DIRECTED BY: Nicolas Jack Davies
STARRING: Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Marcia Griffiths, Toots Hibbert, Bunny Lee, Derrick Morgan, Don Letts, Freddie Notes, Dandy Livingstone, Kyle Reece Bell, Lloyd Coxsone, Roy Ellis, Dave Betteridge, Pauline Black, Rob Bell
Featuring Jamaican reggae and ska legends, Rudeboy chronicles a multicultural revolution on the dancefloors of late ’60s and early ’70s Britain.
Combining archive footage, interviews and dramatic reconstructions, Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records looks at the significance that the Trojan Records label had during the cultural revolution in England during the late 60’s and early 70’s, from being played on council estates, to the dancefloors and finally the charts. It also looks at how that period of immigration and innovation would lead to the eventual birth of a modern multicultural society, with a love affair between Jamaican and British youth culture being united through music.
Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records is directed by Nicolas Jack Davies, who previously directed the music documentary Mumford & Sons: The Road to Red Rocks. Here we focus on Trojan Records, a record label in England that was founded in the late 60’s, producing ska, rocksteady and reggae records and would become instrumental in introducing these genres of music to a global audience, as well as having a cultural impact in England during that period.
The documentary is a combination of archive footage, talking head interviews and dramatic reconstruction scenes. While the dramatic reconstruction sequences take up the majority of the hour and twenty-five minute runtime, it’s well edited along with the archive footage and talking heads by Chris Duveen, as well as having some solid cinematography work by Jonas Mortensen and the direction from Davies is really good. With no narration, the songs last longer during the quiet moments, acting almost as transitions into the next piece of archive footage or the next talking head to appear and I thought that was pretty effective. The documentary goes to some interesting topics of discussion, such as the prejudices that Jamaican’s faced from people in England, whilst also shining a light on Enoch Powell, a Member of Parliament figure who strongly criticised mass immigration, and only highlights a small percentage of his ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech that is still shocking to listen to, even now. While there’s hate, we also see the love that came from the skinheads that embraced the music and how that brought working class kids and Trojan Records together.
As well directed and edited as the film is, I can’t help but feel like it’s more of the equivalent of an extended episode of Reeling In The Years. What I mean by that is, it showcases a lot of moments, from prejudices that Jamaican’s faced emigrating to England, to how Trojan Records became more noticed through pirate radio as they were dismissed by BBC radio (Oh Tony Blackburn) and while everything is interesting, it lacks depth in certain subjects that I wish was explored further and the main one of them being the liquidation of the label in 1975. I knew some of the records that Trojan Records brought out and this film feels more dedicated to fans that grew up in that era, on the ska, rocksteady and reggae music, but for those uninitiated with the music and the label, I can see them feeling lost by the halfway point of the documentary.
There’s a lot of passion put into documenting the history of Trojan Records and the influence it had in music and culture in years long after the peak of their power, and I’m sure people that love the music and grew up with it will enjoy the documentary, it just didn’t grip me the way that I wanted it to.