Desmond Dekker / Desmond Dekker & the Aces

Fu Man Chu

Composed by Desmond Dekker

Song Review by

This extraordinary 1968 single never received a proper release, at least in Jamaica, although in the UK the Pyramid label ensconced it on the b-side of Desmond Dekker's cover of "To Sir with Love", which itself became a major club hit.

Regardless, "Fu Manchu" is amazing on multiple levels, not least for Dekker's superb performance, which unusually finds him soaring into falsetto, alongside the always sublime Aces harmonies. Of equal note is the song's conscious lyrics, which derides those who boast about their jobs and high paid salaries, with Dekker chiding, "it's not what you earn that make you a man, but what you keep that make you a man."

The Beverley's All Stars' backing is as singular as the vocals and theme, and just as magnificent. A superb slab of driving reggae, with its R&B roots proudly showing, the riddim positively surges across the grooves. The musicians, as always, are flawless, but organist Winston Wright takes them to a whole new level, and into psychedelic pastures rarely grazed by reggae bands. Only a handful of Jamaican singles ever ventured into acid-drenched territory, but Wright swaggers right in with absolute aplomb.

Producer Leslie Kong would never delve any deeper into this unchartered land, making "Fu Manchu" all the more precious. A stunner of a single, that deserves much greater acclaim.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Action! 1968 Culture Press 3:08
This Is Desmond Dekkar 1969 Sanctuary / Fontana / Sanctuary Records 3:16
Rockin' Steady: The Best of Desmond Dekker 1992 Rhino 3:12
The Best of Desmond Dekker [Music Club] 2000 Pulse Records (UK) / Sanctuary / Sanctuary Records / Universal 3:18
The Best of Desmond Dekker [Trojan] 2000 BMG / Trojan / Trojan Budget 3:19
Anthology: Israelites 1963-1999 2001 BMG / Fontana / Sanctuary Fontana / Sanctuary Records / Trojan 3:19
Israelites: The Best of Desmond Dekker 2002 Def Jam / Island / Island/Def Jam / Universal / Universal Music 3:08
Rudy Got Soul: The Complete Early Years 1963-1968 2003 Sanctuary Fontana / Trojan 3:21
You Can Get It If You Really Want: The Definitive Collection 2005 BMG / Trojan 3:19
This Is Crucial Reggae 2007 Fontana / Sanctuary / Sanctuary Records 3:19
Reggae Legends 2008 Universal 3:18
The King of Ska: The Indispensable Desmond Dekker 2014 BMG / Sanctuary 3:19
The Best of Desmond Dekker 2016 BMG / Sanctuary / Trojan 3:19
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