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Joshua tunes: 1. Everything Crash...

During the 1971 campaign, the socialist candidate Michael ‘Joshua’ Manley used several reggae songs such as Beat Down Babylon (Junior Byles), Better Must Come (Delroy Wilson), or Let The Power Fall On I (Max Romeo). Many artists sided with this young and progressive politician from the People’s National Party (PNP), who promised ‘better tomorrow” to the ‘sufferers’. They consequently recorded supportive songs that we will wall ‘Joshua tunes’. Some were directly supportive; others were simply expressing views that served Manley’s interests. At the end of the day, they played a key role in Manley’s victory in 1972. These ‘Joshua tunes’ are discussed at length in our book REGGAE AND POLITICS IN THE 1970s (T. Ehrengardt).

1. EVERYTHING CRASH, The Ethiopians (JJ Records, 1968).

This song came out as Jamaican society was in crisis. Workers and students demonstrated daily in the streets, disappointed with 6 years of independence, and asking for a change. Walter Rodney, the advocate of Black Power in Jamaica had been banned from the country, and the sufferers’ songs couldn’t be heard on the radio. It was a very uncomfortable situation for the party in power, the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP)—they didn’t cope with the situation properly, and Michael ‘Joshua’ Manley rose to the occasion. He embraced the aspirations of the people and became the champion of the poor. On their song, The Ethiopians describe the situation: “Look deh now, everything crash / Firemen strike, watermen strike, telephone company too, down to the policemen / Wha come bad in the morning can’t come ah evening...” And indeed, the worse was yet to come!

Banned from airplay, Everything Crash became the biggest hit song of the time, as it was played in every jukebox across the island, and by every sound system. Prince Buster soon covered it, slightly adapting the lyrics to underline their political meaning—he entitled it Pharaoh’s House Crash, as Prime Minister Hugh Shearer was then identified as Pharaoh, who refuses to set God’s children free. When I asked Leonard Dillon from The Ethiopians about Buster’s version, he burst out laughing: “Of course, man! Me fi like it, because ah true: Pharaoh’s house had to crash!

Leonard Dillon recorded several other ‘Joshua tunes’, although some were quite critical. He even worked with the most political label ever, Tropical Sound Tracs. But that’s another story...

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