When it comes to music everyone loves a list. Whether it’s a snapshot of a DJ’s current club bangers, an end of year round up or a genre specific ‘best of’ they’re a great way to quickly share and discover new music. Due to their highly subjective nature they also often act as the catalyst for further debate and discussion which is generally a good thing (depending on how heated those discussions get!)
I recently came across two very interesting lists relating to dub that impressed me so much it seemed only appropriate to share them with you here and I hope they will likewise shine a light on some previously undiscovered gems and maybe also start a few healthy ‘why did they include this and not that’ discussions.
The first list dates back to 1977 and, amazingly, was written by a 16 year old who went under the pen name Snoopy published in UK music magazine Black Echoes. The background to Snoopy and how he came to be a teenage journalist is in itself a fascinating story which I’ll leave to the great man himself to tell via the excellent interview with him on the Dub Anthology blog.
In terms of the list itself it is an extremely ambitious attempt to document the greatest ever 125 dub albums according to (highly subjective) musical merit. Bearing in mind this list was written before the age of computers and the internet by a 16 year old it was a mammoth task that I think that only saw the light thanks to a combination of youthful enthusiasm and naivety. The difficulty in compiling the list would have been further exacerbated by the fact that reggae music, and in particular dub albums, are a very tricky area to research and pin down due to the very blurred division between bootleg and official releases (there is often no difference between the two…) resulting in the same records often being released by multiple different labels often under different names. Even in the age of Discogs such a list would be tricky but the fact it was completed by a teenager based in London in the late 70’s makes it all the more impressive and probably explains why it took him a whopping 8 months to compile it.
Apologies for the small image size here, you will need to zoom in to read it or alternatively you can open it in a new window for further investigation by clicking here courtesy again of the Dub Anthology blog. Somone has also helpfully turned it into a Discogs list which is probably an easier way to flick through it.
In terms of the content Snoopy himself admits it is a highly personal and hence subjective selection which as a result created some controversy at the time, in particular with respect to his choice of ‘King Tubby Meets The Upsetter At The Grass Roots Of Dub‘ as taking the top slot over ‘King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown.’ However as he explains in his interview ‘King Tubby Meets The Upsetter At The Grass Roots Of Dub‘ was the very first dub record he bought and therefore it held a special place in his heart and you have to admire him for sticking to his guns here (which I doubt many more experienced journalists would have done).
It’s also worth highlighting the fantastic writing skills displayed when, in the latter half of the article, he writes his own review of his chosen top album. Writing about music and why you love it isn’t easy (I know because I spend a lot of time trying to do it, not always successfully!) yet here he effortlessly captures both the essence of what makes the record great and his own passion for it, check this excerpt for an example:
“Destruction in dub – the whirring cymbals hysterically attacked by the crippling hiss in the mix; the bass heavily bouncing with steady, gushing gusto; the saxophone and trumpet frequently demolished by nerve-nibbling reverb; the erratic rhythm guitar whipped perversely echoic; the constantly rocking drums splattered and spliced with acute accuracy, as they slip through the rhythmic loops, and splash against the sides – a devastating, dense deafening dub of Tubb’s creation.”
The second list has developed into a full on book written by Martin ‘Skyjuice’ Blomqvist that came out last year titled ‘100 Days Of Dub.’ The concept for the book started from a social media challenge of posting ‘a dub album a day for 10 days’ which Martin enjoyed doing so much he decided to continue it to 100 days and publish the resulting list in a book format which covers a whopping 172 dub albums in total.
It differs from Snoopy’s list in not being ranked in any kind of order of merit and also each entry is accompanied by a review written by Martin which helps give the reader a bit more context and background to each record. As with all lists it's wonderfully personally and subjective and Martin doesn’t shy away from avoiding the obvious in favour of highlighting a less known gem. For example the aforementioned ‘King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown’ is noticeable by its absence, instead replaced by the lesser known (but well worth investigating) later Tubbys/Pablo collaboration of ‘Rockers Meets King Tubbys Inna Firehouse.’
It’s the kind of book you can happily read in one sitting but also find yourself coming back to and dipping into Martin’s musings on a particular album when you put it on the turntable. It’s also written in an easily accessible conversational style rather than falling into the trap of being bogged down in over detailed record nerd facts and point scoring, As a result I think it would appeal equally to the music fan with a casual interest in the genre as much as the full on dubheads.
I certainly discovered some great new albums as a result of reading it ranging from past classics that for whatever reason hadn’t entered my radar or I’d just ignored (such as The Revolutionaries ‘Burning Dub’ produced by British vocalist Junior English and ‘The Sound of Macka Dub’ that features the Barrett Brothers and is mixed by Tubby protégé Philip Smart) as well as more contemporary records that I had no idea existed (the series of albums produced in the late 90’s/early 2000’s by Japan’s Dry & Heavy). I also whole heartedly agree with Martin’s (maybe slightly controversial) assertion that the somewhat under the radar ‘Harry Mudie Meets King Tubbys In Dub Conference’ ranks as being ‘one of the best dub albums ever and some of King Tubbys finest work.’ It’s always nice when you find someone else who shares the same opinion as you on such matters!
As it’s in the format of a traditional book I’m afraid it’s not possible to publish the list here but I would encourage you to hunt down a copy and last time I checked the mighty Dub Vendor still had some in stock which you can buy here.
If after all that you’ve still got an appetite for more lists then here are a couple of bonus extras to keep you busy (and thanks to Woebot for putting me onto these):
Happy reading and list discussing!