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Harrington Jacket an icon of British Fashion design

Harrington decades of cool

The Harrington Jacket, and The Roll Call Of The Cool

When, it comes to the Harrington Jacket, I feel a sense of pride. I am from the North West of England. I was born in Salford and was brought up in Greater Manchester. For those that don’t know – the versatile and simply smart casual jacket originated in the form as we know it, in Manchester, the metropolis that was at the centre of England’s textile industry and had been, since the industrial revolution.

I mean, if you look at the Twentieth century, and if you had to pick out one British-designed garment that has transcended numerous decades, and had earned its right as a favourite amongst sportsmen and Hollywood greats alike, and infiltrated its way into the wardrobe of fringe subcultures, the Harrington jacket, simply stands taller than any other.

harrington jacket a222

It is impossible not to talk about the Harrington jacket and not begin by paying homage to its originators of the style of this classic and extremely wearable garment, Baracuta.

Baracuta was founded in 1937 by James and Isaac Miller in Manchester, they “designed the G9 (The G stands for Golf) when they set out to create a functional rainproof jacket for the English modern working man,”

The company is inextricably linked to the Harrington jacket. In the same year, it was founded, the brand released the iconic G9, which then only became known as the ‘Harrington’ after the rise of US TV soap opera Peyton Place, in which a character – Rodney Harrington played by Ryan O’Neal – would often wear the style.

peyton place mia farrow ryan oneal

John Simons, the purveyor of American classic styles is considered to be the most influential man in Britain with regards to Ivy Style, and quality garments plays a part in this tale of the Harrington jacket. As aforementioned, there was a character in Peyton Place played by Ryan O’Neal called Rodney Harrington. Legend has it, that Simons would handwrite cards to go in the window next to the garments on show. He would write for example “The Rodney Harrington Jacket” when displaying a Baracuta G9 in his shop window. After doing this a few times the writing of the name was shortened simply to “The Harrington”

My first Harrington i got in 1979 whilst collecting for a Scouts charity sale, it had a hole in the arm so i sewed a ska patch over it, i was the proudest skinhead on Earth”. Symond Lawes
Picture by Gavin Watson

The Harrington jacket’s original purpose was to be worn in the great outdoors. Traditionally, its shell is a water-repellent poly-cotton blend with an umbrella-inspired vent on the back to aid the run-off of rainwater so one’s trousers don’t get wet. There are also two slanted flap pockets with concealed buttons and an elasticated waistband and cuffs to keep you dry. The collar is a double-button, stand-up, Mandarin-esque collar which can be snapped shut to stop the incoming rain. There is also a central fastening zip. Overall, it’s incredibly lightweight, yet its signature element is the tartan lining of Lord Lovat, a British commando and chief of the Fraser Clan, who gave Baracuta’s founding brothers permission to use his family’s colours in 1938. Since then, this has remained an unchanged feature on Baracuta Harringtons. Why? Because according to Paul Harvey, a designer at Baracuta, “firstly it must be simple and not follow fashion. Secondly, proportions and balance are vital to such a simple design. Thirdly, it has to feel right. The simplicity of the jacket asks nothing of you and that means you feel totally comfortable wearing it.”

harrington jacket advert

It’s a simple design and the look has been worn by many that have become style icons. Movie and music legends alike have been known to wear Harrington jackets. It’s no surprise that stylists from many different backgrounds have gravitated towards wearing a G9, or more recently Harrington jackets that have been manufactured by other manufacturers. For it is a testament to this garment that it has been copied widely, as its influence is such that it is the epitome of cool. When you see James Dean, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and the King of Cool Steve McQueen wearing a Baracuta, it makes you want to buy into that coolness. When you see the Mods, Skinheads, Britpoppers and indie artists looking cool in Harrington’s you acknowledge that sense of style for an easy to wear, sharp and understated look.

From cheaper ones to ones that are much more expensive. They are in various different fabrics. I have three Baracuta’s. One is in the traditional water repellent fabric, one that is in Chambray cotton, and another is a rare lightweight summer one, that is in red polyester and has a mesh Fraser tartan lining. I also have a Harrington style jacket by Two Stoned, that has the legend “The Two Stoned Rodney Harrington Style Jacket” on the label, and had been purposefully aged to look vintage and has several “Northern Soul” patches on it. I have a vintage US college version of a Harrington made by Haband of Patterson, New Jersey which is more like the Baracuta G4, and a black Leather G9 style Harrington I wear in the autumn and winter that is made by Charles Caine.

Rebel Without a Cause natalie wood james dean harrington g9 coat

Harrington’s are functional, comfortable, and timeless. The functionality is what appeals to most men, and the knowledge that when you slip one on, you instantly join that roll call of the cool. Of course – Harrington’s look great on women also. As when the fairer sex chooses to wear masculine clothing to subvert style norms, so they choose items that men have looked up to and admired. In affect reaffirming that they too can join that roll call, and show that they also like the functionality, comfort, and design that has a history that is broad, long and full of cultural identity.

Harrington’s are here to stay for it is the jacket that is made for both work and play.

harrington jacket female
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PYMC British Subculture fashion

Chuka and Dubem, twins wearing Mod / Ska, Rude Boy style, London, 1979



By Fused · On October 14, 2014

Quietly simmering gently for over a decade Jon Swinstead of PYMCA has skillfully collected together work by the best of national and international photographers with a passion for street and club culture.

Swinstead’s paced strategy has been to save potentially sinking cultural treasure that deserves global recognition. Year-by-year staff such as Jamie Brett reach their white-gloved tentacles into the most unexpected sections of society in search of insightful visual documentation by all manner of photographers and writers, delivering style heritage with substance. Such work is then swooped upon by curators, making a ‘street’ to V&A step look so easy.

The PYMCA site is a visual beehive, swarming with picture editors in search of images from the dawn of Photography to now. Alongside industry insiders from the world of Advertising to Music, there are students of Fashion Design, Photography and Fashion-related areas such as Styling and PR, clicking through the vast Education section; style stalking in amongst every youth tribe that I will not list here as it is so extensive. From Teds to… you get the picture.

Swinstead and his team seek out the most seductive aspect of style: the unexpected. It is the originators and innovators that form the solid backbone to the archive, with the focus extending to early adopters that makes fashion forecasting companies appear to be somewhat lagging along with early mainstreamers.

Sure, in amongst sections that explore and reflect everything from forty years of PUNK to strutting peacocks on the cobbles of Somerset House during the feeding frenzy of Fashion Week, there’ll be the inclusion of normcore, but such images are always selected with a certain eye.

It is the resourcefulness of youth that excites Swinstead, from one style cycle to the one that quickly emerges as a consequence, or angry reaction to. The meticulous archiving of youth culture is vital, essential, as such momentary history is vulnerable, at risk of being lost.

No gallery, as yet, exists for the collecting of such material anywhere in the world. No gallery, as yet, regularly hosts work by photographers such as Ray Stevenson, Janette Beckman, Derek Ridgers, Caroline Coon, Gavin Watson, Sheila Rock or the new wave of photographers, such as Molly Macindoe and Dean Davies of TRIP magazine.

PYMCA is of value and global importance in terms of the vast strata of social and fashion history that it holds. Whilst digital files are of immediate commercial use to television networks and publishers such as Phaidon, Laurence King and Harper Collins, it is the Fine Art work of printers such as Bob Wiskin (Grade One Photographic), Debbie Sears (Debbie Sears In Black & White) and Peter Guest (The Image) that collectors are now excitedly investing in and knocking on the door of PYMCA’s office to get their white gloves upon.

PYMCA, a mix of ingredients… simmering away quietly for over a decade… now ready to serve.

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This is England. Shane Meadows

Under my skin

Forget shoulder pads and Rick Astley – growing up in the 1980s was a riot of great music, fashion and subcultures, as new film This Is England shows. Here, director Shane Meadows recalls a youth of ska music, scrapping and a time when people ‘still cared’ about politics

Shane Meadows

Sat 21 Apr 2007 00.32 BSTFirst published on Sat 21 Apr 2007 

This is England
 Shane Meadows’ This is England has been one of the biggest British independent films of 2007

It’s easy to laugh at the 1980s. Many people base their memories on the stuff they see in those I Love The 80s TV shows: massive VHS recorders, Atari consoles and rubbish digital watches, all shown against a backing of Now That’s What I Call Music Vol 2. Then there was the way that people dressed: your mum with a deranged perm, your dad in a pair of grey leather slip-ons and your sister with a “Frankie Says Relax” T-shirt and a stack of love bites round her neck.

But my memories have more meaning than that. As a kid growing up in Uttoxeter, Staffs, it was a time of great music, brilliant fashion and a vibrant youth culture that makes today’s kids look dull and unimaginative by comparison. It was also a time of massive unrest when British people were still prepared to fight for the stuff they believed in. My new film, This Is England, is about all of these things.

Set in 1983, this is the first period film I have made. A great deal of it is based on my own childhood and I tried to recreate my memoirs of being an 11-year-old kid trying to fit in. It was a time when Uttoxeter, like the rest of the country, was awash with endless different youth tribes. There were new romantics, heavy rockers, smoothies, punks, goths, skins and mod revivalists who were into the Specials and 2 Tone. Then there were those pop culture kids who came into school wearing one green sock, one pink sock and some deely boppers on their head. People often looked daft, but were genuinely committed to their chosen denomination and would wear their identities on their sleeves with immense pride. In a town as small as Uttoxeter, though, there weren’t enough people for each sub culture to fill their own parties or clubs, so most weekends everyone would turn up at the same village hall disco and end up fighting.

Like most 11-year-old kids who wore jumpers with animals on, I got bullied by the older kids at school. So I looked for my own tribe to join. It was the skinhead movement that enamoured me the most. I remember seeing 10 or 15 of them at the bus shelter on my way home from school one summer night and thinking they were the most fearsome thing I had ever seen. Even though I was terrified of them, I was instantly attracted to them. To be a part of most of the other factions you had to be a little rich kid. But to be a skinhead, all you needed was a pair of jeans, some work boots, a white shirt and a shaved head. You could be transformed from a twerp into a fearsome warrior in 15 minutes. Skins appealed to me because they were like soldiers: they wore their outfits like suits of armour and demanded respect. There were playground myths that surrounded them and especially their Dr Martens boots. It was feared that a single kick from a DM boot would kill you or at the very least give you brain damage. I can remember kids refusing to fight unless the skinhead agreed to remove his fearsome boots first.

My older sister was going out with a skinhead who took me under his wing and taught me about the roots of the whole culture. He was a nice bloke who bore no relation to the stereotypical racist yob that people now associate with that time. It was him that I based the character of Woody on in the film. I learned from him that skinheads had grown out of working class English lads working side by side with west Indians in factories and shipyards in the late-60s. The black lads would take the whites to blues parties where they were exposed to ska music for the first time. Soon, Jamaican artists like Desmond Dekker, the Upsetters and Toots And The Maytals were making a living out of songs aimed directly at English white kids. This was where the whole skinhead thing came from – it was inherently multicultural. But nowadays when I tell people that I used to be a skinhead, they think I’m saying I used to be racist. My film shows how rightwing politics started to creep into skinhead culture in the 1980s and change people’s perception of it. This was a time when there were three and a half million people unemployed and we were involved in a pointless war in the Falklands. When people are frustrated and disillusioned that’s when you get extremist groups moving in and trying to exploit the situation. That’s what the National Front did in the early-80s. Skinheads had always taken pride in being working class and English so they were easy targets for the NF who said that their identities were under threat. They cultivated a real hatred of the Asian community. In the film, Combo represents the sort of charismatic leader the NF used to turn skinheads into violent street enforcers. Suddenly, all skinheads were branded the same way. But most of the real old skins who were into the music and the clothes went on to be scooter boys to separate themselves from the racism. I always wanted This Is England to tell the truth about skinheads.

As I started to make the film, other themes started to interest me. We had a relatively small budget so we couldn’t afford to recreate every last detail of the Uttoxeter of 1983. Instead, I set the scene by using archive news footage at the start and end of the film. Going though footage of the Falklands war really made me think again about the whole thing. As kids, we thought it was like going into a World Cup campaign. It was exciting and we were cheering on our lads to go and do the Argies. But the scenes of soldiers’ coffins shocked and appalled me.

In many ways the country was a mess. The miners’ strike was massive – they were killing scabs by throwing paving slabs from bridges onto cars. You had all the protesters and unrest at Greenham Common. But remembering all of these things made me nostalgic for a time when people were ready to stand up and say something. People cared about where the country was going. As the 1980s ended we had the poll tax riots which turned out to be the end of an era. Afterwards, it was like the nation lost its backbone. People were bought off. They were given a little bit of land, the right to buy their council house and put a little satellite dish on the front of it. They became content and lost their will to rock the boat.

The big difference between now and the period in which my film is set is our level of isolation. In 1983, people still cared about society as a whole but now they’ll keep their mouth shut as long as they’ve got the house, the job and the car they want. If you were a kid in 1983, you wouldn’t have a PlayStation to sit indoors alone with. You got your entertainment from mixing with a variety of different people. While making the film, I realised that all of my fondest childhood memories surrounded human contact: mucking about with mates or going camping. In 2007, people put less emphasis on that sort of thing and more on planning their careers and their TV viewing. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re working from nine to five then coming home to watch shows that your Sky box has recorded for you while you were out, you might as well be on a fucking drip.

This Is England is a snapshot of an era and a life that seems very dated now. It’s about sticking up for mates and beliefs.

The gang

This Is England’s tight group of mates are stranded in a drab, east Midlands town in 1983. Devoted to sharp dressing, ska music and each other, the warmth and harmony of their gang is threatened by the arrival of Combo – an older skinhead with an angry, racist agenda.


The gang’s token Boy George-alike becomes the object of young Shaun’s affections. Kindly, she gives him his first kiss.


Firm but fair leader of the girl-skins and girlfriend of Woody. Also the subject of unwanted advances from the sociopathic Combo.


An isolated 12-year-old whose dad has been killed in the Falklands War. His transformation into a skinhead offers him a whole new life of friendship, DMs and braces.


The gang’s only black member becomes a target of abuse as certain members start to embrace the National Front.


A warm hearted leader who nurtures Shaun into a fully-fledged skin. He splits from the gang when Combo shows.

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Great Skinhead Reunion Brighton, Big 6. 2016

Tickets for 2016 are available HERE


INFA RIOT Punk – Oi! 1982 Legends   






TEAR UP from Watford, A brand new young oi! act

Dekkertones a leading British Ska Tribute act, to get the party started

PISTONES  (Finland)


Facebook Event page

Bands and DJ’s wishing to perform, all info and enquiries, contact Symond at

Video made in 2013

The Great Skinhead Reunion, Brighton,

The Great Skinhead Reunion Brighton Every Year, the first weekend of June, Skinheads come from across the globe to Brighton seafront. for full event details go to

Posted by Skinhead Reunion Brighton on Saturday, 2 April 2016


The line-up maybe subject to change, as so many band members and dj’s are involved. Babies coming along, alcohol, world wars and famine can be unforeseen, but the Great Skinhead Reunion, is more about coming to Brighton to see all your friends and making some more, for 3 full days of mayhem.


Add to your experience, by getting a room in our Skinhead only hotels. Conveniently located, with a short walk to the venue, and no moaning neighbours to worry about. The rooms vary in size and cost, to fit your needs. all within an easy walk to the skinhead reunion venue. We have hotels exclusive to the Great Skinhead Reunion guests and bands.  Party party !! please email with your requirements, to be booked into the Skinhead Hotels

For those on a low budget, its worth checking Hostels and campsites, but my advice, is to get in the reserved hotels, for a nice stress free, clean and comfortable holiday in Brighton.


Brighton is situated on the south coast of England, approximately one hour from London. London Gatwick is the nearest airport. There are regular direct trains and National Express buses. The next nearest is Heathrow,  There are also direct trains from Luton Airport . Its advised not to fly to Stansted, as this is a long way, and you risk losing valuable drinking time

The nearest ferry port serving mainland Europe is Newhaven -Dieppe . Newhaven is about 20 min drive to Brighton. Dover is about 2 hours to Brighton

PARKING ZONES – one of the worst aspects of Brighton, is a lack of affordable parking. my advice is to use street parking on the suburbs of Brighton, its a reasonably safe place. a good bus service will take you into brighton centre (churchill square) and a short walk from there to the sea front. worth allowing the extra hours work, to save yourself serious parking charges

All Event Enquiries email Symond at phone (uk) 07733096571

The Facebook community group Facebook group

Facebook page

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Dissension in the Ska Camp

Dissension in the Ska Camp

From April 26, 1964–”Something had to come after the Twist and it appears to be the ‘Jamaica Ska,’ just imported from the Caribbean island by dance lovers of New York’s jet set. Here, at Shepheard’s night spot, where the infectious new dance made its U.S. debut, lovely Carol Joan Crawford (left), Miss World of 1964, pays close attention to the dancers. The ‘Ska’ may be simply described as ‘up-beat blues with a shuffle rhythm.’ Its name evolved out of the sound of the guitar’s up-beat stroke. Miss Crawford, who also hails from Jamaica, is currently touring the U.S. for the first time.”

The premiere of the ska in America was controversial then, as it is now. I recently found an article from 1964 called “Dissension in the Ska Camp” that shows even when musicians were in the thick of it, it was a contested issue of who was included and who was excluded, who created it first and who was following suit. So I today I share this article that appeared in the Sunday Gleaner, April 26, 1964 that shows these topics were just as relevant and talked about then as they are now, even more so. The article has no byline so it is not evident who wrote the piece, but Ronnie Nasralla and Prince Buster chime in with their opinions.

First, let’s set the scene. Referenced in this article is the event at Shepheard’s Club, seen above in the photo. This nightclub was located in the Drake Hotel on Park Avenue in Manhattan. It was a hotspot. It was hip and posh and cool. Big stars stayed at the Drake, including Frank Sinatra and Muhammad Ali and later Led Zeppelin and Slade. But Shepheard’s was also swanky and the hot dances of the day, like the Frug, were not only danced here, but unveiled here. So too was the Ska. Shepheard’s even produced a flyer called, “How to Do the Newest Discotheque Dances at Shepheard’s in New York’s Drake Hotel” with step-by-step instructions to dance the Jerk, Watusi, Frug and the Monkey.

The event at Shepheard’s Club was prior to the World’s Fair. This event was held in April, whereas the World’s Fair wasn’t until August of 1964. However, Jamaica’s tourism efforts began before the World’s Fair in anticipation of creating a buzz and capitalizing on the dance craze trend. You may remember the photo I posted with Arthur Murray’s wife and Ronnie Nasralla from this evening at the Shepheard’s Club, and above is another rare gem.

Without further ado, the article:

National sound hits New York but now the argument flares as to what it is and who started it!


LIKE a raging fire, the promotional tour of the Jamaican National Sound, the Ska, has started a smoldering in the underbrush of the Kingston music world from which this distinctive brand of music was born.

Everyone wants to prove who is the true exponent of the Ska and who originated it? What is the authentic style of the Ska dancing? Successful though the promotional tour to the U.S. was, enthusiastic though the reports which came back treat the appearance of a Jamaican troupe of dancers and artistes at the Shepheard’s Club, there is dissension in the camp.

Some artistes who made the trip say their sound was not promoted as much as certain other sounds. Some of the artistes say that some of the other artistes didn’t have a clue about Ska dancing and in fact did the Monkey, the Wobble, the Twist . . . anything but true Ska.

Reports from the other side say that the moves done at Shepheard’s were moves decided on and rehearsed for several nights, together, before the team left the island.

To the accusation that other records were promoted over others, we discover from Mr. Winston Stona of the Jamaican Tourist Board, a co-sponsor of the promotional venture that:

The junket to the Shepheard’s Ska dancing, backed up over recorded music. Shepheard’s is one of a current crop of New York Clubs called discotheques. In this night spot feature entertainment comes from records played on a large turntable, from an amplification booth much like the Jamaican sound system of the dance halls.

According to the Tourist Board spokesman, the promotional venture for the Ska, as suggested by Henri Paul Marshall and Roland Rennie, the music promotion experts who came to the island last month on the invitation of the Ministry of Development and Welfare, was that Ska records and not personal performances by the artistes, would be projected.

The records which were taken to Shepheard’s therefore, were a selection made on the suggestion of the experts who, on their visit to the island, listened to the work of various Ska exponents. The records chosen for promotion were the ones which the experts deemed most likely to catch on with the American public.

These records included the works of Prince Buster, Derryck Morgan, Eric Morris, and others known to the local Ska followers.

Why should there be dissension? Among the tunes featured at Shepheard’s was “Sammy Dead,” the old Jamaican folk tune restyled as Ska by Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, featuring the voice of Eric Morris. Certain members of the troupe to Shepheard’s say “Sammy Dead” was promoted over other tunes.

According to Mr. Stona, “Sammy Dead” was actually played twice at the beginning and at the end of the programme of Ska records which he presented to the Shepheard’s audience.

It was also revealed that “Sammy Dead” which is to be released on a Capitol label in the States was specifically promoted on the request of Capitol records.

Prince Buster and the other early devotees of the Ska say this should not be so. And they throw in the argument that in their opinion “Sammy Dead” is not a true Ska tune and why should it be played even one more time than any of the others, which are reorganized as real Ska by the real Ska fans?

Prince Buster, who took the Ska to England where it is known now as the Blue Beat, was very expressive about this. He says he is one of the originators of the Ska and sees no reason why he and others, who worked together on the National Sound, should not have got as big billing.

But who really originated the Ska? As Buster tells it, it was back in 1958 that he, Derryck Morgan, Eric Morris and others used to meet on top of an old house situated on Charles Street near Orange Street. The meetings were inspired because “as boys together, we were looking at making a brand.”

He points out that a number of Jamaican musicians had tried adopting American shuffle sounds to their own style, but it didn’t really work. There was need for “our own sound.” So those meetings on top of the house was to find out just how to make things work, how to find a Jamaican sound which the fans would go for.

Down on the ground you might say the big sound system operators Duke Reid and Coxson were evolving their own sound. It was an adaptation of certain American shuffle tunes re-recorded for the sound system dance audiences. It is said that when the experimenters offered Duke Reid and Coxson the new Jamaican sound they would have nothing to do with it.

According to Buster, the new sound when it was evolved was referred to with great disdain by other musicians and by the public as the Boop-Boop. He even earned the name Boop. And when he and Derryck Morgan, for a promotional stunt, launched Boop-Boop songs deriding each other the public really went for their skins.

But out West, the thump of the Boop, later is to be called Sca, then Ska, was catching on. Musicians who had “boxed around” in various musical combos began to be reorganized as “Ska beaters.” Out west and on the east, they could tell you and still tell you about Drumbago who played the drums and Ja Jerry, Theophilus Beckford, and Raymond Harper, Rupert “Blues” Miller, and Stanley Notice.

These according to the fans and on Orange Street and (unreadable) where sound boxes thump through the Saturday night of every week were the original ska men.

As the craze progressed, getting popularity most of all on JBC’s Teenage Dance Party, other musicians joined the parade, cut dies, met for sessions, helped the sound to grow.

The fans began to acclaim Baba Brooks, Roland Alphonso, Lloyd Brevet, Lloyd Tate, Don Drummond, Lester Sterling, Johnny Moore, Lloyd Knibb and the men whose full names nobody remembers but rather a name like Jackie, Charlie, and Campbell. Later they were joined by the acclaimed pure jazz, tenor man, Tommy McCook.

The Ska caught on, spread and grew, most of all in the Saturday night sound system headquarters such as Forrester’s Hall, Jubilee Tile Gardens, Carnival and Gold Coast on Sundays.

Sound system operators worked feverishly to get the latest biscuits on disc. Early on release, they bore no labels, but the dance hall spies got the names eventually and the sound system which didn’t have the new biscuit last week, acquired it this week, to draw the fans.

It is interesting to find a parallel in the discotheques which began in Paris and spread to London and New York.

In the process of finding who should get credit for what, it is eye opening to hear Prince Buster saying that Louise Bennett played her part in the promotion of this peculiarly Jamaican sound and dance. He says that Louise’s life work of keeping alive the folk songs and rhythms of Jamaica is responsible for many of them coming back into popularity, set against the Ska beat.

Many of the musicians and artistes associated with the Ska movement are fairly young men. However, one of the acknowledged originators and Dean of the Sound has been playing music in Kingston for 46 years.

He is Drumbago the drummer who also plays a flute. His real name is Arkland Parks and (unreadable) Mapletoft Poulle and Frankie Bonnitto.

Drumbago, a mild mannered gentleman, says he and Rupert Miller, a bass player for 36 years, were in on the original search to find the sound which came to be called Ska. He explains their best arrangement of the sound as being basically four beats to the bar in eight or twelve measures.

“You get the sound according to how you invert the beats,” says Drumbago.

Another exponent of Ska and its various offshoots feel that the dance called Wash Wash has every claim to being truly Jamaican, for it is inspired by one of the basic Jamaican show dances … the wash day scene. This is a standard with many nightclub rhumba dancers, with many folk lore troupes.

So what constitutes Ska dancing?  According to the fanatics, true Ska motions are the wash wash, the peculiar washing motion of either clothes or the body, the press along, in which the  dancer thumps out the rhythm with his arms at shoulder level, the move (for which we found no

name) of spiraling down to floor level and back up, the one in which you moved the hips and pumped the arms in the opposite direction to the press along.

The fans say that while the extempore movements are allowed dancing the Ska, these are the definite basic movements which one must know to be IN.

Dissenters from the troupe which performed at Shepheard’s say these movements were not used fully or enough and that at one stage they heard a critic saying that what was being done was nothing new, it looked like a first cousin to the Twist. And that the Monkey and the Pony movements which were done were recognized as old hat immediately.

Mr. Stona says this accusation is not true. He found nothing but satisfaction for the presentation at Shepheard’s and is optimistic for the future of Ska promotion in the United States.

We contacted a spokesman for the Byron Lee and the Dragonaires outfit who made “Sammy Dead.”

He told of having heard the feeling expressed by some of the original Ska sound makers that certain orchestras now playing the sound were only cashing in and didn’t know how the sound began.

The Byron Lee spokesman—Mr. Ronnie Nasralla—says:

“For Byron Lee and the Dragonaires it’s not just cashing in. I know Byron feels that it is full time Ska was organized and promoted so that the best can be got out of it for the benefit of the artistes and Jamaica.”

According to Mr. Nasralla:

“Many Ska artistes were not properly protected or organized before Byron Lee has signed up several artistes for recordings and appearances and we’re taking all steps to see that they’re properly presented.”

“I’ve heard that some people say that Byron Lee is just promoting his orchestra. It’s not true. Sure, as a businessman he will look out for his investments, but let us stop quarrelling among ourselves and promote the sound not only for the good of one band but for all Jamaica.”

Whatever comes of it, Ska is going to be a talking point for many more months. Ironically, like most things, it was an art without honour in its own country until it was discovered somewhere else.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog when I will post a response to this article that appeared in the Daily Gleaner the following Sunday. Apparently the comments made by Ronnie Nasralla and Prince Buster struck a chord and a number of musicians responded with their thoughts, including Eric Monty Morris, Roy Panton, Ronnie Nasralla again, Alphanso Castro, Sir Lord Comic, and Roy Willis who respond with comments of their own.

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Stanley Motta

Stanley Motta is always mentioned as an early pioneer in the ska industry since he had the first recording studio on the island, although they were not pressed there–Motta sent the acetates to the U.K. for duplication. But Motta began the recording industry in Jamaica. His recording studio was opened in 1951 on Hanover Street and his label, M.R.S. (Motta’s Recording Studio), recorded mostly calypso and mento. Motta’s first recorded in 1952 with Lord Fly whose birth name was Rupert Lyon. It is to be noted that in his band on these recordings were Bertie King on clarinet, an Alpha Boys School alumnus who would go on to have a successful jazz career in Europe, as well as Mapletoft Poule who had a big band that employed many early ska musicians and Alpha alumni. Motta also recorded artists like Count Lasher, Monty Reynolds, Eddie Brown, Alerth Bedasse, Jellicoe Barker, Lord Composer, Lord Lebby, Lord Messam, Lord Power, and Lord Melody (good Lord!). There is a strong ska connection too. While I originally thought and posted that Baba Motta was Stanley Motta’s little brother and got that misinformation from Brian Keyo (here:, I have been corrected by mento scholar Daniel Neely, as you will see from his fantastic and helpful comments below. They, in fact, are not related. Baba Motta was a pianist and trumpeter who also played bongos at times. Roland Alphonso performed with Baba Motta and Stanley then employed Roland to play as a studio musician for many of his calypsonians. Baba Motta had his own orchestra based at the Myrtle Bank Hotel. Baba Motta also recorded for his brother Stanley Motta with Ernest Ranglin. And other ska artists who recorded for Stanley Motta include Laurel Aitken and Lord Tanamo. Rico Rodriguez also says he recorded for Stanley Motta. Theophilus Beckford also performed for other calypsonians that Motta recorded, playing piano before he cut his vital tune “Easy Snapping” for Coxsone, the first recognized ska recording. So who was this Stanley Motta character and what was his interest in Jamaican music? Well as most Jamaican residents know, Motta was the owner of his eponymous business that sold electronics, camera equipment, recording equipment, and appliances. They also processed film, if you remember that! Motta started his business in 1932 with just two employees. Motta’s grew to hundreds of employees over the years and they sold products from Radio Shack, Poloroid, Hoover, Nokia, and Nintendo, to name a few. Stanley Motta was born in Kingston on October 5, 1915. He was educated at Munro College and St. George’s College. He was married twice and has four sons, Brian, David, Philip, and Robert. Motta chose to get into recording perhaps because it was a new industry for the island. And as a businessman, he saw that there were tourists who flocked to Jamaica with spending money, and in an effort to capture some of that money, he began recording to send them home with a souvenir. Many of these calypso and mento recordings for MRS were intended to be souvenirs, a take home example of the sounds enjoyed while on the north coast beaches. In fact, later Motta would serve on the board of the Jamaica Tourist Board from 1955 to 1962, so this was a focus for Motta. He recorded 78s, 45s, but also 10 full-length LPs including “Authentic Jamaican Calypsos,” a four volume series targeted at tourists upon which Roland Alphonso is a featured soloist on the song “Reincarnation.” In short, Motta was an entrepreneur, so his interest in recording came from a vision to fill a need, and he quickly moved on into more enterprising endeavors when he saw that need was being met better by others, like Federal Records, a physical pressing plant, and he chose to focus on his retail stores instead, stores which are still in business today. Motta was also involved in broadcast, but not as you might think. In 1941, after viewing a program that was broadcast on NBC, Motta was so moved by the content of the program titled “Highlights of 1941,” that he wrote to NBC to obtain a recording of this broadcast. He secured the one-hour program which he then showed for audiences at the Glass Bucket Club and he used donations from the screening to support war funds. The program dramatized many of the events of the year interspersed with real footage of Pearl Harbor and the milestones leading up to World War II. Motta was likely also a supplier for many sound system operators, as you can see from the advertisement above. He sold amplifiers, speakers, and all types of recording equipment so without his influence, the face of Jamaican music would not be the same, in many ways. Share your stories, memories, and research on Stanley Motta here and keep the dialogue going! Here are a number of links to more information on Stanley Motta and his recording legacy:

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Skinhead Reggae Legend, Harry J (Johnson) dies

Jamaican producer and musician Harry Zephaniah Johnson, 67, credited with producing what is widely considered the first reggae single “No More Heartaches” by the vocal harmony trio The Beltones, passed away on Wednesday, April 3 in his Westmoreland, Jamaica birthplace, succumbing to complications from diabetes; Johnson leaves four children and three grandchildren.

Born on July 6th, 1945, Johnson, better known as Harry J, initially entered the music business as a bass player with The Virtues prior to becoming the group’s manager. Shortly thereafter, he took a job as an insurance salesman but his love for music continually beckoned. He booked time at producer/sound system owner Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One in 1968 and recorded The Beltones. The resultant debut release on Johnson’s Harry J label, “No More Heartaches,” is considered a defining record heralding the emergence of the reggae beat as distinctive from its rock steady predecessor. (“Nanny Goat”, a 1968 song produced by the better-known Coxsone Dodd and sung by the duo Larry and Alvin is also cited as a transformative record, moving the rock steady tempo into a reggae rhythm).

“At the time we were under contract with Coxsone Dodd but he wasn’t doing anything for us so a member of a popular group The Cables took us to Harry J; Harry was new to the business and happy to record us so we broke away from Coxsone and went with him,” recalled The Beltones’ former lead singer Trevor Shields told “The driving sound on “No More Heartache” was totally different; we were like outsiders starting something new but didn’t know it at the time. The song was No. 1 on the Jamaican charts for about four weeks, which was no easy feat in those days.”

Harry J’s next big hit “Cuss Cuss” by Lloyd Robinson, released in 1969, boasts one of the most recycled reggae rhythms in the voluminous Jamaican music canon. The same year Harry J released a succession of reggae instrumentals credited to the Harry J All Stars, a revolving cast of musicians that included pianist Gladstone “Gladdy” Anderson, keyboardist Winston Wright, bassist Jackie Jackson, drummer Winston Grennan and guitarist Hux Brown. “Smashville,” “Je T’Aime” and “Srpyone” an assortment of Jamaican originals and reggae adaptations of international hits, are just three of the Harry J All Stars’ instrumentals that garnered steady play from Kingston’s sound system selectors.

Their most successful was “Liquidator,” led by Winston Wright’s spirited keyboard solos, which peaked at no. 9 on the UK Singles chart and became an unlikely skinhead anthem there. The song’s opening bassline was subsequently featured on the introduction to The Staple Singers’ 1972 Hot 100 chart topper “Ill Take You There” (Stax Records). According to an April 7 report in the Jamaica Observer newspaper by Howard Campbell, based on a 2000 Observer interview with Johnson, drummer Al Jackson (of Booker T and the MGs, Stax’s in-house band) visited Kingston in 1969 and met Harry J who gave him a copy of “Liquidator”; Johnson was shocked to hear the song used in the Staple Singers’ hit and took aggressive steps to collect royalties from Stax but made little progress.

Following “Liquidator’s” UK success, British reggae label Trojan gave Johnson his own Harry J imprint; his instrumental productions never again reaped the popularity of “Liquidator” but Johnson triumphed working with several of the island’s vocalists commencing with Marcia Griffiths and Bob Andy: their 1970 duets covering Nina Simone’s “Young Gifted and Black” and Crispian St. Peters’ “The Pied Piper” reached the upper tiers of the UK singles charts.

In 1972 Johnson opened a sixteen-track studio at 10 Roosevelt Avenue, Kingston, which revolutionized the reggae capital’s recording industry. “Back then, we were recording two-track and four-track sessions so it took great foresight for someone to go all the way to 16-tracks, which brought us on par with the rest of the world,” engineer/musician/producer Stephen Stewart told at Harry J studios; there Stewart learned audio engineering in the 1970s while still a teenager, working alongside the late Sylvan Morris. “Because he had the latest in technology Harry J attracted the best artists of the day,” Stewart noted.

A sampling of the classic 1970s roots reggae recordings done at Harry J studios includes: The Heptones’ “Book of Rules,” The Melodians’ “Sweet Sensation,” Toots and the Maytals’ “Reggae Got Soul,” Burning Spear’s “Days of Slavery” and Dennis Brown’s “So Long Rastafari.” Bob Marley and The Wailers also recorded their first four albums for Island Records at Harry J (“Catch a Fire,” “Burnin,” featuring Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh, “Natty Dread,” and “Rastaman Vibration” with the I-Threes); presently, framed gold copies of those Wailers albums adorn the walls of the studio’s main room.

Harry J Studios are featured in the 1978 film “Rockers” (directed by Theodoros Bafaloukos and starring Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace, Gregory Isaacs and Jacob Miller) in a scene that spotlights singer Kiddus I recording “Graduation In Zion” there.

Although the 1970s were Harry J’s production heyday he continued to produce and release hit singles throughout the 1980s including Sheila Hylton’s cover of The Police’s “The Bed’s Too Big Without You”, which reached no. 38 on the UK singles chart. Harry J responded to the massive “Sleng Teng” rhythm released by the King Jammys label in 1984, which jumpstarted Jamaican music’s digital revolution, with his aptly titled “Computer Rule” rhythm that spawned numerous hits for various singers and toasters including Daddy Freddy, Charlie Chaplin, Uglyman, and Little John.

Following a seven-year dormancy during the 1990s, Harry J studios reopened in 2000, under the management of Stephen Stewart who refurbished and re-equipped the facility, with Johnson retaining ownership of the premises. “Harry J pushed the business aspect of the industry, putting deals together and cataloguing his songs (including releases on the Jaywax, Roosevelt, 10 Roosevelt Avenue and Sunset subsidiaries), which were separate from the studio operations,” Stewart offered.

Countless reggae veterans including Toots Hibbert, Burning Spear, Sly and Robbie and Luciano have recorded at Harry J studios in recent years while upstart Jamaican groups Raging Fyah and Di Blueprint Band and an abundance of European reggae acts have each sought out its authentic roots reggae sound. “People come here to capture that live session chemistry where recording is more than just one person using a computer program,” observes Stewart. “The legacy of the musicianship that has come through here makes Harry J studios really special, it’s part of the vision Harry brought to Jamaican music.”

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Soul Radics

We announced ourselves for the first time as Soul Radics at an Atlanta ska fest in the summer of 2011. That’s the easiest way to say it I suppose.

As a band we’re unanimously fans of the Jamaican classics of ska, reggae, and rocksteady… Though I’m very favorable to Dekker, Toots, and Derrick Morgan, it is a endless list of inspiration. Opinions obviously differ for the whole band, but I’m a fan of a ridiculous amount of music that mostly came before I was born. It’s hard to break it down without yammering on forever, but it starts somewhere around Django Reinhardt, Charles Mingus, Otis Redding, The Beatles, The Animals, Chuck Berry and ends somewhere around Early punk, Devo, The Stray Cats, and The Squirrel Nut Zippers. But above all my heart lies in ska, reggae and soul. I like music with feeling… That’s my thing.

I moved to Nashville, Tennessee from a smaller town in Northwest Indiana that bordered Chicago. I have collectively spent most of my life there after moving young from my home state of Florida, but also lived in New York and oddly enough some obscure places in Nebraska.

I met Jay back in ’09 soon after I’d moved to Nashville. I was looking to play guitar in some kind of punk group, as it’s what I had messed around with prior to, and he said “how about sing in a ska/reggae band?” I immediately got more excited about the idea since the concept of ska thriving in Nashville didn’t even occur to me as a new resident. Jay was from Canada and moved to Nashville specifically for music…. I had never worked with anyone so passionate about it before; it was refreshing. Long story short, and trust me, it’s long…. Jay and I have reformed this group 3 times to get what we have now. We’ve had a great writing relationship since day 1. We picked up our bassist Jamie early on and he’s been with us the longest. Jamie was from Michigan and had played much heavier music before joining up with us, but beyond him it had seemed like a revolving door before we actually became Soul Radics last summer. I think what ailed us the most was our constant drummer situation…. I’m sure most musicians can relate. We had always had a hard time keeping horns on but Nels (Nebraska) came along on sax and held it down for a long time on his own… Rob Hoskins (from Murfreesboro) was in a.k.a: Rudie which is a flawless, long running rocksteady band in Nashville. I had collaborated with them a little bit and was a huge fan, even though in almost 20 years they had never gotten far out of Nashville. Rob and Kevin (also from a.k.a.) came to our show one night, at which point we were basically all leaning to play traditional ska. We played a song for the first time live that night called “Down to the Hall,” which is a more upbeat ska tune, and they wanted to help us track it. Rob then began producing what quickly went from an E.P. to a full album, and also playing organ for us. He opened the floodgate for seasoned musicians. We finally got a professional drummer (Dave from Nashville), and second guitar (Shane from Pittsburgh) that we kinda smuggled in from a.k.a: Rudie. Most recent is Chuck from Cali on trombone, and that’s our current line up. Sorry if that was long winded… big bands are high maintenance, ha.

i read you are in nashville, obviously world famous for music, but how does the soul/ skinhead reggae sound fit in there. i thought the town was very much based around country and western.

Nashville is one of those towns where everyone you bump into is a musician. There’s usually a good show every night but truth be told it’s a small demographic in comparison for what we do. There’s not a lot of pats on the back here for carrying the torch in our town. The people that love us at home base support us dearly… that’s our crew.

listening to ‘hey skavoovie’ it had good production on it. are you signed to a major label.

Cheers! We’ve been recording in a.k.a: Rudie’s studio (which actually happens to be the 2nd floor to their guitar player Kevin’s house). Kevin has engineered the album and the wonderfully talented Brett Tubin is mixing it. As of now and we’re set to release it on both vinyl and cd through Jump Up Records, and our record release show will be with Stranger Cole in Chicago on November 17th. I’m very excited for it! We’ve all poured a lot of blood and sweat into it and I can’t wait for the finished product.

how is the skinhead scene where you are?

Small in Nashville, but they represent. Our buddy Matt Gray DJ’s ‘Sunday Moonstomps’ and the scene brings in some good bands as often as possible. We do a free monthly Nashville gig in the summer and that’s where I see most the crew. Sometimes we’ll get an iconic band through and it’ll draw everyone out of the are your live shows, are you starting to pick up a following?

While Nashville shows are always personal and fun, I live for playing out of town shows. Hell, liveshows in general are my thing, but I love an adventure. I feel like we convert so many people when they see us live… that’s how we’ve gotten our biggest fans up until this point. A good Radics show leaves me high for days. It seems like every time we go back to Atlanta there’s more supporters, and I have to admit I feel a buzz around us right now which makes the record release all the more anticipated. I’m grateful for the shows we’ve been invited to play this year, supporting bands like the Aggrolites and The Toasters as well as a plethora of amazing regional bands. We’ve been fortunate with the opportunities and fans we’ve gotten without yet having an album out.  Dani Radic