We are back with another Reggae article! “Rude Reggae – Rough Riders” has been taken from a Black Music Magazine from 1974. It was, in fact, part of a special called Sexy Soul, Blue Blues and Rude Reggae. The author of the Reggae section was Carl Gayle, as usual, providing an entertaining and interesting read.
“Although black culture like all others, has been effected by ‘the sexual revolution’ and the breaking down of narrow minded attitudes, sex and black music have always been pretty closely linked”. . .
At its worst, rude reggae can plumb the depths of childish smut. At its best, it has an earthy and unselfconscious directness which can make the prudest of prudes explode with laughter.
Rude reggae has always been around, but it wasn’t until about two years ago that most British record buyers got their first mild taste of it through the work of the jokey, amiable Judge Dread and his “Big Six” (later followed by “Big Seven” and “Big Eight”). “Big Six” was banned by the BBC, which boosted its sales. But in truth Dread’s songs are pretty tame and it is significant that his most suggestive track, “Dr. Kitch”, is not his own song but simply a version of the original calypso by Lord Kitchener, issued in Britain a decade ago on the fielding Island label – Jump Up- (and covered by Georgie Fame).
If you’ve never heard of the infamous “Dr. Kitch”, he’s an injection specialist: “I push it in, she pulls it out /I push it back she starts to shout / Dr. Kitch you’re terrible, I can’t stand the size of your needle.”
Prince Buster’s “Big Five” is perhaps the most indecent collection of songs on the reggae LP market. Most of the numbers use other well known tunes with new lyrics. The title track is really “Rainy Night in Georgia” with lyrics like “How many times I wanted to lay my. . . inside her”. Or there’s straightforward bragging: “Today I smoked an ounce of weed / tonight I am going to plant a seed in her womb alright.” The songs that prove the most offensive are “At the Cross” (the hymn) with new lines such as “At the cross, at the cross, where I worked her in the grass / and the stiffness of my. . . passed away”. And “The Virgin” which uses the tune to “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and has the line “You should have told me, it was your first time my love / I would play around the edge, tickle the little thing and make you sing. . .”. Musically, the songs are well played and vocally Buster displays a unique affection for the subject. He does it with style even if he lacks subtlety.
One of Buster’s first rude records was “Rough Rider”, released in 1968. The subject of the song is a duel between the consenting couple in which the singer is clearly in some discomfort after losing the first round: “She was a rough rider, cool stroker, strong winner. . . / I had a hard night, last night”. A year later Buster was revealing frustration in “Wreck a Pum Pum” with similar aggression: “I want a girl to wreck her pum pum / and if she ugly I don’t mind / I have a . . . and I want a grind.”
If there’s one singer who’s had as much influence as Buster on later Jamaican rude records it has to be the inimitable Laurel Aitken, who seems to be at his best when he’s being vulgar. “Fire In Your Wire” was a ‘shocker’ when it appeared in 1968 as much for Aitken’s gruff, exaggerated vocal style as for the potently suggestive music and lyrics. So was “The Rise and Fall of Laurel Aitken” which Judge Dread claims was a great influence. But “Pussy Price” (Nu Beat, 1969) beats both of them for outright obscenity. The lyrics are offensive, the music obtrusive and aggressive. Aitken takes it very seriously, his sorrowful tone making him sound as if he’s singing from experience as he declares: “What way pussy price gone up / one time you get it for thirty cent / now if you follow pussy, you can’t pay your rent”. The vulgar lyrics are enhanced by the heavy bass and rhythm guitars , especially at the point where Aitken sings: “Pussy strike” (girls hard to get), “Cocky crash” (guys frustrated, becoming desperate), “Batty take over” (desperate enough to turn queer).
The first set of rude records came from the “ska” era. Justin Hines and The Dominoes made the most notable contribution in this field, Hines’ extravagantly ethnic vocal style lent itself well to the group’s two best known suggestive songs, “Penny Reel” and “Rub Up Push Up”. In the latter, he suggests an ideal ways of making it up after a quarrel: “You rub up, you push up, you love up because you know you were wrong”.
The Heptones’ biggest selling record “Fatty Fatty” (1967) was their first ever record and was their only flirtation with the rude medium. It’s a cool atmospheric rocksteady song exposing the singer’s frustration as he begins to look forward to what he’d like to be doing tonight. The call response method is used: “I need a fat, a very fat girl-fat tonight / I’m in the mood girl-I’m in the mood / I’m feeling rude girl-I’m feeling rude.” The melodic chorus makes the song as memorable as the experience: “I say now, when you feel it girl you’re gonna say it is so nice”.
“Kill Me Dead” by Derrick Morgan was a subtle, melodic song. You don’t have to be crude to be rude. The mood of the bedroom action is captured by the sliding easy pace of the music and the lyrics: “Hold me round me waist / Wind me wind me line / Rub and squeeze now”. The whole thing slides along repetitiously with a sexy girl duet replying to each line with “Old lady” (or is it “Oh Lloydy!”) and an occasional “Rub it up, push it up”. Then there’s a great climax: “The river come down, Oh Lloydy”.
Two records released in 1968 – “Bang Bang Lulu” by Lloyd Terrell and “Wet Dream” by Max Romeo – actually made the pop charts, but not until the young white skinhead gangs came along in 1969. Their double meaning lyrics seemed tailor made for the Skinheads who loved to sing along with the catchy choruses, but the songs were not conceived with Skinheads in mind. In “Lulu” the omitted words were obvious and would often be sung out loud: “Lulu had a boyfriend, his name was Tommy Tucker” / He took her down the alley, to see if he could. . .” Max Romeo claimed that he was referring to his leaking ceiling when he sang “Every night me go to sleep me have wet dream / Lie down gal, make me push it up, push it up, lie down” but nobody was fooled.
The music in “Barbwire” by Nora Dean (Trojan) borrowed directly from the Techniques’ rock steady record “You don’t care” and was popular because of its cool sensuous mood combines with the punch line: “I met a boy the other day, he got barbwire in his underpants. . .”
Even the Wailers have not been averse to using sexual themes. One of their most popular records – “Bend Down Low” – is clearly sexual: “Bend down low, let me show you what I know”. The sensuous “Stir it up” and “Kinky Reggae” (“She had brown sugar all over her bugga wugga / I think I might join the fun, but I had to hit and run”) also have erotic themes.
Henry and Liza vulgarize the well known “There’s a Hole in My Bucket” with their amusingly embarrassing “Hole Under Cratches” (Dragon ’73). Consequently in answer to the question “With what shall I cork it?” we get the obvious answer.
But perhaps the most musically satisfying of the rude reggae albums is “Censored” (available through Trojan) by Lloydie and the Lowbites – a pseudonym for Lloyd Terrell (Charmers) who made “Bang Bang Lulu”. The ten tracks include the latter, Buster’s “Rough Rider” and “Wine and Grime” and another of Charmers’ rude singles, “Birth Control”: “Control” begins with a cat’s “meeow” and the guy saying “Doris the pussy dirty!” And then “Doris, go right in that bathroom and wash off that pussy right now, come on!” But it’s not the cat he’s referring too. “Free Grind Ticket” turns “Love of the Common People” into sex of the common people: “Tears from your little sister crying ’cause she didn’t get a grind or two at the party last night”. Later he states with disarming boastfulness: “I’m a man with a big d*ck”.
Not the most subtle stuff, is it? But then with rude reggae you have to take it or leave it. Because like sex itself, it’ll always be around. – CARL GAYLE.
What a great writer Carl was! I would also like to thank Joe and Lloyd for some of the scans :)
Now, as always in parting, Reggae music! Skinhead anthem and one of my favourite tunes: