Long before the rise of punk and white power skinheads in the 80s, the subculture had its roots in Trojan Records, a label specialising in Jamaican music. Capitalising on the ska, rocksteady and reggae craze that was sweeping United Kingdom, one Lee Gopthan collaborated with the founder of Island Records, Chris Blackwell, to form Trojan Records in 1968.
A sister label to Island Records, the label acted as a musical middleman, enabling them to release existing Jamaican music to the British market rather than develop artists of their own; it fed the public with the likes of Upsetters, Bob & Marcia, The Cimarons, Desmond Dekker and Dave & Ansel Collins. Sadly, as British youth tired of the Rastafarian lyrics and slower tempos, mods, skinheads and suedeheads embraced the brasher and louder punk of the 70s, and sales inevitably declined.
A & R man Dave Hendley provided a brief spike in the record label’s fortunes, releasing notable albums by Mikey Dread, I-Roy, and Black Uhuru. Sadly by then Trojan was unable to compete with newer reggae labels with fresher talents and Handley left, with Trojan effectively becoming inactive in 1982.
It was only following another buy out, when its new owners embarked on an extensive re-issue programme, that the imprint became re-established as world leaders in the field of vintage Jamaican sounds, and was eventually acquired by Sanctuary Records Group. Today, Trojan continues to lead the way in presenting the very best in Jamaican sounds, from the rocksteady and early reggae that dominated the initial years of the label’s launch up to its more current dancehalland jungle permutations, and its indelible mark on music history – the Trojan skinheads, a byproduct of the label’s music – remains undeniable.
For more on Trojan Records, log onto www.trojanrecords.com. This article was first published in the January 2008 issue of JUICE
Text Alif Omar Mahfix