“Psalms of Dub,” originally “Not Responsible” by Carlton Patterson and Leroy Brown, is rumored to the be the first dub track King Tubby, founder of dub music, ever released in 1971.
Dub is created by rearranging original studio tracks of a recording and delicately applying ambiance and variation through EQ, volume, and general dynamics. The first dub records were primitive versions of what we now know as the remix.
Interestingly enough, the dub process was not discovered through rigorous experimentation or mad-scientist studio alchemy. It was an accident.
Rumors claim that while working for Duke Reid as a studio engineer, Tubby inadvertently excluded fragments of the vocal track during a song’s final mix. Instead of fixing the error, Tubby and Reid capitalized on the mistake, cutting apart the original tracks and giving them the so-called “dub” treatment – a postmodern deconstruction of the original track via sudden drop-outs, volume fluctuations, and layers of effects to shift the silence. Jamaica’s singers were soon buried within cascades of echo and reverb, reduced to specters and shadows within this restructuring of Jamaican popular music.
These “versions,” as they were known, were an immediate success in both the dancehall and the record store. Tubby’s legacy, the modern remix, remains a staple of popular music to this very day.
But let us not forget that the process began with a mistake. King Tubby did not endeavor to remix. By following the inspiration catalyzed by his mistake, the engineer revolutionized the role of the recording studio in popular music, creating a format that continues to ensnare both imagination and profit nearly half a century later.