Dennis Bovell & Janet Kay – Silly Dub

26th February 2024 · 1970s, 1979, Music, Reggae

The summer of ’79 witnessed one of those rare occasions when a reggae song struck a chord with the entire nation – and was the first lover’s rock tune to be sung on Top of the Pops. Dennis Bovell wrote, produced and played the music on Janet Kay’s lover’s rock classic Silly Games – then stripped it back to this killer dub.

Janet Kay didn’t quite make it to No.1, being kept off top spot by Tubeway Army’s Are ‘Friends’ Electric? But her impossibly high high notes – copied from a Memorex tape ad in which Ella Fitzgerald sang a note that broke a glass – were the sound of that summer.

The song was written in 1978 by Dennis ‘Blackbeard’ Bovell – Britain’s answer to Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – with its lyric telling the story of a bold young lady proposing to her beau, and urging him to stop playing his silly games.

He put the high note in there knowing that every girl in the dance would try to sing it – much like Minnie Ripperton’s a few years earlier in Loving You.

Bovell, who also had his own band, Matumbi, played guitar, bass and synthesizer, Drummie Zeb from Aswad played the drums and Janet Kay sang the vocal version that reached No.2.

Long after its release Dennis made this excellent dub version which appeared on his 1993 album Dub Dem Silly (Vo.2) and Janet’s original plays a pivotal part in Steve McQueen’s film Lovers Rock (part of his 2020 anthology Small Axe).