In Belgium ska was (and is) popular amongst lovers of the so-called 'oldies popcorn'
music. This Belgian 'popcorn' style began in 1968 in Oostende, in a nightclub that was
called 'The Groove'. Other discotheques followed, 'The Popcorn' in Vranese being the
most famous.

A combination of fifties doowop, soul, rhythm & blues, highschool sound and also cha
cha and mambo was played in these clubs. Jamaican ska also set in, with classics
from bands like the Skatalites, the Soul Brothers, the Bluesbusters and Byron Lee and
the Dragonaires. And when the oldies did not quite suit the popcorn-tempo, the DJs
could still 'manipulate' the r.p.m.

There were collectors of popcorn music in Belgium, then in France, then in the
Netherlands and also in other countries. The popcorn style cannot really be explained.
It is the collectors themselves who created the style. Although the heydays were in the
seventies and eighties, popcorn oldies are still played in some discotheques.
Reggae historian Steve Barrow wrote the following liner notes for the Skatalites album
Return Of The Big Guns (1984) about this scene:

'the old [ska] records from the sixties achieved a kind of cult status in, of all places,
Belgium, where they formed the basis for the Belgian equivalent of the "Northern Soul"
phenomenon. The records fetched ridiculously high prices - up to 40 for rare singles -
and are still sought after by new generations of collectors'. [Collectors know that these
prices pale into insignificance beside prices in the current international market!]

The Shake Spears
Anneke Soetaert


Belgian pressings