Barrow was born in Forest Gate, London in 1945. When he was young his family moved a short distance to the Manor Park area where he attended the East Ham Grammar School until 1962. After leaving school and working in various jobs he returned to full-time education at the East Ham College of Technology (1970–74) where he studied Graphic Design. In October 1975 Barrow and Keith Stone took over the premises of All Change Records in Hanway Street (just off Oxford Street); a shop where Barrow had previously been a manager. Renaming it to Daddy Kool, they removed the soul and jazz records and concentrated on selling only reggae. On 29 September 1976 Barrow's partnership with Stone was dissolved and Stone retained the shop due to his majority stake-holding. Barrow soon found employment at West Ham Post Office where he worked night-shifts sorting parcels while also occasionally working at Honest Jon's two London music outlets. While at Honest Jon's he met Peter Dalton whom he would later collaborate with on writing The Rough Guide to Reggae. Between 1979 and 1980 he was hired freelance by Island Records to compile a series of vinyl releases: Intensified, More Intensified, Catch The Beat and The Blue Beat Years.
In 1993 Barrow co-founded, along with Mick Hucknall, the Blood and Fire record label which specializes in reissuing older Jamaican music. Barrow's extensive knowledge of reggae was the catalyst for the creation of the Jamaican Reggae Archive Project which is funded and owned by Chris Blackwell with Barrow as de facto curator. Between 1994 and 1995 Barrow (along with Don Letts and Rick Elwood) conducted a series of interviews with Jamaican artists for the Archive that aimed to preserve the history of the music; the interviews and other related material were an important factor in the writing of the book The Rough Guide to Reggae. The reggae author David Katz credits Barrow's personal recommendation to Trevor Wyatt of Island Records for his involvement in the compiling of the 1997 Lee "Scratch" Perry CD set Arkology. In 2004 Barrow co-founded the reggae reissue label Hot Pot Music.
- The Rough Guide to Reggae with Peter Dalton, 1997 for the first edition, Rough Guides Limited, ISBN 1-85828-247-0
- The Rough Guide Reggae: 100 Essential Cds, 1999, Rough Guides Limited, ISBN 1-85828-567-4
- King Jammy's, with Beth Lesser, 2002, ECW Press, UK, ISBN 1-55022-525-1
- Steve Barrow Interview - Midnight Raver Site (29 March 2013) Retrieved 21 April 2013
- Steve Barrow Interview - Mod Culture Site (10 March 2012) Retrieved 21 April 2013
- Steve Barrow Interview - Inity Weekly Site (2 April 2013) Retrieved 24 April 2013
- Steve Barrow Interview - Reggae News (Summer 2002) Retrieved 24 April 2013
- David Katz Interview - Eternal Thunder (February 2001) Interview by Mick Sleeper. Retrieved 18 June 2013.