Horace Ové & UK Reggae, 1970

Thanks to Courtney Tulloch‘s original review in the March 4, 1971 edition of Rolling Stone for tipping me to a 1970 documentary entitled, Reggae, that was directed by Trinidadian-born British filmmaker, photographer, painter & writer, Horace Ové.  Originally broadcast on BBC TV, Ove’s documentary deserves credit for being, as Marco on the Bass points out, “the first in-depth film on reggae music to be produced.”   Fortunately, YouTube contributor, Copasetic Boom, makes the entire (and extremely rare) documentary available online:

[Clip no longer available — apologies]

*The Heptones — Message From A Black Man
The Pyramids — (Pop Hi!) The Revenge Of Clint Eastwood
Noel And The Fireballs — Can’t Turn You Loose
The Pioneers — Easy Come Easy Go
*Laurel Aitken — Deliverance Will Come
Black Faith — Everyday People
*The Beatles — Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da/Get Back
John Holt — I Want A Love I Can Feel
*Dave Barker (Tommy and The Upsetters) — Lockjaw
Count Prince Miller — Mule Train
Millie Small and The Pyramids — Enoch Power
*Mr. Symarip — Skinhead Moonstomp
The Maytals — Monkey Man
Desmond Dekker — Israelites
Bob & Marcia — Young, Gifted & Black[

[*studio recordings – otherwise, live performances]

Around the 22:05 point in the film, there is a discussion about the use of Jamaican rhythm and musical elements by The Beatles.  Worth pointing out that the unedited full-length version of “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” – recorded during the Sgt. Pepper 1967 sessions but only released in 1970 (in shortened form) as the B-side to “Let It Be” – features what can only be considered as a “ska section” at the 1:05 mark in the song.  This entire ska motif would be removed from the 45 mix and only get official release on the Anthology 2 collection issued in 1996.  The Beatles Bible tells us that “Brian Jones performed on two parts:  a ska section with piano, drums, guitar and saxophone, and a jazz rendition featuring piano, drums, guitar, saxophone, bass guitar and vibraphone.”

Michael de Koningh and Laurence Cane-Honeysett devote a few chapters to this seminal event in the history of UK reggae in 2003’s Young Gifted and Black:  The Story of Trojan Records:

“The first major Reggae Festival, held at the Empire Pool, Wembley, on Sunday 26 April 1970, found Bob & Marcia performing their hit, with Desmond Dekker, The Pioneers, The Maytals and John Holt in the line-up and with backing from Byron Lee’s band and The Pyramids.  The show was compered by Count Prince Miller, who also belted out a lively rendition of his current smash, ‘Mule Train‘…

The event was captured on film by director Horace Ove in a documentary called simply Reggae, which cut the concert performances in between interviews with leading figures in the music of the day.  DJ Mike Raven provided a very succinct and insightful progression of the music and the trials of getting mainstream airplay.  He also commented that the newer UK sound wasn’t to his taste and he preferred the ‘real Jamaican stuff’.

Trojan Records Lee Gopthal and Graham Walker concurred on the difficulties of getting daytime radio play, providing illustrations of the vast numbers of units sold with still no help from the BBC.  Gopthal went on to say that general record buyers did not classify music; they just bought what they liked.

Meanwhile, UK producer Dave Hadfield, along with Doctor Bird Group owner Graeme Goodall, confirmed just how hard it was for non-Jamaicans to pick up the beat.  They predicted that they saw reggae as the next big thing, albeit in a more commercialised style.

Reggae saw a very limited release into specialist cinemas at the time.  Sadly, it has now not been aired for over 30 years and is unavailable on any video or DVD format.  That is a great pity, as it is one of the only professional films covering the UK side of reggae development as the ’60s turned to the ’70s and has some sparkling concert footage.”