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:
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:
Yes, it's a real shame they didn't, at least before they made an LP.
Not really. It didn't last long, but the other 2tone bands were very welcoming!
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.
Unfortunately, I haven't.
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!
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.
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, one or two!!
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
Here is a download of their one single for 2-Tone:
The Swinging Cats - Mantovani/Away