Jan 2, 2010

How To Be a Reggae Superstar

Ah, a new decade! I just love the smell of corruption and slow decay in the morning, don't you? And as I savor the scent of America's inexorable slide toward second-world oblivion, I find myself waxing nostalgic for another decade. One where we were still on top. When people FEARED us. You know the decade I'm talking about. Yes, it was the 80s!

Oh, the 80s! When greed was still innocent! When corruption finally came out of the closet and took its rightful place as the global drug of choice, right alongside cocaine and proxy warfare. God, how I miss it so!

You remember the 80s, right? The Cold War. Reaganomics. Junk bonds. The DeLorean. And of course, what would 80s nostalgia be without the MUSIC?

Now, before you say "Boy George" or, God forbid, "Flock of Seagulls", let me remind you that 80s music wasn't all synthesizers and hair gel. There were some KICK ASS bands in the 80s. Most of my punk rock friends with green mohawks and black leather jackets took musical sustenance from the most unlikely source. No, it wasn't New Wave or Death Metal. Oddly enough, it was...Reggae!

I remember seeing an interview with members of Blondie a few years ago. Deborah Harry talked about how "Heart of Glass" was originally written as a reggae tune, with a skank and some sort of funky bass line. Their producer made them change it to the glitterball version that made them famous. I wish I could hear the original. Interesting that a New York punk band would find such inspiration in a culture and style of music so opposite from their own.

One man who's done much to propel reggae from its backwoods Jamaican origins and into the modern era is Steel Pulse front man David Hinds. If Bob Marley brought reggae to the unwashed, tie-dye wearing hippie masses, then Hinds successfully infused it with slick, urban, hipster style, truly making reggae music part of "New Wave" pop culture. With the international success of 1982's True Democracy, Hinds suddenly found himself in the company of other greats like Peter Tosh, Sly and Robbie, and Black Uhuru's Michael Rose. He had become a true reggae superstar.

Think you have what it takes to be a reggae superstar like David Hinds? Tired of your dull, forced daily routine, droning out your monotone existence in a cube somewhere? Then it's time to step up, my friend!

Just follow these easy steps, and soon you'll be smoking kind bud on the beach in St. Kitts, watching string bikinis, and fathering illegitimate children with the best of them:

1). The Clothes
To be a reggae superstar, you must throw out your drab, corporate wardrobe and dress like a human peacock. Gone is the dull navy and olive "business casual" attire. Get rid of those khaki chinos from L.L. Bean you got for Christmas. Burn your Dockers sweater vests, and for God's sake, toss out your ties, unless they have whales or pot leaves on them. Think big! Think bold!

Typical David Hinds stage attire:
  • Florescent yellow jogging suit
  • Bright orange tennis shoes
  • Knit "Rasta" scarf (red, gold, and green)
  • 3-foot column of dreadlocks on top of his head, covered with bright blue cloth bag
  • Huge, Ray-Ban sunglasses
2). Shameless Self-Promotion
Reggae superstars are not known for their reticence or modesty. Be sure to talk yourself up at every opportunity. You must become immune to shame and embarrassment. Make sure everyone knows about your greatness, your limitless talent, and your exploits with women. Give details.

Another 80s phenomenon, rap music, owes reggae a debt of gratitude. 50 Cent may not know it, but his "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" gangsta rhymes about rolling in his 'Cad, sipping gin and juice, and capping motherfuckers with his Gat have their roots in Jamaican-style "toasting." An early precursor to modern rap, toasting is a boastful, rhythmic chanting where the "toaster" talks about how bad ass and cool they are, and if you fuck with them, how they'll be forced to cap your ass, albeit somewhat regretfully (think Peter Tosh's Steppin' Razor). You're welcome, 50 Cent! To achieve reggae superstardom, you must master the art of boasting and toasting.

3). Talent Plus a Kick-Ass Band
Wearing dashiki-print "Momma Africa" shirts and dreadlocks may get you laid at the local frat party, but it won't get you famous. For that, you'll need actual talent and a great band to back you up. Impressive in his own right, Hinds was lucky enough to have one of the tightest, most professional reggae bands in the world. I got to see them play twice at the Rainbow Theater in Denver, CO during the 80s. Their introduction before they took the stage at one show was, "There are reggae bands, and there are reggae bands, and there are reggae bands, and then there's Steel Pulse!" How true it is. They put on one of the best concerts I've ever seen, and that includes other 80s heavyweights like Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, Joan Armitrading, and The Who.

So, to sum up, you need clothes, a gregarious, self-promoting attitude, and talent. Of the 3, the most crucial is obviously talent. There are plenty of brightly clothed, gorgeously-dreadlocked, arrogant superstar wannabes sweeping floors and deep-frying chicken for a living. So work on that toasting!


  1. What's wrong with Boy George?...I love Boy George.

    And I used to have Flock of Seagulls hair.

    I'm giving you a look. A disapproving sexually ambiguous synth-ridden look.

  2. The little carribean island not only gave us toasting, but also experimental remixing in the form of dubs. Turn on a King Tubby dub and you can see a glimpse of club music. Stripped down to bass, drums and echoes, it is the music of choise over here. :)

  3. Love 80's as well , I also love the dashiki too.