Reggae 12 inch Singles and Dubplates
In the late 1960s, Jamaica’s sound system operators created the “dub plate”, a unique re-mixed disc made especially for the dance floor. In the beginning these dub plates were created on 7-inch singles with a vocal on one 7” followed (sometimes weeks later) by a DJ cut on another 7”.
Off in New York in the early 1970s, the disco craze was upon us and 12-inch vinyl “disco singles” entered the scene. This format could accommodate more music than a 7”, which translated to more time on the dance floor. Shrewd Jamaican producers quickly recognized the advantage of putting the vocal and DJ cuts on one disc for dancehall reggae and began pressing vinyl in this “discomix” format in 1976. The spacing of the grooves on a 12” single helped DJs to locate the “breaks” on the disc’s surface.
Although 12-inch singles disappeared in Jamaica in the late 1980s as the interest in dub music waned, Greensleeves in the U.K. made 12” reggae singles an art form with funny caricatures of the genre’s history on record sleeves and they continued to be a popular format there for nearly 20 years. When sales plummeted in the last few years, Greensleeves and other labels virtually abandoned the 12" format in favor of 7” singles, tripling their sales.
A 10-inch EP (Extended Play) contains more music than a 7-inch single (usually 10 to 20 minutes) but is too short to qualify as an LP.
A dubplate (a.k.a. “dub” or “special”) is an acetate disc used by studios to test recordings before making the final master and mass producing the record on vinyl. They are much cheaper to produce than pressed vinyl and were often used to gauge the potential popularity of a tune before it’s release.
Pioneered by reggae sound systems, dubplates are exclusive versions of a tune and are an essential part of sound clash competitions, in which rival sound systems battle to produce the most innovative specials. The lyrics are usually altered to include the name of the sound system that commissioned the recording, endorsing that sound system while pointing out the weaknesses of the opposing sound system. CDs are now the format of choice for dubplate specials.
Since the very early days of Jamaica's recording industry, collectors still prefer many of the big hits that are now world-renowned on vinyl, in any format. Tuff Gong studios in Kingston, which masters and distributes Bob Marley's records, continues to press vinyl LP's, 7- inch and 12-inch singles.
Check out the wide variety of vinyl available on eBay and collect them while you can!