1977: A HISTORY OF REGGAE AND PUNK - PART 1
Big Youth X Johnny Rotten
1977 marks the year when the two sevens clashed. On July 7th that year, daily routine in the city of Kingston ground to a halt. Babylon took note.
While the Rastafarian message was making itself heard in Jamaica, punks in England stirred their own disruption to give the authorities pause.
The punks and the rastas united in their disillusionment and set out to build a new world from the ruins of colonialism. Lacking means to influence politics directly, it was their way of life, their style and their music which gave form to the shared instinctive sense that somehow the powers that be were not serving their interests.
Originating from traditional calls for social justice and the teachings of Marcus Garvey, Rastafarianism found musical expression in reggae. To voice their own creative renunciation, punks at first used stripped-down rock music as the soundtrack for rebellion, but it didn’t take long for the punks to incorporate reggae with their sound.
Don Letts X Bob Marley
The Roxy Club
Punks at the Roxy Club in London listened to reggae played by house DJ Don Letts. The location of the Roxy Club had previously been home to a late-night bar called the Chaguaramas Club, owned by reggae producer Tony Ashfield. The roots of punk were inextricably tied to London’s reggae community.
Reggae in ‘70’s London was largely associated with the community of Caribbean immigrants which had settled there after World War 2. These immigrants shared housing developments and factories with their conservative-minded, working-class British peers.
As far back as the teddy boy subculture of the ‘50’s, urbanized teenaged Anglos had been using style and music to define themselves. The first teenaged English rebels prioritized drinking, partying and looking sharp. The mods and the skinheads would have all listened to ska and rocksteady love songs played by Jamaican immigrants in their working-class neighborhoods.
By the mid ‘70’s, increasingly difficult economic conditions had driven a generation of anarchist and art school kids to reject the establishment entirely. For the earliest punks, anarchism was a sort of posturing tailored to shock. For some, this posturing evolved into an ethos and lifestyle. Increasingly aware of their radical politics, punks could relate to reggae and rasta culture’s opposition to racism, war, organized religion, and the global capitalist-industrial system.
Stay tuned for part 2!