To celebrate its 40th anniversary Trojan have given their most renowned collection a deluxe makeover. Furnished with an extra disc of material, Tighten Up Volume 2 remains a good entry-point for people who like the sound of reggae and love to dance – just as it was four decades ago. I don’t have this deluxe edition, mine is a slightly tired copy I found in a used record store in London, but it doesn’t matter, it plays just fine.
The UK was the second biggest market for reggae back then and this compilation would turn up at parties, and would often be left there, all the time. The most zealous converts were the early skinheads, before their ideology took a turn for the worse.
With regards to the re-issue, Trojan’s ownership has changed hand several times over the decades and the current incarnation is owned by Sanctuary, who have no affiliation to the Trojan of the past at all. I saw a documentary on Trojan, who were very much an on the fly operation at the beginning. An offshoot of Island if I remember correctly who would pick things up at local London markets that were being imported from Jamaica and within a couple of weeks would have them released here.
There were a whole host of sub-genres to come, but at this time everything, for the most part, was upbeat and, most importantly, you could dance to it if you were that way inclined.
|A1||–The Pioneers||Long Shot Kick The Bucket|
|A2||–Rudy Mills||John Jones|
|A3||–Clancy Eccles||Fire Corner|
|A4||–The Soul Sisters||Wreck A Buddy|
|A5||–Dandy||Reggae In Your Jeggae|
|A6||–Clancy Eccles||Fattie Fattie|
|B1||–The Upsetters||Return Of Django|
|B3||–Joya Landis||Moonlight Lover|
|B4||–The Bleechers||Come Into My Parlour|
|B5||–The Soulmates||Them A Laugh And A Ki Ki|
|B6||–The Upsetters||Live Injection|
As part of the 50th anniversary media for Trojan, Time Out asked Donn Letts for his top ten Trojan releases, here’s the pre-amble and then the tracks:
From The Clash to the great jungle and dubstep DJs, so many musicians have been inspired by Trojan Records, the record label that introduced ska, rocksteady and reggae to the UK. During its heyday in the late ’60s and early ’70s, Trojan launched artists like Desmond Dekker, Toots And The Maytals and Bob Marley to the British charts and became an obsession for the nation’s youth cultures: skinheads, suedeheads and mods.
Among those early Trojan listeners was a young Don Letts, a passionate music fan whose DJ stints at London club The Roxy in the late ’70s helped introduce reggae to the punk crowd. We asked Letts to select the best tracks and songs from Trojan Records, and he obliged – though he warns: ‘It would have been a lot easier to pick the Top 100 from this iconic label’s catalogue.’
‘It’s a Jam in the Streets’ – John Holt
‘John Holt was one of Jamaica’s finest crooners, who’d go on to score several UK hits with his trademark string-driven arrangements.’
‘Spanish Harlem’ – Val Bennett
‘This bass-heavy instrumental of the Ben E King/Aretha Franklin classic is a great summer soundtrack.’
‘54-46 Was My Number’ – Toots And The Maytals
‘Written after Toots Hibbert was busted for possession, this was one of the first ska records to get global exposure.’
‘Soul Special’ [aka ‘Soul Scorcher’] – Carl ‘King Cannon’ Bryan
‘Actually the B-side of a Jamaican classic called “Cuss Cuss”, this became one of the most covered riddims in Jamaica.’
‘Queen of the World’ – Lloyd & Claudette
‘A firm favourite of the ladies when I’m DJing out and about. I’ve been trying to get Chrissie Hynde to cover this for years.’
‘Return of Django’ – The Upsetters
‘A skinhead classic – and I’m talking about the fashion version, not the fascist version – inspired by a spaghetti western cowboy.
‘Long Shot Kick the Bucket’ – The Pioneers
‘Believe it or not, this is about a race horse called Long Shot that dropped dead during an event at Caymanas Park, Jamaica’s only race track.’
‘Clean Race’ – Scotty
‘There’s a break in this record where the producer tells the artist, “Look, sport, I make the hits not the public.” It’s straight out of the movie “The Harder They Come”.’
‘Herbsman Shuffle’ – King Stitt And The Dynamites
‘A Joe Strummer favourite by one of Jamaica’s first DJs. In Jamaica a DJ is a MC or rapper, also known as a “toaster”.’
‘Everything I Own’ – Ken Boothe
‘A Bread original later covered by Boy George, but bettered by no-one. This was a UK chart hit for Trojan.’