Junior Byles “Beat Down Babylon” (Upsetter)

“Beat Down Babylon” is featured on Byles’ 1971 Upsetter-produced album of the same name.

His family were devoutly religious, and his early musical education came from singing in church. He formed the vocal trio The Versatiles in 1967, along with Dudley Earl and Ben ‘Louis’ Davis, while also working as a firefighter. Lee “Scratch” Perry, then working as chief engineer at Joe Gibbs’ studio, was scouting for talent for Gibbs’ new Amalgamated label, and spotted the group while they were auditioning for the 1967 Festival Song Contest with “The Time Has Come”. Perry signed the group to the label, but left Gibbs soon after. The Versatiles stayed with Gibbs for two years, before moving to work with Perry, and then to Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle label, also recording for other producers such as Laurel Aitken. The group split up in 1970, with Byles still working as a firefighter but continuing to record solo for Perry (sometimes with the other former-Versatiles providing harmony).

When Perry’s association with Bob Marley came to an end, he sought a singer-songwriter to work with who would fill the void, and Byles fit the bill. With Perry, Byles had a minor hit with “What’s The World Coming To”, released under the name King Chubby, and over the next five years the partnership would result in some of Perry’s most highly-regarded work, with Byles’ Rastafarian beliefs clearly evident, including “Beat Down Babylon”, “King of Babylon”, and the plea for repatriation, “Place Called Africa”. “Rub Up Festival” was Byles’ entry for the Festival Song Contest in 1971, but the song’s suggestive lyric led to it being disqualified after reaching the final eight. The following year’s “Festival Da Da” fared better, finishing as second runner-up. Also in 1972, Byles began self-producing, and set up his Love Power label, releasing singles such as “Black Crisis” and “Our Mistakes”.

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