100 Greatest Songs of the 70’s #99 Althea & Donna – Uptown Top Ranking

Released : 1977

Britain’s love of reggae – a sound first imported by Jamaican immigrants in the fifties and sixties along with their sound systems – peaked in the seventies, Bob Marley & The Wailers No Woman No Cry starting a run of hit singles in late 1975 which continued long after his untimely death.

For the black communities from which it came reggae was also emblematic of the political and social conflicts which they experienced first hand, problems which home grown bands such as Steel Pulse and Black Slate articulated on songs such as Ku Klux Klan. Equally it’s popularity made for opportunities in the mainstream and Kingston teenagers Althea Rose Forrest and Donna Marie Reid would along with Pluto Shervington’s Dub released the year before, join a select group of artists whose only hit was a number one.

Produced by the legendary Joe Gibbs, the song was a tribute to peacocking round town but keeping it real and was supposedly written by the pair as a joke. But Uptown Top Ranking was a gloriously sun dappled skank, the singers locked in tight harmony to rocksteady brass and organ. Like all good stories however it’s success turned on a twist of fate; fabled DJ John Peel gave the song it’s radio debut by accident, playing the wrong side of a Gibbs exclusive platter, after which he found himself inundated with please for a repeat.