BEFORE EVERY game at Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion, the pre-match ritual involves a tune that evokes memories of football from a bygone age. The reggae tune, “The Liquidator”, turned up at stadiums in the late 1960s and has remained part of the scene at both Stamford Bridge and the Hawthorns ever since.
It also reminds us of the skinhead era, those shaven-headed characters in Dr Marten’s boots, braces and Ben Sherman shirts. Reggae was popular with this community and the Liquidator was quickly taken to their hearts.
Released by Trojan Records, the reggae specialist, “The Liquidator” by the Harry J All Stars sneaked into the top 10 in the UK singles charts and stubbornly hung around for some time, rising and falling all the time. By the end of 1969, it had been absorbed into the soundtrack on the terraces. The opening bass line is very distinctive, and invariably welcomed with a cheer. Itwas also used on the Staples Singers’ hit “I’ll take you there”. As well as Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion, Wycombe Wanderers. Northampton Town, Wolves and St. Johnstone also like a bit of Harry J’s All Stars.
But what of Harry J and his All Stars? Harry was Harry Zephaniah Johnson, who was born in July 1945 in Westmoreland Parish, Jamaica. He was better known as a record producer and also owned the Harry J Studio in Jamaica. Bob Marley recorded some of his early records at the studio. Harry J is credited with producing what many consider to be the first reggae hit single, “No more heartaches” by the Beltones.
With the modern football age very glossy and somewhat superficial at times, it is a remarkable feat that the tune has remained part of fan culture. Certainly, there is something very reassuring about hearing it at Stamford Bridge. It is always raises a smile, especially those that remember watching the likes of Peter Osgood, Charlie Cooke and John Hollins running out of the tunnel after it had been played by the two chaps that used to run the pre-match entertainment (Pete Owen and Dave Scott).
Interestingly, the club songs from that era and even earlier in history have stood the test of time. Leeds United are still “marching on together” and West Ham will forever be “blowing bubbles”. Chelsea’s colour is always blue. Other clubs have adopted pop songs and show tunes, such as Liverpool’s “You’ll never walk alone”. And now we are hearing Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”, which seems to have come out of nowhere. It could be worse!