Ska musicians have been rocking steady for half a century. The small Jamaican record label that started it all is celebrating their 50th anniversary with the documentary film Rudeboy: The Story Of Trojan Records and how Jamaican music paved the way for a modern multicultural Britain.
The documentary is about “the love affair between Jamaican and British youth culture, told through the prism of one the most iconic record labels in history, Trojan Records,” according to the press statement. Mixing archival footage, interview and drama, the film puts Trojan Records at the “heart of a cultural revolution that unfolded in the council estates and dancefloors of late 60s and early 70s Britain and how that period of immigration and innovation transformed popular music and culture.”
Rudeboy: The Story Of Trojan Records was directed by Nicolas Jack Davies, who was nominated for a Best Music Film award at the 2014 Grammys for The Road To Red Rocks. He also filmed and directed Payday, his first long form documentary for Channel 4 television. In 2017, Davies developed and executive produced an American series adaptation of Payday for Viceland.
Rudeboy: The Story Of Trojan Records the film chronicles the rise and lasting impact of the legendary reggae, ska and rock steady label and its influence on music and subsequent cultural movement in Britain from the early ‘60s through to the late ‘70s. The fascinating story is told by a cast of legendary artists including Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Toots Hibbert, Ken Boothe, Neville Staple, Marcia Griffiths, Dave Barker, Dandy Livingstone, Lloyd Coxsone, Pauline Black, Derrick Morgan and many more.
The film begins in the 1950s, as Jamaica “is slowly transitioning to its eventual independence in 1962. We meet Duke Reid and his legendary Trojan sound system and explore the social and cultural conditions that give rise to the birth of the rude boy, the emergence of sound-system culture and the rise of the distinctive Jamaican sound ska,” according to the official site.
Act 2 looks at “the Jamaican immigrants’ experience through the eyes of a young Dandy Livingstone. We meet first generation Windrush immigrant Lee Gopthal and witness the birth of Trojan Records while Enoch Powell is giving his Rivers Of Blood speech. There is a growing market for imported ska and new rock steady sounds that Trojan records tap into.”
Working-class youth discovered “the sounds of ska and rock steady and the most the important subculture in modern British history is born, the Trojan Skinhead. A new sound Reggae emerges. Black and white unite on dancefloors as we build up to the landmark for underground skinhead culture and the ‘Spirit of 69.’”
From 1969 to 1973 Trojan grew to be the most important Jamaican label in the world and is at the peak of its powers. The Tighten Up compilation series, spreads the Trojan word to the masses. The label begins releasing almost everything that is sent in as the volume of output becomes incredible. A new gold rush ensues with producers rushing over from Jamaica selling records to Trojan Desmond Dekker emerges as the first star of the underground scene. ‘Double Barrel’ by Dave and Ansel Collins give Trojan their first number 1 hit single. Ken Boothe inspires the lovers rock sound with Trojans second number 1 ‘Everything I Own’. Pop Reggae is born and Black identity and pride builds around these records as a new confident identity is cemented. But the good times can’t last forever as in 1975 the label over extends itself and folds.
You can watch the trailer here:
Rudeboy: The Story Of Trojan Records is a Pulse Films production that was financed and executive produced by BMG.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.