Now here’s a history lesson that’s worth paying attention to – reggae-punk fusionists Basement 5 are set to re-release their one and only album, 1965 – 1980, on October 6. It will come with packaged with it’s companion piece, In Dub.
Basement 5 are one of those bands that have unfairly slipped down the cracks of rock’s history when really, they merit a bit more respect and a far higher profile. Fusing elements of punk and reggae, an early line-up of the band featured DJ Don Letts on lead vocals. Also in the band were bassist Leo ‘E-Zee Kill’ Williams, former 101-ers drummer Richard Dudanski and Humphrey ‘JR’ Murray on guitar.
Both Letts and Williams would later join former Clash guitarist Mick Jones in Big Audio Dynamite. One of their earliest gigs was supporting the groundbreaking Public Image Limited at the Finsbury Park Rainbow in London on Christmas Day in 1978.
It wasn’t until vocalist Dennis Morris joined the band that things really gelled. Having made his name taking photos of Bob Marley and Sex Pistols, Morris took things forward as frontman and lyricist and tackled issues of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain like youth unemployment, racism, class division and poverty. A bit like now but with less colour.
Says Morris now: “I never wanted to be a rock star, for me it was a progression of my art, a natural move; I had created images, band logos and I wanted to create a new sound, a new look – the band wore long johns, ski masks, cycling gloves, whilst lyrically it was based on my youth growing up in inner city London.”
The album was produced by the legendary Martin Hannett (Joy Division/Factory Records) and is characterised by his use of space and echo. Sadly, the band didn’t last and imploded following a European tour. Luckily, this artifact is around and will be released on both vinyl and CD and you’d do well to get your hands on it.