Live Reggae From The Pioneers

Hello, everyone!

A bit of Reggae history today. Who doesn’t love The Pioneers? They are one of my favourite groups and they are always welcome in The Ballroom Blitz. Some days ago I found this fantastic piece in a Fab 208 from January 1970 and today I would like to share it with you all.


It was a cold, wet, windy night and very uncomfortable for the fans queuing outside the hall. But inside there was a hall full of rhythmic Jamaican sunshine, just waiting to warm them up.

Few people who got to live concerts realise the hustle and bustle that goes on back stage to make sure that the show is presented smoothly and efficiently. No exception to this rule was The Pioneers’ concert at Eastcote recently.


Words of wisdom from Sidney

The crowd had been queuing long before the doors opened, and inside the building the organisers and artists alike were rushing arounf trying to organise things before admitting the ever-increasing throng of ardent reggae fans (not a long-haired person amongst them).


This is not George Dekker, this is Sidney again LOL!

The resident disc-jockey was unravelling his electronic equipment, the group’s roadies were assembling amplifiers and testing them, the group’s publicist was organising their stage clothes and running out every now and then for Wimpys and Cokes.


Jackie gives a song ‘soul’

Soon the magic moment arrived and as Long Shot Kick the Bucket boomed out through the speakers of the discotheque, the hall gradually filled, everybody vying with one another for the best place at the front. A few people started dancing to the constantly changing reggae records that the DJ was feeding to the crowd, but most chose to save their energies to welcome the stars.

At 9.30 p.m., dead on time, Sweet Blindness – The Pioneers’ backing group – appeared and, after three well-performed numbers, on came the stars.

Impeccably dressed in their beige ‘Beatle’ suits they went straight into the soul classic Knock on Wood and followed through with a succession of other numbers, including Long Shot and their latest record Poor Rameses

The crowd was, by now, really excited and wouldn’t allow The Pioneers to leave the stage until they had performed two extra numbers. When they eventually finished they were tired but very happy about their reception.


The ful treatment – Now yes, George Dekker in the middle

Then all the gear was packed up and they zoomed off into the night to another booking and the whole procedure, all over again.

John Halsall


From Mod to Skinhead: Jan speaks

Hi, everybody! Welcome to another post.

Last year I uploaded a picture on The Ballroom Blitz FB page of four very stylish ladies. Usually, we come across photos of lovely skinhead girls but quite young (13-14-year-old girls) but this was different because they looked a bit older.

Jan, one of the girls found her photo there, commented on it and so did two of the other girls who appeared in the pic. Knowing that founding original skinhead girls willing to share their experiences is a bit of a mission impossible sometimes, I got in contact with her. She doesn’t live in England anymore but remembers everything pretty well and gladly shared some pictures and stories. Hope you like them!

To start, if the title of the article is ‘From Mod to Skinhead’, I think it is fair to post a picture of Mods, isn’t it? ;) From left to right appear: Jan’s sister called Chris aged 15, two girls they met on holiday, Jan herself aged 14, and her 16-year-old sister called Barb. They were all mods back then, very young ones with their suits and kitten heel shoes, very trendy at the time!


Second picture is of the transition from Mod to Skinhead. Jan is the girl with the longer hair, next to her is her boyfriend back then Bobby. The other couple is Roger with his girlfriend; Jan can’t remember her name but remembers her face well. She is still in touch with Bobby and a little bit with Roger.


Next picture was taken at the Top Rank and you can see the transition already. From left to right they are: Pam, Trevor, she can’t remember the guy at back, Brian (the boy with the drink, it’s his picture), John and she can’t remember the girl at the end. Jan is still in touch with Brian and John.


While she was sending me the pictures, she also shared a lot of her memories; for example, music. She comes from South England, Hampshire, but she worked in London and her case is very interesting because she wasn’t that much into Reggae apart from the well-known tunes such as Red Red Wine, Swan Lake and Israelites. She gave those records to a younger cousin of hers as she was far more interested in Soul music and she still is to this day.

She says the music they played around the time was definitely mainly Soul. It was played at all the clubs and it is what she would buy everytime she got paid. She used to go straight to the record department and often went through their huge music catalogue and order an import. She still has the records today, all her singles and LPs.

As a curiosity, she says that you either liked The Temptations or Four Tops, it was almost like you could not like them both. Her husband is a Four Tops fan but she loves The Temptations. Some of the other main artists of the day were Aretha Franklin, Dion Warwick, Dusty Springfield, Al Green, Tyrone Davies, Otis Reading, Gino Washington, Stevie Wonder, Stylistics, Impressions and Smokey Robinson, to name just a few. All the artists were black American, apart from Dusty. For her, racism did not come into the picture; if anything, the blacker the better, as this is where the soulful voices came from.

Her favourite group: The Temptations

Next photos show already the proper skinhead style. When I asked her if they called themselves skinheads, she said they did class themselves as such but that it was to do with the style of clothing, haircut and music taste, not to be known as belonging to a culture that was racist, went around in gangs intimidating others and acting tough. She says it’s a shame that this happened to the second wave of skinheads because it could not have been more different, and that this is why some skinheads from the early days would rather not be grouped together in the same basket as the second wave.

In this photo appears: Cristina in the front row with short dark hair next to the girl with the cardigan, Jan with her hair pulled back and then plaited and tucked under leaving strands of hair to the sides, a very popular hairstyle in the late 60’s and early 70’s in her area, and next to her Carole with a similar hairstyle. The guy standing behind Carole with his hands in pocket is Graham (who has also got in contact via The Ballroom Blitz FB Page), the guy with the girl standing behind Cristina is Roger, the girl with short blond hair is Janice and the memory has gone for any other names. They are all in their late 50’s or just turned 60 so they were all 18 or 19 in the picture.


Next one is my favourite and the one Jan first commented on. They are her friends and her at the Top Rank in Reading in 1969 or 1970. From left to right: Carole, Joanne, Janet and Cristina, from Mytchett near Farnborough, Hampshire.

When we talked about shoes, she pointed out that the shoes in those days did not have to be a certain make, just a certain style. I will update the post very soon and will let you know more about it. Very interesting!


Last photo is of Cristina and Jan, taken in a booth. Jan would have been 19 and Cris 18. I notice both of them are wearing girls’ shirts as buttons are on the left… I wonder which make would they have been?

Here, I asked her about make-up and eyebrows because I knew they used to wear them thin but never imagined SO thin! She told me they even used to pluck them out and then pencil them back in; crazy really but good at the time. And the makeup… They wore loads of it! False eyelashes top and bottom, she used to put them on in a couple of minutes. I wish I could do that, it takes me ages!


Regarding more experiences, Jan and Carole went to the Rolling Stones Concert in Hyde Park in 5th July 1969 we have already talked about before and they got told to get down from the tree! Brian Jones had literally just died and they released butterflies in Remembrance. It was sad but a great day, she says.

She didn’t know that nowadays there are a lot of young (and not so young) people interested in the skinhead thing either, so when I told her my age, it came as a surprise because she thought I was in my 50’s lol. She couldn’t believe what an interest we have on the subject but she is very pleased to hear we are interested in the early days as they really were so good and it is such a shame that the name skinhead became so tainted.

Of course, I couldn’t miss this great opportunity to ask her what she thought about my style and to ask her for a couple of tips as she was a very smart skinhead girl. As I have mentioned before, she came from South England but worked in London, so she guesses she got the style from those two places; maybe different areas dressed slightly different. I sent her some pictures and I am glad to know that I was quite spot on, particularly in the ones with suits and silk pocket hankies, or with shirts, skirts, light coloured tights, etc, and the hair, with the arched fringe and longer sides. Some things I wear and love were not worn back then in her area though.

Last but not least, I would like to thank Jan for all her valuable information. I found it fantastic and I appreciate it a lot! THANKS!

And as always in parting… A nice little tune! Everybody knows that I am Reggae crazy but this one is beautiful!

P.S.: I recommend to listen to the tunes Jan uploaded on The Ballroom Blitz on Facebook. Most of them are the ones that they would have heard around the clubs so they probably never made the Top 10 but she thinks they are great and they bring back good memories. Oh and she has never heard about punk and oi, there you go… ;)