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Published: 2005/08/09
by Jeremy Sanchez

Rockers 25th Anniversary Edition

Rockers is the toughest of the toughest when it comes to reggae movies, certainly anything filmed in Jamaica. While working in a music store, I played the original-format DVD to kill time more times than I can recollect, but it still rolls fresh every time I watch it. Well, this treasure of Jamaica’s early Roots Reggae greats has been re-released, celebrating its 25th anniversary; first released, though, in 1979. It’s worth buying for more than the simple gimmick of re-pressing. Rockers, version 2005, is packed with a blunt-load of bonus footage: an informative who’s who section of seminal Roots Reggae artists, director’s commentary, original trailers, must-see music videos, with footage of Jamaican jungle life, and it’s been heavily subtitled, to help you through the many tough-to-decipher conversations. Probably most importantly, though, the feature film’s also been beautifully remastered and the audio’s had a touchup.
The story in short: the legendary drummer Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace stars as a freelance/studio drummer, who decides he’ll become the "hardest salesman around" to overthrow big record labels. He borrows money and collects debts in order to buy a red motorbike, upon which he has the Lion of Judah painted, marking it as his own. He’s fronted records by local producers and hustles them around town, carrying them in a basket on his motorbike. After flirting with the wrong man’s daughter, his bike is stolen by henchmen, found, stolen again, and everything breaks loose with Horsemouth’s revenge, rude boy style, on the thieves’ warehouse. A theft from the pages of Robin Hood transpires the townspeople have new toys and a satisfied "Horsemouth" can get some sleep, in relative peace, ready to hustle again tomorrow.
My favorite moment is when a depressed Horsemouth, bike freshly stolen, visits a young (compared to seeing him perform today) Winston "Burning Spear" Rodney, at his modest home. They walk to Key Largo Beach and sit on the site of a crumbled colonial slave prison. Spear pulls two joints from his cuff and passes one to Horsemouth. They ignite, draw and Spear quietly sings "Jah no Dead" against the wash of eternal waves no prison can contain. This is one of my favorite scenes, from any movie…oh, to have been there!
That’s a Cliff’s Notes of The Rockers’ Cliff’s Notes. But, the movie’s already a definitive classic, with guest appearances from many of Roots Reggae’s early stars, still young in their careers. So, you should’ve already seen this for yourself. It’s necessary viewing if you consider yourself a reggae fan, at all, or just want to glimpse the lives of a people who’ve invented a genre that’s inspired so many of the jambands we all love. I don’t want to get too specific on the movie’s happenings, because you may not see it for yourself if you know too much…hopefully it sounds irresistible!

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