One of the great things about reggae’s “version culture” is how getting your mitts on a new tune can reactivate whole swathes of your collection. I stumbled across a storming UK twelve on the Boops riddim recently and spent a very pleasant Saturday afternoon on a version excursion tip, fishing out classics and long forgotten cuts from the dustier corners of my vinyl shelves.
So here’s a little mix for you, done live in one take – with a little bit of post-editing before the last track.
1. The Ethiopians – Last Train to Skaville (1966? – from “Celebration: 25 Years of Trojan Records” LP)
2. Toots and the Maytals – 54-46 (1969 – from Soul Jazz “400% Dynamite” CD)
3. Johnny Ringo – I And I Number (From “JA To UK M.C. Clash” LP, Fashion 1985)
4. Asher Senator – Abbreviation Qualification VIP Mix (Fashion 12” 1984)
5. Horace Andy – Cool and Deadly (Tads 12”)
6. Superman and Spiderman – Roadblock (From “Superman & Spiderman” LP, Kingdom 1985)
7. Papa Face and Bionic Rhona – To the Bump (From “Great British MCs” LP, Fashion 1984)
8. Concrete Jungle Overcoat (from “Rubble Dub M.C.’s Choice” LP, Rubble 1986)
9. Supercat – Boops (Techniques 7” 1986)
10. Pam Hall – Dear Boopsie (Blue Mountain 12”, 1986)
11. King Kong – Don’t Touch My Boops (Unity Sound 12” 1986)
12. Papa Charjan And Jack Reuben Featuring Higgy Rygin – Moany Moany (Shuttle Records 12” 1986)
13. Bayley & Chacka Demus – One Scotch (Unity Sound 12”)
14. Papa Charjan And Jack Reuben Featuring Higgy Rygin – One Scotch, One Tennants, One Brew (Shuttle Records 12” 1986)
15. Rebel MC and Double Trouble – Street Tuff (Desire 7”, 1989)
The Ethiopians – Last Train to Skaville (1966? – from “Celebration: 25 Years of Trojan Records” LP)
The Ethiopians started in the 1940s and passed through Studio One in the sixties before recording this for WIRL. This opening track is a little on the quiet side, partly because that’s how I like to start, but also because Trojan have unwisely included 10 tracks per side of this LP. Which, to be fair, did make it good value – just not so great for playing out.
Toots and the Maytals – 54-46 (1969 – from Soul Jazz “400% Dynamite” CD)
Everyone has heard this, surely? So the story behind this tune is that Toots Hibbert was busted for ganja and the title of the tune was his prison number. Unfortunately that is just a story. Toots says he was busted (for what isn’t clear) whilst trying to pay bail for a mate – and the number is just something he made up.
So yeah, these first few tracks are off compilations and not crackly seven inches. People get snobbish about that I guess, so here is full disclosure. Both of these comps are brilliant, by the way.
Johnny Ringo – I And I Number (From “JA To UK M.C. Clash” LP, Fashion 1985)
JA MC on tour in the UK cuts album underneath the Dub Vendor shop, riding the riddim with some nice “definition lyrics”.
Unfortunately Ringo died in 2005, his passing was noted by me here.
Asher Senator – Abbreviation Qualification VIP Mix (Fashion 12” 1984)
Saxon MC Asher’s first single, which I’ve written about previously in my Born To Chat: The Asher Senator Story.
Horace Andy – Cool and Deadly (Tads 12”)
Sleepy brings his take on “ABC” by the Jackson 5 to the party. This raises the musical levels after Asher’s lyrical onslaught. I often play the two in combination like this on the increasingly rare occasions that I am trusted on the decks in public.
Superman and Spiderman – Roadblock (From “Superman & Spiderman” LP, Kingdom 1985)
Mysterious trademark-infringing duo in the mould of Michigan and Smiley.
Superman was born in Birmingham, but raised in JA. He now records UK Dub material under the name of Sandeeno. Spiderman I know little about but seem to recall he was JA born and bred.
Of course, superhero imagery has been well used in reggae, from Tony McDermott’s great covers for Scientist dub albums, to these labels:
Papa Face and Bionic Rhona – To the Bump (From “Great British MCs” LP, Fashion 1984)
“Nuff man chat on the Shank I Sheck, but me no hear no-one pon this one yet”
Concrete Jungle Overcoat (from “Rubble Dub M.C.’s Choice” LP, Rubble 1986)
Very talented musicians at Fashion. Their riddims and dub albums never get proper credit, but it’s nice gear. I meant to write about them all for Woofah but it didn’t quite happen. Gussie Prento production.
Super Cat – Boops (Techniques 7” 1986)
“And when you check it out Friday ah payday”
The tune that started the craze. Super Cat tells the story of an older guy who has the girls flocking – but only because of his wallet. The Techniques lick of the riddim is proper loose (in a good way) and even has a bum note towards the end.
Pam Hall – Dear Boopsie (Blue Mountain 12”, 1986)
“Since you’ve been gone – I’ve forgotten the taste of wine”
Pam is the sister of Audrey Hall. Dear Boopsie attempts to give some female perspective on the Boops phenomenon, though it’s hardly an advert for womens’ liberation. Oddly this seems to be the only tune in the mix which has troubled the UK Charts, skirting around the mid 50s for a few weeks.
The tune even appeared in one of the few reggae charts featured on ITV’s The Chart Show.
King Kong – Don’t Touch My Boops (Unity Sound 12” 1986)
“Gorgeous smile and she had pretty looks”
This is a King Jammy production which was licensed to Hackney’s Unity Sound label because of their strong connections.
Pretty soon Boops was inescapable, as is evident from Daddy Kool’s pre-release chart of April 19, 1986:
1. King Kong – Don’t Touch My Boops – Jammys
2. Anthony Red Rose – Me No Want No Boops – Firehouse
3. Michael Prophet – Nah Call Me John Boops – Techniques
4. Sugar Minott – John Boops – Cornerstone
5. Lyrical – No Try No Boops – 10 Rossevelt Avenue
6. Pompidou – I Love My Boops – Striker Lee
7. Super Dad – See Boops Ya – Blue Mountain
8. Radicals – Rum Tree – Roots Radics Gang
9. Ringo – See Foreign Deh – Harry J
10. Delroy Williams – Watchdog – Rockers
Sly and Robbie hit the national charts one year later with their own take on the fad… (major labels being unable to keep up with the street commentary of reggae culture).
Papa Charjan And Jack Reuben Featuring Higgy Rygin – Moany Moany (Shuttle Records 12” 1986)
Shuttle operated out of Haringey, with offices around Turnpike Lane and Green Lanes. This is a Fatman production. Fatman runs a longstanding soundsystem and label. There’s a nice piece on him here from Penny Reel’s 1981 NME Soundsystem Splashdown feature.
At that time, Fatman’s selector was Ribs (interviewed here). But Ribs then left Fatman to start his own Unity Hi-Fi sound. Charjan and his brother Reuben were two of Unity’s first deejays (soon to be joined by Peter Bouncer, Navigator and the Ragga Twins amongst many other key ‘nuum figures).
But then Charjan and Reuben really upset the applecart by leaving Unity and joining Fatman. Apparently the animosity is made abundantly clear in Fatman/Unity clash tapes from the mid eighties.
Whatever the history, this is a boss tune which equals most of the Boops ouevre for its slightly dodgy gender politics. In fact it’s intriguingly similar to “Rabbit” by that other cockney MC crew Chas and Dave. Charjan and Reuben’s double delivery on the chorus is breathtaking and there are some neat rhymes here also.
Admiral Bailey & Chaka Demus – One Scotch (Unity Sounds 12″ 1986)
Bailey and Chaka rework John Lee Hooker’s blues standard for Jammys, with added bonus reference to the Joe Gibbs oddity “In Heaven There Is No Beer (It’s Why We Drink It Here)” by The Happs.
Papa Charjan And Jack Reuben Featuring Higgy Rygin – One Scotch, One Tennants, One Brew (Shuttle Records 12” 1986)
“If you like drinking, let’s go on a drinking spree”
Charjan and Reuben come again with a London ting. Frankly the prospect of a scotch, a can of Tennents and a Special Brew is enough to make me feel decidedly queasy. Still, might be one to test out one weekend, purely in the interests of research…
Unfortunately my copy didn’t come with the ace picture cover, so it’s thanks to discogs for that. It does have this sticker on it though:
Other odes to Tennents Super include Alabama 3’s “Old Purple Tin” and “Purple Boy” by Smart Alex and Clever Cloggs.
Rebel MC and Double Trouble – Street Tuff (Desire 7”, 1989)
Not everyone realises this is the same bassline as Toots and The Maytals’ “54-46” but then it is at 120bpm or thereabouts. A big chart hit, which will always remind me of everyone on the cheese factory production line grooving away when it came on Radio One.
Rebel MC went on to mutate into Congo Natty, but I guess everyone knows that now?
The Boops riddim was reversioned again earlier this year, but none of the tunes particularly grabbed me. So this remains an archival selection for your delectation.
As usual this is simply what I’ve picked up over the years so I make no apology if your favourite cut isn’t included. Feel free to have a heated debate in the comments boxes, or do your own mix – or simply enjoy the music for what it is!