Living To Music – Augustus Pablo ‘King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown’




YEAR: 1976

This Sunday (May 6th) at 9pm, you’re invited to share a listening session with some likeminded souls, wherever you might be. This can be experienced either alone or communally, and you don’t need to leave the comfort of your own home to participate. Full lowdown here:

Described by Lloyd Bradley, the author of ‘Bass Culture’ as ‘one of the supreme heavyweight champion dub sets’, melodica player / keyboardist, Augustus Pablos, get’s the full dub treatment from one of its founding fathers, King Tubby.

King Tubby (real name Osbourne Ruddock) was a Jamaican sound engineer who pioneered dub in the ’60s and early ’70s, knowing ‘how the circuits worked and what the electrons did’ in the words of Reggae singer, producer and broadcaster, Mikey Dread. His innovations, along with those of another legendary JA engineer / producer, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry (Errol Thompson, who shared mix duties here, is also generally included in this holy trinity of dub), would lay the foundations for remix culture. Tubby’s dub ‘versions’ accentuated and reworked the original recordings, with echo and reverb effects particularly prominent as he transformed the studio mixing desk into an instrument in its own right.

‘King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown’ is one of the foremost examples of his work, with the assistance of some serious Reggae musicians – brothers Carlton and Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett (drummer and bassist with The Wailers and The Upsetters), Robbie Shakespeare (of Sly & Robbie fame – the great Jamaican bassist), legendary guitarist, Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith (who’s appeared on over 500 albums), and, of course, Augustus Pablo himself.

Dub would have a huge influence on dance culture, inspiring New York remixers of the late ’70s / early ’80s, including Walter Gibbons, Tom Moulton, Larry Levan, Tee Scott, François Kevorkian and Shep Pettibone, to take a more experimental approach in the studio, utilizing the innovations of these sonic alchemists from the Carribean.

King Tubby was shot dead in 1989 outside of his Kingston home in an unsolved murder. Augustus Pablo died 10 years later, as a result of a collapsed lung.

Your own thoughts are always welcomed, and, should you join us for Sunday’s session, it’d be great if you could leave a comment here after you’ve listened to the album sharing your impressions – how the music affected you, who you listened to it with, where you were, plus anything else relevant to your own individual / collective experience.

King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown Wikipedia:

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11 Responses to Living To Music – Augustus Pablo ‘King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown’

  1. Paul quinn May 1, 2012 at 9:54 am #

    Great story . Always great to share history . My boys love this stuff and they are 11 and 13

  2. simon b May 6, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

    What an amazing record. From the blazing horns and echoed piano on the appropriately named ‘Keep on Dubbing’ that heralds the start of this epic dub set, you realise this is a unique album; one on the which the drums, bass and space in between work to make your mind wander.

    As Pablo’s riddims carry the sway and his melodica occasionally drifts in and out, and left to right, Tubby’s shows why he’s the master of the mixing desk – adding reverb to the smallest percussion instrument to bring it to life.

    This being reggae, all of these tracks exist in other forms, as vocal versions or other dub or instrumental mixes. But stripped down like this, they sound more ghostly and transparent, leaving you to fill in the gaps.

    The title track, voiced by Jacob Miller is probably one the most famous (and best) dubs of all time. It’s a perfect showcase of Pablo’s skill as an instrumentalist and producer, and Tubby’s deft hand with the EQ.

    The production is amazing. You’d struggle to recreate the sound of this album in any modern studio.

    Along with Aswad’s ‘A new Chapter of Dub’ and Lee Perry’s ‘Super Ape’ This was one of the first few albums that got me addicted to dub and roots reggae back in the early 90s.

    I’ve really enjoyed rediscovering this album this evening.

  3. lec May 6, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    Love the vocals and melodica and the bass.
    Wasn’t sure how I was going to react to this. I love reggae, but have never been a massive fan of Dub (though someone has just given me dubside of the moon and raved about it!) but this was wicked, not least because the tracks weren’t days long, (apologies to all dub purists).
    There wasn’t a track I didn’t like, just as I had been assured that there wouldn’t be. Something new happened just when It should have.
    Hats of to the old school production.
    I loved it!

  4. Dan Soulsmith May 8, 2012 at 12:42 am #

    Interesting one for me this. Before I offend any dub purists I must say that I will be listening to this album again soon…

    I had planned to listen to it at the allotted 9pm time with friends last night, however due to the bank holiday and a spontaneous turn of events; I ended up listening to it on my return at about 5am this morning. Despite my ‘condition’ I was in a relatively level frame of mind and ready for a good listening session. So I listened to the CD on headphones before bed.

    After about 8 tracks my thoughts at the time were that I wasn’t really feeling it, and I felt a little disappointed. I was expecting more of a deep listening experience. The kind you’d get from listening to something like Dark Side of the Moon, (or more, as Lec mentions – Easy All-Stars ‘Dub Side of The Moon’ LP).
    I also recognized a few of the tracks from an Augustus Pablo compilation album that I’ve been listening to since its release in 2000 (http://www.discogs.com/Augustus-Pablo-Dub-Reggae-Roots-From-The-Melodica-King/release/163898). Track 7 also features on a Loft compilation, so I was already familiar with the general vibe and instrumentation. I think I was expecting something different.

    I love a bit of dub, but I don’t really listen to it hard, I think I would have appreciated this album more with friends, while socialising. I think pure dub like this is great background music, or club / festival music – i.e. social music. But personally, from an album listening perspective I found all the tracks a bit ‘samey’ (even though I hate to use this word!). And, while I appreciate how masterful Tubby’s production techniques are, and how pioneering they were at the time, I found the raw, echo, reverb and filter tweaking occasionally a bit annoying – as I found myself listening out for these effects more than usual.

    That said I think there is a time and place for this album, I also reckon that my headphones didn’t do the bass any justice so I’ll be listening on a system next time.

  5. Paul Wright May 8, 2012 at 2:15 am #

    This was the first time I’d had a proper decent listening session in ages and what a treat it was! Like Lec I’ve been a big fan of reggae for a long time, I was aware of reggae dub but had never given it much attention. Over the years I’ve loved dubbed out sounds from the hardcore/jungle era, the likes of The Orb, Massive Attack/Mad Professor.

    The instrumentals on this album are absolutely outstanding, add in the effects work and it really does take you somewhere into an outer space. An absolute smoking gem!

    I really enjoyed the brass sections, piano and guitar work; the first part of the album seems to have quite a recognisable reggae feel combined with some superb effects- squelchy sounds, fading guitar…I love the sound they achieve on the first track it sounds something like an instrument I’ve heard before, no idea what it is (you can hear it at the beginning of Sunshine of Your Love (Rockers HiFi Vs Ella Fitzgerald http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrR17E05mGU). By track 3 I was drifting well away with the music.

    Right at the end of Each One Dub I recognised a guitar riff that sounded quite familiar with Todd Terje’s edit of Chic’s I Want Your Love.

    The bass work on 555 Dub and Rockers Uptown is absolutely phenomenal and I found myself making connections with much more modern sounds. The cymbal/drum effects are something similar to that I’ve heard by the likes of The Prodigy.

    I agree with Dan in that it would sound even better with some serious sub-woof action! Particularly 555 Dub.

    I was actually thinking theres some definite simiarity with dubbed out breakbeat/drum and bass, and then King Tubby came in, brilliant! A bit more up tempo and the excellent percussion work is very recognisable. Absolutely superb track, my favourite from the album.

    Really enjoyed the Melodica parts on Brace’s Tower Dub No. 2, again picking up sounds from more recent electronic music (this album seems way way ahead of it’s time!).

    Cover Crew Dub was superb acid acoustic trailing effects, some similar to those used by Martin Rushent (Do or Die, Love and Dancing)…very trippy stuff!

    Skanking Dub had great Melodica parts too, almost akin to some of Grace Jone’s tracks on Nightclubbin.

    Overall this was an incredible listening experience, I had no idea how influential this music has been and it has certainly wetted my appetite to check out more sounds from Augustus Pablo and King Tubby.

    Great choice Greg!

    All the best

  6. cezza May 8, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    I feel this album is an experience to listen to, I found if i focussed on the high end instruments, mainly the percussion/ high hats which were gorgeous! the whole sound seemed to expand all around me, it gave me the image of a pebble and the ripples that are created. If I focussed on the bass the sound lifted high above me.

    Ive always been a fan of dub, sometimes having to prepare myself for the effect it seems to have on me, it seems to put me in touch with something that I cant quite describe. All I can say is that I feel very at home with it. Really enjoyed this session which was made all the more special by sharing it with others.

  7. Lou Lou May 8, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    Knew nothing about this album or the artists and was amazed that it was from 1976 and that this sound was possible at this time. I’ve always loved hearing dub when played at clubs, standing right by the speakers and feeling that bass.

    What I enjoyed most was the wonderful way they fade out to a place of calm to bring it right back up again. This is music you can really feel. Could have listened to it all over again immediately.

    I’ve been talking to people about it since and was surprised that quite young people have heard or have this album. Looks like the youth of today are clued up. 😉

    Definately benefitted from listening to it on an excellant sound system with lovely people. Thanks G & T 🙂

  8. Lee Perry May 8, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    This has to be one of my favourite albums of all time. Have it on vinyl but have no turntable at the moment, even so, listening to a digital version didn’t compromise this work of art for me, every bassline breathes through the pinpoint percussion with ease, the heavy spring reverb on the snares have that rich, earthy quality that just melts in the ear.

    I had an awesome time listening to this album again, knowing that others were enjoying the album at the same time just added to the experience. A producers dream to listen to. Inspiring!!

  9. greg wilson May 11, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

    For me, it’s like listening in on the creation. It’s a whole ideas pad of echoes and effects, which has been constantly utilized in all forms of dance music throughout the past 30 odd years – the foundation of bass music as we know it. To achieve that sound at that point in time is remarkable – depth like that had never been heard in music, the weight of the bottom end a whole new sonic experience – music to be felt, in a physical sense, not just heard. PLAY LOUD for full effect.

  10. TC May 11, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    Still sounds subversive now. Can’t quite get my head round how early this music was being made. Groundbreaking stuff and despite todays technology being able to recreate these effcts, its the human element that’s magical and couldn’t be replicated by the technology. It has such a profound physical affect on you. Listening to this, like Cez, I too got spacial illusions. Mine was a panoramic awareness. Thats the only way I can describe it. It’ll have you trippin’….

  11. Dante June 1, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    This one was a very sensual experience for me due to the organic nature of the album. You could pretty much smell the studio while listening and feel the movement of the faders on the desk. It really seemed like a live album – not of the musicians but of the mix. The emphasis was definitely on performance and you ended up feeling that another take of any of the tracks would’ve sounded completetely different, making all the tracks feel like a unique slice of time. The lack of any automation makes you really appreciate the skill of these guys – we might’ve come a long way technology-wise from this, but the vision still shines clear and you can’t replace that with Pro Tools. A very human sounding album and all the better for it.

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