Reggae musician, composer
Answering the call from Carnival Records in 1964 for a reggae vocal duo, Dandy Livingstone double-tracked his own voice on a demo single "What a Life," and the track sold 25,000 units. A series of rude boy hits followed for Trojan Records in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. Livingstone later altered course, becoming a record producer. Decades later Livingstone's "Rudy A Message to You," "Reggae in Your Jeggae," "I'm Your Puppet," and other hits have survived as popular classics of early British reggae and ska.
Dandy Livingstone, a cousin of singer Ansel Collins, was born Robert Livingstone Thompson in Kingston, Jamaica, on December 14, 1943 (1944 by some accounts). Raised in St. Andrews, he left the island in 1959 at age 15, emigrating to England to join his parents in London. After completing his secondary education in Britain, Livingstone enrolled at an engineering college, in an apprenticeship program for toolmaking.
Livingstone had a piano-playing friend, Floyd, who sparked Livingstone's interest in music in 1963. Honing his talent as a singer, he jammed to Floyd's music in a West London studio most nights after school. Another tenant in their building recorded some of Livingstone's vocals and later released the songs on Planetone, unbeknownst to Livingstone. The owner of the building was Lee Gopthal, an executive at Trojan Records. In 1964 Gopthal referred Livingstone to Carnival Records, a startup label being launched by Cross-Bow.
Carnival, in search of West Indian acts, had expressed a desire to record a duo, which Livingstone accommodated easily by tracking over his own voice on tape, for a two-record deal. The tracks were released, and credited to an imaginary pair called Sugar and Dandy, their names chosen to capture the persona of Livingstone's sweet voice and impeccable dress. Radio Caroline, a popular offshore radio station, picked up one of the sides, a song called "What a Life," and aired the track, providing generous endorsements and play time. The record sold 25,000 copies and became a respectable hit for the unknown Livingstone. In keeping with the notion that the recordings had been taped by two singers, Livingstone shared the stage for live performances with a singer named Roy Smith, but the partnership was brief. Livingstone later teamed for public appearances with Tito "Sugar" Simone, and this collaboration proved more stable. Simone was a soloist in his own right, and when he recorded a single track, "Oh Lawdy Miss Clawdy," in 1964, it was released as the B side of Livingstone's Carnival single "Vipers." Simone later established a career on his own.
While still attending school Livingstone continued his singing career, and in 1967 signed with Ska Beat Records. Soon after making the deal, Livingstone released a long-playing vinyl disc for Ska Beat, Rock-steady with Dandy, calling himself Dandy & His Group. In good company at Ska Beat—where other artists included the Wailers, Don Drummond, and Baba Brooks—Livingstone contributed to the label's growth. Founded in North London's Stamford Hill district, Ska Beat Records grew into one of the top three ska labels in Britain, surpassed only by Melodisc and Island Records. His 1967 release, "Rudy A Message to You," entered the top 50 and realized total sales of 30,000 units.
In 1968 Livingstone moved behind the scenes and began producing songs for Audrey Hall. He also joined his client on a duo billing called Dandy and Audrey. In addition to releasing several singles as Dandy and Audrey, the pair recorded an album, I Need You, which appeared in 1969, with a follow-up album in 1970. Other Livingstone productions of that era included The Marvels' self-titled debut album; a Nicky Thomas hit, "Suzanne Beware of the Devil"; and "Red Red Wine," which was a 1969 chart hit for Tony Tribe.
In the wake of Livingstone's popularity, Trojan Records signed the singer in 1968 and used two Livingstone albums to launch its first-ever album catalog. The albums, Follow That Donkey and Dandy Returns, were credited to yet another Livingstone pseudo-group, called Dandy & The Brother Dan All Stars. Soon afterward Trojan authorized Gopthal to establish Down Town Records, a new label created for the purpose of spotlighting Livingstone, both as a solo artist and as a producer. Among Livingstone's early Down Town hits was a 1968 single named for a traditional Jamaican adage, "Move Your Mule." He gained attention with "Reggae in Your Jeggae" in 1969 and followed in 1970 with the hit "Raining in My Heart," which sold more than 130,0000 units. Also popular in 1969 was the Down Town single track "I'm Your Puppet." The single "Take a Letter Maria," however, failed to chart in 1970. Likewise the second Dandy and Audrey album, Morning Side of the Mountain, proved disappointing, causing Livingstone to return to Jamaica on sabbatical.
With well over five dozen double-sided singles to his credit and a handful of albums by that time, Livingstone's incentive waned, as did his sense of fulfillment, despite a collection of published compositions and hundreds of thousands of records sold. Still on hiatus in 1972, he recorded "Big City" and his own version of "Suzanne Beware of the Devil," before returning to England. He scored a major hit with "Suzanne Beware of the Devil," which was released as a single on Horse in 1972 and later served as the title track on a Trojan compilation album in 2002. "Big City" appeared on Horse in 1973, and the record charted, climbing to a respectable number 27.
After aligning with Mooncrest Records in 1973, Livingstone released a very personal composition called "Black Star," as a double-sided single with "All Strung Out On You." He also recorded the full-length album Conscious, which reflected his perception of the status of black men in society, particularly those from the West Indies. Both "Black Star" and the Mooncrest debut album are considered to be among his finest works. Back in Britain he recorded eleven tracks at Byron Lee's Dynamic studio, releasing a self-titled album in 1973. A reprise of "Suzanne Beware Of The Devil" broke into the British charts at number 14 in 1972. "Big City," released as a single in 1973, made strides as well.
Regarded as a so-called rude boy singer, Livingstone attracted a diverse fan base, appealing to ska enthusiasts as well as the punk-fused 2-tone ska revivalists of the 1980s. And the skinhead movement raised "Suzanne Beware of the Devil" to anthemic status.
In discussing his art and his career in the Hamlyn compilation Black Music, Livingstone cited the critical successes of Conscious and "Black Star." He commented, "When I sat down to write the song ["Black Star"] I realised that many black artists should be earning much more bread than they are at present. Even in America … the white artist still earns more! A black artist is just as good as a white artist if not better, right! So we shouldn't still be struggling to get an equal share." Indeed, Livingstone achieved immense popularity among British reggae pioneers and others of his genre, but remained largely unknown among media pundits of that era and beyond.
For the Record . . .
Born Robert Livingstone Thompson on December 14, 1943 (1944 by some accounts), in Jamaica.
Major label debut single on Carnival Records, billed as Sugar and Dandy, 1964; produced records, late 1960s; seen in live performances with Roy Smith; later paired with Tito "Sugar" Simone; signed with Ska Beat Records, billed as Dandy & His Group, 1967; single "Rudy A Message to You" charted, 1967; produced for and sang with Audrey Hall, 1968; produced for Tony Tribe, The Marvels, and Nicky Thomas; signed as a solo artist with Trojan Records, 1968; sabbatical to Jamaica, 1971-72; signed with Mooncrest Records, 1973; self-titled album released, 1973.
(As Sugar and Dandy) "One Man Went To Mow"/"Cryin'," Carnival, 1964.
(As Sugar and Dandy) "What A Life"/"Time And Tide," Carnival, 1964.
(As Sugar and Dandy) "Oh Dear"/"Tra La La," Carnival, 1964.
(As Sugar and Dandy) "I'm Not Crying Now"/"Blues Got A Hold On Me," Carnival, 1964.
"Rudie Don't Go"/"It's Just Got To Be," Dice, 1964.
(As Dandy & Barbara) "You Got To Pray"/"Now I Have You," Dice, 1964.
"The Operation"/"A Little More Ska," Dice, 1964.
(As Sugar and Dandy) "Let's Ska"/"Only Heaven Knows," Carnival, 1965.
(As Sugar and Dandy) "I'm Into Something Good"/"Crazy For You," Carnival, 1965.
(As Sugar and Dandy) "Think Of The Good Times"/"Girl Come See," Carnival, 1965.
(As Sugar and Dandy) "I Want To Be Your Lover"/"I Don't Know What," Carnival, 1965.
(As the Rub A Dubs) "Without Love"/"I Know," Blue Beat, 1965.
"To Love You"/"I'm Looking For Love," Blue Beat, 1965.
(As Dandy & Del) "Hey Boy, Hey Girl"/"So Long Baby," Blue Beat, 1965.
"My Baby"/"I'm Gonna Stop Loving You," Blue Beat, 1965.
"I Found Love"/"You've Got Something Nice," Blue Beat, 1966.
(As Dandy & His Group) "My Time Now"/"East Of Suez," Giant, 1967.
(As Dandy) "You're no Hustler"/"No No," Ska Beat, 1967.
(As Dandy & His Group) "Rudy A Message To You"/"Til Death Us Do Part," Ska Beat, 1967.
(As Dandy & His Group) "The Fight"/"Do You Know," Ska Beat, 1967.
(As Dandy & His Group) "One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer"/"Maximum Pressure," Ska Beat, 1967.
(As Dandy & His Group) "Puppet On A String"/"Have Your Fun," Giant, 1967.
"We Are Still Rude"/"Let's Do Rocksteady," Giant, 1967.
(As Dandy & His Group) "Somewhere My Love"/"My Kind Of Love," Giant, 1967.
"There Is A Mountain"/"This Music Got Soul," Giant, 1967.
(As Dandy & His Group) "Charlie Brown"/"Groovin' At The Cue," Giant, 1968.
(As Dandy & The Superboys) "Ain't That A Shame"/"Do It Right Now," Giant, 1968.
"Propagandist"/"The Giant March," Giant, 1968.
"Sweet Ride"/"Up The Hill," Giant, 1968.
"Tears On My Pillow"/"Mad Them," Giant, 1968.
(As Dandy & The Superboys) "You're Hurtin' Me"/"Funky Soul," Giant, 1968.
(As Dandy & The Superboys) "I'm Back With A Bang Bang"/"Jungle Walk," Giant, 1968.
(As Dandy & The Superboys) "Message To You Girl"/"Cool Mover," Giant, 1968.
(As Bobby Thompson) "That's How Strong My Love Is"/"Trouble In The Town," Jolly, 1968.
(As Dandy & Brother Dan All Stars) "Donkey Returns"/"Tribute To Sir K.B.," Trojan, 1968.
(As Dandy & Brother Dan All Stars) "Read Up"/"Gallop," Trojan, 1968.
(As Dandy & Brother Dan All Stars) "Another Saturday Night"/"Bees Knees," Trojan, 1968.
"The Toast"/"Kicks Out," Trojan, 1968.
"Move Your Mule"/"Reggae Me This," Down Town, 1968.
"Come Back Girl"/"Shake Me Wake Me," Down Town, 1968.
(As Brother Dan) "Tell Me Darling"/"Cool Hand Luke," Down Town, 1968.
(As Dandy & Brother Dan All Stars) "Copy Your Rhythm"/"Lovely Lady," Down Town, 1968.
"Doctor Sure Shot"/"Put Your Dancing Shoes On," Down Town, 1969.
"Reggae In Your Jeggae"/"Reggae Shuffle," Down Town, 1969.
(As Dandy & The Israelites) "Moma Moma"/"Melody For Two," Down Town, 1969.
"Rock Steady Gone"/"Walking Down," Down Town, 1969.
"I'm Your Puppet"/"Water Boy," Down Town, 1969.
(As Dandy & The Downtown All Stars) "Everybody Feel Good"/ (As The Rudies) "Downtown Jump," Down Town, 1969.
(As The Rudies) "People Get Ready"/ "Near East," Down Town, 1969.
(As Dandy & The Israelites) "Seven Books"/"Chaka Beat," Down Town, 1969.
"Be Natural Be Proud"/"Who You Want To Run To," Down Town, 1969.
"Come On Home"/"Love Is All You Need," Down Town, 1969.
"Everybody Loves A Winner"/"Try Me One More Time," Down Town, 1969.
(As Dandy & The Musical Doctors) "Music Doctor Chapter I"/"Music Doctor Chapter II," Down Town, 1969.
"Raining In My Heart"/"First Note," Down Town, 1970.
"Build Your Love On A Solid Foundation"/"Baby Let's Talk It Over," Down Town, 1970.
(As Boy Friday) "Version Girl"/"Grumble Man," Down Town, 1970.
(As Boy Friday & the Groovers) "Music So Good"/ (As Boy Friday & Ewan & Jerry) "Right Track," Down Town, 1970.
(As Boy Friday) "Take A Message Ruby"/"Second Note," Down Town, 1970.
(As Dandy & The Music Doctors) "Bush Doctor"/"Lick Your Stick," J-Dan, 1970.
(As Dandy & The Israelites) "Can't Help From Crying"/"Can't Get Used To Losing You," J-Dan, 1970.
(As Dandy & The Music Doctors) "The Wild Bunch"/"Born To Be Strong," J-Dan, 1970.
(As Dandy & The Music Doctors) "In The Summertime"/"Foundation Track," J-Dan, 1970.
"Take A Message Maria"/"You're Coming Back," Trojan, 1970.
"Same Old Fashioned Way"/"Out Of Many One People," Trojan, 1971.
(As Boy Friday) "I Don't Want No War"/"Third Note Swing," J-Dan, 1971.
(As Our Band), "Situation Version"/"Keep Tracking," J-Dan, 1971.
(As Boy Friday) "There'll Always Be Sunshine"/"Sunshine Track," Down Town, 1971.
(As Boy Friday) "Hot Pant Girl"/"Raunchy," Down Town, 1971.
"Salt Of The Earth"/"Salt Rock," Trojan, 1971.
(As Dandy & The Musical Doctors) "The Pliers"/"Pliers—Version," Down Town, 1971.
(As Boy Friday) "El Raunchy"/"Magic Conversation," Down Town, 1971.
(As Boy Friday) "Daddy's Home"/"Every Man," Down Town, 1971.
(As Dandy & the Studio Sound) "Give Me Some More"/"Some More Version," Down Town, 1972.
(As Dandy Livingstone) "Suzanne Beware Of The Devil"/"Right On, Brother," Horse, 1972.
"What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For"/"Suzanne Beware Of The Devil," Trojan, 1972.
(As Dandy Livingstone) "Big City"/"Brand New Day" [first issue]; "Think About That" [second issue], Horse, 1973.
(As Dandy Livingstone) "Come Back Liza"/"Got To Say I'm Sorry," Horse, 1973.
(As Dandy Livingstone) "Black Star"/"All Strung Out On You," Mooncrest, 1973.
(As Dandy Livingstone) "Caribbean Rock"/"All Strung Out On You," Horse, 1974.
(As R.D. Livingstone) "Let's Tango"/"Midnight In The City," Charisma, 1976.
(As R.D. Livingstone) "The South African Experience," Night Owl, 1978.
(As R.D. Livingstone) "Righteous Man"/"Fever," Minit Music, 1980.
(As R.D. Livingstone) "Living In S.U.S."/"Instant Music," Ric, 1980.
"Rudy A Message To You"/"Rudy A Message To You" (remixed version), Trojan, 1981.
Rocksteady With Dandy, Giant, 1967.
(As Dandy & The Brother Dan All Stars) Follow That Donkey, Trojan, 1968.
Dandy Returns, Trojan, 1968.
(As Dandy & The Brother Dan All Stars) Let's Catch TheBeat, Trojan, 1969.
Your Musical Doctor, Trojan, 1969.
(As Dandy Livingstone) Dandy Livingstone, Trojan, 1972.
(As Dandy Livingstone) Conscious, Mooncrest, 1973.
(As R.D. Livingstone) Home From Home, Charisma, 1976.
(As R.D. Livingstone) The South African Experience, Night Owl, 1978.
(As R.D. Livingstone) Doo Wop Style, Minit Music.
Suzanne Beware Of The Devil: The Best Of Dandy Livingstone, Trojan, 2002.
Petrie, Gavin, editor, Black Music, Hamlyn, 1974.
"Artist of the Month: Dandy Livingstone," Trojan Records, November 2002, http://www.trojanrecords.net/articles/dandy/dandybiog.htm (October 14, 2004).
Dandy Livingstone, http://www.ataquefrontal.com/dandy/discography.htm (October 20, 2004).