It was 40 years ago today that The Clash, Sex Pistols and other like-minded fellow travelers fueled the punk revolution in the U.K. and the Ramones, Patti Smith and others did the same here.
Less celebrated, perhaps, is the fact that Jamaican roots reggae was in its heyday at the same time, a fact that did not go unnoticed or unappreciated by punks on both sides of the Atlantic.
You won’t have to spend much time searching Google to find photos of Smith chilling with Tappa Zukie and Burning Spear’s Winston Rodney, or Johnny Rotten hamming it up with Big Youth for Dennis Morris’ camera.
The Clash celebrated all the big names of Jamaican music in "White Man in Hammersmith Palais" and covered Junior Murvin’s "Police & Thieves." Rotten traveled to Jamaica to scout talent for Virgin’s Front Line reggae subsidiary.
One of the most important records of the era – and the one perhaps most treasured by punks – was Culture’s "Two Sevens Clash," a reference to July 7, 1977, a date predicted by Marcus Garvey to unleash chaos. Many Jamaicans stayed inside that day and Culture’s hit song captured the zeitgeist not only of that experience but of the upheaval in the international music scene, thanks to the punks’ rip it up and start again attitude.
The album, produced by Joe Gibbs, featured the inimitable voice of lead singer Joseph Hill – who died in 2006 – with harmonies by Albert Walker and Kenneth Dayes. Songs like the title track, "I’m Not Ashamed," "See Them A Come" and "Natty Dread Taking Over" were urgent and catchy.
Gibbs tapped Kingston’s top studio talent – drummer Sly Dunbar, bassist Lloyd Parks, saxman Tommy McCook, among others – to provide the backing.
"Their message," wrote Gibbs in the liner notes on the original sleeve. "The unforgotten suffering of their ancestors as they toiled in blood, sweat and tears, only to perish."
Some – most notably "Black Starliner Must Come" – were tributes to Garvey.
The record charted in England, which was not a terribly regular occurrence for this kind of militant music.
"I wasn’t surprised," says Walker. "I know good things will come from good things. It’s a really good record for the punks and more conscious people, they love to hear our sound. Our song made it big first in the UK, that was where we used to be, before we came to America, so they really support us."
The record has now been reissued as a double-disc set (and on three vinyl LPs) from VP Records, with the original album on one CD and related material – including some great DJ cuts and dubs – on the second disc. And it sounds as fresh and as urgent as ever.
"I feel like it a very good album," says Walker. "It really surprised me to know that 40 years later, it has been re-released again. It’s a pleasure. I really love it! I give my gratitude to all the people that got it out and brought it back in the street, it’s a pleasure for us.
"I am really honored. It really helped us reach all international music levels. Recently I was in Malawi Africa and it’s because of the re-release. We have been getting more shows and it takes me back to old times."
I ask Walker if he has a favorite song from the record.
"My favorite song is ‘Two Sevens Clash’," he says. "We took a lot of time and care to write that song. We learned a lot of history about Christopher Columbus, Marcus Garvey and others and decided to put together a song that the youth of today can listen to and learn something from."
My own favorite is now, as it was then, "See Them A Come."
Filmmaker Don Letts – a fixture on the London punk scene and later a member of Big Audio Dynamite with The Clash’s Mick Jones – has made a documentary about the musical interaction between London punks and Kingston reggae performers. The title? "Two Sevens Clash."
Letts was also tapped to pen the liner notes for the 40th anniversary reissue of the Culture album.
"The punks loved it (reggae)," Letts writes. "They liked the fact that reggae was anti-establishment and that the lyrics had a musical reportage quality about them dealing with themes and subjects they could identify with. ... When (as a club DJ) I dropped Culture’s ‘Two Sevens Clash’ – game over. Every punk had the Sex Pistols ‘Never Mind the Bollocks,’ The Clash’s debut album and right alongside ‘em Culture’s ‘Two Sevens Clash’."
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Bobby Tanzilo
On Monday, the City of Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission voted to deny the application of Wallpapered City to have artist Shepard Fairey paint a large mural in support of voting rights on the side of the Railway Exchange Building at 229 E. Wisconsin Ave. Stacey Williams-Ng says the ruling could be problematic for local artists.
On Tuesday, Jerry Murphy closed the Murf's Frozen Custard at 1345 S. West Ave. in Waukesha. The burger and custard location at 12505 Burleigh Rd. in Brookfield will remain open.
Just as Katie Crowle was reaching the finish line of a massive renovation project to transform an 1868 church into a wedding and events venue, the coronavirus pandemic hit Milwaukee.
At its meeting on Monday, Aug. 3, the City of Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission approved a proposal to install a container bar called The Dock atop the upper deck of the bath house at Bradford Beach, 2400 N. Lincoln Memorial Dr.
Beer garden season is here. Here's when local beer gardens will open their taps for the challenging 2020 season.
A year after Crestlight Capital and TPG Real Estate bought Schlitz Park from the Grunau and Sampson families - who purchased the property in 1983 af the brewery had ceased operations there and converted it into an office park - the 32-acre site is getting a refresh.
Milwaukee Public Museum is reopening to the public this month. Here's everything you need to know about going back to stroll The Streets of Old Milwaukee.
For the past couple years, I've been walking Milwaukee-area neighborhoods with readers via a series of Facebook lives. Here is an ongoing collection of the walks, which you can watch any time via the embedded links below. Keep checking back because I'll add more as I do them.
In 2019, 51 Wisconsin brewers converged on Third Space Brewing in the Menomonee Valley for the third annual Wisconsin IPA Fest. This year, on Saturday, Aug. 22, 12 brewers will meet on the internet, where, hopefully, beer lovers will join them to talk about brewing Wisconsin, IPAs and more.
The university has listed the Alumni House, 3230 E. Kenwood Blvd., for sale. The three-strory, 25,553-square-foot Tudor Revival home, with 14 bedrooms and 175 feet of lake frontage on its 3.9-acre property is assessed at $1.93 million.