Dance Hall Rock - Barrington Levy and Cutty Ranks
Ironically, the biggest hit on the Rare Earth label was R Dean Taylor's "Indiana Wants Me" which was neither a rock track nor a soul track. Rare Earth may have been intended as the Motown vehicle for rock music, but it eventually became the label where white artists contracted to Motown went. And was none the worse for that. By the time the label was terminated in 1976, Rick James, was the only African American performer who'd recorded on it, as lead singer of the Mynah Birds (see last post) and then their only single was never officially released.
"Indiana Wants Me", a typical Taylor situation song, police sirens and all, reached number 6 in the US charts and number 2 in the UK in 1970. The story is simple, the singer has killed a man who insulted his girl and the song is the final letter to her as the police cars close in.
In the wonderful "Dance Hall Rock" Barrington Levy neatly turns this around, celebrating a world and music style - reggae - where he - an African origin Jamaican - is no longer on the run, but is in massive demand, as he says
"Indiana wants me
and I'm gonna be there
New York City's calling
and I'm gonna be there
London city wants me
and I've got to be there
spreading the vibe all over the world..."
Cutty Ranks then raps "ragamuffin" style, and while I can't make out all of the lyrics, it's clear that he's
celebrating reggae's takeover of the world:
"tell 'em reggae music rule all over
rule every premise (who'll?) every corner...."
a reverse imperialism has taken over,
"....reggae music got busy on our own no contest
kings or queens or even princess
all of them are poets in reggae at their best...."
with music instead of bullets:
"...once you sing about dance hall music when it hits you you feel no pain...."
Besides being irresistible, danceable fun, it shows how universal and appropriateable R Dean Taylor's tunes and scenarios are. Dance Hall Rock, released in 1990, wasn't a hit in either the US or the UK. On the single, the songwriting credits omit Taylor, naming only "B. Levy / P. Thomas" (aka Cutty Ranks), so I would be surprised if the ever-vigilant and profit-seeking Motown Corporation didn't pursue the pair through the courts, but perhaps, given the record's lack of success, it wasn't worth their while. This would be unusual for them, and only adds to the myriad of ironies enclosed in this 7 inch diameter piece of vinyl.