THE UNITY STORY
(part of the excellent article "Selector's Chioce" that appeared in "THE BEAT" magazine, NOV 2002)
| Unity was the name of a Northeast London reggae sound system that was very popular in the mid-
to-late '80s. They had developed out of the famous '70s Fatman sound. Unity's main man was Ribs
AKA Robert Fearon and he had been a selector for Fatman. Ribs was a man born to run a sound -
he always wanted to do it and eventually suffered two hernias from humping innumerable speaker
boxes around. At the tail end of the '70s I occasionally used to catch Fatman and selector Ribs at
the Four Aces, the seminal club in Dalston. But by the late '80s when Unity were at their best, I'm
afraid my sound-system days were virtually over, so I rarely got the chance to catch their legendary
vibes. East London was another world and the breadth of London away. For me as a West London
whiteboy it had all got a bit too territorial - I discovered I was not really happy going to places out
of my manor for a reggae session. Also my other musical interests were taking me elsewhere most
of the time. For the sounds it had always been territorial - Unity never really played Brixton. They
might play in nearby Lewisham/New Cross but never in SW9 - that was Saxon/Coxsone turf.
____Ribs AKA Robert Fearon
A compilation called Watch How the People Dancing (Honest
"Sleng Teng" was the breakthrough. It showed how you could construct a riddim on a cheap
|Demon Rockers and Flinty Badman went on to fame as the Ragga Twins with the Shut Up and
Dance label doing early proto-jungle tracks.
|The hits keep a-flowing, Kenny Knots' "Watch How the People
Dancing" is a perceptive singjay observation of life out there on the
floor for the selector. Richie Davis says he's not going to wear any
"Lean Boot" no more, Kangol is the new style, while Peter Bouncer
gets ready for the "Dancehall Tonight", Mikey Murka boasts about
how to "Control the Dancehall". But the star track on this album for
me is "Chuck It" from Jack Wilson and Demon Rockers, a wild
rebellious vocal excursion with good piano that is righteous and also
has a revolutionary zeal. Mikey Murka lets us "Ride the Rhythm".
I always liked this cut - it has a New Orleans flavor in the vocal,
stretching the notes sort of like Lee Dorsey.
|The demise of Unity came when the music moved on, with the emergence of a full-blown digital
dancehall style and the Nasty Love dj style. Ever the sound-system purist, Ribs had only ever used
one turntable; the new style was mixing and mixing and more mixing. So he hung up his cables and
retired but the legacy of the sound is there on this double vinyl and cd. Another succinct moment in
time and space captured by Honest Jon's for posterity or the end of the world, whichever is sooner.
To hear these tunes, their dubs and much more killahs from that era in full length check our