Words by DJ Queen Majesty
When we got the opportunity to sit down with reggae and dancehall legend Dawn Penn (see following post!) we knew that this week’s throwback would be her against the odds nineties hit “No, No, No”–a 60s rocksteady-era chestnut re-hit by Steely & Cleevie on their collection of dancehall remakes of Studio One classics. We also new that the only DJ who could write about it was our girl Queen Majesty of Deadly Dragon Sound. As she’s ably demonstrated in her DDS sets and her own ska/rocksteady-themed party Big Bamboo, if there is one selector who owns the rocksteady era of Jamaican music in the post-millenium-and knows which dusty 45 can make a modern dancehall skank, it’s her. Read on for the full story:
The nineties were an amazing time for dancehall. Top releases from labels like Penthouse and Mad House, artists like Shabba, Beenie and Bounty releasing big tune after big tune practically right outside my window. But having always loved older music, I was still focused on the foundation of reggae from the 60s and 70s. That was the sound I was seeking out when I first began to go to venues and buy LPs from labels like Studio One, where I found the gem “You Dont Love Me” by Dawn Penn and it has hardly left my turntable since.
It is also a song that took my love of music of the past and wined it into the future. In the summer of 1996 I vividly remember heading out into a sunny Brooklyn day when I heard the famous rhythm guitar and bass intro coming from my neighbors outdoor speakers… except it was harder, faster.. . heavier… Then the voice started in… “No no no….” I stopped walking and listened to the full Steely & Cleevie version for the first time and I loved it. Here was one of my favorite songs and it was playing on a New York radio station twenty five years after it came out.
The structure of the song and the unique vocals sounded the same but were injected with a new energy that paid respect to the past. I also love that this same philosophy was used in the video. It has the feel of a speakeasy with intimate setting and live band but then mixed with 90s fashion and the modern chanteuse that is Dawn Penn. The video also portrays the sexiness of the song, despite the lyrics, that people automatically react to. The reason is that the tune itself has been and will always be one of those songs that, while heartbreaking, has a toughness and strength that is actually uplifting.