The Paragons

The Tide Is High

Song Review by

There are not many songs that originated with reggae artists and were subsequently covered for huge international chart success by non-Jamaicans. Perhaps the most outstanding example, however, is "The Tide Is High," known to most of the world as a #1 hit for Blondie in 1980. The original version, however, had in fact been cut back in 1968 by the Paragons, and written by the group's John Holt. In its original form, "The Tide Is High" was an excellent slice of romantic rock-steady, with backing by some of early reggae's best musicians (Tommy McCook & the Supersonics Band). In addition to having the trademark early rock-steady rhythm of a slightly slowed-down ska, "The Tide Is High" had an infectious, playfully exuberant melody, with gently rising chords that were again characteristic of reggae music of the era. Instrumentally, the most distinguishing feature of the track was a shaky violin, heard most prominently in the opening instrumental intro and the instrumental break. A funky vamping guitar provided more conventionally earthy grounding, though, unleashing economic bursts of descending blue notes in the instrumental break. Another seductive aspect of "The Tide Is High" is its un-corny exclamation of commitment, the group declaring their intentions to be the woman's "#1" and noting that they're not the kind of men who give up just like that. Like most early reggae singles, the Paragons' version was heard by few in the United States, and most listeners hearing "The Tide Is High" for the first time by Blondie understandably did not suspect it was a cover. Small cliques of reggae purists no doubt consider Blondie's interpretation a desecration. But it was in fact one of the more memorable hit singles of the early 1980s, smoothing over the reggae rhythms of course, but still retaining some reggae feel. More importantly, Deborah Harry's lead vocal gave the song a female sensuality not present in the Paragons' version.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
On the Beach with the Paragons 1967 Jet Set Records / Jet Records 2:43
20 Reggae Classics, Vol. 3 1988
Various Artists
Trojan 2:39
Duke Reid's Treasure Chest 1992
Various Artists
Heartbeat 2:41
Treasure Isle Mood 1995
Various Artists
Heartbeat Select / Heartbeat 2:41
History of Trojan Records, Vol. 1: 1968-1971 1995
Various Artists
Sanctuary / Trojan 2:39
The History of Ska [Receiver] 1995
Various Artists
Receiver 2:39
Roots of Reggae, Vol. 2: Rock Steady 1996
Various Artists
Rhino 2:43
Reggae History, Vol. 1 1996
Various Artists
Wotre Records 2:39
A History of Jamaican Vocal Harmony 1996
Various Artists
Munich Records 2:42
Rough Guide to Reggae 1997
Various Artists
World Music Network 2:45
This Is Reggae [Music Club] 1998
Various Artists
Music Club Records 2:39
Legends, Vol. 2: The History of Ska 1998
Various Artists
Fuel 2000 / Varese 2:35
Kings & Queens of Rocksteady 2000
Various Artists
Music Club Records 2:44