King Tubby meets the Upsetter at the grass roots of dub

Some thoughts on the early history and influence of dub reggae

Authors

  • Christopher Partridge Lancaster University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/pomh.v2i3.309

Keywords:

dub, Jamaica, King Tubby, Lee Perry, reggae

Abstract

There can be few aficionados of electronic dance music who have not come across the term ‘dub’. Its ubiquity within contemporary dance cultures is conspicuous. However, its roots lie not in contemporary dance music per se, nor within Anglo-American, white, middle-class cultures, but within the ska and reggae sound system culture that emerged in Jamaica in the 1960s. ‘Dub’ refers to a process of deconstruction, by which the engineer strips music down to its basic rhythm components, introduces novel elements, and thereby provides a new interpretation of the material. While such processes are very common within contemporary electronic music, their origins are not well known and often misunderstood. Focusing on the work of King Tubby and Lee Perry, this article maps the emergence of dub and, in so doing, both indicates its wider significance and posits a particular understanding of its genesis. Whilst it is recognized that the early history of dub is complex, being the result of a confluence of various streams of Jamaican musical creativity, and whilst key figures such as Joe Gibbs, Errol Thompson, Sylvan Morris, and Augustus Pablo need to be discussed in any comprehensive account, the article argues that its genesis can be traced to one engineer in particular, King Tubby.

Author Biography

Christopher Partridge, Lancaster University

Christopher Partridge is Professor of Religious Studies at Lancaster University, UK, and Codirector of the Centre for Religion and Popular Culture at the University of Chester.

References

Barrow, S. 1994. ‘Dub Gone Crazy’. Liner notes to King Tubby, Dub Gone Crazy: The Evolution of Dub at King Tubby’s 1975–1979. Blood & Fire.

—1995. ‘Version Therapy’. The Wire 132: 28–32. Barrow, S., and Dalton, P. 1997. Reggae: The Rough Guide. London: Rough Guides.

—1999. Reggae: 100 Essential CDs. London: Rough Guides.

Bradley, L. 2000. This is Reggae Music: The Story of Jamaica’s Music. New York: Grove Press; published in the UK as Bass Culture: When Reggae Was King. London: Viking, 2000.

Chang, K. O., and Chen, W. 1998. Reggae Routes: The Story of Jamaican Music. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Colegrave, S., and Sullivan, C. 2001. Punk: A Life Apart. London: Cassell.

Corbett, J. 1994. Extended Play: Sounding Off from John Cage to Dr. Funkenstein. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Cox, C., and Warner, D., eds. 2004. Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music. New York: Continuum.

Doyle, P. 2005. Echo and Reverb: Fabricating Space in Popular Music Recording 1900–1960. Middletown, OH: Wesleyan University Press.

Ehrlich, L. 1983. ‘X-Ray Music: The Volatile History of Dub’. In Reggae International, eds S. Davis and P. Simon, 105–109. London: Thames & Hudson.

Eno, B. 2000. ‘Foreword’. In M. Prendergast, The Ambient Century, xi–xii. London: Bloomsbury.

Eshun, K. 1998. More Brilliant than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction. London: Quartet.

Frith, S. 1996. Performing Rites: Evaluating Popular Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hawkins, E. 1996. ‘The Secret History of Dub: Reggae Historians Delve Into the Dub Chamber’. Eye Weekly, 18 April. Available at: http://www.eye.net/eye/issue/issue_04.18.96/ MUSIC/mf0418a.htm (accessed 8 August 2005).

Hebdige, D. 1987. Cut ‘N’ Mix: Culture, Identity, and Caribbean Music. London: Routledge.

Katz, D. 2000. People Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. Edinburgh: Payback Press.

—2004. Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae. London: Bloomsbury.

—2005. ‘Upsetters: 14 Dub Blackboard Jungle’. Q/Mojo Bob Marley and Reggae Special Edition—Q Classic 1/6: 135.

Kelly, D. 1984. ‘Lee Perry’. New Musical Express. 17 November: 6-7, 58. Also available at: http:// www.uncarved.org/dub/scratch.html (accessed 11 August 2005).

Kot, G., 1997. ‘Instrument of Expression’. In Reggae, Rasta, Revolution: Jamaican Music from Ska to Dub, ed. C. Potash, 149–51. London: Books With Attitude.

Lesser, B. 2002. King Jammy’s. Toronto: ECW Press.

Letts, D. 2007. Culture Clash: Dread Meets Punk Rockers. London: SAF Publishing.

Manuel, P., and Marshall, W. 2006. ‘The Riddim Method: Aesthetics, Practice, and Ownership in Jamaican Dancehall’. Popular Music 25: 447–70.

Marley, B. 2005. ‘The Primer: Jamaican Deejays’. The Wire 262: 42–9.

Pierson, L. J. 2002. Liner notes for U-Roy: The Lost Album—Right Time Rockers. Heart Beat.

Prendergast, M. 2000. The Ambient Century: From Mahler to Trance—The Evolution of Sound in the Electronic Age. London: Bloomsbury.

Reynolds, S. 2000. ‘Back to the Roots’. The Wire 199: 34–9.

Sleeper, M. 1997. ‘Shocks of the Mighty’. In Reggae, Rasta, Revolution: Jamaican Music from Ska to Dub, ed. C. Potash, 157–62. London: Books With Attitude.

Stolzoff, N. C., 2000. Wake the Town and Tell the People: Dancehall Culture in Jamaica. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Tamm, E. 1995. Brian Eno: His Music and the Vertical Colour of Sound. New York: Da Capo.

Toop, D. 1995. Ocean of Sound: Aether Talk, Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds. London: Serpent’s Tail.

Veal, M.E., 2007. Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae. Middletown, OH: Wesleyan University Press.

Williams, R. 1997. ‘The Sound Surprise’. In Reggae, Rasta, Revolution: Jamaican Music from Ska to Dub, ed. C. Potash, 145–8. London: Books With Attitude.

Discography

Anhrefn. 1989. BWRW CWRW: The Ariwa Sound and Studio One Sessions. Workers Playtime.

Babazula and The Mad Professor. 2003. Ruhani Oyun Havalari. Double Moon.

Big Youth. 1973. Screaming Target. Trojan.

Brinkmann, Thomas. 2004. Tokyo. max.E.

Burning Spear. 1976. Man in the Hills. Island.

Chin, Clive. 1973. Java Java Java Java. Impact.

The Congos. 1977. The Heart of the Congos. Black Ark.

Edwards, Rupie, and Friends. 1974. Yamaha Skank. Success. A longer version was released in 1990: Let There Be Version. Trojan.

Gibbs, Joe, and Errol Thompson. 1975. African Dub All-Mighty. Lightning.

—1975. African Dub All-Mighty: Chapter 2. Joe Gibbs.

—1978. African Dub All-Mighty: Chapter 3. Lightning.

—1979. African Dub All-Mighty: Chapter 4. Joe Gibbs.

—1984. African Dub All-Mighty: Chapter 5. Joe Gibbs.

The Heptones. 1977. Party Time. Island.

Holmes, David. 1997. Let’s Get Killed. Go! Beat.

Hudson, Keith. Pick A Dub. Atra Records, 1974; Blood & Fire, 1994.

I Roy. 1976. Crisus Time. Virgin.

King Tubby. 1994. Dub Gone Crazy: The Evolution of Dub at King Tubby’s 1975–1979. Blood & Fire.

—2005. Select Cuts 100% of Dub. Select Cuts.

King Tubby and Lee Perry. 1974. King Tubby Meets the Upsetter at the Grass Roots of Dub. Fay.

King Tubby and Prince Jammy. 1996. Dub Gone 2 Crazy: In Fine Style (1975-1979). Blood & Fire.

King Tubby and Roots Radics. 1981. King Tubby Meets Roots Radics: Dangerous Dub. Copasetic, 1981.

King Tubby and Friends. 1999. Dub Like Dirt. Blood & Fire.

Loy, Herman Chin. 1973. Aquarius Dub. Aquarius.

Martyn, John. 1973. Solid Air. Island.

—1973. Inside Out. Island.

—1974. Sunday’s Child. Island.

—1977. One World. Island.

Morris, Sylvan. 1975. Morris on Dub. Jaywax.

Morris, Sylvan, and Harry J. 1978. Cultural Dub.

Pablo, Augustus. 1977. King Tubbys Meets the Rockers Uptown. Clocktower.

Penn, Dawn. 1994. No, No, No. Big Beat Records.

Perry, Lee. 1973. Blackboard Jungle Dub. Upsetter. Available as: Lee Perry. 2004. Upsetter 14 Blackboard Jungle Dub. Auralux. Available on: Lee Perry. 2004. Dub-Triptych. Trojan/ Sanctuary.

—1973. Cloak and Dagger. Rhino. Available on: Lee Perry. 2004. Dub-Triptych. Trojan/ Sanctuary.

—1975. Revolution Dub. Cactus. Available on: Lee Perry. 2004. Dub-Triptych. Trojan/ Sanctuary.

—1976. Super Ape. Upsetter/Island.

—1977. Return of the Super Ape. Lion of Judah.

—1997. Arkology. Island.

—1997. Technomajikal. ROIR.

—1998–2002. Complete UK Upsetter Singles Collection: Vols. 1–4. Trojan.

Prince Buster. 1974 [1973]. The Message Dubwise. Fab UK.

Rhythm and Sound. 2005. See Mi Yah. Burial Mix.

—2003. The Versions. Burial Mix.

The Ruts. 2006. Babylon’s Burning Reconstructed: Dub Drenched Soundscapes. Collision.

Scientist. 1980. Scientist Heavyweight Dub Champion. Greensleeves.

—1981. Scientist Rids the World of the Evil Curse of the Vampires. Greensleeves.

—1981. Dub Landing. Starlight.

Stamper Doctor. 1979. Dub Zone. Teams.

Thievery Corporation. 2006. Versions. ESL Music.

Wobble, Jah. 2006. Jah Wobble and The English Roots Band. 30 Hertz.

Published

2008-09-26

How to Cite

Partridge, C. (2008). King Tubby meets the Upsetter at the grass roots of dub: Some thoughts on the early history and influence of dub reggae. Popular Music History, 2(3), 309–331. https://doi.org/10.1558/pomh.v2i3.309

Issue

Section

Articles