Rudy went to Jail, Rudy got Bail
SKA- the sounds of the 'Rudeboy'
Misha Skelly interview with Kevin Jackson of nuttyboys.co.uk
Characterized by walking bass lines with rhythms on the up beat, SKA combined elements of Calypso, American Jazz, Caribbean Mento and R&B. SKA was developed in Jamaica in the late 1960s, before becoming associated with bands like The Clash and The Specials.
It was around this time when people like Prince Buster and Clement “Coxsone” Dodd were just beginning to form sound systems to play these new songs and record their own versions of them.
The infamous Studio 1 record label was created, and released its first sample entitled ‘Simmer Down,’ featuring an 18-year-old Bob Marley.
The song was dedicated to his mother, in order to calm her nerves, as she was worried about the company he kept in Trench Town.
This fast paced, jazz infested, pounding of SKA gave way to a lower and slower interpretation called Blue Beat.
The slower version became the deeper and more bass heavy rhythm of Reggae.
The music produced at this time became known as ‘Sufferer’s Music,’ as they were songs for the oppressed about the oppressors and troublemakers.
They addressed the issues at hand, and artists sang about the Rudeboy/ Rudy and the trouble ‘he’ caused. SKA music had an urgency that captured the feelings evoked on the streets of Kingston.
As time progressed Reggae replaced SKA and Rock Steady in popularity.
Reggae harks back to archetypal characters such as Shelton Lee, ho was an African pimp in 19th century Missouri, with a notorious reputation.
He was given the nickname Stagolee, as he did not have many friends.
The story goes as follows; Shelton and his close acquaintance Billy Lyons were in the
Curtis Saloon drinking up a storm. Billy, also a crook and part of the St. Louis underworld, was Shelton’s rival.
After much dispute, wherein Billy took off Shelton’s Stetson Hat, the African pimp had enough and shot Billy.
He replaced his hat upon his head and sauntered out. Shelton was pardoned by the court, but later in life was incarcerated for robbery and assault. This act quickly became American folklore, was the theme of many a song.
The Rudeboy look was heavily influenced by Hollywood Westerns and Gangster representation within film, and this was transferred into the music.
“Rudeboy's" were actually influenced by the American Cowboys and Indians, it a weird story- basically what it was- there were Cowboys on the telly, and the ‘Rude boys ‘used to dress like Gamblers.
You know when you see the Gamblers and the Cowboys dressed up all sharp, with a hat and tie, it’s like that. That is how they were influenced and it all evolved from there, ” explains Kevin, in an interview with Misha Skelly.
Kevin who has been labelled with the name nuttyboy after his website. Has a story going back to when he was just 10 years of age. He tells how he grew up with the Jamaican boys in his home in the 1960s.
This all relates to Jamaica’s Independence in 1962, and the emergence of a young generation of men wanting to reinvent themselves.
With the independence came extreme poverty, and the ‘Scuffers’ a subculture, came about.
They were scrounging to get by, and were affiliated or tied to the black market. Instead of begging and stealing, they set up prostitution and saw an economic gain in Shanty Town and West Kingston.
The ‘Rudeboys’ came out of this subculture of ‘Scuffers’ and were typically teenage boys aged fourteen to about twenty-five.
The adolescent criminals would hangout and gatecrash sound systems. These boys would carry German ratchet knives and handguns.
People were able to recognize them coming by their sharp three-piece-suits, and stingy brim or pork pie hats, says Kevin whos has studied the history behind the 'Rudeboy'.
The way they dressed was a mixture of American Gangster and an imitation of upper class. “Within that culture you have people who would go around with sounds systems, which became very big in Jamaica.
They would compete against each other. they would take on these young guys, known as 'Rudeboys'. The boys would go and disrupt the events; this was obviously to get people to go to their own event.
So 'Rudeboys' were gangsters in a way,” says Kevin, they moved into drugs and heavy hand tactics, debt collecting, protection racketeering, some where used as mules to transport drugs to USA.
Many never came back from the states, they found work as hired guns, to protect their crime boss's interest, assassins. Turf wars erupted with Black on Black killings, the drug cartels used them, trying to take over each others territory. This is were they were known as 'Gangsters'.
It was SKA music that helped alter the bad reputation and negative connotations linked to the Rudeboy.
Many Jamaican musicians wanted to speak the truth about what was going on in their society, and openly sang about the violent acts of the ‘Rudeboy‘.
In the songs, they would urge the boys to channel their attention towards political innovation, rather than stirring up mayhem,
“Message to you, Rudy” by Dandy Livingstone is a perfect exampleof this.
“Stop your runnin' about
It's time you straighten right out
Stop your runnin' around
Making problems in town
Aha-a Rudy, a message to you
Rudy, a message to you
You're growing older each day
You want to think of your future
Or you might wind up in jail
And you will suffer” (Dandy Livingstone, 1967)
The song “Message to you, Rudy” was later covered by English SKA band called The Specials and became widely popular.
Although people were optimistic about the Independence of Jamaica, the 1960s saw a huge migration of Jamaicans to England.
With them came SKA and Reggae music. Subsequently dubbed ‘Rudeboy’ music,
SKA was instantaneously picked up by British teenagers. Mods, Suede Heads, Rockers and the notorious Skinheads all quickly attached themselves to this new genre and SKA went off in a multitude of directions.
If you want to identify the English ‘Rudeboy’ without violence, It would have to be the Mods, Suede Heads, their dress is imaculate.
Yes there would be scuffles with the rockers at sea results. However most had apprenticeships, and came from decent families. to look at them ‘butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths‘. The drug taking was not a serious as acid etc, the drugs used where called ‘uppers’ they were to keep them awake, this is were the all nighters came in to play, music until ealry hours.
The second wave of SKA music was called 2 Tone. It incorporated elements of Reggae, SKA, and Rock Steady. It had a faster tempo and a huge influence of bass instruments.
The Specials were one of the first SKA bands to become famous in England.
Because SKA was popular within many different youth cultures,
The Specials managed to unite black and white people, as tensions were sky high within communities inhabited by Skinheads, who attacked black people, mainly Pakistanis, however Jamaicans were also targeted by the mindless thugs.
Lynval Golding of the Specials, was attacked and severely beaten by skinheads and was rushed to hospital in critical state. this brought many an outcry from their followers. ?@
The band did not descriminate against any colour or race.
Their songs resonated with the youth of Britain because they highlighted issues that the younger generations were facing, like unemployment for example.
The song “Ghost Town” is a prime example of a reaction to society.
“This town, is coming like a ghost town
All the clubs have been closed down
This place, is coming like a ghost town
Bands won't play no more
too much fighting on the dance floor
Do you remember the good old days before the ghost town?
We danced and sang, and the music played in a de boomtown
This town, is coming like a ghost town
Why must the youth fight against themselves?
Government leaving the youth on the shelf
This place, is coming like a ghost town
No job to be found in this country Can't go on no more
The people getting angry
This town, is coming like a ghost town”