For those of you who missed out on it, here’s a piece we ran in our Skin Issue about Trojan Records, one of the most eponymous record labels out there. Commanding incredible loyalty from its hords of dread-locked fans (you know, Trojan tatoos, Trojan-named kids, and even Trojan-branded black eyed peas), the label has somewhat been living in the backwaters over the last decade or so, getting by on re-issues and impeccably-curated boxsets. The label’s name was derived from the seven-ton Leyland ‘Trojan trucks that Portland-born and based producer Duke Reid used to transport his enormous sound system throughout Jamaica. This led to his self proclaimed title “Duke Reid, the Trojan King of Sounds,” and the birth of the term Trojan Sound used to define the character of his music.
Writer Nick Amies, additional online research Timothy Palma.
Back in the late 1960s, British dancehalls were filled with young, working class white skins and their West Indian neighbours decked out in immaculate clothes and hot-stepping to the sounds of reggae, ska and rocksteady brought to their ears by a small subsidiary of Island Records called Trojan. Formed in 1967, Trojan Records came into its own a year later when businessman Lee Gopthal took the helm. Gopthal recruited a number of iconic Jamaican producers such as Lee Perry, Bunny Lee and Clancy Eccles, as well as fostering a host of new talent from Britain’s burgeoning reggae scene. A year later, Trojan started releasing its own material, tasting mainstream success with the Upsetters’ Top 5 smash Return of Django in 1969. Hit singles followed from Jimmy Cliff and the Harry J All Stars, and a British number one, Double Barrel by Dave Barker & Ansel Collins, in the spring of 1971.
The Upsetters – Return of Django
Dave Barker & Ansel Collins – Double barrel
Jimmy Cliff – The Good Good Old Days
Trojan’s rapid rise had much to do with the embracing of the direct, unpretentious approach of Reggae by the skinheads. Perversely, while the skins helped Trojan to scale the heights, the label’s mainstream success and increasingly sophisticated sound ultimately alienated its skinhead fanbase.
As well as racking up hit singles, the label continued to showcase virtual unknowns from Jamaica including Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, and a certain Kingston-based vocal trio called Bob Marley & the Wailers.
While its commercial power began to tail off in the mid-70s, Trojan continued to showcase emerging talents from the Caribbean. By the turn of the century, Trojan had found its new niche in the market as a purveyor of classic, vintage Jamaican sounds.
We page-perfected the label in our Skin Issue, giving it the exposure and merit it deserves. Here, we select some of our favourite tracks coming out of the label’s jukebox
Harry J All Stars – Down Side Up
John Holt – You Baby
Ken Boothe – Everything I Own
Toots & the Maytals – Johnny Cool Man
Inner Circle – We ‘A’ Rockers
Take a look at some of the “virtual unknowns” showcased by Trojan. Perhaps you recognize a name or two?
Dennis Brown – How could I let you get away
Gregory Isaacs – Reasoning With The Almighty
images courtesy of Trojan Records