Uptown Top Ranking certified silver in the UKWednesday, November 11, 2020
By Kevin Jackson
Uptown Top Ranking, a massive hit for schoolgirl duo Althea and Donna in the late 1970s, has been certified silver in the United Kingdom by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).
It was certified for digital sales of more than 200,000 copies in the United Kingdom on October 16. The song was released digitally in 2005, 28 years after it was first released on vinyl.
Neither Althea (Althea Forrest) nor Donna (Donna Reid) was aware of the song's certification when contacted yesterday by the Jamaica Observer.
“It is an honour and a blessing at this stage of our lives to have this achievement. We are humbled by this milestone. We are also grateful to all the persons that were a part of our journey when we started out singing outside on the sidewalk and Jacob Miller, bless his memory, who took us into the studio. My dad, who had to come on tour with us, as we were underage at the time. The love of our family and friends and their support cannot be overlooked,” said Donna.
Joe Gibbs produced Uptown Top Ranking. It was the girls' response to Trinity's Three Piece Suit, which was a hit in 1977. The same beat had Marcia Aitken's cover of Alton Ellis's I'm Still in Love with You.
The song topped the RJR and JBC radio charts for multiple weeks in 1977. Uptown Top Ranking, thanks to support by BBC Radio 1 disc jockey John Peel, took off in the United Kingdom and topped the British national chart in February 1978. They are still the youngest female duo to have a number one record in the United Kingdom.
Donna said they knew the song would endure.
“We understood that we were speaking about the fact that we were uptown folks who had a story and wanted to be a part of the fabric and culture of our music,” she shared. “The song was recorded at Joe Gibbs Studio in Cross Roads at Retirement Crescent. Jacob Miller took us there in his Mercedes-Benz.”
To promote the song in the United Kingdom, the duo appeared on the highly-rated Top of the Pops television show.
Their biggest gig, however, came in April 1978 in Jamaica.
“We were on several shows, including the One Love concert at the National Stadium where I was featured next day with Mick Jagger. This concert is known for bringing then Prime Minister Michael Manley and the Opposition leader Edward Seaga together. We were the opening act for the concert. We met many persons in the business and got the opportunity to travel to the United Kingdom and Europe. We were the first Jamaican female duo to be signed to a major label,” recalled Donna.
Uptown Top Ranking was released by Virgin Records subsidiary Frontline Records. The song reached number two in Ireland, number 23 in Belgium and number 24 in the Netherlands. It was sampled in Abs Breen's 2002 UK Top 10 hit, What You Got.
Althea is originally from Hughenden in St Andrew. She attended The Queen's School, while Reid, who resided on Hope Road, attended St Andrew High School for Girls.
Donna resides in Florida while Althea lives in New York.
Based on Uptown Top Ranking's success, Althea and Donna released an album of the same name. Follow-up songs include Puppy Dog Song and Going to Negril.
In the early 1990s, they covered Bob Marley's Simmer Down which topped the RJR Top 40 chart for two weeks.
They are still busy music-wise.
“We are still doing dub plates and did one for Amar Sounds in Israel recently. We are currently in negotiation to do a collaboration with [Jamaican-born, UK-based artiste] Stefflon Don. I work with the state of Florida and Althea is an event planner in New York,” Donna added.