The Trojan Story
I first saw the fabulous Trojan Records logo when I was about three years old. I'd developed an early interest in the pictures, the writing, and the colours of record labels, and this one has left a huge impression on me. The logo is on the label of the single 'Black and White' by Greyhound which had arrived in my house because, apparently, I would sing along with it when it was on the radio. I'm not too bothered about the fact that I've zero recollection of the singing-along ever happening, I'm just fixated with the look of the record.
It's not Greyhound's hit single version of ‘Black and White’ that's featured on the 50th-anniversary, 50 track reissue of 'The Trojan Story', but a 'rootsier' cover by The Maytones that, according to label owner Rob Bell, showed how artists from 'the Jamaican scene could cover a hot hit'. Not only is it a wonderful interpretation but it fits perfectly into the story that Bell was telling with the collection.
It is a story that begins in 1957 with 'mento' (a Jamaican style of calypso) star, Lord Tanamo's enticing 'Invitation to Jamaica' before leading on to one of Jimmy Cliff's first-ever recordings (he was 14 when he sang the shuffling blues of 'Miss Jamaica'), as well as some familiar names (Desmond Dekker, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and such notable numbers like The Ethiopians 'Train to Skaville' and The Maytals 'Pressure Drop'). However, ‘The Trojan Story’ was never intended as a greatest hits collection to rival the 'Tighten Up' or the 'Reggae Chartbusters' series. The narrative history of Jamaican music takes precedence here and, as Bell points out in the introduction to the compilation that '...the emphasis here was to be more on art than commerce.'
Despite this, 'The Trojan Story' was a huge success upon release. The compilation was deleted for many years and faithful reissue acts as a time capsule. It is a capsule that was sealed shut after The Maytones recorded 'Black and White' in 1971, and so doesn't stray into including the overly familiar numbers that were covered during the ska boom of the late 1970s/early 1980s (only Dandy Livingstone's ' Rudy, A Message to You' is included). Also, as detailed liner notes and essays on reissues can often err on the self-congratulatory, here there is an emphasis on the authoritative - and the extensive archive photographs of artists and original sleeves show what a labour of love this project was to assemble.
‘The Trojan Story’ is pure joy.
Jay Lewis is a Birmingham based music, movie and arts obsessive. Jay's encyclopedic knowledge of 80s/90s Arts films is a debt to his embedded status in the Triangle Arts Centre trenches back then.
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