Sunday, August 31, 2008

Misty In Roots and The Ruts: Rock Against Racism Unites Reggae & Punk


I have previously highlighted the ways UK punk and reggae bands came together under one umbrella in the late 70's. In many ways, the partnership of roots reggae band Misty In Roots and punk rockers The Ruts best exemplified this cultural collaboration brought together by the Rock Against Racism movement. Rock Against Racism (RAR) was a campaign set up in the UK by Red Saunders, Roger Huddle and others in winter 1976. It was founded in response to allegedly racist comments and gestures made by Eric Clapton and David Bowie.

In the spring and fall of 1978, RAR organized two major music festivals to counteract the growing wave of racist attacks in the UK. It has been reported that 80,000 people attended an open-air concert that featured The Clash (as seen in the film Rude Boy), Buzzcocks, Steel Pulse, X-Ray Spex, The Ruts, Sham 69, Generation X and the Tom Robinson Band. An audience of 25,000 came to the Northern Carnival in Manchester, for a concert featuring Buzzcocks, Graham Parker and the Rumour, and Misty in Roots.

It was through their involvement with RAR that reggae band Misty In Roots and punk/reggae band The Ruts came to work together, influencing and supporting each other. Both bands were from the Southall section of London. Misty In Roots added The Ruts as a opener on many of the RAR shows they played around the UK. Misty In Roots were full-fledged Rastas and The Ruts for all intents and purposes were skinheads. According to Dave Thompson in his book "Wheels Out Of Gear: 2-Tone, The Specials and a World in Flames, "For the two bands to appear on bills together was like detonating a bomb beneath a battalion of stereotypes."

The bands were also partners on the People Unite cooperative which was also Misty In Roots record label and they released the The Ruts first single "In A Rut". The song was picked up by the DJ John Peel and sold 20,000 copies. After several weeks on the Rock Against Racism circuit the band was signed by Virgin and hit the Top Ten with "Babylon's Burning", a classic that captured the simmering discontent on the streets. They followed this with other minor hits: "Staring at the Rude Boys", "Something That I Said" and "West One (Shine on Me)". lead singer Malcolm Owen died of a heroin overdose soon after the release of their debut album, The Crack, which became one of the staples of the genre.

The Ruts's music was a strongly original blend of punk, funk and dub meshed into a seamless whole by powerful, anthemic songs. In 1979, Clarence Baker, a member of Misty In Roots and the People Unite collective, was severely beaten and injured by British Riot Police during protests in Southall against the National Front. The Ruts honored Baker in their song "Jah Wars" which appeared on their album "The Crack".

Here is live video of The Ruts performing "Jah War" and "Babylon's Burning" on French TV in 1980:




Here is the band's final performance before Owen's death of "Staring At The Rude Boys" on TOTP in 1980:




Misty In Roots was one of the most powerful live reggae acts to come out of London and were noted for their powerful roots reggae sound and uncompromising lyrical vibrations and were a major force in RAR, playing more concerts than any other band in the movement. This opened up a whole new audience for the band who quickly developed a very strong cross over audience, playing with acts such as Tom Robinson, The Ruts and Elvis Costello. Despite their success as a live act the band did not release their first album until 1979. The album "Live At The Counter Eurovision", which was recorded live in Belgium during the band's 1978 tour, is today still proclaimed by many critics as one of the best live reggae album of all time. The band followed the LP with a string of limited edition singles such as "Oh Wicked Man", "Rich Man’, "Salvation", "How Long Jah" and "See Them Ah Come".

Here is a video of Misty In Roots performing on a John Peel session in 1983:




Below are the track lists and downloads of the debut albums by both bands:


Babylon's Burning
Dope For Guns
S.U.S.
Something That I Said
You're Just A....
It Was Cold
Savage Circle
Jah War
Criminal Mind
Backbiter
Out Of Order
Human Punk (live at The Marquee, London, 19 July 1979)
Give Youth A Chance - CD Bonus Track
I Ain't Sofisticated"- CD Bonus Track
The Crack- CD Bonus Track

Misty In Roots - Live At The Counter Eurovision

Introduction
Mankind
Ghetto Of The City
How Long Jah
Oh Wicked Man
Judas Iscariot
See Them A Come
Sodom And Gomorrah

Saturday, August 30, 2008

An Interview with Jane Bayley of The Swinging Cats


The Swinging Cats were a Coventry-based band that formed at the end of 1979 during the height of 2-Tone mania. The band originally came to prominence by winning a Battle of the Bands competition at Lanchester Polytechnic in Coventry. The band played a mixture of ska and calypso originals as well as a number of covers of Sandy Shaw songs. Word has it that Jerry Dammers dated the band's original vocalist and that was how he knew about them. After they replaced Holly & The Italians on The Selecter's March 1980 tour, 2-Tone offered them a deal to record a single.

The band line-up that recorded for 2-Tone was:

Toby Lyons:Keyboards
John Shipley:Guitar
Jane Bayley:Vocals
Paul Heskett:Sax
Billy Gough:Drums
Chris Long:Percussion
Steve Vaughan:Bass

After breaking-up, Paul Heskett later toured with The Specials and played Sax on 'Sock It To 'Em J.B' & 'Braggin' And Tryin' Not To Lie' on the More Specials album and Flute on Ghost Town. John Shipley joined the Special AKA on guitar and recoded the "In The Studio" alum and Toby Lyons met Terry Hall after he left the Fun Boy Three to form The Colourfield. Lead vocalist Jane Bayley became Jane Bom-Bane 'Queen of the Funky Harmonium' and now performs around the UK at the Brighton and Edinburgh Fringe festivals.

Here is a video of their one single "Mantovani" for 2-Tone



Here is an interview with Jane Bayley that was conducted in 2005 by Paul Williams on the Ska Dance Craze web site:

Do you think the band could/should have lasted longer?
Yes, it's a real shame they didn't, at least before they made an LP.

As the so called easy listening band of the 2tone era, did you feel on the outside looking in as the 2Tone movement took off and ended?
Not really. It didn't last long, but the other 2tone bands were very welcoming!

What exactly are you doing now? Any involvement with Ska? What was your last Ska CD /LP bought or any CD ?
Still wielding the mechanical hats and harmonium up and down the country to gigs and festivals, usually with Nick Pynn, with each of us accompanying the other's songs and tunes. This year's hat is the Einstein Hat, which I've just begun to make. It goes with a song about the man himself, who 50 years ago came up with the General Theory of Relativity, which deserves celebrating, doesn't it? Ska - well, yes, during our gig at the Brighton Festival, me and Nick played a version of 'Away', the one and only single I did with the Swinging Cats. The audiences was sitting down, but there was a lot of foot and hand skanking going on. I still really enjoy the old Trojan stuff I've got.

Have you any rare unheard footage of The Cats?
Unfortunately, I haven't.

Were the band happy with the single 2Tone put out?
The Swinging Cats were happy with the single they made, but when it came out it sounded a bit odd. Recently, someone said they thought the holes in the records must have been slightly off-centre!

Why didn’t you do an LP?
Same reason that we didn't last long.

How come you were not as prominent as the other 2Tone bands on the label, was this down to timing, politics surrounding the label and the band or Jerry having his favourites to promote?
We came towards the end of the 2tone era. The line-up changed so many times in the band, I don't think Jerry, or anyone else could keep up.

Did you write all your own stuff and what was your favorite band in the label?
The band had a selection of covers and original material. More and more songs were being written all the time, and eventually I suppose it would have been all our own material. My favourite band was the Specials, but I liked them all. They were all great live bands.

Do you think that if 2Tone had come along at a different time it would have been as big and as important?
Yes, definitely. My son (18) and all his friends, and friends' kids all know and rave about the Specials and 2tone. I think it's revived itself because of the internet access to music of past decades.

Do you still keep in touch with anybody from any of the other bands?
Yes, one or two!!

There were rumours of a Swinging Cats reformation- Can you clarify what went on and why it didn’t come off?
A few years ago I had one phone call from an old Cat to ask if I fancied doing anything again and where I was playing next, but no-one came to the gig and I never heard any more. Or maybe they did come, but hot-footed it away because they didn't like it

You can learn more about Jane by visting her website.

Here is a download of their one single for 2-Tone:

The Swinging Cats - Mantovani/Away

Friday, August 29, 2008

Suggs - Madness Frontman's Solo Career Yields Ska-Pop Classics


While we all wait patiently for the new Madness album "The Liberty of Norton Folgate" to be released I thought I would take a trip back in time to when Suggs embarked on a solo recording career. His album "The Lone Ranger" was released in 1995 during a high point for ska in both the US and the UK.

After Madness reunited for Madstock in 1992 and 1994, Suggs went to work on his first solo album with the production help of acclaimed reggae producers Sly and Robbie. In 1995 The Lone Ranger was released and peaked on the U.K album charts at #14. The first single to be released was a cover of The Beatles song "I'm Only Sleeping"made into the U.K top ten at #8. The video for which featured appearances from fellow Madness bandmates Mike Barson and Chas Smash. This was followed by Camden Town, a homage to his favorite part of London reaching #14 in the U.K. In 1996 the third single from the album, a version of the Simon and Garfunkel classic Cecilia became his most successful, entering the U.K charts at #4 and selling in excess of 500,000 copies. The final single released was No More Alcohol charting at #24.

Here is the promo video for Sugg's ska pop cover of The Beatles "I'm Only Sleeping"



Here is the promo video for "Off On Holiday



Album Tracklist:

I’m Only Sleeping
Camden Town
Alcohol
4 AM
The Tune
Cecilia
Haunted
Off On Holiday
Green Eyes
Fortune Fish
She’s Gone

Terry Hall & Friends Live at 100 Club


I posted about the live show Terry Hall, Lynval Golding and members of the Dead 60's played at the 100 Club in June. I was finally able to find board recordings and video of the 5 song performance courtesy of Judge Fredd which are posted below. The songs sound surprisingly good and the guys in the Dead 60's have clearly studied the Specials and Fun Boy 3 back catalog. If The Specials reunion falls through this combo could go easily go on tour.

The set includes:

The Tunnel of Love
Friday Night Saturday Morning
Do Nothing
Gangsters
A Message To You Rudy

Here are mp3 downloads of the performance

Terry Hall & Friends

Here is video download of the performance

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Heavy Manners - Early 80's Chicago ska veterans make a come back


While The Untouchables from Los Angeles are widely credited with being the first U.S. ska band, there were other important bands from around the U.S that emerged in the early and mid-80's: New York had The Toasters, Boston had Bim Skala Bim, Detroit had Gangster Fun and Chicago had Heavy Manners.

Heavy Manners come closest in look and sound to an American ska version of The Selecter highlighted by Kate Fagan's vocals and ripping guitars (take a listen to my favorite "Taking The Queen To Tea"). Throughout the early 80's they built a huge cult following throughout Chicago and the Midwest opening shows for The English Beat, The Clash, Third World, Jimmy Cliff, The Ramones, The Go Gos, Grace Jones and Peter Tosh among others.

The band's live shows were so legendary, that a gig they played with Tosh during a sold out show at Chicago's famed Aragon Ballroom changed their fortunes. The reggae superstar was so impressed by their live performance and the quality of the band's songwriting he offered to produce a recording session with them. Studio sessions were soon set up in Chicago and Tosh flew in from Jamaica to produce along with his guitarist Donald Kinsey and his engineer Dennis Thompson.


The Tosh produced tracks are now available for the first time as a part of a collection of new and vintage Heavy Manners cuts called "Heavier Than Now." Included on the disc are remastered versions of the band's vinyl singles previously released on Disturbing Records and a five song set. You can purchase the CD here and you can hear versions of the songs on the band's MySpace site.

The band recently reunited earlier this month the play 2 shows in Chicago. If you live in Chicago keep your eyes open for them and check them out if they play again.

Here is a self-produced video they released for the song "Flamin' First".



Sunday, August 24, 2008

JB's All-Stars - Specials drummer John Bradbury's Northern Soul band



Shortly after The Specials split, band members splintered into several new groups and 2-Tone took on a totally new direction from its old ska roots. The label began releasing more soul/funk singles by new one-off signings like The Higsons, The Swinging Cats and The Apollonaires who released singles. As the mid-80's approached, The Special AKA which at the time consisted only of original members Jerry Dammers and drummer John Bradbury released a few more singles and an album and kept the 2-Tone label open, if in name only. The final release on the 2-Tone label came in January 1986 with the release of Bradbury's JB's Allstars "Alphabet Army".

JB's Allstars was a band founded by Specials drummer Bradbury as a side-project to indulge his love of UK northern soul. The band's day in the sun came when they performed on UK music TV show "The Tube" in 1984 performing "One Minute Every Hour", "Sign on the Dotted line" and a odd US Football themed "Backfield in Motion" which was a single released by RCA Victor in 1984 that did not make the UK charts. JB's Allstars featured Brad on drums, Dee Sharp on vocals, Mark Hughes on harmonica, Jason Votier on trumpet, Robert Awahi on guitar, Steve Nieve (from Elvis Costello & The Attractions) on piano and George Webley on bass.

Here is there The Tube performance from 1984:






Here's a download of the final 2-Tone single "Alphabet Army":

JB's All-Stars - Alphabet Army

Ranking Full Stop: An interpretation of a Laurel Aitken "rude reggae" classic

Although "Ranking Full Stop" by The Beat is credited as an original track, it's obvious that the band were quite generous with their interpretation of the Laurel Aitken rude reggae classic, "Pussy Price" which is Aitken's lament about the rising price for "women of the night".

Take a listen to the video track below and you can clearly hear the similarities in the music of the two songs (the bass line though slower is a dead giveaway). In fact I have a copy of a live performance of The Beat on the West German TV show Rockpalast on July 23, 1980 where they perform a straight cover of the Aitken version.

Laurel Aitken - Pussy Price




I had trouble finding The Beat's version of Aitken's song from the Rockpalast broadcast, but I did find video from the TV show of them performing one of the best live versions of "Mirror In The Bathroom" I've ever heard.




Here are two more tracks from the same Rockpalast broadcast including "Big Shot" plus "Can't Get Used To Losing You" and "Hands Off She's Mine".




"Pussy Price" is available on the 'Woppi King' Laurel Aitken collection on Trybute.

The Bodysnatchers - Long Lost Track from John Peel Sessions


A quick post for a Sunday. Below is video of another hard to find track by The Bodysnatchers titled "Ghost of the Vox Continental" that was recorded for a John Peel session in 1980. Enjoy.



Friday, August 22, 2008

DubXanne - Police In Dub: Hamburg-based muscians dub out The Police


The first big concert I ever saw was The Police and The Go-Go's at Madison Square Garden in New York City on my 17th birthday. That show and other Police shows I saw (a legendary show at the old RFK Stadium in Philadelphia which also included R.E.M, Madness and Joan Jett) made me a fan of their hybrid reggae/rock. In many ways The Police were a gateway band for me to explore more authentic reggae and ska music that influenced them. Needless to say it was always their more reggae sounding songs that I liked the most.

According to Police legend, at the end of 1977, Sting returned to Britain from his vacation in the United States to find his band mates newly inspired by the Jamaican sounds they were hearing all over London. It was reggae rhythms that finally shook The Police free from post-punk rock convention and the rest has become history -- to date, 40 million people all over the world have bought a Police record.

Following on the heels of The Easy Star All-Stars projects Radiodread and Dub Side Of The Moon comes DubXanne, a group of Hamburg-based musicians devoted to bringing out the original dub reggae roots of The Police. The first recordings for Police In Dub sessions started in September 2006. After exhaustive scrutiny of the Police back catalog at EMI Music Publishing (which controls and manages the rights for Sting's songs) and lengthy negotiations with Sting's management team, final consent for the project was granted in March 2008.

The recording features the legendary Big Youth (vocals on So Lonely) as well as one of Sting's best friends from the early days... Ranking Roger from The Beat (on The Bed's To Big Without You). Other vocalists include Earl 16 (Leftfield and Dreadzone albums) to the Dub poet Benjamin Zephaniah and EASED from the German dancehall reggae act SEEED as well as the DubXanne´s I Trees... (backround singers from Gentleman)

Here is a promo video about the project featuring an interview with Ranking Roger:





Here is the track list:

01. Walking On The Moon (Walking On The Dub)
02. Roxanne - (Dubxanne) - Dub Version feat. EASED FROM SEEED
03. Can´t Stand Losing You (Can't Stand Losing Dub)
04. The Bed´s Too Big Without You (The Bed's Too Big Without Dub) feat. Ranking Roger
05. Driven to Tears (Driven To Dub)
06. Message In A Bottle (Message In A Dub) feat. Earl 16
07. Once Upon A Daydream (Once Upon A Dubdream)
08. Spirits In The Material World (Spirits In A Dubworld) feat. Benjamin Zephaniah
09. Someone To Talk To (Someone To Dub To)
10. So Lonely (So Dub) feat. Big Youth
11. Reggatta De Blanc (Reggatta De Dub)
12. Wrapped Around Your Finger (Wrapped Around Your Dub) feat. Jazz'min
13. Bring On The Night (Dub On The Night)

Here is the download:

Sir Horace Gentleman of The Specials Releases Limited Edition 7" Vinyl Single


Here is a bit of news bound to brighten the day of fans of The Specials and Sir Horace Gentleman. Word has it that he has released a limited edition 7" vinyl 45 (only 300 copies available) on his own Sir Horace label. It's a true collectors piece for fans of The Specials, ska & reggae alike.

As bass player of The Specials Sir Horace Gentleman aka Horace Panter provided the backbone for one of the most iconic British sounds...The Specials & 2 Tone. Post-Specials Horace went onto play for The Pretenders (for a day), General Public, Ranking Roger, but it's only now that he releases his first ever solo material. The single feature Fuzz Townshend (PWEI, Bentley Rhythm Ace, Pama Intl) on drums, who Horace played with in General Public and Ranking Roger's band, his son Lawrence on keyboards and a host of friends from Coventry.

Side A- Goa Blues
Side B- Depleted Uranium Dub

The single is only available now from Rockers Revolt and from what I understand almost half of the 300 that were printed have been sold. Move quickly if you want one.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

An interview with Roddy Radiation of The Specials


The one member of The Specials who has always intrigued me the most is guitarist Roddy Radiation. He brought a punk rock and rock-a-billy look and sound to the band that perfectly complimented Lynval Golding's straight up reggae and ska rhythm guitar playing. Roddy also wrote "Concrete Jungle" and "Rat Race" which remain two of my favorite songs by the band.

I discovered an interview that Pauline Black of The Selecter did with Roddy nearly 10 years ago. Despite the passing of time, the interview is timeless and provides great insights into Roddy's experience of being in the band and his take on his band mates and their place in musical history. At the time of the interview in the mid-90's, Roddy was a part of the reformed Specials that also included Lynval, Neville, Horace and Brad. They had recorded and released the album "Guilty 'Till Proved Innocent" and the band was touring the US.

Roddy still performs live on the club circuit in the UK with his band The Skabilly Rebels. You can visit Roddy's website and read another interview he did recently with The Coventry Telegraph about his new band and his take on reforming The Specials.

Here is the interview with Pauline Black:

How did you first get involved with The Specials?
I was drinking in a local club called The Domino in ’77 and Jerry Dammers asked me to play guitar on some sessions that he was doing in London. At first I thought it was just drink talk, but the next morning he came round with er, what’s that blokes name who used to run Kylie Minogue, er Peter Waterman. He was looking after Jerry at the time. So I went down and did a few sessions and joined the band shortly after that. Silverton was on drums at the time and the band was called Coventry Automatics. At the time I was trying to get Jerry to join the punk group I was in, called The Wild Boys, but we were not having a great deal of success. Plus I was listening to a lot of Bob Marley at the time, so punk and reggae, seemed like a natural way to go. A lot of punk bands at the time were including reggae in their repertoire.

Did you listen to much ska music then?
No I used to get beaten up to it though, when I was very young, because I had long hair. In my early teens, the local skinheads in Keresley village where I lived, were into that kind of thing.

How much did the fact that you were a songwriter too, have to do with you being picked by Jerry to join the band?
I don’t know really. ‘Concrete Jungle’ was originally a Wild Boy’s song that I brought with me into the Specials. ‘Rat Race’ I wrote later on. In the early days I was sharing a room with Terry Hall for quite a while, so I’d spend all our free time singing my songs in the room, so he would hear the way I was singing them and try and get them close to the way I wanted them. Well almost. Sorry Terry!

Do you think that caused tension in the band?
Yes, so Lynval said to me. In fact when Terry left to join Fun Boy Three, Jerry said he ought to have got me to sing, but in music it’s not always the case of what’s better for the band musically, it’s more a case of who’s in control. I think if that had happened and Jerry had given me more control over the band in terms of songs and direction then it would have been better. But, as people have said about him, he was a benign dictator.

What's your best memory of the early days of the band?
It was nice doing Top Of The Pops, that was a sort of dream come true, I suppose. The first time we played I got banned from the BBC bar because I still had my punk head on at the time. I had an argument with one of the top guys there. He pushed in front of me at the bar and I had a go at him and then they threw me out. After the show, I was that drunk that I thought it was a live gig and I was looking for the back stage entrance trying to find out where the band was. Most of the band were pretty heavy drinkers at the time. I seem to remember that Brad (the drummer) was pretty drunk too. It was great fun in the early days, but they kept us working and working. The problem was that we weren’t really school buddies to start with, we were just musicians from other bands who just happened to get together, so we weren’t really that close. It’s that closeness that gets bands through all the crap, because you’ve been friends for a long time. Since we weren’t particularly great mates, then it was a lot harder to keep it going.

What’s your worst memory of that time?
The seaside tour in 1980. A great idea to play all round the coast of England and wake up every morning and look out your hotel window and see the sea, but on the day of the start of the tour, Jerry Dammers decided he didn’t want to do it. He was on downers and seeing a doctor and was cracking up due to personal things and just pressure, I guess. So I said to everyone else, oh bugger him, why don’t we get the sax player, who also played keyboards, to do his parts and go without Jerry. That didn’t go down too well. But Jerry got better and did the tour anyway. Jerry would tend to throw wobblers if he didn’t get his own way. So to try and get my own material or input noticed, I had to throw as big a wobbler as him, which wasn’t always the best thing to do.

Was it important for you to get your material noticed?
Yes because I‘ve always written a lot of songs. That’s the main reason why I re-joined the present line-up, or played in local bands or my own groups. Unfortunately my own projects never got the same kind of distribution as The Specials did. But I’m not very pushy. I don’t like dealing with the suits. Some people are good at it, and will do anything to get their own way, but I don’t find it very pleasant, because I automatically dislike those people, which is not very helpful. In the early days we did a load of gigs in Los Angeles, two shows a night for 4 days at the Whisky-A-Go-Go. On this particular night, we came off stage after the last gig and the business suits from the record company turned up. We were all hot and sweaty and one of them said to me, "Oh I love that song of yours ‘On My Radio’ (a Selecter song!)" and "could you teach me how to pogo?" That shows how much they knew about us as a band. They wanted us to put our stage clothes back on and pose with them for a photo and Jerry, who was really tired just told them all to ‘Fuck off! Then the rest of us joined in with him. Jerry had also done an interview with the Los Angeles Times, which is the newspaper in California and when asked how he liked America, he told the interviewer that he’d had more fun on a school trip to Russia. When the record company read that they stopped pushing the record. Whereas if we’d all shook hands and had our photograph taken with them, we would probably all have big bank accounts and mansions in the countryside, instead of being poor as piss (much mutual laughter!). But it felt great at the time telling them to F-off!

What’s your favourite Specials’ album?
The last one we just did! It’s got more songs that I wrote.

Did you get on with Terry Hall?
Yes he was all right. He was a very quiet person, he wasn’t one of the lads type. I liked having a few beers in the bar, but Terry would sooner sit quietly somewhere with his girlfriend back then. It’s just different people and different ways of dealing with things.

How did you feel when Terry, Lynval, and Neville split away and formed Fun Boy Three?
If you went and interviewed everyone in the band, then probably each person would remember it differently. I’d been told that my days in the band were numbered by Lynval on the way home, after a big outdoor gig in Leeds. He said that Jerry was thinking of sacking me, because I was still causing problems in the band. It’s horrible really because when you read that book about the Two–Tone Story, Rick Rogers, our old manager makes me out to be like some kind of thug, threatening to smash Jerry’s face in and taking swings at him with my guitar on stage, which is half true, but it wasn’t quite as dramatic as all that. As you know managers tend to blow things up to make a good story.
We were playing a gig in Birmingham once, in the very early days and I walked on stage and it seemed like all of a sudden everybody in the band had suits on and had gone for the mod image, which Jerry had borrowed from Paul Simenon of the Clash. Paul Simenon used to wear rude-boy gear when he wasn’t on stage and Jerry had seen this and thought, yeah that will work, so we all had to wear these suits, which I wasn’t particularly keen on at the time.

So later when we had a bit of money, we bought the kind of gear that we wanted to wear. The whole band was made up of individuals and we all dressed differently and had different ideas. I bought a leather jacket and Lynval would wear his soul gear. When we turned up for a photo session, Jerry would always pick on Horace and say, ‘I think you’re wearing the wrong clothes’, when what he really meant was that everybody looked wrong. We all had to go back to the hotel and get changed, so we could put on something a bit more in keeping with the image of the band. Then Jerry came out of his hotel room wearing a tartan suit and a tartan hat. We were all pretty peeved about this after him trying to tell us to dress in the band image.

For example there was another incident when we were in Blackpool. Jerry jumped up on this wall and I pretended to push him and it was about a 100ft behind. Then he accused me of trying to kill him. I said to him at the time, look Jerry if I’d meant to kill you, then I’d have killed you. It was just a joke, because I was really wound up.

Before all that Jerry and I were best buddies, we used to go to parties and hang out with each other a lot, but when it came to the songs and stuff, it was more a case of if you don’t tow the line then….. (long pause!). Jerry had very definite ideas about where the band should go and the way I was leaning wasn’t the same.


Did that difference of opinion upset you at the time?
Yes it drove me round the bend. We were all under a lot of pressure, because it all happened so quickly.

Why do you think that Fun Boy Three split away?
After that Leeds gig I mentioned, everyone had their own thing going on. I had my own band on the side ‘The Tearjerkers’ and everyone was doing demoes of their stuff. And I guess that Neville, Terry and Lynval decided their stuff was good enough to do on their own. We all thought we were getting to be big boys and could manage to do it on our own, without Jerry’s guidance. The press in England had decided that Jerry was the genius behind it all and that actually messed Jerry up quite a lot.

Do you think the competition between all of you was a healthy thing?
Well that is what made the band what it was. Everyone was different, I thought I was playing in The Clash, Horace thought he was playing in Little Feat or whatever band he was into at the time, Lynval thought he was in a reggae/soul band and Terry thought he was in The Cure. All those different influences actually managed to work and make the sound of the Specials.
Elvis Costello was brought in to produce the first album and he told the band to sack me at the time, because he thought my style of playing wouldn’t fit in. He’d heard the early ska stuff, like the Skatalites and he said that he didn’t hear a punk/rock and roll guitar working with that sound, so he decided I was wrong. But that was the whole point of the band, we were a mixture of things and that mixture worked.

When did it become clear that everyone in the band was pulling in different directions?
From the very start really!

Do you feel the times were against you?
In Coventry everybody had cut their hair and were suddenly playing ska, because there was an opening there and you can’t blame people for thinking that way.

You don’t appear on the Specials AKA album, ‘In The Studio’ except for a guitar solo on Racist Friend. Why was that?
John Shipley was the guitarist on that album and he couldn’t play that bit, so they used my track off a demo I’d done earlier. The press said that I’d returned to the fold when they heard that one track, which was untrue.

Did it upset you that you didn’t carry on with Jerry?
No, I wanted to do something completely different, which was the reason why I formed The Tearjerkers in ‘81. It was what I’d always been into and I thought I could do it. I spent eight years with that band and failed miserably. But we had a lot of fun. Unfortunately we were in competition with the likes of Duran Duran and if you didn’t have brilliant production then you didn’t do so well. So me trying to turn the clock back to the early days of rock and roll didn’t work. We built up a big following, but the kids who’d been into 2-Tone weren’t particularly into it.

Do you think that being associated with 2-Tone has held everything back for you?
Yes, The Tearjerkers had to play Concrete Jungle and Rat Race, because people came to hear those songs and since I’d written them, I had to play them. Also I didn’t want to use the name Roddy Radiation, but the manager disagreed. So we went along with it.

What about your other band The Bonediggers?
That was a similar kind of situation. I tried again in the early 90’s with The Bonediggers, but didn’t have much success. That carried on until I joined the reformed Specials.

Why did you re-join the Specials in ’95?
We were asked to back Desmond Dekker on an album and to get together as many of the original band as possible. That line-up became the re-formed Specials. Then we were offered two weeks in Japan, and the money was really good. It was the first time we’d been back on stage for 15 years and it didn’t seem that different. It was still working well, even though some members weren’t there. Then we were offered more work in America, but at that particular time nobody had decided to make it an on-going thing. After the tour of the US, it all started looking like it might be a second chance. I thought it was a chance to get some more of my songs out. Most of the rest of the band were thinking let’s just play the old stuff and make a living.

How did you feel when the covers album ‘Today’s Specials’ came out?
I was about to leave. I was totally disgusted with it.

Whose decision was it to release it?
The idea was that it was supposed to be like UB40’s ‘Labour of Love’ album. Lynval and say half the band thought it was a good idea, but I said at the start, that to come out with a covers album and call ourselves The Specials was a bad move and I was proved right afterwards, because the press completely slagged us.

What did you want to call the band?
Me and Horace wanted to call it Specials2. But obviously record companies and promoters wanted us to use the name of The Specials, because it would be stronger business-wise. That didn’t make Jerry very happy. At first he said he didn’t mind us doing it, but when we got offered a record deal he changed his mind. He phoned me up to moan about it. He was just afraid that we might do well without him. Anyway he didn’t want to do it. He hated touring and hated America and so it wouldn’t have been possible for him to do it. Also Terry Hall was doing so well in his own career at the time that he didn’t want to do it either. I enjoyed it because it gave me a chance to sing, which was quite nice.

What about the last Specials’ album, ‘Guilty ‘Til Proved Innocent’, were you more pleased with that?
All the songs I wrote on that album were written before we re-formed. I wrote Bonedigging, Tears In My Beer and Man with No Name. The rest of the material was written between us. It took about 4 weeks to record it in Van Nuys, which is a rough area of Los Angeles. It was weird having to live with each other for all that time. Neville had got in with the manager of Waycool Records at MCA, who had very definite ideas about what we should be doing, so that was always a battle. He was very bossy and we had a few problems with him and that’s why the album never got world-wide distribution. It only came out in America and Japan. Everyone in the business knows that a band is continually battling against record companies, because they always think they know better than you do. But Neville went along with the record company guys, because he thought they were right.

How did you find touring?
It was hard work. The Warped Tour was all open air gigs. I don’t like playing outside very much, especially at midday in hot temperatures in Arizona or somewhere like that. Rancid was on that tour and had been influenced by us having grown up listening to us and I used to play with them on stage sometimes. Also me, Lynval and Neville did a track on Rancid’s last album; that was good fun. In Europe we mostly played in the rain. We were getting worn out, because we were twice the age of most of the other bands. Most of the other bands had flash luxury buses and loads of tour support, whereas we had the worst tour bus and no money back-up from the record company. That was a bit strange. But we still went down a storm and mostly ended up headlining the shows, because none of the other bands could follow us, but it takes it out of you. It was basically The Specials and Rancid that ruled the tour.

What do you think of Third Wave Ska?
I get on well with most of the bands. I like the ska/punk bands more, like the Suicide Machines in Detroit appealed more to me than the ones who try to sound like the 2Tone bands. The Bosstones are good and mix it up a lot more.

Do you wish that The Specials organised themselves more like Madness, and just re-formed once a year to do a huge London gig and collect the money?
No, I always thought we meant more than that. I thought it was more of a political and social thing, which is very hard to keep together in this business.

Do you think those ideas are hard to get across to today’s audience?
I don’t know, I’m not sure that kids today care whether the stance is working class anymore. I think kids today like to see their heroes in limos and have mansions in the countryside, which we’ve never had. In the early days, Jerry refused to travel in limos. Often we’d have to move out of hotels, because Jerry thought the hotel was too posh for us. That was going a bit far.

What are you doing in the future?
I’m having a break at the moment. I’m trying to put together a skabilly band right now, probably called Roddy Radiation and the Skabilly Rebels; perhaps with some local musicians. I also did some work with Neville recently around California, that was fun, but I think we need a break from each other for a while. I’m doing a couple of gigs soon with a Leamington ska band called Skaboom, just because I like to play.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Finley the singing dog croons along to UB40 hits


Sorry but I had to post this even though it falls into the category of annoying videos that people post about their kids and pets doing stupid things. In the "is this really news" comes a story from The Telegraph in the UK about Finley, a singing dog who lives in a bed and breakfast. His tastes are unexpectedly specific - he refuses to sing along to anything other than the hits of UB40.

According to his owners it's only UB40 songs. They have hundreds of CDs which they play all the time, but when they put anything else on Finley just sits there in silence. "Then as soon as we put UB40 on his little tail will start wagging and banging on the floor, and then he'll just throw his head back and start yowling along. He just started singing along in his own style a couple of years ago - we couldn't believe it, especially when some of it was in tune. We were both really shocked because he's normally quite a quiet dog, it was so out of character. I think he even shocked himself slightly."

You can read the article here which includes the video of Finley howling along to "King".

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Specials Reunion Update: Neville and Roddy to play Sheffield on August 30th


I have to confess that after much initial hope and excitement about a Specials reunion, I've come to believe it won't happen. Word is that Terry, Lynval, Brad, Horace and Roddy are on board but that Jerry and Terry remain at odds. Further complicating matters is that Neville has said that if Jerry isn't part of the reunion then he's out. We may see a tour with 5 of the 7, but it won't be what we all are hoping for. Oh well...

In the meantime, life goes on and if you happen to be in Sheffield later this month, then you have a chance to speak to Neville and Roddy in person and remind them that this reunion is bigger then the two of them and bigger than all seven band members. Oh, and you'll be sure to see a great gig as well. With all the band members now in the UK, maybe a few of them will drop in to guest on some songs. At the very least you may see Neville and Roddy play together.
If any one does attend the gig, please let me know. I would love to hear how it goes.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cedric Myton & The Congos - Signed To The Beat's Go Feet label

I'm a huge fan of The Beat's second album. The simmering rhythms of the Beat’s first album that had help to define the 2-Tone sound had slowed and settled into a reggae and dub pulse by the time of 1981’s "Wha’appen". The band was experimenting with new sounds and had embraced the burgeoning reggae soundtrack they heard all over the UK. Indeed, reggae singer Cedric Myton of the Congos lent his amazing falsetto in support of the loping lovers’ rock of "Doors Of Your Heart".

The story about how Myton came to work with The Beat is another one of the interesting intersections of 2-Tone and the artists who had come before them. Though The Congos (Myton and Congo Roy Ashanti) made only one album together, "The Heart of The Congos" recorded in 1977 is considered among the greatest in reggae history. Myton's angelic falsetto, Roy's vibrant tenor, and Lee Perry's insane, towering production (is that the "Reggae Cow" I hear?) join together to produce an epic work. Unfortunately, Island label head Chris Blackwell who was distributing Perry's Black Ark imprint remained oblivious to the album and the band fell out with Perry over sales, royalties and payments. Three years went by and the album appeared doomed for obscurity.

Enter The Beat. The band (Andy Cox and David Steele in particular) were big fans of The Congos and decided to pick the LP up for release on their fledgling Go Feet label. Formed by the Beat in 1980, the Go Feet label would end up releasing eighteen 7-inch singles, eleven 12-inch singles, and 6 LPs in its three year lifespan. These releases would go on to become highly significant in the worlds of ska, reggae, and pop.

The Beat established their own label to shield themselves from the many negative aspects of dealing with corporate record labels. In this way, the band was given more creativity to record the music as they wanted as well as to expose bands that the major labels would not take a chance on. Dave Wakeling describes the band’s inspiration for forming the label: as coming from “the Specials’ notion of Two Tone. We were quite impressed that it appeared that they had signed with a record label that could get them on the radio and that they had control of them.” However, the Beat soon discovered, the benefits of such agreements were short-lived. They still faced great pressure to deliver hits as well as creative interference from the record executives. Arista’s promotion men had quotas to meet when they ventured out to the radio stations with their stack of records. These men gave men priority to established names that were easier to persuade the stations to play. Boutique labels, like such as Go Feet, would be placed on the bottom of the stack with far less emphasis placed on securing air time for them.

After having recorded three LPs with his Congos, Myton then agreed to record a fourth to be released on the Go Feet label. "Face The Music" (1981) would not rise to the status of the "Heart Of The Congos", but remains a great recording in its own right. The notable inclusion of Rico and Dick Cuthell - best known for their role as the Specials' horn section - makes this of interest to fans of 2-Tone. Cedric Myton's Congos would go on to outlive the Go Feet label. Both he and Johnson have released many recordings since and continue to perform to do this day.

Here is the tracklisting for "Face The Music:

Woman In The Dark
Love & Understanding
Scoffers & Scorners
Sinking Ship
Can't Take It Away
Bank Of The River
Where He Leads Me
Face The Music
Dance All Night
Problems

Here is the download of "Face The Music":


Cedric Myton & The Congos - Face The Music

Matumbi - UK Reggae Innovators Mix Roots Reggae, Pop and New Wave


Matumbi was formed in London in 1970 and from the very beginning they embodied the essence of the emerging UK reggae scene. The man behind Matumbi was Dennis Bovell who, in his many projects, established British reggae as a viable force independent from its Jamaican cousin. Recording in various lineups as Matumbi, African Brothers or African Stone as well as backing many successful solo acts - from Janet Key and Susan Cadogan to Linton Kwesi Johnson and Lee Perry - Bovell contributed to the invention of many reggae subcategories, such as "lovers rock" and "dub poetry."

Matumbi's strongest side, however, was a smooth blend of righteous roots reggae with pop and, more importantly, newly introduced New Wave of the late seventies. Punks and Rastas mingled freely at the time and did some amazing "crossovers" even before the term was coined. You can hear echoes of these exciting times in the music of Matumbi and, despite their preferred format being roots reggae, it is one of the key elements that distinguished British reggae act from its Jamaican counterparts.

No matter how important they were in establishing the scene, Matumbi never had the success of UB40, Aswad, Steel Pulse or Maxi Priest who followed in their foot steps. And Matumbi are not alone: Black Slate, Misty in Roots, Black Roots are only some of the acts who produced high quality output around same time, but never received recognition. The reissue of the "Empire Road" LP corrects some of that injustice. It covers all of their great singles and important album tracks from 1978-1981, plus some rare 12" versions.

Here is a video of the band performing "Empire Road" live:



Here is a video of the band performing "Rock" in the studio:



Here is a UK TV program from 1976 on the British reggae scene including interviews with members of Matumbi:









Here is the track listing for Empire Road:

Bluebeat & Ska (Single Version)
Empire Road
Music In The Air
Hook Deh
Malfunction
Breakdown (Single Version)
Point Of View (Squeeze A Little Lovin) (12" Dub Version)
Guide Us Jah
Straight To My Head
Rock
Ordinary Man
Come With Me
War
Nothin At All (12" Dub Version)
Black Civilization
Blackman (Single Version)
Bluebeat & Ska (12" Dub Version)

Here is the download:

Matumbi - Empire Road

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Legacy: The Rico Rodriguez Story - Documentary Film


If I could have learned to play another instrument it would have been the trombone (Marco On The Trombone has a nice ring to it..). My love of ska, reggae, salsa and soul music has a lot to do with the fact that these musical genres make horns and horn line melodies such an integral part of the overall sound.

As I became a student of ska and reggae music, I was invariably drawn back to learn more about the musicians who were responsible for its growth and development. One, who has played a role in all 3 waves of ska as well as reggae and dub is Rico Rodriguez. My first introduction to him was through his work with The Specials, but I soon found out the he, along with Don Drummond were among the best trombone players in Jamaica and the world and were among a select core of musicians who played in The Skatalites and the many bands that sprang from them.

I have always felt that Rico deserved more credit for his contributions to the growth and popularity of ska and reggae. To my happy surprise, I recently learned that Barcelona-based musician and filmaker Jep Jorba has produced a documentary called "The Legacy - The Rico Rodriguez Story".

The 24-minute film by Jorba begins with Rico being interviewed. He discussed his country life in Jamaica and about moving to Kingston and how rough and violent life was there. His first trombone came from friend Willy D. as he later says "I didn't pick the Trombone, the trombone pick me". He recalls his first record with Derrick Herriot and the Jiving Juniors called "Over The River," then his 2nd with Laurel Aitken, "What You Gonna Do In Judgement Day". His 3rd record had more success, a song called "Easy Snappin" which most reggae fans are familiar with. He worked on songs which were played by sound systems owned by Duke Reid and Coxsone Dodd. Rico goes on to explain how in those days the type of music he was making just didn't get played on radio stations, so the only way the reggae artists got famous back then was by the sound systems playing the music. During the 60's and 70's Rico was a session musician, but in 1976 he made his own album "Man From Wareika." It was after this that he became recognized.

In the documentary he discusses his work with The Specials and recalls how 2 of the band members came knocking his door one day to ask him to join them. He was very weary of joining bands, but he was eventually convinced to work with them. He also relates about is his time at the Alpha Boys School which is where he was taught by Don Drummond, this is where he developed his interest in reggae music and Rastafarianism. After school he used to go with Don Drummond up to Wareika Hill to watch Ernest Ranglin, Roland Alphonso, Tommy McCook and more play.

Here is the trailer for the documentary:


Rico discusses how hard life was in Kingston and how he broke the law to survive, "Suffering has been my constant companion" Rico says. He is very happy to see how much reggae is loved in Europe and how people enjoy his music and he takes pleasure from performing live and watching the fans enjoy his performances. He mentions how back in Jamaica his music is not as popular as it once was.




Jorba who also plays trombone in a Barcelona ska band has been kind enough to share a downloadable version of the documentary with me to share with all of you. The link for the download is below. Enjoy the film.

Rico Rodriguez - The Legacy

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Special AKA Live! - Too Much Too Young

The Special AKA Live! was a live 5-track EP released by The Specials in January 1980 as the third single by the band. The EP featured "Too Much Too Young" (originally recorded on the album Specials) and "Guns of Navarone" recorded live in London and "Skinhead Symphony" - a medley of "Long Shot Kick De Bucket", "The Liquidator" and "Skinhead Moonstomp" - which was recorded at Tiffany's in Coventry.

Lead track "Too Much Too Young" is based on the 1969 song "Birth Control" by Lloyd Charmers. It is sometimes wrongly stated that the song was banned by the BBC due to mentions of contraception in the lyrics. This is not true - however, when the song's promotional video was featured on Top of the Pops, it was cut off just before reaching the final line, "try wearing a cap".

The song became an instant smash topping the UK singles chart for two weeks in January 1980. It became only the second EP to top the chart and was also the first live recording to top the chart since Chuck Berry's "My Ding-a-Ling" in 1972. It was the shortest song to reach #1 on the UK singles chart in the 1980s at 2'04". Rico Rodrigues and Dick Cuthell perform on "Guns Of Navarone" and "Longshot Kick The Bucket".

Here is the track listing:

Too Much Too Young
Guns Of Navarone
Skinhead Symphony Medley
-Longshot Kick The Bucket
-Liquidator
-Skinhead Moonstomp

Here is the download:

The Special AKA - Too Much Too Young

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Exclusive: Interview with Tony Beet of The International Beat


The break-up of the original version of The Beat in 1983 seemed like a great loss at the time. The band was close to breaking big in the U.S. and had they stayed together probably could have approached The Police in terms of popularity, Instead various members went their separate ways and the musical world ended up with General Public and the Fine Young Cannibals. Often overlooked in the divorce of The Beat were saxophone player Saxa and drummer Everett Morton, who in my humble opinion were just as responsible for the unique sound of the band as any of the other members.

Enter Tony Beet who through a happen chance meeting with Saxa in a pub in Birmingham one night helped to launch the International Beat. The band was formed in 1990 by Tony along with ex-Beat members Everett Morton and Saxa and featured Ranking Roger as a special guest at select shows. Tony, who was the the guitarist/vocalist and songwriter for the band was also able to recruit ex-Dexy's Midnight Runners/General Public piano player Mickey Billingham as well. They toured in the early 90's and also released a studio album called "The Hitting Line" in 1991.

I always had a soft spot in my heart for The International Beat. The sound of the band was very reminiscent of The Beat and seemed to fill the hole for those of us in the U.S. who missed their unique sound. Tony's songs and the overall sound of the band helped to carry on the great legacy of The Beat while adding their own spin. In my mind, they were responsible for keeping the flame of ska and the spirit of The Beat alive as both Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger often joined the band for live shows before reforming General Public a second time in the mid-90's. Ranking Roger has said that a sold-out show he played with The International Beat at the Greek Theatre in LA in 1990 prompted him to start Special Beat.

Tony was very happy to answer my questions about his days in the band. Enjoy the interview below.

Can you tell me about your introduction to music and ska music in particular?

Yes the first record I managed to get my hands on was "War In A Babylon" by Max Romeo and the Upsetters, I thought wow! What a tune, I love this rhythm and this was where it seems to start for me, I was about 13/14 years of age at the time, from then on I was listening to more reggae through the 70's Dennis Brown/Bob Marley/Delroy Wilson/Big Youth/Lovers Rock etc!

How did The International Beat form? Did you know Everett Morton and Saxa from before you started the band?
I met Saxa first at a pub in Birmingham one night, I happen to walk in, I could hear some cool music coming from the pub, and when I went in to check things out, there was this old guy blowing some old style blue beat on his horn! Along with another old guy on guitar just the two of them, it sounded really authentic and magical some how! When they had a break I introduced myself and asked if I could play a song on the guitar and sing, I had written a couple of songs in a ska style, I remember the tune it was called "Revolution Boys" and Saxa backed me on his horn, it was magic, a treasured memory! We became very good friends from that day and have worked together and stayed friends ever since, but he is now retired. I linked up with some friends of mine: a poet called Louie Campbell and my brother Alan Beet who also played keys in The International Beat and Neil Deathridge who played guitar in The International Beat. We needed a drummer and Saxa Introduced Everett Morton to me. We met and he was in, it was great, we recruited a bass player and then we started rehearsing some of the songs that I had written "Rocksteady" "Making Plans" "Stand and Be Counted" etc. The band was called The Elevators at that time. We started giging for about 12 months and we were going down really well! Ranking Roger started to join us onstage and also Micky Billingham. We eventually signed a deal with Blue Beat Records. Buster Bloodvessel of Bad Manners owned the record label at the time in the late 80's. The name was changed at this point to The International Beat. We recorded our debut album for Blue Beat called “The Hitting Line” and toured the UK and USA and faired quite well!

Here is a rare video clip of The Elevators which includes a short interview with Tony




Here is a video clip of The International Beat performing "Rock Steady" from their first album "The Hitting Line" which also features an interview clip with Tony:





Micky Billingham from Dexy's Midnight Runners and General Public played keyboards for the band. How did you meet him? I first met Micky Billingham through Saxa and Dave Wakeling back in the General Public days. We became good friends and he started coming to the rehearsal sessions with The International Beat. We wrote several songs together and he just became a part of the band and toured everywhere with us! Great times.

As the main songwriter for the band tell us how you approached the song writing process. Was it easy or hard given the history of The Beat? Did you feel like you had to walk a fine line between embracing the legacy of sound created by The Beat vs. injecting your own sound into the mix? First I would pick up the guitar and mess around with a few idea’s chords/ rhythms and search for a real cool melody, then when I felt that this was right I would start writing lyrics and generally the song, if it was good, could almost write itself! I would arrange the tune then bring it to the rehearsal and play it to the band and everyone would then put their feel to the song, and if it sounded great it worked! The next stage was to play it live and then record it, that’s how I seem to remember most of it! The International Beat did have leanings towards The Beat as Everett and Saxa were so unique sounding. There was always a flavor all of our own in there -- new wave ska pop! And a touch of rock steady. I did not worry too much about the comparison; I probably took it as a compliment.

Here is a video of the song "Magical Feeling" that Tony wrote:





What were your first live shows in the UK like and what was the UK ska scene of the late 80's and early 90's like? Amazing! I just remember so much energy, maybe enough to light up a whole city. Ska the 3rd wave was happening, some great bands popping up all over, I was really having a great time playing loads of gigs, ska festivals in Europe/UK touring with Bad Manners and The Selecter etc! Enthusiastic dancing audiences everywhere.

Can you share any unusual stories about touring with the band? What was it like to play and tour with Saxa and Everett? Too many to mention really, but me and Saxa always shared the same hotel rooms. He would always invite people back to the hotel after the gig to our room to party! Sometimes I was so tired, I was not always amused, but Saxa the original party people loving man would insist! I would crash out on the bed, while Saxa would feed me Kentucky fried chicken at 4 am in the morning!

Tell me about recording "The Hitting Line" album. How did you get Ranking Roger to produce it? Ranking Roger liked what we was doing and got to know most of the songs as he was regularly appearing with us, so when we signed to Blue Beat Records, we felt Roger was the obvious choice to produce and also appear on the album, along with Micky Billingham. We kept it all in the family! All this played a part in The International Beat sound. The album took 6 weeks to record, in-between we played the earth day festival in San Francisco with Dave and Roger on the bill with us, and Bad Manners. I also remember The Grateful Dead being on the bill. It was magic!

The International Beat played a number of amazingly high profile sold out shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco in the early 1990's. What were those shows like and what was it like to have both Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling join you on stage. The Greek Theatre show looked like an absolute madhouse with the audience going insane. I remember this well. It was crazy. I was nervous. Bad Manners was also on the bill along with many other ska bands from the states, but we was top of the bill. The energy was wild really, and the all night party after in some warehouse, wow!! It was great that Roger & Dave were on this show with us all together.

Here is video of The International Beat performing "Ranking Full Stop" and "Mirror In The Bathroom" at the Greek Theatre in LA in 1990:





Here is video of The International Beat performing "Best Friend" with Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling from November 1991:





How and why did the band come to an end?
I think we had run our course as The International Beat. We was together for about 4-5 years. I was writing more and more songs with Micky, and was looking for a different sound, and the magic was slowly going in some other direction. As Saxa would say “all good things must come to an end”

Are you still in touch with any of your old band mates? Yes I see them form time to time. Alan my brother still plays keys with me. Neil Deatridge plays with Ranking Roger in The Beat and I catch up with him now and again. He played with me earlier on in the year with The Acoustic Theatre. Him and Dave Wakeling joined me onstage for several songs. It was great!.

Tell me about your current band The Acoustic Theatre? I wanted to get another group together but with a different sound and approach. I have always written my songs on an acoustic guitar and wanted to play some sort of unplugged set, but with a big sound still happening. I wrote some new songs like “Rudie Fall Down” and “Ska Injection” and then rehearsed them with some fellow musicians, with acoustics/melodica/organ/percussion.double bass etc! And started to play ska and rock steady in this format, it sounded so fresh to approach ska in this way. We have now really developed our Acoustic Theatre sound, and audiences have been dancing as well as feeling that something special is going on here, all because of the intimacy of it all! It’s great. We have been busy recording and have just finished the album “acoustic calling” must send you a copy! We have also done some TV over here, so all is looking cool for The Acoustic Theatre. www.myspace.com/acoustictheatre

Here is a video of Tony's new project The Acoustic Theatre performing "Rudie Fall Down:





Finally, what is your take on the current state of ska in the UK/US? Some really good vibes are going on, and ska seems to be capturing different audiences. Even the younger generation are loving it. Bands like The Specials and The Beat play a big part in influencing some of the up and coming bands, I think, well I know, ska will never really die, because people love to dance and smile!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Rare Tracks by The Bodysnatchers: "What's This" & "The Boiler"


I discovered a few rare tracks by The Bodysnatchers including "What's This" that the band recorded during a John Peel session in 1980 as well as the original version of "The Boiler" performed by the band live at a show in Folkestone and later recorded by Rhoda with The Special AKA for the "In The Studio" album.

Below are two videos for "What's This". First, the John Peel session version followed by a very short clip of the band performing the song live on ITV TV Program 'Alright Now'. Those video clips are followed by a live recording of "The Boiler" which has always been a difficult track to listen to and must have have been a difficult track to perform live as well.








Saturday, August 9, 2008

Capital Letters - Late 70's UK Reggae and Ska from Greensleeves

Capital Letters were one of the main players in the distinctive homegrown British roots reggae scene that emerged in the late 70's and were the first group to be signed to the Greensleeves label. Along with groups like Matumbi, Aswad, Black Roots and Steel Pulse, Capital Letters managed to break down many of the prejudices that reggae music could only be made in Jamaica, when authentic roots music was emerging from all corners of the UK, in this case Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, a stone's throw from where Steel Pulse's Handsworth Revolution was taking place.

Their single "Smoking My Ganja" blew the woofers out of UK soundsystems throughout '78, and propelled them into the studio to record a full-length. The resulting LP, Headline News, was one of the critically acclaimed reggae records of 1979 with its finely balanced blend of African, Jamaican, and English influences and songs that covered topics ranging from religion to marijuana legalization to the bloody reign of Idi Amin. Jerry Dammers of The Specials has been quoted as saying that hearing "Smoking My Ganja" convinced him that the Specials mix of punk and reggae would work.

Their original album "Headline News", also contains the full length 12" mixes of `UK Skanking', `Smoking My Ganja' and `Natty Walk'. The band also released the highly sought-after `Bread and Water' 7" EP, a ska-flavored quartet of tracks, which was released in 1980 - a nod to the 2-Tone scene that was taking place in the UK at the time. Capital Letters were big favorites of John Peel and recorded a session which was broadcast in January 1980. Peel championed Capital Letters and for a time played a track from `Headline News" on every show over a period in 1979. As a result, `Smoking My Ganja', `Run Run Run' and `President Amin', were hits in France, Spain and Holland.

Word is that the band has reformed and plans to tour. They will play at the Birmingham Arts Fest Saturday September 13 on the Arcadian Stage.

Here is a video of their biggest hit "Smoke My Ganja"





Here is the track list and download of "Headline News":

1 fire
2 do we really need a government
3 president amin
4 rumours
5 smoking my ganja
6 unemployed
7 rejoice
8 buzz rock
9 run run run
10 out of afrika
11 uk skanking (12 mix)
12 natty walk (12 mix)
13 smoking my ganja (12 mix)




Here is the track list and download of the ska EP "Bread & Water

01 - Bread And Water
02 - Do We Really Need a Government
03 - Cheap School Meals
04 - Run Man Run

Too Much Too Young - The Story of 2 Tone: BBC 2 Radio


A quick post for this weekend. Tonight (Saturday August 9th) on the Music Club program on BBC 2, Paul Sexton traces the history of 2 Tone records and the band at its center -- The Specials. This radio piece features new interviews from The Specials, Madness, The Beat and The Selecter. Sexton speaks to Pete Waterman, Don Letts and Garry Bushell to follow the highs and lows of the label and its bands. No matter where you happen to be in the world, you can listen to the story on the BBC 2 web site here.