By R. L. MILLER on June 21, 2002
Songs like Bloom’s “Montego Bay” and Millie Small’s “My Boy Lollipop” were all over the AM playlists in the ‘States during the late ’60s and early ’70s without any of us really knowing the Small number was in what was known as the ska beat (a bit like the Italian tarantella but a bit more staccato) and the Bloom number might very well have been the first reggae hit. We didn’t know diddly about a Jamaican sound per se back then. The thing that first drew my ear was that a tuba was used for bass–a rather minimalist pattern that was just enough to keep up with each chord change. Not very much like the throbbing, intricate bass lines Marley would later influence Sting to adopt. The main rhythm of “Montego Bay” is in the percussion, augmented by the cheerfully whistled hook. You will find Bloom’s voice very similar to Marc Cohn’s (“Walkin’ In Memphis”)–since this song came a quarter-century earlier, maybe Bloom influenced him. All I know is that this one number–slightly oddball but interesting for all that–gave me a three-minute sampling of a sound I wouldn’t know by any particular name for many years to come.