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8 Essential tunes for the Rude Boy

Writer: Max Roberts

One Step Beyond-Prince Buster (1964)

The original behind Madness’s more famous 1979 reimagining. The instrumental track is packed with a cyclical trumpet which teases you to get up and move. Also, Prince Buster’s Ad-Lib chanting-like sounds make you want to join in with the nonsense. The title of the song itself embodies the Rude Boy attitude of being cheeky, carefree and always taking things ‘One Step Beyond,’ where they should be.

007(Shanty Town)-Desmond Decker (1967)

The track is one which despite its upbeat instrumentals is one which talks of the harsh realities of being a Rude Boy or young male growing up in Jamaica during the mid-1960s. Perhaps one of the first songs to breach into mainstream consciousness the attitude and social commentary of the Rude Boy. The ‘007’ of which Decker refers to in the title references James Bond and how the stylish, suave and iconic look was mirrored in Rude Boy culture.

Rudy, A Message To You-Dandy Livingstone (1967)

Perhaps the rudest Rude Boy song ever created. The tune addresses the character Rudy from the view of the establishment of society to “Stop your fooling around/Time you straighten right out.” The song epitomises the angst of being a young Rude Boy in the 60s. The trumpets are infectious and underpin its entirety.

Train to Skaville-The Ethiopians (1968)

The first typically Ska track on the list. ‘Train to Skaville,’ embodies the atmosphere of youth in Jamaica during the late 60s. Whilst elders told their young people to settle down, grow up and become an “adult,” The Ethiopians sing of knowing where they are going. They are taking the train to Skaville, their music, their culture and their party.

Funky Kingston-Toots & The Maytals (1973)

Arguably the greatest Jamaican Ska group of all time, Toots & the Maytals through the writing, singing and production of this tune describe the ennui of working-class life and the establishment in Jamaica during the period. Lead singer Toots Hibbert sings with such vitality and lust for life despite such difficulties.

Rudie Can’t Fail-The Clash (1979)

Ska and Reggae in Jamaica originated in the 1950s. By the late 1970s, bands like The Clash (although being primarily a Punk band) on the other side of the Atlantic began to be inspired by the music and Rude Boy culture of Jamaica and first-generation Jamaican migrants living in England at the time. The song highlights the rebellious carefree nature of Rudie the Rude Boy and the criticism aimed at him to sort his life out. Extra credit to this song for inspiring the perfect Rude Boy drinking game, Rudie is sung 19 times throughout the song. Drink every time he gets a mention.

Too Much Too Young-The Specials (1979)

The Specials were the trailblazers of Two-Tone which built upon the foundations of Jamaican ska and reggae whilst combining punk influences. Too Much Too Young is written from the perspective of a male character criticizing his female friend or perhaps ex-girlfriend for settling down and having done “Too Much Too Young,” when she “should be having fun,” and embodying the carefree attitude of a young Rude Boy. The beat is infectious and is a must-listen in early Uk Two-Tone.

Did You Really Know-Mungo’s Hi Fi (2008)

Perhaps a change of tone from the other tracks on the list. Mungo’s Hi-Fi from Glasgow, Scotland continues to constantly create infectious euphoric songs. Did You Really Know is their magnum opus being the perfect blend of Dancehall and Reggae combined with a modern sound system and production style. A beautiful track with a dirty beat to bop to.


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