Junior Murvin

Police & Thieves

Song Review by

After a fairly successful recording career, Junior Murvin left the studio for the stage, joining The Falcons, before leaving Kingston for his hometown of Port Antonio, and enlisting in Young Experience. As that band disintegrated in early 1976, Murvin turned to songwriting, and then made his way to Lee Perry's Black Ark studio later in the year.

One listen to Murvin's "Police and Thieves" was all it took to set the producer immediately to work on the rhythm. Building it around Boris Gardiner's vibrating bass line, Sly Dunbar's metronomic beats, and Ernest Ranglin's incendiary guitar riff, the song quickly took shape, abetted by Keith Sterling's keyboards and Joe Cooper's echoing organ.

It's a fractious backing, the bass a low throb, the sharp clacks of the cymbals, the heavy syncopation of the rhythm and slashes of riffs, but even as Perry hones the toughness of the sound, he still conjures up an almost languorous, smokey atmosphere around. Overhead, Murvin's falsetto soars out like a fresh breeze, backed by the warm, ethereal harmonies of The Heptones' Earl Morgan and Barry Llewellyn. Lyrically, the number is equally heavy-hitting, succinctly summing up the battleground that Jamaica had become in the run-up to the national election held this same year.

Everyone in the studio knew they had a hit on their hands, and Perry released the resulting single through Federal's Wildflower imprint on the island, and through Island in the UK. There was no doubting its success at home, the surprise was just how big a hit it would become in the UK, holding the Top 10 of the reggae chart hostage for almost six months. Particularly impressed were The Clash, who cut a surprisingly faithful cover for their debut album, while also entitling Murvin's own full-length set. In 1980, when the nation was over-run by the Two Tone army, "Police" was reissued, and this time stormed into the Pop Top 25 chart.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
This Is Reggae Music, Vol. 3 1976
Various Artists
Mango 3:55
Police & Thieves 1977 Mango 3:52
Rockers [Original Soundtrack] 1980
Original Soundtrack
Mango 3:52
Reggae Greats 1984 Mango 3:54
Jammin' Rap 1989
Various Artists
Mango 3:45
Groove Yard [Mango] 1989
Various Artists
Mango 3:48
The Story of Jamaican Music: Tougher Than Tough 1993
Various Artists
Mango 3:46
Arkology 1997 Island Jamaica / PolyGram 3:40
Reggae Roots - 1972-1995, Vol. 5 1999
Various Artists
Island / Polygram 3:53
Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] 1999
Original Soundtrack
Maverick / Warner Bros. 4:00
The Ultimate Collection 2000 Hip-O 3:55
Roots Reggae Essentials 2000
Various Artists
Hip-O 3:55
I Am King: Classics from the Rockers Era 2001
Various Artists
Ocho 3:56
The Best Carnival Album... Ever! 2001
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:42
Simply the Best Reggae Album [2001] 2001
Various Artists
Import 4:03
The Reggae Box 2001
Various Artists
Hip-O 4:12
Dread Meets Punk Rockers Uptown 2002
Various Artists
Heavenly 3:57
Ultimate Reggae 2003
Various Artists
UTV 4:11
20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: Reggae 2003
Various Artists
Universal International 4:02
Young, Gifted and Black 2003
Various Artists
Trojan 3:58
Bushel of Mangos 2003
Various Artists
Palm 3:52
After the Sunset 2004
Original Soundtrack
Atlantic 3:52
Reggae Gold 2005
Various Artists
Hip-O 3:52
Kings of Reggae, Pt. B 2007 Rapster 3:53
True Reggae 2007
Various Artists
Universal Music 3:52
Made in Jamaica [Universal/CCM] 2007
Various Artists
UMVD 3:53
Island Life: 50 Years of Island Records 2009
Various Artists
Universal Music TV 3:52
Reggae Reggae: 60 Classic Reggae Hits 2009
Various Artists
Universal Distribution / Universal Music TV 4:11
Dirty Water, Vol. 2: More Birth of Punk Attitude 2011
Various Artists
Year Zero 3:47
Sound System: The Story of Jamaican Music 2012
Various Artists
Universal Island Records 3:55
Reggae Golden Jubilee: Origins of Jamaican Music 2012
Various Artists
VP Records 3:37
Island Presents: Roots 2014
Various Artists
Island / Spectrum Music 3:54
Crucial Classics - Island 50 Reggae
Various Artists
Island / Strategic Marketing 3:53
No Image
Various Artists
Universal 3:52
No Image
Various Artists
Universal Distribution / Universal Music 4:01
Reggae: From the MusicVaultz
Various Artists
Universal 3:55
Roots Train: Island 50 Reggae
Various Artists
Island / Universal Music 4:13
Step Forward Youth
Various Artists
VP Records 3:56