From Jimmy Cliff To Bob Marley: Here’s All The Jamaican Songs Featured In BBC’s ‘This Town’ Soundtrack

This Town, the new BBC drama from Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight, takes viewers back to the vibrant 2 Tone and Ska era of the 1980s in Birmingham and the Midlands.  But the six-part series doesn’t just capture the local sound – it also features a healthy dose of Jamaican Reggae and Ska legends.

While the late Desmond Dekker received significant playtime with four tracks, Jimmy Cliff’s influence was undeniable in the series. A new cover of his classic hit, You Can Get It If You Really Want, by British artist Self Esteem, was released via Polydor Records/Universal on March 31 as the lead track of the series’ official soundtrack. British singers Sekou and Olivia Dean will cover two other Jimmy Cliff classics—Wonderful World, Beautiful People, and The Harder They Come—on the 11-song soundtrack, which will arrive on April 26. These are three of six modern covers created specifically for the end credits of each episode. Also included are five original songs performed by F**k The Factory – the band at the heart of the series.

This Town, which premiered on BBC One and BBC iPlayer on March 31, also features Cliff’s Many Rivers To Cross and Dekker’s cover of You Can Get It Really Want in the first two episodes. DancehallMag has compiled a full list of all the Jamaican acts featured in the series, including Bob Marley, Toots Hibbert, Max Romeo, Phyllis Dillon, and more.

1.Byron Lee and The Dragonaires – Jamaica Ska (1964)

Featured in: Episode 1

Byron Lee and The Dragonaires’ Jamaica Ska captured the energetic spirit of ska music, a precursor to Reggae that emerged in Jamaica in the late 1950s. The song showcased the genre’s typical upbeat tempo and offbeat rhythms, making it a danceable track that has remained popular through the decades. It was featured on their album Jamaican Ska. Unfortunately, despite Atlantic’s best efforts, Jamaican Ska failed to take off in the United States, although the title track became a top 30 single in Canada.

2.Toots and The Maytals – Broadway Jungle (1964)

Featured in: Episode 1

Toots and The Maytals’ Broadway Jungle was a vibrant track initially released in 1964 through Prince Buster. It bursts into life from the first piano note, maintaining a relentless pace throughout with Toots Hibbert’s powerful vocals, dynamic brass solos, and energetic yipping.

3.Desmond Dekker – You Can Get It If You Really Want (1970)

Featured in: Episode 1

Jimmy Cliff penned and was the first to record You Can Get It If You Really Want, an anthem of perseverance and optimism. He released it in July 1970, and shortly after, his label mate Desmond Dekker recorded his version of the song. Dekker’s cover soared to No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart and reached No. 3 on the Billboard US Bubbling Under Hot 100 chart. He passed away from a heart attack at age 64 in 2006.

4.Phyllis Dillon – Don’t Stay Away (1966)

Featured in: Episode 1

Phyllis Dillon’s debut single, Don’t Stay Away, is a classic piece of rocksteady music, known for its slower tempo and romantic themes compared to Ska. The song was produced by Duke Reid at his legendary Treasure Isle studio. Dillon, known as the ‘Queen of the Rocksteady’ era, is celebrated as one of the first female stars in the Jamaican music scene, and Don’t Stay Away remains one of her most beloved works along with tracks like Perfidia, Don’t Touch Me Tomato, Love That A Woman Should Give to a Man, and One Life to Live. She passed away at age 59 in 2004.

5.Toots and The Maytals – Pressure Drop (1969)

Featured in: Episode 2

Toots and The Maytals’ Pressure Drop, recorded in 1969 for producer Leslie Kong, is recognized as one of the defining songs of reggae music. The song, which speaks to justice and retribution, later appeared on their 1970 album Monkey Man. According to Whosampled, Pressure Drop has been covered ten times, most notably by The Clash (1979), Robert Palmer (1975), and Keith Richards (2003).

6.Max Romeo and The Upsetters – Chase the Devil (1976)

Featured in: Episode 2

Max Romeo’s Chase the Devil, a reggae anthem released in 1976 alongside producer Lee “Scratch” Perry and his Upsetters band, is a catchy tune from the War Ina Babylon album about expelling negativity (“Lucifer, son of the morning, I’m gonna chase you out of Earth”). The 79-year-old is currently locked in a legal battle with Universal Music Group (UMG) and Polygram Publishing regarding unpaid royalties from two albums. Romeo has claimed that, despite the song’s widespread sampling, including by the likes of Jay-Z, Kanye West, and The Prodigy, and its use in soundtracks for various films and video games such as Grand Theft Auto, he hasn’t earned “a penny in royalties” from Chase The Devil after almost 50 years.

7.Jimmy Cliff – Many Rivers To Cross (1969)

Featured in: Episode 2

Jimmy Cliff’s 1969 hit Many Rivers To Cross was born out of struggle and perseverance. Despite early success in Jamaica, he initially found limited breakthroughs in the UK after moving there in his teens. This frustration with his life and career at the time fueled the song’s lyrics. Many Rivers To Cross has been covered over 30 times, according to Whosampled, including renditions by UB40 (1983) and Cher (1992), which reached the Top 40 on the UK Singles Chart, and a version by Annie Lennox (2009), which reached No. 80 on the Billboard Hot 100.

8.Prince Buster – Enjoy Yourself (1963)

Featured in: Episode 2

Cecil “Prince Buster” Campbell, a protege of Clement “Sir Coxsone” Dodd, was one of the first wave of artists who took ska to the UK and Europe with lively songs like Enjoy Yourself, which encourages listeners to make the most of life. Buster died in 2016 at age 78.

9.The Gaylettes – Son of a Preacher Man (1969)

Featured in: Episode 2

In 1969, Judy Mowatt, Beryl Lawson, and Merle Clemonson, the Gaylettes trio, offered a Jamaican take on Dusty Springfield’s hit Son Of A Preacher Man (1968). The reggae version added The Gaylettes’ fresh harmonies and a distinctively upbeat and rhythmic twist to the beloved tune. The group disbanded in the early ’70s, and Mowatt went on to join Bob Marley’s famous backup group, The I Threes.

10.Desmond Dekker and The Aces – Fu Man Chu (1968)

Featured in: Episode 3

Fu Man Chu showcases Desmond Dekker’s storytelling ability with a relaxed rocksteady groove and a narrative of appreciating what you have and finding happiness through kindness.

11.The Specials feat. Rico Rodriguez – A Message to You Rudy (1979)

Featured in: Episode 3

The Specials band was not entirely Jamaican, but Cuban-born trombonist Rico Rodriguez was. Together they covered British-Jamaican artist Dandy Livingston’s A Message To You Rudy (1967), which warns against the pitfalls of delinquency. The cover reached No. 10 on the UK Singles chart and was later certified Gold in the UK.

12.Nicky Thomas – Love of the Common People (1970)

Featured in: Episode 3

The late Nicky Thomas scored a UK hit (No. 9 on the Singles Chart) with a reggae-inspired cover version of John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins’ Love of the Common People.

13.Desmond Dekker – Israelites (1968)

Featured in: Episode 4

Desmond Dekker & The Aces’ Israelites, a tale about the struggles of ghetto life in Jamaica, is regarded as one of the island’s first Ska/Reggae songs to become a worldwide hit. It reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 1 on the UK Singles chart, and was also a top ten hit in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland.

14.Bob Marley – Sun Is Shining (1978)

Featured in: Episode 4

Bob Marley & The Wailers’ Sun Is Shining was first released on the Scratch Perry-produced album Soul Revolution Part II in 1971, and later re-recorded in 1978 for the Kaya album.

15.Desmond Dekker – 007 (Shanty Town) (1967)

Featured in: Episode 5

While Desmond Dekker and the Aces’ 007 (Shanty Town) references the suave secret agent, the song dives into the realities of life in a Jamaican shanty town. It appeared on their debut album of the same name and reached No. 14 on the UK Singles chart, one of the first Jamaican songs to reach the top 20.

16.Jackie Robinson, George Agard, and Sydney Crooks (The Pioneers) – Papa Was a Rolling Stone (1973)

Featured in: Episode 6

The Pioneers’ Papa Was a Rolling Stone was a reggae rendition of the Motown classic that brings a Jamaican flavor to the tale of a wayward father.

Other songs featured on the soundtrack are:

Episode 1

  • ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ – Tom Jones
  • ‘Take This Longing’ – Leonard Cohen
  • ‘I Think It’s Going to Rain Today’ – UB40

Episode 2

  • ‘Freak Out’ – Supadelics
  • ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ – Michelle Dockery
  • ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ – Ray Charles

Episode 3

  • ‘Are “Friends” Electric’ – Tubeway Army and Gary Numan
  • ‘Fu Man Chu’ – Desmond Dekker and The Aces
  • ‘Clampdown’ – The Clash
  • ‘Cissy Strut’ – The Meters

Episode 4

  • ‘The Foggy Dew’ – Odetta
  • ‘On My Radio’ – The Selecter
  • ‘Hong Kong Garden’ – Siouxsie and The Banshees
  • ‘Danny Boy’ – Jackie Wilson
  • ‘Since You Been Gone’ – Rainbow

Episode 5

  • ‘Heart of Glass’ – Blondie
  • ‘Dream Baby Dream’ – Suicide
  • ‘Take Me to the River’ – Talking Heads

Episode 6

  • ‘Jezahel’ – Shirley Bassey
  • ‘Rock & Roll’ – The Velvet Underground
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