Monday, 17 September 2012

SONG FOR TODAY: The Ruts - Jah War

Like many people, I was introduced to The Ruts with their classic 'Babylon's Burning', and upon hearing 'Staring At The Rude Boys' I decided to check out one of their albums. 'The Crack/Grin And Bear It' was a CD that collected the band's debut album 'The Crack' and 'Grin And Bear It', a compilation of singles, B sides and live tracks. The CD became a big favourite of mine during my 'punk years' (2003-2009) and picking just one track from it for Song For Today is a tricky task. So I've gone for this, the excellent 'Jah War'... 

After meeting at the Deeply Vale Free Festival, The Ruts were formed on 18 August 1977, the band consisted of Malcolm Owen (vocals), Paul Fox (guitar), John "Segs" Jennings (bass) and Dave Ruffy (drums). Early Ruts songs recorded The Former Orange studios in London's Covent Garden on 1 October 1977 were "Stepping Bondage", "Rich Bitch", "Out of Order", "I Ain't Sofisticated" and "Lobotomy". The group began to evolve and become more musically adventurous, incorporating reggae and dub elements into their repertoire. The Ruts' first single, "In a Rut" was finally released on People Unite in January 1979, having been recorded back on 24 April 1978 at the aforementioned Free Range 8-track studios. DJ John Peel expressed his admiration for the group on air (as can be heard on a retrospective 1978 radio show clip on the In a Rut album) and a session for the BBC swiftly followed the same month. In June 1979, their debut single for Richard Branson's Virgin Records, "Babylon's Burning" became a UK Top 10 hit, reaching number 7 in the UK Singles Chart. Their debut album The Crack was produced by Mick Glossop and released in September 1979, reaching number 16 in the UK Albums Chart. Taken from The Crack album, the band's third single for Virgin at the end of October 1979 was the dub reggae song "Jah War", about the Metropolitan Police's Special Patrol Group's violence in Southall disturbances in April 1979.

On 27 March 1980, The Ruts released their fifth single, "Staring at the Rude Boys", a comment on the rapidly rising Two Tone scene. The single reached the No. 22 spot on the UK Singles Chart. With their latest British tour sold out in advance and an American tour lined up, the band were beginning work on their second album in early 1980. Having been forced to cancel a number of UK tour dates, the other three band members fired their frontman over his drug addiction, shortly after completing work on their next single, "West One (Shine on Me)". After negotiations, Owen briefly rejoined the band.

Malcolm Owen was found dead in the bathroom of his parents' house in Hayes, from a heroin overdose on 14 July 1980 at the age of 26. The band continued as Ruts D.C. (D.C. standing for the Latin term da capo, meaning "back to the beginning") in a different musical vein. They released two albums, Animal Now (May 1981 on Virgin) and Rhythm Collision (July 1982 on Bohemian Records), the latter in collaboration with Mad Professor, a renowned dub producer. Ruts D.C. split in 1983. Fox came out of semi-retirement to play Ruts songs as Foxy's Ruts with his son, Lawrence, on drums. Foxy's Ruts supported Bad Manners on their Christmas tour of the UK in December 2006. On 16 July 2007 the band reformed for the first time in 27 years, and played a special benefit gig for Fox, following his diagnosis as having Lung Cancer, and played a headline spot at 2007's Wasted/Rebellion Festival. Henry Rollins stood in for Owen. Fox died on 21 October of the same year, at the age of 56.

In December 2008 John "Segs" Jennings and Dave Ruffy returned to Ariwa Studios as Ruts D.C to record some new tracks with Neil "Mad Professor" Fraser and have been working on Rhythm Collision volume 2, the project has been mixed in Brighton by Mike "Prince Fatty" Pelanconi and will be released sometime in 2012.

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