(Sir Coxson) Downbeat marrow trembler courtesy of the majestic Jackie Mittoo, (the backbone of Studio 1 throughout the golden years), and the brentford road massive aka the Skatalites, the soul brothers, Sound Dimension the Brentford road all stars/disco set at the top of the game. released in 1966, (as the Ska slid into the Rock Steady) on Downbeat’s genre defining Studio 1/Supreme Label.
Regulars on themusicologist know how strongly the ‘Keyboard King’ has been representing over the years due to his credentials as one of the greats of the music that I love. Jackie is/was and will always be the KING of Studio 1 for me
there are rare tunes and there are BOSS tunes..no doubt which category this STANDS in.
So what is it about Rocksteady that is different? Musically Rocksteady is built on the ‘One Drop’, (3rd Beat), whereas Ska was built around the ‘after beat’. That and the pronounced Bass evident on the Rocksteady combined to deliver a rhythm that the dancers could sway and ‘Rock Steady’ to while holding up a beer, maybe a spliff and even a girl. While Rocking Steady a man could look nonchalant and slick whereas the ‘Ska’ was all about the wild swinging of arms…not slick and certainly no chance of winding, grinding, smoking and drinking.
In fact to make it clear..Hold this quote from the drummer who many credit with originating the ‘one drop’, Winston Grennan
‘I give a hard blow on the third..that would be a hard one drop and it would cut the beat in half”
Of course there were other key players involved such as the afore mentioned Lynn Taitt, Hugh Malcolm, Bobby Aitken, Gladstone Anderson as well as legends such as Jackie Mittoo, Roland Alphonso and the Soul Brothers and of course Tommy McCook and the Supersonics. Apologies If I have missed some…hopefullly some of you musicologists out there can ‘pipe up’ and let us know?
Right enough of the words and on with the music. I was going to drop cuts chronologically but on reflection I’ll just do my best to throw down cuts that for me define the genres. If I had planned it differently I would probably thrown down a week of Rude Boy cuts that were so prevalent in 1966 but I didn’t so I’ll just continue !!
Today’s piece is from one of Jamaica’s greatest talents the pioneering vanguard Derrick ‘One Stop’ Harriott, a Cat who was there at the birth of the Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae delivering sublime musicology. Have to say that this is one of my all time faves.
Finally…Just like to add that I continually get lost for hours, days and weeks in what I consider to be one of the most original, informative and all round TOP RANKING sites out there
So what could have happened in 1966 to change the beat from the frenetic Ska to the laid back sound of the Rocksteady? Rumour and word has it that it was a combination of things that conspired..First of all popular information/knowledge has it that a heatwave swept the island forcing the dancers and musicians to slow the tempo..secondly as is often, (if not always), the case the time had come for the islands musicologists to evolve and in my experience slow follows quick. Thirdly, (and I’m guessing here), the Ganja may have influenced proceedings…
By 1966 many of the protaganists of the Ska were ‘Beardmen’ and were likely to have been ‘licking chalice’ Up Warika Hills with the legendary Count Ossie. I’m not suggesting that the Ganja was the chief reason for the shift..only one of many.
As for outside influences we only have to consider how Soul and the Vocal Group sound became dominant in America around this time and how much influence the likes of the Impressions subsequently had in Jamaica.
Finally and perhaps of most significance was the Skatalites splitting into two groups after the incarceration of Don Drummond in 1965…The Soul Brothers led by Roland Alphonso, (at Studio 1), and the Supersonics led by Tommy McCook, (resident at Treasure Isle). Notably Lynn Taitt is widely recognised as ‘Inventing’ the Rocksteady with the Hopeton Lewis cut ‘Take It Easy’ but other early pieces included Alton Ellis’s ‘Girl I’ve Got A Date’ and Derrick Morgan’s ‘Rougher Than Rough’, (all of which featured Lynn Taitt’s guitar). Whatever the reasons for the emergence of Rocksteady it was at this junction that ‘Reggae’ began to take shape with the Bass rising to prominence and it must be said, (at least from my perspective), that Duke Reid wore the Rocksteady Crown.
So with that in mind the first cut has to go to the Duke and the Majestic Vocal Group known as the Techniques whose fluctuating line up included some of the great Jamaican vocalists; Slim Smith, Pat Kelly and Winston Riley as well as Junior Menz and original members Frederick Waite and Franklyn White. Clearly influenced by The Impressions this one epitomises Jamaican Vocal Group Harmony. 1967? recording on the Treasure Isle label.