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Ska Wars – The feud between Prince Buster and Derrick Morgan

Little in Jamaican music is clear. Smoke and mirrors doesn’t begin to cover it. Any fans of Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae will be well versed in multiple releases of the same song, by the same artist on differing labels. Then, to cap it all, those that played the records often scratched the labels off so that those listening in for rival sound-system would be unable to identify the most popular records on the dancefloor. Underhand deals, backstabbing (sometimes literally) and clashes were common. The most famous of these ‘musical wars’ in Jamaican music of the early sixties was between Cecil Bustamente Campbell, better known as Prince Buster and Derrick Morgan dubbed ‘The Ska King’.

Prince Buster hewn from the mean streets of downtown Kingston was a real life Rude boy, a street fighting tough whose pugilistic talents were utilised at Coxsone Dodd’s Downbeat Sound System at dances. Never one to shy away from confrontation he left Coxsone’s stable in 1961 and established his own Sound System; The Voice of The People, with the aim of dethroning the three recognised leaders in the sound system business at the time; Coxsone, Duke Reid (The Trojan) and King Edward The Giant.

Amid the faint whiff of corruption, he so very nearly fell at the first hurdle when immigration stopped his attempt to buy American records via the Farm Work Programme to play on his system. His competitors knew he would have been a serious threat to them, so perhaps ‘interference’ was inevitable. Buster if nothing else was a fighter, so he moved into recording and producing and created his own music to play; producing successful hits for not just himself but Eric ‘Monty’ Morris, Owen Grey and his soon to be arch-rival Derrick Morgan.

Derrick Morgan was a couple of years younger than Buster and after a modest but comfortable upbringing and schooling (compared to Campbell at least) he went on to win several talent shows with his singing leading to a success in the late 50’s on a couple of discs recorded with Duke Reid. Not long after these recordings Derrick met Prince Buster and excited by Buster’s fledgling outfit seized on the opportunity to record Shake A Leg and Come On Over with the Prince, however, shortly after Derrick decided to move to aspiring Jamaican-Chinese producer Leslie Kong who at $20 a song was paying twice as much as Campbell at his Beverley’s studio not 100 yards further along Orange Street, a move that infuriated Buster and led to a bitter feud between the pair. The acrimony exploded when Morgan recorded a hugely successful record for Kong called Forward March, with Buster accusing him of plagiarising the saxophone solo.

Buster lit the touch paper on Blackhead Chineyman in no uncertain terms within the stinging lyrics “you stole my belongings and give them to your Chineyman; God in heaven knows you are wrong; Are you a Chineyman or are you a black man?”

Clearly stung Morgan responded vehemently with Blazing Fire (which allegedly starts with the phrase ‘Shut Up Fool’ spoken in Chinese) “You said it, I am a blazing fire, you said it, I am a blackhead Chineyman, but when I was with you, I was like a bull in a pen. Live and let others live and your days will be much longer”.

The musical spat continued with Buster responding with Praise Without Raise in which he sung “All you’re getting is praise, but the Chineyman banking the raise. Watch out blackhead you’re getting praise without raise”

Morgan hit back again immediately with ‘No Raise No Praise’ stressing “You also said I’m getting praise and no raise. Don’t conceal it friend to tell the public I was singing for you and I neither get praise, much less raise”.

It wasn’t just the two artists that were getting involved – rival gangs of Rude boys were getting on board (no doubt goaded on by the main protagonists) and actual pitched battles were taking place at the Sound System jump ups and even politicians were starting to get involved in the unedifying spectacle.

There were a few more exchanges such as Buster’s 30 pieces of Silver but it wasn’t until Buster threatened to release a song called Chinese Jacket which explicitly named Morgan, that Morgan warned Buster that should he proceed, he would release one with the lyrics “Buster while you were at sea, I was alone with B (Blossom Buster’s wife) and all your children have the mark of the Blackhead Chinaman”.

Getting pressure from at home and now the newly formed Jamaican Government as disputes between rival fans had grown to such seriousness that they were forced to intervene in the feud and cease the rivalry. They arranged for both men to be pictured together in a friendly manner and publicly declare that despite the rhetoric in the songs the two were actually best of friends.

Whatever the reason the musical war quietened down and the exchanges thereafter were more humorous in tone. Morgan’s Rude Boy in court tune Tougher Than Tough was followed by Buster’s smash-hit Judge Dread “You tell me Rude Boy never fear?” echoing a line in Tougher Than Tough… before summarily sentencing him to 400 years. Morgan responded with Judge Long Sentence, before Buster got the last words in with the conciliatory The Appeal and then finally Barrister Pardon.

In later years, it was said that this musical war was just a friendly one designed to generate interest in their recordings and boost record sales through the controversy that it triggered, but with the vitriol of the early exchanges it seems unlikely, but like much in Jamaican music it is hard to know where the truth lies. What is true though is that Derrick Morgan went on to record many more tunes for Prince Buster’s labels after the cessation of hostilities. What is also true is that both men have left an amazing legacy of tunes and the tunes involved aresome of the finest of the early Ska era.

The tunes that defined the ‘musical war’:

Derrick Morgan – Forward March

Prince Buster – Blackhead Chineyman

Derrick Morgan – Blazing Fire

Prince Buster – Praise Without Raise

Derrick Morgan – No Raise No Praise

Prince Buster – 30 Pieces of Silver

Derrick Morgan – Tougher Than Tough

Prince Buster – Judge Dread

Derrick Morgan – Judge Long Sentence

Prince Buster – The Appeal

Prince Buster – Barrister Pardon

Ladies SKA Soul Shoes Spring 2018

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The Strike Bowling Shoes By Modshoes

The Strike Bowling Shoes By Modshoes

These Bowling shoes have been developed to get as close as possible to the ones we used to have back in the day. Notice they are a lot slimmer than other bowling shoes that have previously been available.

The main reason that we had these made is that we were asked for them loads, in fact it was one of the 1st requests we had ! We like to listen to our customers and bring back the styles they would like to see again.

The leather used on these is proper soft leather and requires little wearing in. On the sole we have added a black grip to the front, so you shouldn’t be slipping either.

In terms of outfits, casual with jeans. We are thinking they look smarter than a trainer, but less formal than conventional shoes, so great on the scooter or just out for a pint.

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Modshoes Mens Spring Summer 2018

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Modshoes Mens Spring Summer Collection 2018

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Just what was so Special about 2-Tone?

Being a teenager in the late 70’s presented Britain’s disaffected youth with an embarrassment of riches to which tribe to pin your colours to the mast. In 1979 those colours were definitely black and white.

The Specials looked like a gang. A gang you wanted to be in. They looked hard, sharp and they had your back. That was also a necessity on the streets of late 70’s Britain. The style template was on the record label. Walt Jabsco the creation of band-leader Jerry Dammers, Horace Panter and designers ‘Teflon’ Sims and David Storey was taken from an early shot of Peter Tosh in full on rude-boy mode as part of the cover of the LP Wailin’ Wailers. The wrap around shades, the blue-beat stingy brim hat, slim-jim tie (although on original abum he sported a bow-tie) and tight-fitting black suit; the trousers of which looked like they’d had an argument with the wearers ankles and the shoes. Thick soled or leather soled beef-roll loafers with fringe, tassel or ‘penny’ vamp. Suddenly the high street was full of rude-boys walking the walk and talking the talk.

The Specials were so much more than just an image. They were politically conscious on a local level, reflecting the social-divide that their working-class audience were at the sharp end of. A witty re-write of Lloydie and the Lowbites ‘Birth Control’ became ‘Too Much Too Young’; ‘Concrete Jungle’, its title cribbed from an early 70’s Bob Marley tune turned into an all too real urban nightmare in the hands of Jerry Dammers and the effortlessly enigmatic Terry Hall, the bouncing Lynval Golding and Rude boy in chief Neville Staple.

Larger topics were handled with similar aplomb. Touring with The Clash (and a brief share of management) lead to the creation of Rock Against Racism. Their traditional skinhead image heavily at odds with bone-head National Front and British Movement fascism. Later still they’d champion the release of former ANC leader Nelson Mandela. From the litter-strewn streets of a still bomb-site Coventry to the dusty roads of Soweto their heady-mix of Ska and Punk struck a chord with those who demanded both justice and change.

All this was driven from the creation of their record company 2-Tone. Funded by Chrysalis records who were sold on the power of the bands image, musicality and Dammers’ intense belief. Altruistic (a shared B-side on debut single with The Selector) and Artistic its output was eclectic, politically challenging and just oh so danceable in your choice of loafers.

2-Tone launched the careers of The Selector, The Bodysnatchers and music-hall popsters Madness all of which used both arch humour and social commentary to great affect and all of which conquered the charts on a regular basis. Other bands took their lead from their ideals too; Bad Manners whose slapstick vaudeville approach belied great musicianship and The Beat who also had their own record label Go-Feet and stylish logo based on one-time Prince Buster paramour Bridgette Bond, released a slew of stunningly good singles. Young Soul Rebels Dexys Midnight Runners were also given a leg-up supporting The Specials on Tour.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Toni Tye/PYMCA/REX/Shutterstock (3488834a)
A group of Ska, 2 Tone fans, at a gig at Friars, Aylesbury, UK 1980
STOCK

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Toni Tye/PYMCA/REX/Shutterstock (3488830a)
Two young Ska, 2Tone, fans, waving, Coventry, UK 1980
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In 1981 The Specials released possibly their greatest single; Ghost Town. It is by any measure a stunning song that is as (sadly) reflective of today’s society as it ever was then. Released in the week of the Toxteth Riots and with a punch in the guts despondency that reflected the fears of their audience (and also the band – it was to be their last single in this line-up) it stormed to number one. It’s rejection of social cleansing via faceless town centres, mind-numbing boredom and being set adrift in a sea of jobless statistics and scapegoat politics is incredibly powerful. The haunting trombone (played by original Alpha Boys School alumni) Rico Rodriguez adds to its paranoid air. The streets were set ablaze to its soundtrack that summer. The mixed race (more so than reported… naturally) working class rejection made real.

Music so rarely achieves the change it promises, but rarely has a band been so instrumental in fighting the injustices it sees. The Specials stood for something and continue to do so, such is their legacy. Ask most teenagers in the late 70’s who their favourite band was The Specials would have been a long way up the list… to many they still are.

We have done a few pictures to go with this blog.

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The Flame That Burned – Punk The Greatest Legacy & Influence

40 years ago, this week, The Sex Pistols played the last date of their one and only American tour at the Winterland Gardens in the Hippie haven of San Francisco. Paul Cook and Steve Jones plug away gamely to an audience of the curious and the haters; the doomed Sid Vicious struggles on bass, not least as it’s not his first-choice instrument, which currently is the syringe.

A normally sprite-humoured Johnny Rotten is tired and in his mind already made up in leaving the cartoon edifice the band has become is singing The Stooges No Fun and meaning every ad-libbed word. The shambolic ending perhaps most eloquently summed up by his sardonic sign off ‘Ha Ha ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?’ He could easily have been referring to himself.

Punk is now officially dead. Sid literally so not long after.

In truth however, Punk was an alchemist for so much great music of the late 70’s and early 80’s. Its effect on music far outlasted the flash-bang of the ‘76/’77 period which is widely acknowledged as its peak. Its greatest legacy has been as a catalyst for people to ‘have a go’ – it’s been an inspiration for a lot of creative people; not just musicians but artists, poets, writers, comedians and designers, its still going strong today and Punk could well be attributed to as its ground zero.

As the initial punk bands musicality improved it had an easy metamorphosis into Power-Pop and the charts were awash with three-minute pop gems with attitude. More interesting still is its amalgamation with other musical genres.

The Mod Revival took the template of the hedonistic attitude of The Who, The Kinks and Small Faces and mixed in a liberal dose of Punk snotty demeanour. Bands like the Chords very much typified that Punks in Parkas sobriquet. One-time Punk bands like The New Hearts became Secret Affair and added in a chunk of soul music to their Punk/Mod hybrid and with it garnered perhaps the most original sound from the Revival Period culminating in the classic Time For Action.

Punks affinity with that other most rebel of music Reggae is well known. The Clash made a series of scorching Reggae Cuts from covers such as Junior Murvin’s Police & Thieves and Willie Williams’ Armagiddeon Time to their own originals like Bankrobber. The Ruts and The Slits also made great slices of Reggae. Reggae legend Bob Marley returned the favour on Punky Reggae Party namechecking The Jam, The Damned and The Clash. Its therefore no great leap to see how 2-Tone came into being.

2-Tone was perhaps Punks greatest musically influenced legacy. The Rude-boy bounce of Ska and Rock Steady appealed more to the predominately white working-class incumbents of Punk. The Roots Radical vibe a more middle-class affinity. From the ashes of Punk band The Coventry Automatics came The Specials. Their eponymous album is the perfect mix of Punk and Ska. It’s striking black and white imagery and Walt Jabsco logo (based on an image of rude-boy era Wailer Peter Tosh) was an immediate hit. Hot in their wake came Midlands band The Selector who took The B-side of The Specials first single; the Prince Buster influenced Gangsters. The Beat, Madness and the all-girl Bodysnatchers took the Punk/Ska template and each added their own spin on it. Its sound, attitude and most of all, its style inflamed a generation.

Punk was a flame that burned bright and extinguished too early but its greatest achievement was that it lit the touch-paper to so much more. Johnny Rotten may have felt cheated, trapped in a cartoon punk circus he was no longer ringmaster of, but the legacy of his charge spread far and wide and away from the machinations of Machiavellian Svengali’s and I think above all he loved that most of all.

Looking a Little Peaky… a case for the defence of the Hipster

The death of the youth cult has been a preoccupation of many a writer in the last 20 years and probably rightly so; post Raver and Baggy there is probably no street-driven youth cult since. Yes, there have been musical genres from Grunge to Grime and any number of ‘fashionable’ looks that defined a time… anyone else remember the Hoxton Fin?

But none of these were street honed codes that defined you as part of a tribe that once ensnared meant that your every nuance from your choice of clobber to your obsession over ‘that’ B-side you felt was yours alone. A first-love that you would never forget and something that would define your ethics from that day forth.

The explosion of social media, with bite-size try before you buy tasters that now mean that you don’t have to commit to that band, that book or film are probably one of the four-horsemen of the youth-cult apocalypse. Youth cults demand commitment if nothing else – no half measures here!

The golden era of youth cult; the sons and daughters of the post-war parents had a very clear boundary between youth and age. Those golden faces really were under twenty-five. These days age is just a number and any youth-cult is probably better defined as a lifestyle choice. This of course is not without its draw backs – the looks are now more defined by iconography and can suffer by being youth-cult by numbers. Grown men and women refusing to let go of the shackles of their golden years.

Is it any wonder then that perhaps the result of this refusal to age has lead to stylistic cults that are no longer the preserve of youth?

Steam Punk. A velveteen Victorian homage embellished with clockwork and a retro futuristic mish-mash half way between Jules Verne and Georges Pompidou but perhaps this can be discounted as its generally the preserve of weekenders and as we’ve already established any lifestyle that illicit such an all-encompassing passion cannot be a part-time occupation.

This leaves us with perhaps just one cult/lifestyle choice (take your pick) that has a self-created look and a set of ethics that define its existence. The ‘Hipster’ is much derided and to my mind unfairly so. It’s initial foray into style was an unashamedly retro look pitched somewhere between the wars – think Chas and Dave but with more ornate facial topiary and you’re halfway there. Pendleton check woollen shirts and a hint of 50’s bowling alley flair and it’s a style borne out of charity shops but, and here is the rub, items with innate detail and a look that says ‘yes I am a hipster’. The (now somewhat) ubiquitous beard with Edwardian styling and Victorian strongman moustaches say it loud and proud bearing a similar challenge as the cold-staring ultra-smart Modernist sons and daughters of post war parents and immigrants and the ‘what you gonna do about it’ eyeball of the skinheads and punks.

Hipsters also have a DIY ethic that would make a Punk proud – micro-businesses selling self-created items and with it a desire for self-betterment that would be very Mod in its outlook. And like the skinhead as it effortlessly morphed into the suede and smoothie the Hipster look is changing; still rooted between the wars stylistically it has got smarter, vintage tweed, heavyweight herringbone three-pieces augmented with vintage timepieces and classic British footwear Such as Brogue boots.

Its look no doubt influenced by one of the finest programmes on t.v. currently; The Peaky Blinders. Highly stylish and set in that moody no-mans land in Working class Industrial Birmingham between the wars. The look is spreading to the high-street but for my money anything that brings back that very British look is ok with me – Perhaps we should be more grateful for the Hipster, style is never a bad thing!

The Paperback Rioter