Release Date: Feb 93
Chart Position: 1
So, we come to what may be called the first “big hitting” single of the Neggae movement.
Oh Carolina hit the #1 spot in March 1993. Knocking aside Dutch Duo 2 Unlimited and blowing open the UK Neggae flood gates for a multitude of artists to follow in its footsteps. From here on out there really was no, no, no, no, no, no limit for Neggae. Having been primed by a re-hash of UB40 from 808 state and a Bob Marley B side, the UK public had a taste for something familiar, yet with a slightly modern feel. Oh Carolina was the perfect ingredient for mainstream commercial success.
The track was recorded by Orville “Shaggy” Burrell during his time in the US Marine Corp and upon his return to Brooklyn NY it would see him wine’ and grine’ his way to Global superstardom. That first step to stardom however would be taken in the UK and not in “the land of the free”. Shaggy’s debut single was poorly received by music buyers in his adopted homeland, peaking at #59 on the US bill board chart.
Why you may ask? A sample so obvious that it smacks you in the face with a plate of Ackee and Salt fish, that’s why. If your parents ever loved Ska or Reggae or were a part of mod culture in London in the 1960’s, they would have found this remake highly infectious and somewhat hummable. The sample choice and single release date was so well timed that it was a shoe-in to thrive in a UK music market already glowing with a Red, Gold and Green hew.
First recorded by the Folkes brothers and Produced by Prince Buster in 1960, Oh Carolina is considered by some to be the birth of Ska. Released on Blue Beat Records, the single was massively popular in 60’s mod culture. Played to death in record shops on Portobello Road and often aired at the Twisted Wheel nightclub in Manchester. Just to drive in an extra nail of commercial viability, team Shaggy opted to sample the bass line and perhaps the saxophone from Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn theme. A TV theme tune, again from the 1960’s which has been re recorded by a plethora of artists. Emmerson, Lake and Palmer and The Blues Brothers being two of the more prominent. All bases covered.
So the Shaggy version?
It doesn’t differ greatly to the original does it? No. But then it doesn’t have to. Unlike its Neggae predecessors, this cover stays true to form. Great samples. Chunkier beats with depth and digital repetition, the odd scratch to be “down with the youts” and a boxing match round bell chucked in for the sake of it. That is the measure of a good Neggae track. It’s almost Reggae, but not quite the same. Yet we still like it so we nod along and tap fingers and toes.
Yes, when Shaggy comes slurring on the radio these days it does grate me. His general presence at any media event is annoying. Yet at the time, this was fresh. Bringing golden old rope to a new broader demographic of kids, mums and granddads alike. The fact that the single went gold in the UK also meant that the Folkes brothers got a long overdue payday. All’s well that ends well.
This was just the beginning for Orville Burrell however. Do we owe Shaggy for the Neggae explosion? Or does he owe UK mod culture for the leg up he needed to a long and successful career in the music business? Who cares? For me, Oh Carolina officially kicked off something a whole lot more interesting here in the UK.
Score: A Prowling, Jumping and Prancing 7 from me.
BOOMSHANKA, BARE RIDDIM. ‘EAR ME NOW and various other things white middle class people shouldn’t say, but my excitement at reaching this landmark has made me forget social convention. Let’s not underplay the importance of this tune; it put Neggae on the map. It’s the first hit for the man who bestrode Neggae like a growling Colossus, the Negfather. The intro immediately catches your attention (and for some reason reminds me of this) , then the doorbell rings which signifies the introduction of the beat and bassline and as soon as that kicks in it’s like mainlining Johnny Swan’s finest, and you find yourself suffering from full blown Neggae Addiction. A nice respectful use of the sample and even the cartoon character samples and faux scratching can’t detract from the love and craft that’s gone into producing this track.
Shaggy’s decent, he gets the criticism leveled at him that he can’t sing properly, I don’t really agree and the same criticism didn’t stop Dylan or Hendrix. The joyful, happy go lucky nature of the song mean this is one for all the family, Grandma, Dark Uncle Fred and your little brother (keep him away from Uncle Fred though, daggering a 5 year old isn’t appropriate BBQ behaviour). In summing up a Neggae classic that put the genre on the map, it has me reaching for a can of Tropical Lilt every time I hear it.
I know exactly where I was when I first heard this record. It was watching Top of the Pops with Dad and (probably) Jamie. Although he sang along to it, Dad dismissed it due to the fact that “all he’s doing is rappin’ over an old song. It’s rubbish!”
There was nothing new in this reaction, he felt this way about Salt & Peppa’s Twist and Shout, the Fat Boys’ Wipeout and Candy Flip’s Strawberry Fields. Whenever he took this view, it always made me like the song even more. Not so much as a form of rebellion, but more in a protective sense. Like most children I loved new music (so in the 80s this was hip-hop, in the early 90s dance), so anyone criticizing it galvanized my love for it even more. Now I’m 33 I increasingly cannot stand new pop music, but there you go.
Throughout our Top of the Pops watching career, my Dad and I effectively entered into a well-humoured but predictable standoff. Whatever I liked he would pooh-pooh, whatever he liked (usually ballads, novelty songs) I would similarly scoff at. The one time I got caught out however was with Oasis. When they made their TOTP debut with Shakermaker Dad instantly remarked, “I like him. He’s a bit like John Lennon. Yeah, like these boys.” I dismissed them as ‘grebos’ (catch-all 90s term, completely misused) that wouldn’t last. I then obviously had to do an embarrassing 180 when they continued releasing belters, which my Dad never let me forget about.
But I digress…
This is the first song on the Neggae Hot 90 that I bought. On cassette. From Woolworths. For 99p. I played it a lot for a few months but then got massively into Jamiroquai and looked upon it and pretty much everything else with disdain. Shaggy then went on to make a lot of awful music which I lumped Oh Carolina in with.
Luckily this blog has made me realize what a cracking pop record it is. The crackly vinylu intro, the boxer’s bell, the ‘boing’ (which would dominate Big Beat later), the Peter Gunn sax sample that turns it from wholesome ska to lascivious dancehall, Shaggy’s playful toasting; all clever, clever stuff. It’s a good video too, telegraphing the juxtaposition of the old and the new that irked my Dad but thrilled me.
Score: 9 (and much refound love)
After being originally released by Ska in the 60’s this pimped up version in 93 remains one of the greatest commercial reggae tracks of all time and I could go on and on about it all day…..but where would I start? The little piano intro? The chimes in the background as the base line punches in? Shaggy’s unique baritone-range belting out the intro? it’s all just so good!
This was it, this was the first big neggae tune I remember almost 20 years ago and I still enjoy it as much now as I did then. Although I do miss booming it out in Norm’s 1989 Ford Fiesta as we cruised round South West Byfleet hanging a right on Elmstead Road and into Upper Pyrford letting all the honeys know we were in town and we meant business. Success rate was high, but chuck this into the mix and it took it to a whole new level.
This was Shaggy’s big entrance to the pop world and didn’t we know it. He had raised the bar of what we should expect from the genre. He sounded great and he was here to stay as this was just the first of four UK number ones. The delivery was something we had simply not heard before and it was going to change things forever as the song went on to grace the top 10 in no fewer than 12 separate countries.
The lyrics are sublime, the bits you can make out are genius “Anna move just like a squirrel” and “Gal yuh fi jump an prance” my particular favourites. However the bits you can’t quite follow – pure neggae. The video is pretty average, although non offensive it is easily forgotten. The blending of some authentic music hall footage cutting to a modern day Shaggy trying to pull some bootylicious girl as she strolls down the street is mildly amusing but the production lets it down.
To summarise, I think this was and still is a huge track that would be one of only a few defining moments in this almost cult movement. Would it get played at my BBQ? Damn right it would, on loop, and if people don’t like it I would ask them to leave.
Score: 9, only as I know there is more Shaggy out there
Ok chaps, I’ll keep this short and sweet. I’m not sure I can be objective on this one, so here it goes.
This bad boy was purchased at Woolworths in West Byfleet within days of release and I am proud to say that I contributed to Shaggy reaching #1 in ’93!
3 minutes and 12 seconds pure neggae.
NEGGAE SCORE: 8.6