DON'T BE A RUDE BOY * THE RULERS * RIO 105 * UK
A JJ Johnson production, and one of the early releases on the British Rio label that had started to move away from the Ska sound. Rude Boys in Jamaica at this time were seen as outcasts and rebels who were not prepared to conform with or obey the rules and laws of the state. The contents of Jamaican records that checked the Rude Boy was sending conflicting messages to the working class youth in Britain, who would have been, if not actively seeking a position from which to fight oppression, certainly would have been open or sympathetic to the need for one. The message in the songs was clearly one of restraint and admonishment towards the Rude Boy, or Rudies, active in and around the ghettos of Kingston, and yet their exploits and actions would have found sympathy by their equivalent undervalued and disenfranchised young men and women in the UK. Who would have felt that direct action against wealth and power were their only form of protest and redress. These conflicting messages were not new to a class that received a totally different outlook on the world than that of the middle, or upper classes, a fact that is all to often and easily forgotten when those in power are administering to the ungrateful working classes. These same problematics of mixed messages can be found running through the history of art, a prime example can be found in the 'gangster' films of Hollywood earlier in the 20th century, as in the film Angels With Dirty Faces. The film, made in 1938 (and, incidentally, still very popular during the 1960s) stared James Cagney as a hero gangster 'Rocky Sullivan', and Pat O’Brien as a priest 'Father Jerry Connolly', along with Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, the “Dead End Kids” (the latter having particular resonance to its youthful audience). In the film the character Rocky Sullivan refuses to grass on his friend Jerry Connolly when after they both broke the law and he is caught, so that Connolly escapes prosecution while Sullivan does time. While Sullivan is doing his time Connolly decides to adopt the old adage; if you can't beat 'em join 'em, and changes his morals and principles from that of the community and his fellow man, to one of a 'higher' more abstract belief and from being one of oppressed joins an oppressive institution. Throughout the film Rocky Sullivan enjoys the trust and friendship of his fellow sufferers, while Connolly is at best tolerated and shown some respect (due in part to Rocky, superstition and the power of the institution he represents). All this is fine and easy to deal with until in the dénoûment of the film when the priest, father Connolly, asks Rocky Sullivan to betray his own (Sullivan's) principals and moral code, at the very moment before his execution for the sake of his (the priest's) morality and beliefs. Which, with great courage and virtue, Sullivan does; knowing that he will have lost all his life had stood for and in the eyes of his friends, comrades and fellow sufferers his name will be forever discredited. One of the prime conflicting messages is betrayal, on the one hand it is regarded a paragon of virtue when used in the service of the state, as in the WW11 French Resistance movement, but when used as protection of a community or a fellow it can be so easily condemned, another conflicting message is that the priest as asked Sullivan to lie on his behalf, and then lies himself when asked by the friends of Sullivan if it is true that he died a cowered, but the biggest contradicting message of the film is the two characters, on the one hand by far the most glamorous and vital character is that of the criminal Rocky Sullivan, who completely out shines the other, while the dull and uninteresting character of the priest is enough on its own to turn any young mind away from his particular role model. Surely this didn't go unnoticed by the producer's, the studios, the director, et al ?
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