Before Jamaica gained independence from the shackles of British colonialism in 1962, and ska burst out of the Kingston ghetto’s with Derrick Morgan’s cry of ‘Forward March’, pop and rock had always been strictly American. With radio’s an unaffordable luxury, the islands poverty stricken youth had only been able to hear American blues and R&B records at sound system dances, in effect, massive mobile disco’s held in the open spaces scattered throughout Kingston.


To stay on top in such a cut throat business, these sound systems required a neverending supply of killer tunes and would often go to extraordinary lengths to get them. But when the number of new R&B releases began to decrease, lost in the flood of American teen idols, big time operators Duke Reid, Sir Coxson Dodd and his former muscle man Prince Buster, record shop owner Leslie Kong and sugar cane heir Chris Blackwell set up their own labels to release their own hits.


Brewed from the seeds of R&B, jazz, soul and mento, a mix of West African slave chants and traditional European tunes, ska matched the huge tidal wave of optimism sweeping the island in the years following independence. Known as Blue Beat, a UK label licensing Jamaican releases, it also gained a foothold in London where the records played by expats at Notting Hill Gate and Brixton house parties were adopted by mod’s in their eternal quest for one upmanship. It was the start of a bond between Jamaican music and British youth culture that remains as strong as ever.


Prince Buster and The Skatalites became household names in mod circles but back in Jamaica, once the first rush of independence had diminished, a demand grew for songs that were a little less manic. Ska was simply too mental and too youthful to continue and sure enough, by the time Desmond Dekker introduced the Rude Boy to Britain on ‘007’, the music had slowed right down and matured into rocksteady. Then it all changed again.


The word reggae had never been heard before The Maytals Summer ’68 celebration of a new novelty dance called ‘Do The Reggay’, but rocksteady had already been re-modelled by the now familiar offbeat ‘skanga’ guitar and effects first heard on Larry & Alvin’s ‘Nanny Goat’ and Lee Perry’s ‘People Funny Boy’. On the cusp of a new decade, Jamaican music took on a far greater diversity than ever before, fast, jerky instrumentals competing with the Rasta imagery and toasting anticipating the roots revolution.


In March 1972, Michael Manley appropriated Rastafarianism and Delroy Wilson’s ‘Better Must Come’ to get himself elected as Jamaica’s new Socialist Prime Minister. Four months later, the film The Harder They Come became an international hit and introduced reggae to the world. For the first time in its short history, Jamaican music began to be heard not just as an enjoyable if slightly dangerous novelty, but as something with an irrefutable, undeniable legitimacy.      


01 DERRICK MORGAN ‘Forward March’ (A Side March 1962)

02 STRANGER COLE ‘Rough And Tough’ (A Side 1962)

03 PRINCE BUSTER ALL STARS ‘Madness’ (Single A Side 1963)

04 THE VIKINGS ‘Six And Seven Books Of Moses’ (A Side 1963)

05 JUSTIN HINDS & THE DOMINOES ‘Carry Go Bring Come’ (A Side October 1963)

06 THE SKATALITES ‘Guns Of Navarone’ (A Side 1964)

07 THE FLAMES ‘Broadway Jungle’ (A Side November 1964)

08 THE DEACONS ‘Hungry Man’ (A Side May 1965)

09 HOPETON LEWIS ‘Take It Easy’ (A Side October 1966)

10 ROY SHIRLEY ‘Hold Them’ (A Side November 1966)

11 THE TECHNIQUES ‘Queen Majesty’ (A Side 1967)

12 DESMOND DEKKER & THE ACES ‘007 (Shanty Town)’ (A Side July 1967)

13 DANDY & THE SUPERBOYS ‘(People Get Ready) Let’s Do Rocksteady’ (B Side October 1967)

14 DOBBY DOBSON ‘Loving Pauper’ (A Side December 1967)

15 LARRY & ALVIN ‘Nanny Goat’ (A Side May 1968)

16 LEE PERRY ‘People Funny Boy’ (A Side June 1968)

17 THE MAYTALS ‘Do The Reggay’ (A Side June 1968)

18 THE UNIQUES ‘My Conversation’ (a Side June 1968)

19 THE UPSETTERS ‘Return Of Django’ (A Side 1969)

20 HARRY J ALLSTARS ‘Liquidator’ (A Side August 1969)

21 THE PIONEERS ‘Long Shot Kick De Bucket’ (A Side October 1969)

22 KEN BOOTHE ‘Freedom Street’ (A Side 1970)

23 HUGH ROY ‘Rule The Nation’ (A Side October 1970)

24 THE SLICKERS ‘Johnny Too Bad’ (A Side January 1971)

25 NINEY ‘Blood And Fire’ (A Side March 1971)

26 BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS ‘Small Axe’ (A Side March 1971)

27 DELROY WILSON ‘Better Must Come’ (A Side June 1971)

28 JIMMY CLIFF ‘The Harder They Come’ (A Side July 1972)