This biography of MISTY IN ROOTS is from the Jah Sees Jah Knows album.

“MISTY” were one of Radio One DJ John Peel’s favourite groups of the early 1980’s resulting in frequent appearances on his show – a privilege only normally given to white rock bands. They had two BBC Radio 2 “In Concert” appearances in 1983 and 1985 and were invited to play ion Zimbabwe in 1982 in recognition of their support for the liberation of the country. They were the first reggae band to tour South Africa, Poland, and Russia.

Their first LP Live At The Counter Eurovision ‘79 spent four months in the “Black Music” magazine reggae LP chart in late 1980, rising to number 6 in October of that year. They were also voted the seventh best reggae band in the “Black Music” magazine readers poll of 1980. “This is among the top three British reggae albums ever recorded” - Chris May (from a review of Live At The Counter Eurovision in November 1980).

(A Unique Unit)

All of this tends to make you think MISTY IN ROOTS were something special. You would be right.

Recorded at the Cirque Royal, Brussels on March 31 and April 1, 1979 Live At The Counter Eurovision ‘79 was astounding on two counts. Primarily, tough UK roots reggae was a rarebird. Most discriminating Jamaican music collectors, DJ’s et al, viewed British recorded music by the likes of Aswad, Steel Pulse, and Delroy Washington as very much a poor relation of its Caribbean mother, so a whole LP chock full of uncompromising lyrics fueled by solid musicianship had them dropping into their Parker Knolls with shock. Then to be able to capture the very essence of the live performances with all the strength and vibrancy intact, was the second miracle. MIR’s strength as performers predated the first hot vinyl offering by quite a few years.


Formed around 1974 in Southall, Middlesex on the fringe of greater London, the group heard the reggae sounds of then – it was a time of new ideas, old ideologies refound and a realisation that coloured skins did not equate second class. Bob Marley and the Wailers were teaching the world of “Natty Dread” while the Burning Spear resurrected the great leader Marcus Garvey. Countless other voices from the Kingston ghettos were crying out their new messages of life, hope, and sufferation. MIR’s collective creativity absorbed this new life and tuned it into their own style of roots reggae.

MIR soon became known as a no nonsense Rasta reggae band rocking audiences in colleges, open air concerts, and at benefit gigs for various good causes, such as Rock Against Racism. Through these performances they became well known within the punk circle. Rasta and Punk, both disenchanted with the high unemployment and disillusioned with the destructive government policies of the time became unlikely allies on stage. The same urgency for change existed in both camps, although musically very different, both expressed the same needs.

The well known punk band The Ruts had a release on MIR’s label, People Unite, in the early 80’s as if to reinforce the ties between the two cultures.

(Africa, The Motherland)

As people of colour, MIR’s roots lay in Africa. The birthplace of the stolen slave, the motherland who’s calling for repatriation Marcus Garvey had heard half a century before reggae music existed to bring awareness to the wondering wanderers.

The black flame of Rastafari and its new Messiah HIM Emperor Haile Selassie was alive and exciting the depressed ghetto people with the greatest need of mankind – hope. Hope for a better day, hope for a better world, and hope no more people would die in needless violence in Africa, in Jamaica, in America, and in England too. MIR’s music reflected these things.

Painting pictures of the hapless slave with his back split open by the wicked whip, of the homeland of Africa, of the harsh realities of life, and most importantly pointed an accusing finger at wrong doers the world over. Maybe they didn’t have the sunshine of the Caribbean in their hearts but they had the chill of the English winter to replace it.

This was not a replicant roots reggae group copying their Jamaican counterparts, this was reality GB wise, as seen, digested, and recounted by people experiencing race hatred among the tower blocks of concrete and the choking, roaring, arterial roads that cut through the inner city decay of London.

(Trodding Their Own Road with People Unite)

Major record labels began to show an interest in MIR. They were collecting reggae acts at the time with the hope of finding another pot of gold, (as Marley was doing on Island) only to drop them a few years later, People Unite, providing a place for all to come, to reason, to create, and to compose. From this melting pot rose one of their first studio recordings, the double A side of 12” single “Richman” / ”Salvation”.

The single and tracks from the Live At The Counter Eurovision album gained play on local radio, both pirate and BBC Radio London’s reggae programme “Roots Rockers” hosted by Tony Williams and a new young presenter, David Rodigan. The gigs alongside white punk bands and the tireless touring both UK and abroad had paid dividends with a very mixed race audience eagerly awaiting MIR’s vinyl out-put, sending the LP high into reggae charts.

Encouraged, work began on a fresh album which arrived in 1981 entitled Wise and Foolish, containing new material and studio cuts of some of the tracks on Live At The Counter Eurovision. A powerful album dedicated on the inner sleeve by MIR to “...the freedom of Africa and all the oppressed peoples throughout the world."

(Touring And Still Setting Their Own Agenda)

After much touring throughout England, Europe, and farther afield, and two years further down the road Earth slipped out. Recorded at the PAS Recording Studio, West Germany, it made no difference to the sound as MIR were MIR wherever they laid their musical hat. Strong songs complimented by burning musicianship was the order of the day. In the early 80’s MIR were completely in time with their Jamaican counterparts as the black awareness and sense of history swept through African descendants the world over.

Slowly as the decade rolled on, the musical taste in Jamaica became more self-gratifying and materialistic. Losing its cultural identity to end up as “dancehall” music, lost in a mire of praises to drink, drugs, guns, and sex. Much like their cousins in America who were experiencing the aggressive “gangsta rapper” phenomenon. Few preachers could be heard above the boastful chatter of the latest five minute wonder DJ in JA by the middle of the decade.

In to this in 1985, Musi O Tunya, The Smoke That Thunders, "the Victoria Falls" to give it its western name, was released after MIR’s return from extensive touring of Africa. Their strongest set yet, upholding the roots tradition forgotten by many of their Jamaican counterparts, with social comment to the fore and many praises to the most high and their spiritual motherland in abundance. The whole album was their most fulfilled and complete.

(Standing Firm)

Now as we approach the millenium we can look back over the work of MIR and see how immense the combined talents of this cooperative group were, producing uplifting, righteous music for all to hear. And how right they were staying with their roots and not following trends as dancehall music has withered away with the new growth of 1990’s uprightful conscious roots music, right back where MIR were coming from nearly seventeen years ago.

The first CD [of Jah Sees Jah Knows] holds the best, the very essence of MIR, while Live At The Counter Eurovision still astounds with its power and majesty.

Listen, enjoy, and reflect on one of the most important and truly great UK reggae bands ever to grace a stage or recording studio.

Door Peeper – April 1997

From the insert of the album Jah Sees Jah Knows © 1997 Snapper Music.

Back to Main Page

© 2000 In Honor Of Misty In Roots