1982 was a transition year for music. Sure, my friends and I still had all the Hall and Oates, Toto and Journey we could ever ever dream of hearing on the radio. But for kids in the pop cultural hinterlands of Utah where I lived, there was a new player on the scene. Her name was MTV and she was newly available on basic cable.
Why was MTV a she? She had to be. How else could you explain the David Bowie, Duran Duran, Cultural Club and Adam Ant videos she would soon unleash on our impressionable minds? No self-respecting Molly Hatchett or Van Halen fan wanted to watch that stuff.
Besides introducing us to new romantic bands from England, MTV was our gateway drug to bizarrely new and unexpected sounds like Toni Basil’s cheerleader- driven “Mickey” and today’s novelty song, “Pass the Dutchie” by Musical Youth.
What was this song? Youth meets reggae on the shores of the Thames River? Whose brilliant idea was this?
“Pass the Dutchie’ on the left-hand side'”
“How does it feel when you’ve got no food.”
Who writes this stuff?
The deeper hidden meaning was debated daily by a small group of friends who were convinced we could unlock some deeper insight into reggae music or British pop music or black kids who wore berets and played oversized instruments and passed dutchies to their left but never to the right.
The riddle would all be revealed if we simply watched more MTV. So we did.
Eventually “Pass the Dutchie” reached #10 on the Billboard Top 40 in 1982, making Musical Youth a one-hit wonder and leaving a pop-cultural mark that persists today.
Listen to Pass the Dutchie by Musical Youth
If you don’t believe me, just ask anyone who was a teenager in the early 1980s to pass the dutchie. They will be happy to pass it to your left-hand side.
Super-stardom passed Musical Youth by and the band never again reached the pop charts. But they left their mark.
As for me and my friends, we never figured out what exactly “Pass the Dutchie” meant while we were kids (it’s a sanitized allusion to weed). And I still love the song today.