Five Things You May Not Know About Musical Youth’s ‘Pass The Dutchie’

The 80s reggae hit is finding a new generation of fans, thanks to ‘Stranger Things.’

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Musical Youth - Photo: John Rodgers/Redferns
Musical Youth - Photo: John Rodgers/Redferns

With the return of Netflix’s hit series Stranger Things, the music world has been thrown back to the 80s, and tracks of that era given another chance to shine in the spotlight. “Pass the Dutchie” by British-Jamaican reggae band Musical Youth is one of the songs to be experiencing a resurgence thanks to the new season of the sci-fi drama, with a whole new audience discovering its charm through the sync.

It’s the first reggae song to be featured on Stranger Things

The soundtrack to Stranger Things over the last four seasons might have been jam-packed with hits and cult favorites from the 80s, but it never featured a reggae song – until now. 1982’s “Pass the Dutchie” isn’t just a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sync, either. It appears twice in the first part of season four, both times blaring over the stereo of Argyle’s pizza delivery van, its bright and breezy spirit in direct contrast with the peril the characters find themselves in at the time. While it might be the first slice of reggae to appear on the show, it’s not Musical Youth’s first brush with the world of soundtracks – “Pass the Dutchie” has also appeared in films like The Wedding Singer and Scooby-Doo: The Movie.

The music video broke down barriers at MTV

Reggae icon Don Letts, who also helmed videos for The Clash, directed the music video for “Pass the Dutchie.” The visuals saw Musical Youth playing the song in front of the Houses Of Parliament in London before being chased by a truancy officer and ending up in court. Upon its release it was put into heavy rotation at MTV, becoming the first music video featuring Black artists to do so. The group claimed that record for themselves in the nick of time – only a few weeks after it was playlisted, Michael Jackson released the iconic video for “Billie Jean.”

The lyrics for “Pass the Dutchie” take inspiration from the band’s Jamaican heritage

Musical Youth’s “Pass the Dutchie” wasn’t entirely original, but it wasn’t an out-and-out cover either. Because of their young age – the members were all aged between 11 and 16 at the time – the group took the foundation of The Mighty Diamonds’ marijuana-referencing “Pass the Kouchie” and changed the lyrics to something more family-friendly. The “Dutchie” in the title refers to a Dutch Oven, also known as a Dutch Pot, which is commonly used in Caribbean cooking.

Pass The Dutchie

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Musical Youth’s single far surpassed what The Mighty Diamonds’ version achieved

The Mighty Diamonds’ “Pass the Kouchie” might have led the way for “Pass the Dutchie,” but it was Musical Youth’s single that conquered the charts worldwide. It sold 100,000 copies in the UK on its first day of release alone and went on to top the singles charts in 11 countries around the world, including the UK, Switzerland, Canada, and Australia. In the US, meanwhile, it crashed into the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, far surpassing “Pass the Kouchie” – a hit in Jamaica but with less commercial success further afield.

“Pass the Dutchie” wasn’t the group’s first taste of acclaim

The hit single might have made Musical Youth known across the globe, but it wasn’t their first experience of recognition. Back in 1981, over a year before “Pass The Dutchie” was released, legendary British DJ John Peel gave their debut single “Generals / Political” a spin on his radio show and soon invited them in to record a session for him. That live taping went on to spark interest from record labels, including MCA with whom they eventually signed. During a Christmas edition of Top Of The Pops in 1982, Peel also singled out “Pass The Dutchie” as his favorite No.1 of the year.

Listen to “Pass The Dutchie” here.

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