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Label Hall of Fame

Blue BeatText by Harry Hawks

London based label whose influence in the sixties was so profound that all Jamaican music was popularly known as Blue Beat in the UK…
Date Added: Jul 26, 2012, Date Updated: Jul 30, 2012 Copyright (C) 2020 Dub Store Sound Inc.
Place of Establishment
Emil E. Shalit
Related Artist(s)
Prince Buster
Laurel Aitken
Blue Beat was not the only company involved in the licensing of Jamaican recordings for UK release. London based Rita & Benny King's Ska Beat and R&B labels and Chris Blackwell's Island empire also played a vital role. However, the near ubiquitous silver on blue Blue Beat label made a lasting impression and the illuminated sign hanging outside Desmond's Hip City record shop in Brixton proudly proclaimed 'BLUE BEAT CENTRE'.

Originally founded in 1947 Melodisc was a small independent London based label specialising in jazz and blues releases that later diversified into what would now be termed 'world music'. Its eclectic release schedule featured calypso from the West Indies (including mento from Jamaica) and high life from Africa although it is often said that its owner, Emil E. Shalit, actually had very little interest in music and saw it primarily as a business: "selling records was the same as selling potatoes". However, it was his decision to start releasing records with the "blues beat" that expatriate Jamaican customers were demanding in the record shops of London and Birmingham that moved the label into the major, never to be forgotten, league. The Blue Beat label and 'Blue Beat' made an indelible impact on the 'swinging London' phenomenon.

The first releases on the Blue Beat label were Laurel Aitken's 'Boogie Rock', licensed from Baba/Dada Tewari's Down Beat label, Byron Lee's signature tune 'Dumplins' produced by Byron for his Dragon's Breath label and 'Manny Oh' from Higgs & Wilson produced by Edward Seaga for WIRL (West Indies Records Limited) in 1960. Subsequent releases featured productions from Dee's, Smith's, The Wasp, Derrick Harriott's Crystal Records and many early sound system operators turned record producers including Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd(CS Dodd), before he opened Studio One, and Duke Reid. Emil E. Shalit's connection with a young Prince Buster, whose name would become synonymous with Blue Beat, proved to be the most memorable, and long lasting, of the many licensing arrangements signed to Melodisc. From 1962 onwards the majority of releases on the label came from Buster's Prince Buster, Voice Of The People, Islam, Olive Blossom, Soulsville Center and Wild Bells labels.

London's mods adopted the sounds of Blue Beat as their own and Prince Buster, 'King Of Blue Beat', toured the UK to rapturous receptions and recorded a 'live' album in the UK, 'Prince Buster On Tour', in 1967. Legend has it that Buster was often escorted to his concerts by a phalanx of scooter outriders. His records, including 'Ten Commandments', 'Judge Dread', 'Al Capone', 'Tribute To The Toughest'/'Ghost Dance' and 'Madness' (which, fifteen years later, would lend its name to the most inventive and successful of the UK 'ska revival' groups) and countless other Blue Beat releases were instrumental in taking the sound of Jamaica to the youth of England's inner cities and outer suburbs. Label manager Sigmund 'Siggy' Jackson also produced a selection of blue beat flavoured sides in London which, although very popular, sometimes lacked the wild abandonment of the Jamaican releases.

There were over four hundred singles and twelve albums released on Blue Beat before the label's demise in 1967. Often regarded as little more than a footnote in the history and development of Jamaican music its importance is finally beginning to be recognised. The 1980 Germany only release on Island Records of 'The Blue Beat Years: The Birth Of A Music', compiled by Steve Barrow and Rob Bell, was a very early foray into the 'revival' market for Jamaican music. The recent release of Parts One and Two of the completely comprehensive 'The Story Of Blue Beat' series feature, in painstaking chronological and numerical order, all the releases on the label and will, hopefully, establish Blue Beat's position as a major force in popularising Jamaican music outside of Jamaica.
Jul 26, 2012 (Jul 30, 2012 Update) Text by Harry Hawks
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Hit Titles
Various - Story Of Blue Beat: The Best In Ska 1960 (2CD)
CD Various - Story Of Blue Beat: The Best In Ska 1960 (2CD) Sunrise Records UK
¥1980 (US$17.98)
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Various - Story Of Blue Beat: Best In Ska 1961 Part 1 (2CD)
CD Various - Story Of Blue Beat: Best In Ska 1961 Part 1 (2CD) Sunrise Records UK
¥1980 ¥1480 (US$13.44)
Various - Story Of Blue Beat: Best In Ska 1961 Part 2 (2CD)
CD Various - Story Of Blue Beat: Best In Ska 1961 Part 2 (2CD) Sunrise Records UK
¥2080 ¥1880 (US$17.07)
Various - History Of Blue Beat: The Birth Of Ska (180g) (2LP)
LP Various - History Of Blue Beat: The Birth Of Ska (180g) (2LP) Not Now Music UK
¥3880 (US$35.23)
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Various - History Of Blue Beat: The Birth Of Ska B1-BB25 1960 (180g) (2LP)
LP Various - History Of Blue Beat: The Birth Of Ska B1-BB25 1960 (180g) (2LP) Not Now Music UK
¥3680 (US$33.41)
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