450. ‘Too Much Too Young – The Special A.K.A. Live! EP’, by The Specials

The 1980 ‘statement of intent’ continues… Following on from The Pretenders’ cool and cocky ‘Brass in Pocket’, the decade’s second #1 is some hardcore ska. Live ska.

Too Much Too Young – The Special A.K.A. Live! (EP), by The Specials (their 1st of two #1s)

2 weeks, 27th January – 10th February 1980

Too much too young! the band announce, to a drum-roll. You done too much too young, You’re married with a kid when you could be havin’ fun with me… The drums and organs skip and thump – ska is basically reggae on speed – as Terry Hall spits out the lyrics. Ain’t it cool, No it ain’t, He’s just another burden on the welfare state… I mean, it puts a different spin on rock music not being child-friendly

Musically this is ska, or two-tone, but really this is as punk as things have gotten at the top of the charts. Hall sneers at the girl who went and got pregnant… Ain’t you heard of contraception…? and lists all the reasons why getting married and having a kid was a terrible idea (number one being that she won’t come get jiggy with him). The ferocious guitar solo is also as raw and gritty as we’ve heard in a chart-topper for a long old while. As great as the disco/electro years have been, it has all been bit glossy. There’s nothing glossy about this nasty little record. (The album version is slightly slower, and longer; but there’s a lot to be said for the rawness that comes across live.)

The best bit comes at the abrupt end – this is a record that barely makes it over the two minute mark – with possibly the finest closing line to any #1 single: Try wearing a cap! Unsurprisingly, the BBC would not play this bit. We’re only two number ones into this bold new decade and we’ve already had aggressive references to contraceptives.  

While ‘Too Much Too Young’ was the hit, this is an EP – only the second ever to top the charts – and so we should give the rest of it a quick listen. The second track on side-‘A’ is an instrumental, ‘Guns of Navarone’. It’s a cover of a 1961 hit by the Skatalites – great band name alert! – which was in turn a cover of a film score. It’s another short, sharp blast of ska, with some unintelligible (to me at least) scatting from Neville Staple. The lead trombone on the song is played by Rico Rodriguez – a near fifty-year-old ska veteran, and not a full-time member of the band.

The flip-side is where my patience with ska wears thin. It’s fine in small doses – I think ‘Too Much Too Young’ is a wonderful kick up the arse – but stretched into a seven-minute, three-part ‘Skinhead Symphony’, the relentlessness of the genre starts to grate. You don’t get any downtime. The final part is the best, a full on wig-out called ‘Skinhead Moonstomp’. The band yeah-yeah-yeahs, as Staple calls on all the rude boys and rude girls to stomp their boots to an ever quickening beat.

Phew! Away from the music, this is an interesting record. TMTY is very short – the shortest #1 of the entire decade and the shortest since ‘It’s Not Unusual’ in 1965. It’s also… I think… only the 4th #1 single to have been recorded live, after ‘My Old Man’s a Dustman’, ‘The Wonder of You’, and ‘My Ding-a-Ling’ (though I’m sure I’ve forgotten one, or two.) Interestingly, half of this disc was recorded in London, and half in Coventry… where Chuck Berry had also recorded his classic (yes, I said classic) hit in 1972. Who knew Coventry was such a hot-bed of live music. Though, to be fair, The Specials were formed in Cov, so that could explain it…

This is a fun, palate-cleanser of a record, that again proves that January is often the most interesting month for chart-toppers. The Specials will be back next year, with their masterpiece. And we’ll be back, in a couple of days, with a recap.

Catch up with everything so far, before the next recap:

447. ‘Walking on the Moon’, by The Police

Back in my post on Blondie’s ‘Sunday Girl’, I pushed the idea of a forgotten number one. A band racks up a few chart-toppers; one inevitably doesn’t remain in our collective memories quite as much as the others. Here then, is The Police’s…

Walking on the Moon, by The Police (their 2nd of five #1s)

1 week, from 2nd – 9th December 1979

It’s got a slow build up, this one, with a bass riff and sparse, chiming guitars. It’s got even more of a reggae vibe than the band’s first #1, ‘Message in a Bottle, and more than a hint of jazz in the tickly drums. I like it, at first. Sting’s walking back from his girlfriend’s house: Walking back from your house, Walking on the moon… The idea is that when you’re in the first throws of love, you feel light, as if you could defy gravity.

Which is nice. But the concept, and the stripped-back music, gets stretched very thin over this five minute record. I keep waiting for the punk guitars to kick in, as they did to save ‘Message in a Bottle’, but they never do. The liveliest it gets is the middle-eight: So, they say… I’m wishing my days away… The pace quickens, and a little urgency enters Sting’s voice, for a moment or two. But, on the whole, I’m filing this one under ‘dull’.

I admitted in my first Police post that they were a band I struggled with, and this record is not doing much to change my mind. As I listen, I have one eye on the ‘Meh’ award in my upcoming recap… But. I think this is a bit of a false start to the Police’s chart-topping career. 1979 might have been their most prolific year, in terms of #1s; however, there is better to come from their eighties hits. I just know it.

The last minute is one giant fade out, with Sting chanting Keep it up… for far longer than he needs to. You begin to wish they hadn’t kept it up, or had at least considered a radio-edit. (One does exist, but pretty much every version around nowadays is the full-length album track.) ‘Walking on the Moon’ would sound pleasant at a beach bar around sunset, but you wonder how this managed to become a best-selling single. Of course, that might be an indicator of how big The Police were at this stage of their career – their second album – and that they were well on their way to becoming one of the biggest bands in the world…

443. ‘Message in a Bottle’, by The Police

The New Wave revolution takes another swerve. The Police score their first number one with some reggae-rock. (Not Ska, though. It is, apparently, very important not to call this Ska.)

Message in a Bottle, by The Police (their 1st of five #1s)

3 weeks, from 23rd September – 14th October 1979

Vocally, we also have another interesting fusion: Geordie-Jamaican. It’s Sting, of course, really laying it on thick in the verses. Just a castaway, On an island lost at sea, Oh… (The rhyming of ‘sea, oh’ with ‘me, oh’ and I can’t help but hear the ‘Banana Boat Song’) Can I just admit right here that The Police are a band I… struggle with? They leave me a bit cold. Admittedly I wasn’t brought up on them, have never gone beyond the big hits – even this is a song I hadn’t heard too often before – and I wonder if my problem is with Sting more than his band… (See also: U2)

I shall use this blog, and their five chart-toppers, to try and improve my opinion of them. And it doesn’t take me long to find something to love here: the driving, punky guitars in the bridge – I’ll send an SOS to the world… – are great, as is Sting’s bass. But it stands right out for me, because the rest of the song is quite plodding in places. The band are marooned on a desert island, and send out messages in bottles, hoping for a connection…

Come verse three and lo! Walked out this morning, Don’t believe what I saw, Hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore… It seems they weren’t alone in being alone. We’re all waiting for a message in a bottle. It’s kinda deep… (Though for a hundred billion bottles to have washed up means every human on the planet – going by 1979 population levels – had to have sent around twenty-three bottles each…)

Anyway, this is yet another patch of fallout from the punk explosion. Mix it in with other acts who have appeared in recent months: The Boomtown Rats, Ian Dury, Gary Numan, and of course Blondie. Actually, Blondie and The Police draw a good few comparisons: both post-punk, both red-hot for a few years at the turn of the decade, both with five #1s (at least initially, in Blondie’s case) For me, though, it’s Blondie all the way.

But, these views are mine and mine alone. ‘Message in a Bottle’ is objectively a good song, well-written rock with an effective hook. I am looking forward to getting to grips with more Police in the coming months, and hopefully enjoying it, as we’ll be hearing a lot more from the former Gordon Sumner and his bandmates. Bring it on.

426. ‘Dreadlock Holiday’, by 10cc

For the final act in their chart-topping trilogy, 10cc take on a sound that has grown in popularity throughout the seventies: reggae.

Dreadlock Holiday, by 10cc (their 3rd and final #1)

1 week, from 17th – 24th September 1978

Except, this isn’t the 10cc of ‘Rubber Bullets’ or ‘I’m Not in Love’. And I don’t mean that in the sense of it not being as good as those earlier chart-toppers (though that’s partly true…) I mean it in the sense that the band had split in two a year or so earlier. Kevin Godley and Lol Creme left due to creative differences; Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart remained.

It’s a song about a summer holiday… Or is it a song about a robbery? Or a song about small moments of cultural exchange and understanding? I don’t like cricket… I love it! says the Jamaican who may be about to nick a necklace. (Except, cricket is pretty darn popular in the West Indies. Even I know that!) I don’t like reggae… I love it! replies the Brit.

It’s a song based on a holiday Stewart had had in Barbados, where he’d seen tourists trying to be cool around the locals. Think ‘Pretty Fly For a White Guy’ twenty years ahead of time. Don’t you walk through my words… sings the Jamaican… You got to show me some respect… Of course, to my 21st century snowflake ears, white people putting on Jamaican accents and singing about a ‘brother from the gutter’ jars, as it did during Typically Tropical’s ‘Barbados’. But… what’s the point of moaning about it, really? It is what it is, and it clearly comes from a place of affection.

The affection only increases in the final verse, when the singer makes it back to his hotel pool unscathed. Once there, a beautiful woman offers him her ‘harvest’ – and I’m genuinely undecided as to whether this means sex or a big bag of weed. Either way he’s thrilled. Don’t like Jamaica… I love her!

Stepping back and viewing 10cc’s three chart-toppers from afar, you’d be hard pushed to tell they were from the same band. ‘Rubber Bullets’ is the one I enjoyed most: a zany, glam-rock allegory for the unrest in Northern Ireland. ‘I’m Not in Love’ is objectively their masterpiece: a ghostly, six-minute opus of overdubs and experimentation. ‘Dreadlock Holiday’ isn’t as good as those two, for my money, as it sags in the middle and starts to drag towards the end. But it’s still got that hook – possibly the band’s most remembered line – and is another welcome interlude of clever, well-crafted arty pop.

This was 10cc’s final #1, and their final Top 10. The hits dried up pretty swiftly after this record dropped out the charts. But the manner in which their chart-toppers span the seventies is impressive. ‘Rubber Bullets’ was rubbing shoulders with Slade and Gary Glitter, and they were long gone from the Top 10 by 1978. Impressive longevity, in a fast-changing pop scene. We bid them farewell here, then. Here’s to a cool band, never dull, always trying something new, and by far the best pop group to be named after the average amount of semen in a single male ejaculation…

423. ‘Rivers of Babylon’ / ‘Brown Girl in the Ring’, by Boney M

I’m going to describe the intro of this next #1, in case you’ve never heard it, as Chicory Tip’s ‘Son of My Father’ spliced with Johnny Mathis’ ‘When a Child Is Born’. I’m not sure if that sounds horrendous or amazing. Either way, the rest of the song sounds very little like this weird, waves-washing, rocket-landing intro…

Rivers of Babylon / Brown Girl in the Ring, by Boney M (their 1st of two #1s)

5 weeks, from 7th May – 11th June 1978

The rhythm comes in, and we have a new genre atop the charts: discalypso. Oh, yes. A pounding beat spliced with steel drums. By the rivers of Babylon, Where we sat down… They’re not your average disco lyrics, either… Yeah we wept, As we remembered Zion… It’s distinctive, it’s new, it’s two sounds that have appeared plenty of times in this countdown – disco and reggae – reimagined. But… It’s not great. It plods along, you see, and the pious lyrics bog it down. Why would you want to dance to a song with lyrics like: Now how shall we sing the Lord’s song, In a strange land… To think that this was a number one for Boney M, and not ‘Daddy Cool’ or ‘Rasputin’ upsets me.

When you lump this in with recent chart-toppers from Baccara and Brotherhood of Man, it’s clear that this kind of Eurodisco is becoming a popular chart force. I was going to call it ‘Eurotrash’, but that seems harsh on a song that is literally quoting the Bible. Plus, when you add the fact that the original – a Jamaican hit from 1970 – is all about Rastafarian persecution (‘Babylon’ being slang for the police), and the obvious comparison with Desmond Dekker’s seminal ‘Israelites’, there’s clearly more to this tune than first meets the ears.

Long term readers of this blog will know that one of my pet peeves is a double-‘A’ holding two similar soundings songs. Alas, that’s what we have here. In fact, Boney M up the steel drums and go all out on a Caribbean nursery rhyme. Brown girl in the ring, Tra-lala-lala! (the tra-lalas get quite annoying, quite quickly) She looks like a sugar in a plum! At least this one has a slightly more urgent tempo to it, compared to ‘Rivers of Babylon’, but any foot-tapping that occurs is a knee-jerk response. It’s another one I can’t imagine dancing to…

I suppose it is quite cool that an old West Indian folk song appeared at the top of the UK singles charts, talking about fried fish and Johnny cakes, and the fact that nobody is quite sure where or when it first originated means that it could be our ‘oldest’ ever #1. But both these songs have you checking how long is left (neither needs to run for over four minutes!), and to listen to both on repeat, as I have just been doing, is a slog.

But what do I know? ‘Rivers of Babylon’ / ‘Brown Girl in the Ring’ is officially the 7th best-selling single in British chart history, one of only seven discs to sell over two million copies. Why? Well, the late-seventies was pretty much the peak era for single sales – ‘Mull of Kintyre’ was another massive seller we met not long ago – and I’ll be posting several more over the coming weeks. Plus, after ‘Rivers…’ had kept this record at #1 for five weeks in May, DJs simply flipped the disc, started playing ‘Brown Girl…’ and the record shot back up to #2 in September!

Boney M were nominally a West German band (their first seven releases all hit #1 on the German charts!), but all four members were of Caribbean origin, which at least gives these two tunes some authenticity. They’d been a chart force in the UK since ’76, and they will be back on this countdown soon enough with, yes, another disco-hymn. Yay…! As I write, the band are having a comeback in the charts of 2021, with a remix of their masterpiece ‘Rasputin’ (Russia’s greatest love-machine!) Maybe it’ll finally get to #1…?

417. ‘Uptown Top Ranking’, by Althea & Donna

Into 1978 we go then… 1977 was a bit of a slog – a year that started off slowly, with an interminable easy-listening winter and spring, but that had a fair few classics buried in the middle. You just had to be patient. What will the penultimate year of the decade serve up?

Uptown Top Ranking, by Althea & Donna (their 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 29th January – 5th February 1978

First of all, there’s a bit of reggae to beat the January blues! It’s not a verse-bridge-chorus kind of song, this one. It’s a riff, a vibe, a mood that chugs along. Beach bar music. Which isn’t to say it’s bland, or best suited for the background. Not at all. The bass-line is superbly monotonous. The vocals are at once hypnotic and yet indecipherable.

It’s not rap; but it’s not singing, not really. And the lyrics are delivered in an uncompromisingly thick Jamaican patois, that to your average British listener must have sounded like a completely foreign language. See me in me heels an’ ting, Dem check, Say we hip an’ ting… (I googled the lyrics…) Love is all I bring, Inna me khaki suit an’ ting… Althea and Donna are dressed to impress, dancing, cruising around in their ‘Benz’. Basically, they are The Shit. They are ‘uptown top ranking’, a Jamaican phrase for flaunting it in the city.

The one bit I could get without any help was the refrain: Na pop no style, I strictly roots… The girls haven’t forgotten where they came from, no matter how much they are blinging. They’re still Jennies from the Block (as Jennifer Lopez would tell us many years later…) But forget J-Lo, this record sounds incredibly modern, extremely fresh. I’m getting… Rihanna. She should come back with a cover of this…

Althea Forrest and Donna Reid were seventeen and eighteen respectively when they released this, their only hit. And they really do sound like too-cool-for-school teenagers as they deliver their lines, which were apparently ad-libbed. In my head, I can see them painting their nails, applying lipstick, and looking impossibly young and stylish. Listening to this record – this forty-three year old disc – is making me feel very middle-aged.

It’s not just the singers, in fact. Everything about this song feels and sounds modern. There’re the ad-libs, for a start. And then there’s the fact that it’s based around a sample from a 1967 song, ‘I’m Still in Love’. And the fact that ‘Uptown Top Ranking’ is an answer record, in response to a similarly braggadocio-filled track called ‘Three Piece Suit’, by Trinity, which also used the same rhythm. We are just in 1978, honest. I haven’t skipped thirty years by accident!

Althea and Donna didn’t bother with anything as basic as having a follow-up hit. They are one-hit wonders, baby. But what a hit, waking up the sleepy post-Christmas charts with a glimpse of downtown Kingston. I think it’s putting the word ‘Uptown’ in the title that does it. I can think of three ‘Uptown’ #1s, including this one, and they’re all great pop songs.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/playlist/3sSYyPEUCTyMjMlN55z8SX

373. ‘Tears on My Pillow’, by Johnny Nash

Our next #1 single feels a little bit misleading. It has a title that hints at other things… Is it a cover of the fifties classic ‘Tears on My Pillow’? Does Johnny Nash sound anything like Johnny Cash?

Tears on My Pillow, by Johnny Nash (his 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 6th – 13th July 1975

Its starts off very lush and soulful, with the swirling strings that have soundtracked many of the past year’s disco hits, but just when you think you know where this record is heading it changes tack and seamlessly slips into a reggae beat.

I remember, All the good times, That we had before… He loves a girl, she doesn’t love him back like she once did. Baby, Every night I wake up cryin’… Tears on my pillow… (and then, in a nice nod to the ‘50s song of the same name) Pain in my heart…

I like this one. I’d never heard it before, but I like it. I can even cope with the spoken word section (not something I often say) because it’s not too overwrought. I’ll always remember that day, You promised to love me… Meanwhile the reggae beat in the background is just too darn perky to make you feel sad.

Is ‘reggae-soul’ a thing? If it is, then that is what is happening right here. I especially like it when the horns come in at the end, playing an almost music hall refrain. They are – and there is simply no other word for it – funky. The more I listen to this song the more I’m enjoying it.

One thing’s for sure, 1975 is turning into one hell of an eclectic year. We can now add reggae to Philly soul, hard rock, a country classic, a novelty from a sitcom, and some spoken word sexiness from a TV detective… Those were the days! Johnny Nash was a Texan – one of the first non-Jamaicans to have reggae hits – and best remembered for the classic ‘I Can See Clearly Now’, which had reached #5, and #1 in the US, in 1972. That is a stone-cold classic, but I’m kind of glad that ‘Tears on My Pillow’ was his only chart-topper here. It really is a fun little tune.

It was the last of six UK Top 10s for Nash, who passed away just a few months ago, aged eighty. And for those of you left disappointed that this wasn’t a cover of Little Anthony & The Imperials’ doo-wop classic, just hang on fifteen years until an Australian legend takes to the top. Those of you disappointed that this is Johnny Nash not Cash… He never charted higher than #4.

359. ‘Everything I Own’, by Ken Boothe

In my last post, I dubbed the autumn of 1974 as the ‘Disco-Fall’, so glistening and shimmering has it been, dripping with the season’s hot new sound. But there have been detours, brief intermissions in the programme – think John Denver’s ‘Annie’s Song’, for example. And now this.

Everything I Own, by Ken Boothe (his 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, from 20th October – 10th November 1974

Though ‘Everything I Own’ isn’t so much a detour from the disco-soul sounds of recent #1s; it is more like being dumped in the middle of the Amazon with no compass. It is a slice of incredibly laid-back reggae, with incredibly earnest vocals and a tempo that never gets above crawling pace. Reggae is a strange genre, in chart terms, as it never seems to come or go. We’ve had reggae chart-toppers since the late sixties, and they’ll crop up every now and then until the present day. See also: country and western.

You sheltered me from harm, Kept me warm… You gave my life to me, Set me free… It’s a love song, a thank you letter to a loved one. It’s so sincere and sweet that it might even be a hymn. God himself might be the loved one… He’s not, it becomes clear, but the comparison is valid. This is record is just very… nice.

I would give anything I own, Give up my life, My heart, My home… (It’s odd, but the phrase ‘everything I own’ never features, it’s always ‘anything…) It’s nice, it’s very calming, almost like an audible massage, but I’m waiting for the hook… Still waiting… And then it fades. Oh well. It would work very well playing in the background, in a beach bar, in Thailand.

‘Everything I Own’ was originally a soft-rock hit for Bread, in 1972, before being adapted here into soft-reggae. It has been covered by everyone with a penchant for AOR, from Rod Stewart to Boyzone. It will also appear again at the top of the charts, in 1987, but I won’t give the game away on that just yet.

I have to say that, despite not loving this record, it is the version that I’m enjoying the most. Ken Boothe has a fine voice, and he enunciates every syllable in a manner your nan would approve of. His chart career mirrors perfectly that of our previous chart-toppers, Sweet Sensation. A #1, followed by a #11, and then done. I like that symmetry. Boothe made a sum total of $0 from this hit, as his record label went bust before they paid him. He is still alive, has been awarded the Jamaican Order of Distinction, and released his most recent album in 2012.

Listen to (almost) every #1 with this playlist:

299. ‘Double Barrel’, by Dave and Ansil Collins

An interesting sub-genre: #1 singles with the best intros. ‘That’ll Be the Day’, ‘You Really Got Me’, ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’… All blown out the water by this next chart-topper!

A-166278-1465367620-5319.jpeg

Double Barrel, by Dave & Ansil Collins (their 1st and only #1)

2 weeks, from 25th April – 9th May 1971

I am the magnificent! a voice announces, W O O O… I have no idea what he’s talking about, but he does it with such conviction, with such exuberant certainty, that you know this is going to be a good song. It literally echoes off the walls.

This record is really hard to classify. It’s reggae? Or is it ska? Is it an instrumental? Is it rap?? (It can’t be rap, because according to every musical history ever rap didn’t exist in 1971!) Is he a DJ? A dancehall MC? These are things I didn’t think I’d need to be asking until at least 1989…

There’s a catchy piano hook, a bass-line that answers along to each riff, and an organ that swells every so often before fading. All the while a voice, either Dave or Ansil’s, or both maybe, calls on us to Work it! And to Hit me one more time! He sounds like James Brown leading an aerobics class, shouting stuff like Good God! Too much! I like it! Soul poppin’!

This is a cool, cool number one single. It’s uncompromisingly funky, straight from the streets of Kingston. The obvious comparison to make is to Desmond Dekker’s ‘Israelites’ from exactly two years ago – the first true reggae single to make #1 in the UK. The organs hint at the piano instrumentals of the ‘50s, especially Dave and Ansil’s fellow West Indian, Winifred Atwell. But the rest of the record looks way, way into the future, to the late eighties, early nineties, when huge hit records could just be snippets of a rhythm with some vocals chanted over the beat.

$_12

Dave, and Ansell Collins were a Jamaican duo (Dave is actually Dave Barker… If ever a band name needed an Oxford comma it is theirs). It is his vocals you hear throughout the song. There’s some confusion over whether his partner was ‘Ansell, ‘Ansel’ or ‘Ansil’. It was the latter which was printed on the British copies of ‘Double Barrel’. The duo had one further hit single when ‘Monkey Spanner’ reached #7 later in the year.

So, just as we were working up a glam rock groove, this comes along like a short, sharp blast from another planet. The early 1970s throws us another curveball. Not that I’m complaining. If only all the curveballs could be as funky, catchy and as goddamn cool as this record!

Listen to all our previous number ones with this playlist.

269. ‘Israelites’, by Desmond Dekker & The Aces

Every so often in this countdown – and quite frequently during the fertile late-sixties – we come across a record that sounds like a huge leap forward. This next chart-topper is one such song…

1b705762e5f49e7321dfa5dd6d437e0e

Israelites, by Desmond Dekker & The Aces (their 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 16th – 23rd April 1969

It starts with a chant: Get up in the morning, Slaving for bread… accompanied by some doo-wop harmonising. So that every mouth can be fed… Pretty bleak stuff. Oh-poor, me Israelites… Then in comes a jaunty, bouncy riff. There’s a big contrast here between the lyrics and the tune, but it works.

I have to admit – channelling my dear departed Gran here – that I have no idea what Desmond Dekker is singing for most of this disc. His Jamaican accent is uncompromising. You can picture fathers up and down the land frowning at Top of the Pops. ‘What is this nonsense? It seems that his wife and kids have left him, he has no money, and he may have to turn to a life of crime: I don’t want to end up like Bonnie and Clyde…

The title refers to Rastafarianism, which has its roots in Israel. (I never thought that I’d be getting into theology, but here goes…) Rastafarians were 2nd class citizens in a predominantly Christian Jamaica, and often had to struggle to make ends meet. But, like all the best songs-with-a-message, ‘Israelites’ doesn’t forget to be catchy. It works as well on a basic level, one that you can shake your body to, as it does as a social commentary.

We’ve had a couple of reggae false-starts over the past year. The Equals were reggae-tinted rock. Marmalade aped The Beatles aping reggae – the ‘Desmond with a barrow in the market place’ from ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ was based on Desmond Dekker – but it is now official. Reggae has arrived at the top of the British charts. I have to admit that it’s a genre I struggle to enjoy – even more so when it comes to ska and two-tone – but I love this record. It’s raw, it’s cool and authentic.

unnamed

Coming as it does after Marvin Gaye, ‘Israelites’ also marks the first time we’ve had consecutive chart-toppers by black artists (I’m deliberately not counting the time in 1959 when The Platters replaced Shirley Bassey). While we’ve had plenty of black artists hit the top-spot, ‘Israelites’ feels different. It was written, produced and performed by black Jamaicans. It doesn’t sound like it’s had its edges softened to sell more. It is – I’ve used this word already but it fits very well here – uncompromising in its sound.

Desmond Dekker and The Aces enjoyed a few more chart hits in the UK. ‘You Can Get It If You Really Want’ – a much more accessible record than ‘Israelites’ – made #2 the following year. He was also one of the first people to spot and promote a young Jamaican by the name of Bob Marley. He passed away in London, in 2006.

Just as interesting – if less important in the grand scheme of things – is the fact that this record marks eleven chart-toppers in a row that have been their artists one and only #1. (Do you get what I mean? I couldn’t think of a better way to phrase that sentence.) From Mary Hopkin through to The Aces, we’ve had half a year of artists enjoying their one and only moment at the top. Which I think must be – or be close to being – a record. Bringing that run to an emphatic end, however, are The Beatles, an act that have enjoyed a few more number one singles than most…