Pop: Great covers 12/ The Upsetters: `Super Ape'

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
In 1976 it was possible to hear Super Ape coming to get you through the undergrowth. This was Island Records' second front on the nascent British (for which read white) roots reggae market, consolidating Bob Marley's recent breakthrough into pop celebrity. Ape declared itself with heavy footfall, the woosh of uprooting trees, the repeat-echo of distant hyenas gnashing their teeth. Fashionable white people shivered deliciously. This was the "dread" sound of dub riddim, and thanks to Island, you could now buy Lee "The Upsetter" Perry's Black Ark records in Woolworths. Well, Boots.

Super Ape was magisterially dread. The great beast crashing through the horror strip-style jungle on the cover was analogous to King Kong only in that he was large, hairy and narked. His heavy, penile belly swollen with cornbread, eyes blazing red with righteous ire, he swung his spliff like a thighbone and stomped- this was ape not as victim but as vengeful Titan, tossing Babylon's infrastructure about like pick-up-sticks. One felt compelled to identify with the "croaking lizard" helpfully arrowed beneath his right foot.