By Ben Apatoff / BobMarley.com
Leroy Sibbles is one of the most prominent figures in early reggae history. A vital singer, arranger, producer, talent scout, songwriter and session bassist at Studio One, Sibbles` touch has graced classic reggae tracks ranging from the Abyssinians` "Satta Massagana" to Anton Ellis` "I`m Still in Love." But even had he not been an essential player at Studio One, Sibbles` legacy is cemented by his work with the Heptones.
In 1965, Sibbles joined Earl Morgan and Barry Llewlyn to form the Hep Ones in Kingston. Deciding that a one-word name would make them more memorable, the trio became the Heptones and recorded "Gun Men Coming to Town," a ska take on "The William Tell Overture" that became the band`s first recording for Ken Lack`s Caltone label. The Heptones found their first major success on Coxsone Dodd`s Studio One label, where they cut a vulgar ode to large obese women called "Fatty Fatty." The single sold well despite being banned from Jamaican radio, and it paved the way for future Heptones hits including "I am Lonely," "Pretty Looks Isn`t All" and covers of the Righteous Brothers` "You`ve Lost that Loving Feeling" and Elvis Presley`s "Suspicious Minds." With the arguable exception of the Techniques, the Heptones were the biggest rocksteady singing group of the 1960s.
However, the advent of reggae music, coupled with Sibbles` increasing awareness of his Rastafarian faith, signaled big changes for the Heptones. The band split with Coxsone Dodd in 1971, and for the next few years they recorded with producers including Joe Gibbs, Augustus Pablo and Harry J. It was the Heptones` sessions with the latter producer that led to one of their biggest and most enduring singles, the 1973 recording "Book of Rules." The song`s appearance on Ziggy Marley`s forthcoming compilation album, Ziggy Marley in Jamaica, is just the latest tribute to one of the best-loved reggae songs in history. >p> Inspired by "A Bag of Tools," an R.L. Sharpe poem written early in the 20th century, Sibbles provided his definitive bassline and one of his most memorable arrangements to the song. Like much of the Heptones` output in the early `70s, "Book of Rules" signified the band`s transition from a strong if standard rocksteady band to one of the most powerful roots reggae acts in the world. The lyrics, which depicted a working-class narrator struggling to find his niche in the world, beautifully captured the sentiments of laborers worldwide. "Each is given a bag of tools/A shapeless mass and the book of rules" the band harmonized in the song`s chorus over a mournful melody. The song would go on to reach the singles charts in both Jamaica and Great Britain.
The success of "Book of Rules" and other singles caught the attention of Island Records, who gave the Heptones their first-ever major label record deal in 1975. The band`s debut for the label, Night Food, was produced by Lee "Scratch" Perry and featured re-recordings of some of the Heptones` biggest hits, "Book of Rules" among them. The new recording featured a string section and production that intended the song for white audiences, but the sparse original is still the best-known version today.
The Heptones` follow-up album, Party Time, was even more popular, mainly due to a hit interpretation of Bob Dylan`s "I Shall Be Released." But Sibbles was already recording his own solo material, and he left the band a few years later. The Heptones would continue to record throughout the `80s, and Sibbles embarked on a solo career until the original band reunited in 1995. The resulting album, Pressure!, proved that over 20 years after "Book of Rules," the Heptones were still one of the strongest bands in reggae history.http://video.google.de/videoplay?docid=-4111286245891487409&q=the%20heptones&hl=de