Tag Archives: Ray Hurford

Ray Hurford digs deep in early reggae

The Small Axe Guide To ReggaePublisher, music writer and musician Ray Hurford has put out a new book in the always interesting The Small Axe Guide To series.

The Small Axe Guide to Reggae 68-70 digs deep in early reggae, sometimes labeled skinhead reggae, since it was the skinheads who took the music to their hearts outside the West Indian communities in the late 60’s.

The book is 200 pages and contains over 100 profiles of all the people who were big in the reggae era during this period – Desmond Dekker, Derrick Morgan and Laurel Aitken to name a few. Included are singers, groups, bands, musicians, deejays and, of course, producers.

The Small Axe Guide to Reggae 68-70 is somewhat reminiscent of the nowadays deleted Boss Sounds by Marc Griffiths. But Boss Sounds concentrated on singles and The Small Axe Guide to Reggae 68-70 is instead focusing on albums.

If you like guides and labels such as Trojan and Pama then you should definitely check out this book.

Available through Small Axe People for £7.50 in the UK or £9.50 to Europe and rest of the world.

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Ray Hurford is a bona fide reggae enthusiast

Music is naturally associated with artists, labels and producers. But there are others that operate more in the background, and are very vital to the scene. British writer and musician Ray Hurford is one such. He started the Small Axe fanzine in the late 70’s and has interviewed a range of artists that many just dream of.

Ray Hurford has been into reggae since its inception was around eleven years old when he bought his first reggae record.

– I talked about reggae at home and my sister, who worked at Tate and Lyle’s [a sugar maker], lent a box of records from a young Jamaican girl, says Ray with a broad cockney accent on the phone from his home in the UK.

Filled a gap
His interest in reggae, the people behind the music and the fact that no one wrote about reggae made him start the legendary fanzine Small Axe in the late 70’s. People had been writing about reggae before, but magazines were not interested in covering the topic anymore.

– In 1973 the public started to get interested in reggae and people like Carl Gayle and Penny Reel were some of the first to write about reggae seriously. There were a number of articles in the period 1973-1978. But then it stopped, says Ray, and continues:

– There were a lot of amazing artists coming out in the mid 70’s, but no one wrote about them and I wanted to change that.

Tax agency steps in
In 1978 everything seemed to be in place. The only part that was missing was money. But that little matter was suddenly resolved by a much beloved agency.

– I had paid too much tax and got some money back, which was rather unexpected. With that chunk of money I started Small Axe, Ray explains.

The first edition was put out as a pre release to see how the market would receive the magazine. It was an instant success.

– It became sought after since the writer at the Echoes gave it a good word, he says, and continues:

– I printed the first issue in a Xerox shop and it was published in September 1978. It was amazing. I got 30-40 orders and it was very encouraging.

Great demand
According to Ray the first issue was sold out immediately and was in incredible demand. The next issue was published in early 1979 and was distributed through Dub Vendor and Rough Trade.

– From there it just snowballed. I put out four editions in 1979 and three in 1980. It was such a success. Better than I had expected, says Ray in a joyful tone.

He managed to interview many, many reggae artists, including Norman Grant of the Twinkle Brothers, Dennis Alcapone (they’re still friends) and the late Prince Far I, who threw away Ray’s questions when they sat down for the interview.

But things changed. Reggae had now shifted to dancehall and technology altered the conditions for graphic design and printing.

– It became a question about money and I stopped working on the magazine for financial reasons.

Book publishing
Small Axe carried on until 1989, during that time Ray also turned his interest towards books.

The first edition in the More Axe series was put out in 1987. He also published a book on King Jammy and a book on singers as well as a series of Rhythmwise books.

A book on deejays, together with the late Finnish publisher and writer Tero Kaski, was also initiated.

– The Singers book was put out in 1996 by me and Tero Kaski. I sold a lot of my 7” to finance the book project. And it was successful, he says, and continues:

– More Axe was produced in 1-6. More Axe 8 was a total flop. A total disaster and I put an end to it. That was in 1997.

It was an abrupt ending and Ray explains that there is a big problem with publishing books – it’s expensive. So he found no reason to continue.

Started again
In the beginning of the 21st century Ray turned to recording and producing instead. But a rub-a-dub interested Swede made him interested in publishing again.

Joakim Kalcidis contacted me and was interested in the deeyjay book, which was never finished. So I and Joakim started working on it again around 2007, explains Ray, and continues:

– The deejay book was released in 2009 and since then there has been books on rock steady and dub. I have also put out the More Axe 2 again.

The next book is going to be about reggae and its early years.

– 1968 to 1970 was an amazing period. It’ll focus on the artists of the period. Artist profiles and the people who produced the music, like Leslie Kong.

Technology is the key
During our conversation Ray comes back to a topic – technology change. Everything he has done has been in relation to a change in technology. Whether it’s printing, publishing or payment methods.

– Paypal has changed a lot and it makes a big difference, says Ray, and states:

– The game has changed. It’s all technology.


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The perfect introduction to dub

There’s a new member in the Small Axe family of great reggae books. This time it’s an interesting guide to dub music.

The book is written by Jim Dooley and contains information and reviews of over 200 dub albums. The Small Axe Guide to Dub, the title of the book, contains records spanning over four decades. You can read about early classics like Herman Chin Loy’s Aquarius Dub and Lee Perry’s Blackboard Jungle, but also newer albums such as Matic Horns 400 Years and Clinton Fearon’s Faculaty of Dub, both from 2008, are included.

The book is not intended to be a complete guide to all dub albums produced. It’s a subjective selection of albums with the aim of providing a good sampling.

The Small Axe Guide To Dub costs £ 7.50 (UK) and £ 9.50 (rest of the world) and is a perfect complement to other great books from Small Axe, such as guides to rock steady and deejays.

If you’re curious of what albums that are included, you can check the list here.

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Fest för recensionsnördar

rays_bookÄr du precis som jag recensionsnarkom? Eller besatt av olika guider? Och dessutom fast i hysterin kring produkter i begränsad upplaga? I så fall finns boken för dig.

Ray Hurford och svenske Joakim Kalcidis har precis kommit ut med boken The Small Axe reggae album guide – Deejays. De 149 sidorna innehåller hela 433 skivrecensioner av 207 (!) olika deejays samt mängder av bilder.

The Small Axe reggae album guide – Deejays är ett utmärkt komplement till klassiska reggaeguider som The Rough guide to reggae av Steve Barrow och Peter Dalton samt The Virgin encyclopedia of reggae av Colin Larkin (redaktör). Har du dessutom – precis som jag – väl många tumavtryck på dina redan existerande reggaeguider, så finns nu alltså möjligheten att göra hundöron i ett nytt verk.

Boken trycktes initialt i endast 100 exemplar, varav 60 fanns till försäljning. Den första upplagan tog slut på ett par dagar. Därför har de ny tryckt en extra upplaga om ytterligare 100 exemplar. Det är inte mycket, och de kommer säkert snabbt att sälja slut.

Passa på att köpa dig en del av reggaehistorien. Surfa in på http://www.reggaepedia.net/smallaxebooks/ och beställ ett eget exemplar.

Vill du också höra några av de 207 deejays som medverkar i boken? Då rekommenderar jag ett besök på bloggen Who cork the dance som satt ihop en spellista med ett urval av deejays och låtar.


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