Bovine Ska and Rocksteady 6/23/15: The Torpedo Label

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A fine cut on Briscoe’s Torpedo Label


So, after last week’s misfire with Mixcloud (it sadly seems that the limit for tracks from a single artist is four) we decided to turn our attention this week to the thunderous and at times daffy early reggae sounds of England’s Torpedo Label.  That of course started at the midway point of the podcast.  We began the show with two sumptuous sets of rocksteady, beginning with a rare cut from Merritone that you must hear called “Fountain Bliss.”  After a mento set that featured a Lord Fly composition called “Mabel.”  After a long a frenzied ska set, we went right into our spotlight of the Torpedo Label.

Lambert Briscoe ran the Hot Rod sound system in Brixton, and from the popularity of his soundsystem, emerged the Torpedo record label, which was founded by Briscoe and Eddy Grant, yes the same Eddy Grant of The Equals and eventually Electric Avenue fame. Torpedo was founded in 1970 and was short lived; it folded in the same year but was eventually revived for a stint 1974. As a result of this, we will split this spotlight according to the birth year and the rebirth year of Torpedo, beginning with the very first single released on the label, Pussy Got Nine Life by the Hot Rod All Stars, the Torpedo label’s house band, consisting of Ardley White, Danny Smith, Earl Dunn, and Sonny Binns. Originally known as The Rudies, they were renamed after Lambert Briscoe’s soundsystem as the Hot Rod All Stars, and somewhere between the transformation from The Rudies to the Hot Rod All Stars, the group also spurred off and developed into The Cimarons, who would become the pre-eminent backing band for the English reggae scene. In addition to Lambert Briscoe himself, Larry Lawrence also produced for the Torpedo label, most notably, he was the producer of Errol English’s cover of The Small Faces, Sha La La La Lee.
With 1970 marking the height of the skinhead reggae movement, characterized by a fast, danceable rhythm, the English market was dominated by Trojan and Pama, two heavyweights that had many subsidiary arms and stables with major artists, making it difficult for a small label like Torpedo to survive past its first year, which it unfortunately did not. Then, by 1973, the skinhead reggae of the previous years began to lose traction, signed especially by the folding of reggae specialized music shops. But as the late 60s/early 70s fast reggae left the spotlight in 1973, roots reggae with its markedly slower skank took its place, particularly due to the release of Bob Marley’s To Catch a Fire. Consequently, with this resurged interest in reggae, Eddy Grant opened up the Torpedo label again in 1974, but now focused the releases on more of a roots reggae sound. We kicked off the highlights from the Torpedo revival with Johnny Jonas’s Happy Birthday, a track produced by Eddy Grant himself.

Check out the full 6-23-15 Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady podcast on Mixcloud HERE!

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