“Speaking of reggae, I’d be lying if I said the Clash weren’t one of my key entry points, still to this day maybe the only white reggae band that ever truly mattered. Because somehow or other, they got the depth of it, not just the easy, stoned sunshine grooves. Like Sean Flynn (concerning Errol Flynn’s son, a photojournalist who was killed in the Cambodian spillover of the Vietnam war) a song which maybe isn’t reggae at all, but it’s definitely dub, Apocalypse Now derived hallucinatory helicopter blades, intense heat, but you’re somehow floating above it all, finding just enough altitude to see some beauty without denying any of the tragedy.” (Philip Random)
“The release date for Catch A Fire says 1973 but I didn’t have the right ears for Bob Marley and the Wailers (and reggae in general for that matter) until at least 1980. And Concrete Jungle was pivotal in that evolution, and marijuana. By which I mean, Old Ted (one of my more dependable dealers at the time) insisted that I get high on some particularly effective herb, and listen to Catch A Fire with him. ‘Because marijuana will never be free until Jamaica is free.’ Which sounds a bit vague now but trust me, it made profound sense then. And it all started with Concrete Jungle, first track on the album, one of the best bands ever in all creation, slowly slipping things into gear for a revelatory journey through the concrete and shadows of Babylon and beyond.” (Philip Random)
“In which Peter Tosh (ex of the Wailers) takes a Joe Higgs original about being dangerous indeed, and very much makes it very much his own. “It was released in 1977 but I didn’t really connect with it until the late 80s when so-called Gangsta rap was starting to hit hard, turning the uttering of threats into a functional musical vocabulary. Ah, the good ole days.” (Philip Random)
Joe Higgs (the man who taught Bob Marley how to sing) delivers yet another sort of lost hit from way back when, that murky part of the 1970s when reggae still hadn’t really been discovered by the rest of the world and yet, no coincidence, was probably at its best.
George Dekker (straight outa Jamaica) delivers a timeless anthem of rather uplifting despair, if such is possible. Because things are always getting worse, just turn on the news, no reason to stop moving. “I remember a work friend whose younger brother was dying of Hodgkin’s. She loved this song. It became kind of a joke. I’d ask her how things were. She’d raise a triumphant fist and declare, Things Are Getting Worse.” (Philip Random)
In which Keith Richard stumbles through a reggae classic that no white man has any business even touching and actually delivers something halfway worthy, maybe because of all the heroin related calamity he’d recently endured in Toronto. Found on the b-side of Run Rudolph Run, a 1978 Christmas single that went nowhere.