Althea And Donna: Why It’s A Hit Beyond Words…

See mi in mi heels and thing 
Them check say we hip and thing 
True them no know and thing 
We have them going and thing 
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots 
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots 
See me pon the road and yu no call out to me
Thru yu see me In mi pants and thing
See me in mi halter back
Say me give you heart attack
Gimme little bass mek me wind out mi waist
Up town top ranking

CAN A QUARTER of a million music fans be mistaken about what they’re buying? Yes, in the case of the nation’s current number one chartbuster, ‘Uptown Top Ranking’ by newcomers Althea and Donna.

Once again, as with Pluto’s big hit ‘Dat’,a reggae record has taken the British charts by storm despite being virtually incomprehensible to British fans. The misleading lyrics of this peppy dance hit almost overshadow the over-light success story of its schoolgirl singers.

Misconception number one arose over the title. ‘Uptown Top Ranking’ is not a tribute to the nationwide chain of ballrooms. Top Rank hasn’t reached Jamaica yet.

According to 17-year-oid Althea Forrest, the title is a slang term for posing. It describes how some West Indians love strutting around in their finery, looking distinctly disdainful towards anyone who can’t match them.

Misconception number two is the line of the catchy chorus, ‘Nah pop no style, a strictly roots’.

That doesn’t mean Althea and Donna are downing pop music for having no style in favour of earthy, roots reggae music. Again ‘To pop a style’ is slang meaning putting on false airs and graces. What the girls are saying is that they don’t. They’re down to earth.

To cap it all, the girls wrote the song as a joke.

Nineteen-year-old Donna Reid explained that she and Althea were poking fun at all the narrowminded Jamaicans who believe that if someone could afford to run around ‘top ranking’ in a good car wearing trendy clothes then they couldn’t have any ‘soul or roots.’

So, the song makes fun of people who judge books by their covers.

Funky

It was heard by Mike Hawkes, producer for DJ’s Kid Jensen and Paul Gambaccini. Hawkes is famous for having Geiger Counter ears when it comes to unearthing hits.

“I predicted it would be a hit as soon as I heard it,” he observes. “Still, it’s jolly nice to be proven right.”

Althea and Donna, rushed to Britain for a promotional tour, may appreciate more about the rarity of charting in Britain when they spend less time explaining what their song means and what their music is about.

“No one can make reggae music feel funky like Jamaicans can. The rest is bad imitation,” sighed Donna, who was concerned about achieving a ‘funky feeling’ with the Top Of The Pops Orchestra.

© Robin KatzDaily Mail, 2 January 1978

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