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In August, it will be 50 years since Jamaica gained Independence from Britain. Today, the Jamaica Observer’s Entertainment section reflects on the influence Jamaican pop culture has had on that country in REGGAE BRITANNIA, a weekly feature leading up to the Golden Jubilee.

I’m going to a party

And I hope you are hearty

So please don’t be naughty

For it’s a punky reggae party

— Punky Reggae Party by

Bob Marley

Top: Lee PERRY… wrote and produced Bob Marley’s Punky Reggae Party
Bottom: The Clash


SOME of the lyrics to the hit song written and produced by Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry in which Marley gives a nod to the punk explosion that rocked Britain in 1976.

According to Perry biographer David Katz, the diminutive producer wrote Punky Reggae Party while visiting England in 1977. He called up Marley who was also in the country and recorded the song with Aswad drummer Angus ‘Drummie Zeb’ Gaye and bass player Richie Daley of Third World.

Marley was reportedly not enamoured with the punks, rebellious white youth who wore outrageous leather outfits, spiked hair and pierced their bodies.

Likewise, conservative Britons were not taken with the rage of leading punk bands like The Clash and the Sex Pistols.

The Clash, especially, hit out against racial and class division in Britain which made them heroes among the marginalised. Like the Skinheads a decade earlier, the punks were largely working-class and shared a love for Jamaican music.

Paul Simonon, bassist for The Clash, was from Brixton, home to a growing West Indian community. He was a big fan of Perry, telling Katz that he learned to play bass listening to the producer’s work.

In 1976, The Clash covered Police and Thieves, the roots-reggae song by Junior Murvin that made the British national chart that year. The original was produced by Perry whom they approached to do similar duties on their latest song, Complete Control, which took a jab at corporate greed.

While traditionalists scorned them, the punks’ angst-driven message found support among blacks who were struggling to overcome racism in a country where they were treated as second-class citizens.

In a 2003 interview with the Jamaica Observer, David Hinds of reggae band Steel Pulse recalled their early days working London’s punk scene.

“The punks were looking at England for what it really was, a country that had violated people throughout the years, and they used Jamaican music as a springboard,” Hinds said. “We decided to utilise them and became opening act for a lot of punk rock bands.”

Steel Pulse’s powerful Handsworth Revolution was similar in tone to punk albums like London Calling by The Clash and Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols by the Sex Pistols.

By the late 1970s, Britain had tired of the anarchistic tones of the punks and the movement quickly declined. The Clash retained their ties with Perry in the early 1980s and also worked with producer Michael ‘Mikey Dread’ Campbell.

The punks had a massive impact on the British pop bands of the 1980s, notably Culture Club which adopted their appreciation of Jamaican pop culture. This was evident on the band’s breakthrough hit, Do You Really Want To Hurt Me, a reggae number that topped the British chart in 1982.


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