Skip to main content
Publish date:

Footnote Archives: Judge Dread an unlikely reggae hero

Judge Dread started life as Alex Hughes. Tall and broad, bearded below a delinquent moptop haircut, he worked as a nightclub bouncer in Chatham, Kent. Eventually, against all odds, he became a prolific reggae hitmaker, known as much for his blue lyrics and bombastic behavior as he was for his musical prowess.

By the early 1970s, the popularity of reggae had reached epic proportions in Britain. Buoyed less by the country?s generation-old Jamaican immigrant population than by the music?s popularity with the burgeoning Skinhead culture, reggae was both distinctly working class, and profoundly classless. Massive hits by Dave and Ansel Collins, Greyhound, and Bob & Marcia were as familiar in the kitchens of suburbia as the dancehalls of the cities, while the now legendary Tighten Up series of reggae compilations was as avidly purchased by bank clerks as by ?Bovver Boys.?

It was into this climate of widespread acceptance that reggae?s capacity for earthiness exploded. In 1969, Max Romeo scored his only British hit with ?Wet Dream,? a humorous novelty whose impact was only heightened by Romeo?s own defense of the song?s subject matter.