Rockers, released in 1978, was an unparalleled, all-time classic, authentic Jamaican reggae film by Theodoros Bafaloukos.
It starred several popular reggae artists, including Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace, Burning Spear, Gregory Isaacs, Big Youth, Dillinger and Jacob Miller, and the film showcased the reggae musicians’ cultural vibes at their peak. Just shy of the film’s 40th anniversary, Music Video Distribution has re-packaged it for re-release.
How Rockers Captured Cultural Authenticity
Rockers was originally intended to be a documentary. The film was completed in approximately two months, with a budget of only JA$500,000 (about $3,933 in today’s currency).
Rockers accurately captured and preserved Jamaican reggae’s cultural authenticity on celluloid in several situations, e.g. the main rocker, Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace’s family is shown living in their home. The famous Harry J Recording Studios shown are where many roots reggae artists recorded during the 1970s, including Bob Marley.
The film includes Kiddus I‘s recording of “Graduation In Zion” at Harry J, which was in progress when Bafaloukos visited the studio.
The thinly-veiled plot serves as a vehicle to drive the epic soundtrack. The film is in Patois, with English subtitles and includes a glossary.
The film starts as a loose interpretation of Vittorio de Sica’s The Bicycle Thief and evolves into a reggae interpretation of the Robin Hood myth.
In a role inspired by his real life as a popular drummer, Leroy Wallace stars as Horsemouth, a session musician living in a ghetto of Kingston, who scrapes together enough money to buy a motorbike to carry records to the sound systems around the island, for sale and distribution—much to the approval of his musician friends.
“A progress you a deal wid,” one says. His woman is more skeptical. “Watch yuh nuh lose more money then yuh earn and then drop offa dat bike,” she initially remarks.
Horsemouth’s bike gets stolen one night at a party, leading to a confrontation between him and his gang of rockers (reggae musicians) and some local gangsters. Just when it seems like the gangsters have gotten the drop on the protagonists, the rockers have a few tricks up their (record) sleeves.
Celebrating The 40th Anniversary of Rockers
In celebration of Rockers, Music Video Distributors—who previously released a Rocker’s 25th anniversary edition in 2005—have re-packaged it with a newly-pressed, digitally re-mastered, original vinyl soundtrack of the film on red, yellow and green tri-colored vinyl (which will play perfectly on a House of Marley Stir It Up Turntable).
Besides the digitally re-mastered film on DVD and Blu-ray, the newest edition also includes a deluxe Japanese photo book, poster, iron-on T-shirt decal, postcards and various original VHS box covers—even rolling papers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t include any weed, but otherwise, it is full of vibes and basically a collector’s dream.
While some of the artists in Rockers, including Junior Murvin, Peter Tosh, Jacob Miller, Gregory Isaacs and Justin Hines, are unfortunately deceased, many of the artists are still performing live to this day.
Leroy Horsemouth Wallace, who starred in the film, expressed resentment and bitterness.
“I nuh get nuh money from Rockers,” he explained. “The director said it was his movie that he wrote the story. The movie is my story, so I am not interested to talk about it unless I get paid.
“I big up my ganga culture and my rasta culture, but this colonial, Babylon system exploited me, my roots, my culture, my movie,” he continued. “I made the music, I arranged the music with my drum style. This was my revolution, and I get nothing from it. Tell that to Chris Blackwell.”
Rockers: A Truly Classic Re-Release
Leroy Sibbles, a founding member of The Heptones, spoke with High Times about the re-release.
“I wasn’t in Jamaica at the time Rockers was made, but my band The Heptones had a track—”Book of Rules”—on the soundtrack,” he said. “Rockers portrayed my life and most people of the ghetto’s lives, and it is an insight of the culture. I am really proud of it. For one thing, it relates to the poverty and the poor people, the livity (or the life) of the poor man in the ghetto. It’s a ghetto flick and that is very interesting for the movie, and even the thinking of people you know. It encourages you, as a poor man. It is timeless, like a lot of [reggae] works, and it has a lot of heart. It also preserves some of my best friends. It’s a true classic.”
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