Essential Dub CD cover 

    Essential Dub


The late King Tubby was the ruler of dub and the original mixmaster. essential Dub features a hand-picked selection of his classic 70s mixes featuring contributions from Horace Andy, Augustus Pablo, The Aggrovators and many more. They didn't call him the `King' for nothing.

The next time you hear a dance music remixer being praised to the skies, spare a thought for King Tubby. And while you’re about it, the next time you hear a hip-hop record using an 808 bassdrum, or an acid tune, or a spacious drum and bass extravaganza, meditate awhile on the man who did so much to make all these things possible.

Dub was already on its way when King Tubby opened his little recording studio in the ghetto of Waterhouse, Kingston 11, Jamaica, around 1970. But what this man did was define it. He distilled the essence of reggae music with such precision and clarity that, even though he experimented with sound throughout a career that lasted the best part of 20 years, nothing ever sounded like a leap in the dark.

Tubby knew what he was doing with the music because before he started making it, he’d operated his own awesome sound system, built amplifiers for other systems, and designed various other bits of recording equipment. By the time his recording studio was operational, everyone in reggae was already aware of what he could do. All he did was apply that same meticulous, brilliant mind of his to shaping mixes instead of the equipment that delivered them to an adoring public.

Tubby was not, incidentally, fat. Nor was he a dreadlocks, despite being “Surrounded By Dreads” as one album title put it. But he was truly the ruler of dub. As his protégé, Prince Jammy, put it in Steve Barrow and Peter Dalton’s ‘Reggae, The Rough Guide’: “People don’t call you King for nothing”.

   Born Osbourne Ruddock, January 28, 1941, Kingston Jamaica. Develops an early interest in electronics and before the 1960s arrive, begins to build the high-powered amps designed to deliver the bass and treble at high volume. By the mid-1960s, has his own mobile King Tubby’s Home-Town Hi-Fi, including reverb and echo units, something of a novelty in Jamaica at the time. Plays primarily classic reggae and rocksteady of Duke Reid and Studio One – the perfect grounding for any future reggae producer.

    Tubby starts work as a disc-cutter, creating acetates (aka dub plates/specials) for Duke Reid and other sound systems. Using Reid’s two-track tapes, he ignores the vocals recorded on one track, and fools around with the other, instrumental track, adding effects and turning up the bass to create a rudimentary dub. These tracks are used for the emerging DJs (reggae rappers) to chat over. Among those to benefit is U Roy, the DJ on Tubby’s sound system. Tubby introduces him to Duke Reid, Reid records U Roy, U Roy becomes Jamaica’s hottest star in 1970, and Tubby’s Hi-Fi accordingly becomes the hottest sound system thanks to U Roy’s presence.

    In 1971 Tubby acquires a second-hand four-track mixing desk, and in his little dub cutting studio, voices and mixes other record producers’ tunes. Initial encouragement comes from producer Bunny Lee, but he is first credited with a mix by Prince Tony Robinson. Also works with Lee Perry, Niney The Observer, Augustus Pablo etc.

    By the mid-1970s Tubby’s name is so powerful in that he is credited with numerous albums “Dub From The Roots”, “Shalom Dub”, “King Tubby Meets The Upsetter At The Grass Roots Of Dub”, “King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown…” etc. Also maintains his sound system’s pre-eminence.

    In the late 70s, Tubby takes a backroom role, leaving the mixing to youths like Phillip Smart and Prince Jammy. The studio retains its reputation until the start of the 1980s, when dub falls out of favour in Jamaica.

    In 1986, Tubby returned to the record business in a serious way, launching the Firehouse and Taurus labels, recording digital dancehall to huge acclaim and hitting with a new generation of acts, including Ninjaman, Anthony Red Rose, King Kong etc. His 1988-recorded album, “Presents Sound Clash Dub Plate Style” is a massive seller. It is bittersweet swansong – King Tubby, aged 48, is shot outside his home, in the ghetto area of Waterhouse, by a lone gunman on February 6, 1989, in what is apparently a botched robbery.

Track notes

Silver Bullet
1975. A version of Ken Boothe/Dennis Brown’s “Silver Words”, mixed for producer Winston “Niney The Observer” Holness

A Better Version
1975. Featuring Horace Andy, this Bunny Lee–produced tune was originally a hymn to herb, “Better Collie”

King Tubby’s Conversation Dub
Tubby tackles a real oldie, rhythm-wise, this being a version of The Uniques “My Conversation”. Again, Bunny Lee is the official producer

Psalms Of Dub
1974. A record which helped put dub on the map. The original, Carlton and Leroy’s “Not Responsible”, was a huge hit, largely because of Tubby’s dub mix, reputed to have sold 30,000 in a week in Jamaica. This is Tubby’s second mix of the rhythm, originally released on the flip of a Dillinger single on Karl Pitterson’s Black And White label

Rebel Dance
1975. Another track from producer Niney, a horns-fronted dub workout of pure class

Sir Niney’s Rock
1975. First Issued on the mighty “Dubbing With The Observer” album and one of the first true ‘Steppers’ style rhythms, stripped to rhythmic basics by Tubby

Straight To The Boy Niney Head
1976. Tubby metaphorically caught in the crossfire between the producer of this track, Bunny Lee, and another of his patrons, Niney. The vocal here is Cornell Campbell’s “Conquering Gorgon”

Casanova Dub
1974. Another Niney production, built on Dennis Brown’s massive hit “Cassandra”

Bongo Man Dub
From the 1975 Tommy McCook And The Aggrovators album “Cookin’”, a Bunny Lee-produced set that showcased horns amid Tubby’s dub mixes

Barbwire Disaster
1975. Produced by Tommy Cowan and Warrick Lyn, featuring Augustus Pablo on melodica over a rhythm section that sounds like The Wailers’ Barrett brothers

A Rougher Version
1976. Total mind-shag. Tubby and Bunny Lee accidentally invent techno some 12 years ahead of schedule. The song itself is Jackie Edwards’ moving cover of Burning Spear’s “Invasion”

Natty Version
1975. A version of Cornell Campbell’s “Natty In A Greenwich Farm”, originally a tale of a rough night with King Tubby’s Hi-Fi

Natty Dread Girl (Version)
1976. A mighty mix of Linval Thompson’s “Natty Dread Girl”

Don’t Cut Off Your Dreadlocks Version
1976. Although Tubby was a baldhead, he could understand the no sell out sentiment of Linval Thompson’s original song

The Poor Barber
1975. Hornsman Dirty Harry and Bunny Lee’s Aggrovators in fine style, over a well-hairy cut of the old Paragons tune, “Ali Baba”

The Jahovah Version
1975. Utilises singer Ronnie Davis’ brooding “Jah Jah Jahovah” rhythm

Move Outa Babylon Version
1975. A sizzling mix of Johnny Clarke’s roots classic “Move Out Of Babylon”

Ian McCann


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