Back in 1995 STP (Skinhead Times Publishing) published Boss Sounds: Classic Skinhead Reggae by Marc Griffiths. This was a time before the internet and unlimited access to ebay, youtube and reggae forums, indeed it was a time when there was very few books about reggae. Boss Sounds rapidly became the bible for lovers of early reggae and has been something of a legend ever since. Jump forward to 2012 and Marc Griffiths has teamed up with Dave “Oldwah” Sandford to self publish a second edition.
The updated version is titled Boss Sounds 2: Classic Skinhead Era Reggae (the inclusion of the word “era” is a subtle but telling change). It is based on the original book retaining a lot of the original text but is significantly expanded. Whilst there may be more to read the most obvious difference is that the old black and white Boss Sounds with poor quality label illustrations and a plain, uninspiring layout has become a full colour effort with lovely clear labels scans and a rich colourful layout that is almost too fussy but actually works really well.
Boss Sounds looks at the UK labels that issued rocksteady and reggae in the 1967 to 1971 era. These labels are ordered alphabetically and for each one the authors list their recommendations, this kind of thing is subjective and it would be tempting to question both omissions and inclusions. Also for anyone who enjoys reggae beyond the self limiting “skinhead era” it can be a little frustrating to know that so many great tunes that came out after that era are omitted. But to criticise for either would be kind of missing the point, this book is what it is; a celebration of a wonderful era in Jamaican music. If you disagree with some of the records chosen or want to hear about a later era then your going to have to look elsewhere.
One criticism that is perhaps valid is it would have been nice to see some mention of Jamaican labels, either the equivalent issues of the UK releases mentioned or focussing on the great sounds from that era that never saw release in the UK. I think I counted a total of three Jamaican label illustrations out of several hundred in total this is a little disappointing, you can’t help thinking they’ve missed what could have been a really interesting and informative expansion on the original edition here.
In an era where you can find out about reggae all over the internet and there are many other books on the subject Boss Sounds 2 isn’t as ground breaking as the first incarnation way back in 1995. All the same if you are into the sounds of the late 60′s and very early 70′s you will find it pretty much essential and no less so if you already own the original edition.
Boss Sounds 2 has been self published by the authors. It is being printed in very limited quantities of around 20 copies at a time. It will soon be available to purchase on ebay. I’ll leave a message in the comment section when copies become available.