1976-2011: Dub Vendor 35th Anniversary

Celebrating 35 years of Dub Vendor Records the London reggae institution bringing the latest sounds to legions of Reggae music fans.

For 35 years, Dub Vendor Records has had a peerless reputation as the place for reggae fans to obtain the hottest and very latest Jamaican imports. If Dub Vendor didn’t stock it, nobody did – and the throng of soundmen and discerning ravers that lined the counter at weekends testified to the strength of the selection that this London reggae institution delivered non-stop for three-and-a-half frenetic decades. The shop’s roots date back to Clapham Junction Saturday market, when reggae fanatics John MacGillivray and his schoolfriend Chris Lane opened a record stall at a time when the music was reaching a new, broader audience. Sure enough, hippies and punks stood shoulder to shoulder with London’s black youths at the stall in a search for hard-to-find pre-releases of the rebel music. A year later, in 1977, John and Chris set up the first Dub Vendor shop in Peckham, although this proved short lived, and Chris left the retail business soon after.

In 1979 John expanded the company’s reach, launching Dub Vendor Mail Order to cater for the growing worldwide reggae fan base, quickly recruiting another knowledgeable fan, Noel Hawks, to manage that side of the operation. As the business flourished, John opened another shop in Ladbroke Grove, the Dub Vendor Record Shack, managed by Redman, for years a respected operator on the reggae scene. Reggae shops invariably end up releasing tunes and a couple of releases on the Dub Vendor label surfaced before John and Chris created Fashion records in 1980. The move proved highly fruitful. Fashion’s debut release, Let’s Dub It Up by Dee Sharp backed by local talent The Investigators, went straight to No 1 in the reggae charts. It was to be the first of many such successes.

In 1982, John opened the flagship store in Clapham Junction, Papa Face and Phillip ‘Godfather’ Wilks controlling the counter, its familiar Lion logo proving a lasting landmark at the Junction for decades. The eighties and nineties were the golden years for reggae sales in the UK and the shop has always been right there, representing the music’s manifold developments from roots to dancehall, ragga, to lovers and beyond.

The A-Class Studio, initially installed in the basement of the Clapham Junction store and overseen by Chris Lane, scored numerous reggae hits throughout the eighties and nineties with a roster of home grown and Jamaican stars. Fashion was swift to see the potential of the new wave of black British talent that flourished in the dancehall era, and the label’s biggest early successes were with the late Smiley Culture’s Cockney Translation and Police Officer, the latter reaching the UK national pop chart in 1984. Artists associated with Fashion and its Fine Style subsidiary read like a reggae roll call: General Levy, Cutty Ranks, Michie One & Louchie Lou, Winsome, Top Cat, Alton Ellis, Janet Lee Davis, Junior Delgado and many more. Fans will be pleased to learn that plans are afoot to make the classic Fashion back catalogue available again.

In the new millennium Dub Vendor launched www.dubvendor.co.uk. The online store has blossomed under the stewardship of Lol Bell-Brown, respected UK roots pioneer, becoming the global go-to address for the latest reggae releases and reissues. Offering an unbeatable selection from all corners of the reggae world and catering to all tastes, Dub Vendor online is proud to deliver a fast, reliable and friendly service to its customers worldwide.

In the meantime, the Dub Vendor All Stars, a pool of DJ talent including Papa Face, Supa C, Oxman, Gaffa Blue, Warrior and Russ Disciples, have taken the music on the road. Their selecting skills and ability to turn any session into a party were fully evident at legendary Dub Vendor events such as Redman’s Testimonial Dance at the Tudor Rose, Southall, and the sensational Sunset In The West, held at Ladbroke Grove’s 12 Acklam and which celebrated the closure of the Record Shack in 2008 after almost three decades of serving music fans in West London.

Dub Vendor will celebrate its 35th year as a physical presence by holding an Anniversary Party on Friday 2nd September 2011 at the Music Bar, 144 Brixton Hill, London, SW2 1SD. This star-studded night will be hosted by the Dub Vendor All Stars along with special guest, former Vendor staff member Roberto Allen of Vibes FM. A warm and friendly atmosphere is guaranteed; news and tickets are available on www.dubvendor.co.uk.

With the future of music retail increasingly online, Dub Vendor will be scaling down its retail operation at the Junction after this date, and relishes this opportunity to thank all those who have supported the shop, studio and label over the years, all our friends and acquaintances in and out of the reggae business, and all the staff that have contributed to Dub Vendor’s lasting success over the years.