Please Police Me

p&t1Time to pilfer the punky reggae pantheon again with a track I once deemed superfluous to the Skank Blog cause, but with the passing of Junior Murvin currently stirring up the interwebs, it seemed only right to dust off The Clash’s rickity remake of Murvin’s ’76 surprise hit Police & Thieves.

Arguably the most iconic example of early reggaematic punk productions, it’s actually tough to class this record as either; a sparse and spiny backbeat double times against Strummer and Jones’ call and response guitar stabs, and at 6 minutes, this is at least twice the length of you’re average punk rocker. Conceptual, epic, and surprisingly sluggish, on paper this almost sounds like a prog record, though in practice it paved the way for so much of our SB content. You may be fooled into thinking I don’t actually like this record, I’m just not sure it fits here. Make up your own mind…

controlMurvin was of course adamant that The Clash had “destroyed Jah work”, yet they intrigued his producer Lee Scratch Perry enough to add their picture to the already littered walls of his hallowed Black Ark studio, and within a couple of months Perry was in the studio producing their follow up single Complete Control. A surprisingly rock n roll affair, the single bore no hallmarks of Perry’s patronage bar some scant tape echo and a battered old bass bin on the sleeve.

p&t2But back to the mighty Murvin who rode Perry’s bass-laden lope of a rhythm with effortless verve, snaking his falsetto between the most earsplitting hi-hats ever to grace pop radio. It took 4 years for Police & Thieves to make it’s way from the Roxy dancefloor to the UK charts, and remains one of the few universally acceptable cliches to emerge from mainstream reggae to this day; welcomely wheeled out for token stoner scenes on the telly, and it’s almost omnipresent use as the last song at Nottinghill Carnival as the police loiter, ready to shut down every sound system who have inevitably overrun their curfew.

Coming full circle, Murvin wound up in the studio a couple of years later with The Clash’s cohort Mikey Dread, recording the mini album Badman Possee with a heavy nod to his UK fan base, creating parallels with The Clash’s own Guns Of Brixton.

Joining Mikey in the great echo chamber in the sky, Mr Murvin, we at Bologna HQ salute you…

And I couldn’t leave you without another Police & Thieves cover, this time as voiced by another Spiky Dread alumnus, Boy George. This echo drenched version from ’97 was produced by dancehall don, Bovell associate and Latin Quarter drummer Richie Stevens and released in Jamaica on the Chrystal label (for the fellow vinyl nerds amongst you)…

(Wrongtom)

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