This week’s retro-active remembers Jamaican, rude girl duo – Althea and Donna.
The young Jamaican singers Althea Forrest (17), and Donna Reid (18), caused a surprise with their one-off reggae hit single, “Uptown Top Ranking”. It was produced by Joe Gibbs using a re-recording of the riddim of the 1967 Alton Ellis’ song “I’m Still In Love”, which had already been re-popularised in the 1970s by Marcia Aitken’s cover “I’m Still In Love With You Boy” and the deejay track “Three Piece Suit” by Trinity. The single’s UK release was on the Lightning record label.
“Uptown Top Ranking” reached number one in the UK Singles Chart in February 1978, after early championing by BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel, but had only one week at the chart summit. Oddly the surprise was compounded by the act often being billed as ‘Althia & Donna’, and the song sometimes entitled slightly differently, as “Up Town Top Ranking”. The lyrics were written by the duo and Errol Thompson. Althea & Donna thus became the youngest female duo to reach the pinnacle of the UK chart.
They released the album of the same name in 1978, but never met with any more tangible success thereafter.
The various incarnations of the riddim have been used for at least three dozen different records in its native Jamaica, since it was first recorded in 1967.
“Uptown Top Ranking” has been covered by Sean Paul; Scout Niblett, who released it as a single in 2004; Black Box Recorder on their album England Made Me; and by the German record producer Joni Rewind in 2002, featuring the vocals of Estelle. Ska punk band Big D and the Kids Table reworked “Uptown Top Ranking” with new lyrics and a new title, “Strictly Rude”, from their album of the same name. The song was sampled for Abs Breen’s 2002 UK Top 10 hit single, “What You Got”. Portishead covered “Uptown Top Ranking” in the late ’90s.
In 2003, Althea & Donna’s original version appeared on the Soul Jazz Records compilation album, 300% Dynamite!, and the track also appeared on the 2005Australian compilation, Bondi Calling 3.
“Uptown Top Ranking” was featured in ‘The Dream Team’, episode 47 of the American HBO, Emmy Award winning television program, Entourage. In addition, the song also featured in series 2 episode 8, of the British BAFTA Award winning comedic teen drama, Skins.
A sample of the “No Pop, No Style” refrain from the record is used and forms part of the lyrics to Pop Will Eat Itself’s 1991 single, “X, Y & Zee”.