Pass the Dutchie on the Left Hand Side

Posted on March 5, 2015

When I occasionally drop Harry into college during the week, we make a compromise between Radio 4 (me) and Heart FM (him) and listen to Chris Evans on Radio 2.

At just after 8:30 he (Chris Evans) does a thing where he plays an old song, followed by another and you are invited to have a guess as to whether the release of the latter song is a higher or lower year than the first.

Being a fountain of any knowledge that is effectively useless, I always get it right and yesterday was no exception, with Two Tribes by Frankie Goes to Hollywood (1984) followed by Pass the Dutchie by Musical Youth (1982).

I informed Harry that Pass the Dutchie was a song that every 80’s kid can remember as if it was yesterday, and it was as synonymous with the era as Pacman and the TV series Grange Hill. featuring the on-going drama involving Gripper Stebson and Roland Browning.

Then Harry piped up with this:

“Not being funny dad, but isn’t a dutchie something you smoke dope out of?”

I replied: “I wouldn’t have thought so Harry, they were only 14 years old then, so *Mike Read would have been all over it and had it banned in an instant.”

Harry: “Oh, maybe I am wrong then, it just sounded familiar.”

Still, curiosity got the better of me, so I went on-line, and went against all my socialist principles by administering the assistance of perennial tax dodgers, Google.

It turns out that a “Dutchie” is used as a patois term to refer to a food cooking pot known as a Dutch oven in Jamaica and the Caribbean. So this allowed me to assume, briefly, that Harry had misinterpreted the word with something that sounded similar.

However, further investigation told me that Pass the Dutchie is actually a cover version of two reggae songs, Gimme Music by U Brown and Pass the Kouchie by The Mighty Diamonds.

The Musical Youth song’s cover version was changed to “Pass the Dutchie”, with all other obvious drug references removed from the lyrics. For example the original artist sings “How does it feel when you got no herb?” whilst Musical Youth sang “How does it feel when you got no food.”

Pass the Kouchie by the Mighty Diamonds

Harry was right, as dutchie has since become a drug reference in itself, denoting a blunt stuffed with marijuana, rolled in a wrapper from a Dutch Masters cigar as American and British listeners assumed that the term was a drug reference.

Pass the Dutchie was a massive hit, selling one hundred thousand copies in just one day as it topped the UK charts and five million copies worldwide. However it all had a bit of an ‘After the Lord Mayor’s Show’ feel after that, as they faded rapidly into obscurity.

The final twist in the tale was that as recent as 2012, the remaining members of Musical Youth attempted to sue their former lawyers, Woolf Seddon, for loss of earnings, claiming that they (the lawyers) had “failed to protect a distinct copyright” held by the band.

However, the claim was kicked out without merit, with a ruling that in effect said that ‘Pass the Dutchie’ was a cover version of ‘Pass the Kouchie’ and therefore did not warrant the copyright status that could have landed the former members what I can only assume would be large sum of cash.

You can read more articles like this in my new book ‘101 uninspiring Facts’.

*Mike Read was a nauseatingly evangelical Radio 1 DJ from the 1980’s who initiated the spectacular success of Frankie Goes to Hollywood by banning their 1984 hit, Relax, live on air.

In recent times he has had a plethora of failed business ventures and received brief publicity after releasing a song called ‘UKIP Calypso. 

It is widely hoped that Read will one day be arrested as part of the Operation Yew Tree investigation.


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