Back in ‘87, Greater Manchester residents with a passion for Jamaican music knew that Friday night meant reggae night, here at Band on the Wall. It had been that way since 1981 and as the decade advanced, the venue would develop a reputation for hosting great U.K. reggae acts with regularity. Groups flocked from the kernels of British reggae culture; those as local as Moss Side and as distant as Birmingham or Brixton, bringing with them sounds that harked back to early-seventies roots or embraced elements of digital dancehall. No sight or sound was unexpected, with DJ Prince Tony accompanying most every act who performed and then venue manager Steve Morris, who despite being in his late ‘60s and coming from a jazz background, sitting in with some of his favourite roots outfits, to the delight of musicians and punters alike.
Fast forward to 2017 and Friday night is once again reggae night at Band on the Wall, Dubya! being our flagship reggae club night and returning favourites Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Channel One Soundsystem keeping the vibe alive. To transport you back fully to Friday night reggae at Band on the Wall in ‘87, here are a week’s worth of tunes from artists who played at Band on the Wall in that year…
Prince Hammer – Dreadlocks A The Conqueror
The opening cut on his 1985 album Vengance [sic], it would no doubt have been a feature of the legendary Prince Hammer’s set when he played to a newly refurbished Band on the Wall in late 1987. Cut at Channel One in Jamaica with The Roots Radics, it’s a slice of serious dub-wise reggae, mixed at King Tubbys for that truly authentic balance and tone.
Sword of Jah Mouth – Revelation Time (1982)
A few years prior to the release of Vengance [sic], Prince Hammer was in the producer role, helping Manchester outfit Sword of Jah Mouth realise their brilliant album Invasion. Recorded at Easy Street in London, where Carroll Thompson, Sugar Minott and Tippa Irie all recorded; it demonstrates how Manchester’s artists were among some of the finest anywhere in the country at the time.
Harlem Spirit – Mek we Rock (1986)
Another great Manchester outfit, the Moss Side band Harlem Spirit had success with the single Dem a Sus (in de Moss) early in the decade; a that railed against the police stop-and-search policy. They released this cut on Spartan records a year prior to their Band on the Wall set and with it’s dancing connotations, may well have performed it live.
Israel Movements – No Carnal (1987)
The first Birmingham band to feature on the list, Israel Movements released their album Ina Roots An Truths on Tiger Mobile the same year as venturing up to Band on the Wall. This laid-back cut, imploring the listener to pursue emancipation, ‘take Jah hand and stand strong’ is testament to the prevailing importance of Rastafarian thought in British reggae at the time.
Salem Foundation – Turbo Reggae
We cannot pin a year on this obscure gem, though references to events of 1985 place it within the realm of Salem Foundation’s Band on the Wall show of ‘87. Laden with digital-dub textures, electric keyboards and drums, its ‘give me a T-U-R-B-O’ call and response section would’ve surely made it a winner in any live set!
Black Symbol – In the Name of Jah (1980)
Another Birmingham band who made a name for themselves nationally, having financed and released the highly collectible Handsworth Explosion compilations, which highlighted the wealth of reggae brilliance in their native city. The first volume was launched at Band on the Wall in ‘83 and the group themselves returned for a show in ‘87. In the Name of Jah, which also has a dub cut, is one of their standout tunes.
Sceptre – Nuclear Disaster (1984)
Sceptre were one of the outifts to benefitted from inclusion on the first volume of Handsworth Explosion and released their only studio album, Essence Of Redemption – Ina Dif’rent Styley, the following year. Though vocals are only credited to ‘I & All’, the track Nuclear Disaster features some beautiful male and female vocal interplay and paints a picture of a band very much in tune with society and concerned about international warfare.