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Two Sevens Clashs

Two Sevens Clashs

Two Sevens Clashs

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Don Letts documentary is a most welcome addition to the story of reggae.

The Two Sevens Clash documentary by the living legend that is Grammy winner Don Letts is a most welcome addition to the story of reggae. Most stalwarts of the genre know that the British reception to the rhythm in the 1960s and 70s was central to its eventual worldwide success. Hence, this cleverly constructed compilation charts the unlikely transition of frustrated punk rockers in the 1970s – as their genre and its message had run its course - to rebellious reggae.

Two-Sevens-Clash

Letts was way ahead of his time in the 1970s. A black boy born to strict immigrant working class parents opening a fashion shop on the celebrated Kings Road, Chelsea, whilst sticking a Super 8 mm. camera in the face of punks’ leading protagonists takes some neck. Lucky for us that he did.

This (all too short) 50 minute documentary offers rare original footage of luminaries like Culture, The Congos, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Big Youth. There are also glimpses of a host of others, as they try to sell their wares to Richard Branson’s new reggae label. Branson was visiting Jamaica at the time with Letts and one John Rotten of the recently defunct Sex Pistols - who’s to be seen on camera experimenting with an authentic Jamaican hookah pipe!

Don_LettsThere are also rare clips of punk rocks’ ‘royalty’, with The Pistols, The Clash, Siouxsie and The Banshees, The Damned, The Jam and  The Buzzcocks performing at the Roxy in London,  where the enterprising Letts had by then secured a DJ residency. Even the youthful Shane McGowan – later to find immortality with The Pogues and the Fairytale of New York classic – shows up three times in the documentary.

Whilst Letts’ rare footage is central to the documentary’s story, his considered narration tells of a crucial era for the then new genre that we now call reggae. Starting with the plight of his parents’ ‘wind rush’ generation that were imported from Jamaica to rebuild post-Second World War Britain, the tale moves to the Notting Hill carnival (and its riots), before effectively capturing the merge of disaffected black and white youth in its confrontation with the forces of  authority. This mix of the punks on speed with the Rastas on weed was an unlikely but enduring alliance, eventually securing Bob Marley’s imprimatur via ‘Punky Reggae Party’.

Prior to his well-received DJ input, at the recent showing of this documentary in Ireland Letts also regaled his audience via a ‘Question and Answer’ session. This spanned stories from his role as a dealer to Marley’s herbal requirements – when Marley was based (post-assassination attempt) in London town - to Marley’s (initial) disdain for punk rock, to his extraordinary capacity to ‘out reason’ (and ‘out smoke’) all and sundry at late night\early morning sessions.

Well done Mr. Letts. This film is a very worthwhile produce. Thank goodness you had the foresight and the hard neck to stick your camera in other people’s faces!

Tags: Don Letts

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