Monday, September 29, 2008

Laurel Aitken and The Unitone- The Godfather of Ska Recruits The Ruts To Cut 2-Tone Era Hit




One of the best things about 2-Tone was the way that it showed respect to the first wave of ska and reggae artists who helped to popularize the music in the UK. In fact, many of the original artists moved from Jamaica to the UK in order to enjoy the benefits of their growing popularity. One of those artists was Laurel Aitken AKA The Godfather of Ska.

Aitken moved to London in 1960 and recorded both in the UK and Jamaica throughout the 1960s. This cemented his position as one of ska's leading artists and gained a loyal following not only among the West Indian community, but also among mods, skinheads and other ska fans. He had hit records in the 1950s through to the 1970s on labels such as Blue Beat, Pama, Trojan, Rio, Dr. Bird, Nu-Beat, Ska-Beat, and Dice.

By the mid-1970s Aitken had moved to Leicester with his wife and settled into semi-retirement, but was soon to return to prominence as an icon of the 2Tone ska revival. Aitken, then in his 50s, found himself hailed as the elder statesman of ska. During the 2-Tone era, Aitken's career was rejuvenated and like other first wave artists (Prince Buster, Desmond Dekker) he aligned himself with 2-Tone, mod and punk bands to help increase his audience. He performed with The Beat and also toured with the mod band Secret Affair. One of the most interesting pairings of old and new blood was when punk/reggae band The Ruts backed Aitken on a single "Rudi Got Married" b/w "Honey Come Back To Me" that was released as Laurel Aitken and The Unitone (a play on 2-Tone) on Secret Affair's own I-Spy Records imprint. The single was released in May 1980 on I-Spy Records and stayed in the UK charts for 3 weeks peaking at #60. Aitken and The Ruts also recorded a session for John Peel's radio show in April 1980 that included "Jesse James" and "Big Fat Man".

Grover Records have released several volumes that chronicle Aitken's musical career. Volume five "Rudi Got Married" includes songs recorded in the '80s. A singer with incredible longevity, Aitken's style is low key - his voice never reaches any dizzying heights. The material here is some of his more popular work "Mad About You," "Sally Brown" and, includes his tracks with The Ruts "Rudi Got Married" and "Honey Come Back To Me".

Here is the tracklist and download:

Rudi Got Married
Honey Come Back To Me
Big Fat Man
It`s Too Late
Mad About You
Sahara
Skinhead
Hey Little Girl
Sally Brown
Je T`aimerai Toujours
Eh Mon Amour
Don`t Turn Your Back
I Love You, Yes I Do
Peggy Sue
Rude Boy Dream
Hitchhike
Ringo The Gringo
Skinhead (12" Edit


Laurel Aitken - Rudi Got Married

Friday, September 26, 2008

Shack Records - Neville Staple's Label Releases Single by Specials Roadies



In 1981, following in the footsteps of Specials drummer John Bradbury's Race Records, vocalist Neville Staple's and his then girlfriend Stella (from The Bodysnatchers) launched Shack Records. Their first signing was ska/reggae band 21 Guns and the single included the songs "Ambition Rock" b/w "21 Guns". The songs were also produced by Neville, and peaking at #46 on the UK Charts after 3 weeks.

The band, formed by ex-Specials roadies Trevor Evans (Keyboards) and Johnny Rex (Drums) and included Kevin Turner (Bass), Stuart (Guitar) and Gary 'Judge' Chambers (Vocals), had previously recorded a three song session for John Peel in early February 1981 based in their connection with Golding and The Specials. The session included the A and B side of the single as well as the song "Dark Night".

The band scored a support slot opening for Hazel O'Connor and their short set list included their three original songs plus 2 covers ("Too Hot" by The Specials and "Johnny Too Bad" later covered by UB40).

The single is difficult to find, but if I come across it I will post it here.

Judge Dread - Rude Father To All 2-Tone Ska Bands



Seven years before the world ever heard of The Specials, The Selecter or Madness, Judge Dread had put his first ska and reggae hit into the UK charts. Although often dismissed as a novelty act, Judge Dread was actually a groundbreaking artist. Not only did he put more reggae records onto the U.K. chart than anyone else, he was also the first white artist to actually have a reggae hit in Jamaica ("Big Six"). He also holds the record for having the most songs banned by the BBC, 11 in all, which is also the same number of singles he placed in the charts.

Alex Hughes (who took his recording name from one of the characters in a Prince Buster song) was a huge influence on 2-Tone era bands particularly Madness and Bad Manners. Indeed, it was Judge Dread who first recorded a cover of Prince Buster's "Al Capone" (later to be recorded as "Gangsters" by The Specials"), a version of Dandy Livingstone's "A Message To You (Rudy) and a ska take of "Swan Lake" long before Madness had a go of it. Judge Dread even wrote a song for Madness called "One Eye Lodger" which they turned down and he released as a B-side in 1981.

He had grown up in London alongside the first wave of immigrants from Jamaica. After leaving school, he lodged with a Jamaican family, and it was only a short step from there to a lifelong love affair with Jamaican music. His work as a bouncer led to work as a bodyguard (to the likes of The Rolling Stones) and as a debt collector for Commercial Entertainments (who used to arrange UK tours for Desmond Dekker, The Pioneers and the like) and Trojan Records. Little did he know that within a few short years, not only would he be sharing a stage with the likes of Bob Marley & The Wailers, but would become an even bigger star than the Jamaican artists he idolized.

Here are videos of some of Judge Dread's biggest hits including "Big Six" which cracked the UK Top 10 at #9 in 1972 (selling over 300,000 copies and spending six months on the chart, despite getting no radio airplay due to its lyrics) and "Je T'aime" (a cover of the original UK chart-topper by Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin) which hit #9 in the UK charts in 1975.









Below is a link to amazon.com where you can purchase a copy of 'Big Seven: The Best of Judge Dread':

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Love Madness? Love Their Music? Now You Can Dress Like Them Too!


As we all wait patiently for news on the release of the new Madness album "The Liberty of Norton Folgate" here is news every self-respecting nutty boy and rude boy will appreciate. Now, not only can you listen to your favorite Madness songs you can dress the part while doing so.

Let me introduce you to the fine gentlemen at Ace Face Clothing Company. These chaps have brought back the classic tonic suit and they are ready to put you in one. Not only that, they are the official tailor to Madness (see picture above) who will be wearing Ace Face suits during their December 2008 UK tour. They also outfit those 21st Century Rude Boys in the Dub Pistols.

As background, fashion drove the mod and 2-Tone scenes and though fashion trends changed rapidly, there were some common denominators: the tonic suit, traditionally three-buttoned; Harrington jackets, Sta-Press trousers and Levi jeans (brought onto the scene via cash-strapped Black American GI’s in West End clubs); mohair suits and Cuban-heeled shoes; quasi-military attire such as parka jackets, suede desert boots and RAF t-shirts; pork-pie hats from the West Indian rude boys; the essential American-style button-down shirts, which at its most pristine was Brooks Brothers, or Ben Sherman for best of the rest; splashes of colors everywhere, maybe white jeans, a pale yellow shirt; perhaps blue or stripped or chequered. Most importantly, was the attention to detail which changed often: maybe one week it would be a six-inch vent on the suit jacket, maybe next week eight-inches, maybe bowling shoes, or perhaps a feather in the cap. The variations in style were not noticeably to the ‘outsider’, but they mattered to the in-crowd.

Below is Suggs in an Ace Face Tonic suit:


Ace Face tonic suit colors include:
Ruby Blue - sublime claret with a blue shimmer
Midnight Gold - striking blue electrified with dark gold
Blue Jade - a mix of gold with blue to create a hue of green
Forest Claret - dark emerald green with an aubergine shimmer
Kingfisher -turquoise combined from blue & green
Bronze - dark brown hue with a bronze shimmer
Sapphire- rich dark blue blended with wine
Pale Moss- subtle shade of green combined with black

You can learn more about Stuart, Marc and Gary who run Ace Face at their MySpace Web site here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Horace Ove - Black British Filmaker Documents Rise of Reggae In UK



Horace Ove deserves credit for the leading role he has taken in promoting the growth and popularity of reggae music as it travelled from the West Indies to the UK and then became a cultural phenomenon. Ove was born in Trinidad and emigrated to the UK to attend film school in the early 1960's. His 1971 documentary, "Reggae", was the first in depth film on reggae music to ever be produced. Filmed at Wembley Stadium during the 1970 Caribbean Music Festival, the film documented the first large reggae concert to ever be held in Britain (it drew an astonishing 14,000 people).

Unfortunately the documentary went almost unnoticed when it was first released. The film which also includes footage of the extreme poverty of the West Indies and the makes a case for reggae's radical roots. Interviews with disk jockey Mike Raven and producer Graham Goodall review the history and development of the music. But for fans, the highlights of the movie are the performances by The Pyramids (Symarip), The Pioneers, Millie Small, Toots & The Maytals, Bob Andy and Marcia and Desmond Dekker.

The film is currently out-of-print and unavailable though there are 3rd generation copies floating around. A few years ago there was some talk of a reissue but there have not been any updates. There are a few clips taken from the film available on YouTube and MySpace. I've attached them below.

Here is footage from "Reggae" featuring Toots & The Maytals performing "Monkey Man"




Here is footage from "Reggae" featuring Bob Andy & Marcia performing "Young Gifted & Black"




Here is a clip from "Reggae" that explains the white skinhead phenomenon over Symarip's "Skinhead Moonstomp"





You can read more about Horace Ove and his storied career here.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Pyramids = Symarip: Establish Skinhead Reggae in The UK and Influence A Generation


The Pyramids were formed in the mid-sixties by six young British-based musicians. The band were also known at various stages of their career as The Bees, The Pyramids, Seven Letters and Zubaba. In the mold of The Equals, they began their career as a straight "pop" group, consisting of founders Frank Pitter, Michael Thomas, Josh Roberts, Ray Knight, Monty Naismith and vocalist Roy Ellis and were signed to President Records.

In 1968, President bagged their first Number 1 with “Baby Come Back” by The Equals, featuring a teenage Eddy Grant on lead vocals. At the request of his label, Grant had also been working with the Pyramids, who had backed Prince Buster on a recent U.K. tour. Besides composing songs for the band (and one for Prince Buster himself, the rude classic "Rough Rider" which was later covered by The Beat), Grant also produced several tracks for The Pyramids in 1969 including the band's debut single and sole hit, "Train to Rainbow City" which appeared on their self-titled LP.

Here is a video of the song "Train To Rainbow City" written by Eddy Grant for The Pyramids:




According to sleeve notes from a best-of collection released by Trojan Records, The band’s relationship with President soured when their record ‘Mexican Moonlight’ was a hit in Germany, but the label neglected to tell them about it. As a result, the band decided to rename themselves so that they could record elsewhere without President Records knowledge. Organist Monty Neysmith came up with a plan: ‘I came up with the idea of turning Pyramids around and you leave out the ‘d’. So originally it was spelt Simaryp. I don’t know how it came to be spelt Symarip!’ So in 1969, safe in the knowledge that Presidnet Records would never unravel the secret of their true identity, Simaryp/Symarip prepared to record for their new label, Graeme Goodall’s Treasure Isle - whose chief label was ironically called Pyramid!

The band then recorded their first album as Symparip in 1970 and immediately became the face of "Skinhead Reggae" with songs like "Skinhead Girl", "Skinhead Jamboree" and "Skinhead Moonstomp", which is based on the Derrick Morgan song, "Moon Hop". According to Neysmith, the band noticed a new element coming to their live shows: Skinheads. ‘A lot of skinheads started coming to our shows, and Roy and I said, it would be good to write a song for skinheads. We remembered a song [‘I Thank You’ by Sam & Dave] where they said, ‘I want everybody to get on their feet, and this and that, and give me some of that old soul music’. I thought, let’s change the words and put, ‘I want all you skinheads to get on your feet, put your braces together and your boots on your feet, and give me some of that old moonstomping’.

In 1980, the album Skinhead Moonstomp was re-issued in the wake of the 2 Tone craze, hitting the UK pop charts for the first time and a whole new generation of fans were introduced to their sound. The Specials further expanded their name and popularity of Symarip by recording a live cover version of "Skinhead Moonstomp" as part of a medley of 60's reggae songs on the B-side of their "Specials Live EP" which hit number one in the UK charts.

Here is a brief video of Symarip performing in Horace Ove's documentary "Reggae" recorded at Wembley in 1970 before a crowd of 14,000. The tune is a Rupie Edwards tune called "Pop Hi". Don't miss Roy Ellis's back-flip at the start of the clip:




Amazingly Ellis and Neysmith have reformed the band and plan to perform around the UK in 2008-09. They will perform a show on Friday October 31st at The Hootananny in Brixton, London. You can get ticket information here. There must be something in the water in the UK that's causing all these bands to reform.

Here is the track list and a download to their 1969 LP "Skinhead Moonstomp" that was reissued in 1980 during the height of 2-Tone"

1-Skinhead Moonstop
2-Phoenix City
3-Skinhead Girl
4-Try Me Best
5-Skinhead Jamboree
6-Chicken Merry
7-These Boots Are Made For Stomping
8-Must Catch a Train
9-Skin Flint
10-Stay With Him
11-Fung Shu
12-You’re Mine
13-Bam Bam Baji
14-Hold Him Joe
15-Tomorrow at Sunrise
16-Parsons Corner
17-Redeem
18-La Bella Jig
19-Holidays By The Sea
20-Feel Allright

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Race Records - John Bradbury's Record Label Releases Single by Ex-Selecter Members



In many ways drummer John Bradbury was the glue that held 2-Tone together. It was his relationships with many Coventry-based musicians, both pre and post-2-Tone, that added to its history. He had a hand in helping to start both The Selecter and The Specials and he stuck with Jerry Dammers upon the break-up of the band to play drums for The Special AKA. He was also the leader and founder of the "JB Allstars" soul revue band, who's final single "Alphabet Army" was released as last ever official 2Tone record. Brad has since worked with The Special Beat, the reformed Selecter and ska punkers "Big 5". He also produced the album "High and Dry" in the 90s for UK Ska resurgence act "Maroon Town". Most recently he joined his Specials band mates for their first reunion performance at Bestival.

Born in Coventry, Bradbury attended Hull University. On his return home from school, the reggae and soul loving drummer took up with a number of bands including the "The Transposed Men" where he played with The Selecter's Neol Davies. Both he and Davies would ultimately be responsible for the track "Kingston Affair"which became the track we know as "The Selecter" by The Selecter (the group did not exist at that time) and found national release as the flip side of The Specials' debut 45 "Gangsters". After the original Coventry Automatics' drummer Silverton Hutchinson departed, Dammers called on Brad and The Specials were complete.

But the connections do not end there. Based on his experiences with 2-Tone, Bradbury decided to have a go at running his own record label. He launched the short-lived Race Records in February 1981 with a party at the Hope & Anchor where he introduced his first two signings: a ten-piece reggae band called Night Doctor and a smaller combo called Team 23. Night Doctor put out "Just Enough" b/w "Hit & Miss Affair".

Race Records two signings were quickly joined later by The People. In 1981, The Selecter made the dificult decision to leave 2-Tone to sign a separate deal with Chrysalis. As the dust was beginning to settle on the split from 2 Tone, keyboard player Desmond Brown decided he had had enough and quit the band. Taking stock of the situation the band made the decision that some sections of the band were not up to the job and bass player Charley Anderson was asked to leave. Harking back to their days in Coventry reggae band Hardtop-22 (with Neol Davies and Lynval Golding), Charley and Desmond went on to team up with original Specials drummer Silverton Hutchinson to form The People. Bradbury quickly signed the band who released a single "Musical Man" b/w "Sons & Daughters". The A-side an ode to Specials trombone player Rico Rodriguez. The label released one more non-ska/reggae song by The Lemons and then called it a day.

Here is video of the single "Musical Man" by The People:



Here is Race Records short discography:

RB001 Night Doctor (A) Just Enough (B) Hit & Miss Affair
RB DIS 001 (12") Night Doctor (A) Romancin (B) Menelik
RB 003 The People (A) Musical Man (B) Sons & Daughters
RB004 The Lemons (A) My favourite Band (B) English Summer

Here are downloads of Night Doctor's one single for the label:

Night Doctor - Just Enough
Night Doctor - Hits and Misses

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Bureau - 80's New Wave Soul Band Featuring Mick Talbot and Ex-Dexys Reform


There is another band reunion in the works that will probably not rival the interest and attention that The Specials have generated, but it is one that is just as worthy. I'm speaking of The Bureau who have reformed to play shows and have recorded a new album, their first in more than 25 years. And like The Specials they have a great story to tell though with a northern soul soundtrack rather than a ska one.

The Bureau were a new wave soul group formed in late 1980 in Birmingham when the original lineup of Dexys Midnight Runners split-up. Ex-Dexys members Pete Williams (bass), Geoff Blythe (tenor sax), Steve Spooner (alto sax), Stoker (drums), and Mick Talbot (keyboards) were joined by Paul Taylor (trombone), Rob Jones (guitar and trumpet), and Archie Brown (vocals) from a group called The Upset which had supported Dexys on tour.


The debut single "Only For Sheep" was a big hit in Australia, reaching #6, but failed to reach the British charts - as did the follow up single "Let Him Have It", inspired by the Derek Bentley / Christopher Craig case. An eponymously titled album was released in 1981, but only in Canada and Australia and the band members went their separate ways soon afterwards. Talbot went on to enjoy greater success with Paul Weller in The Style Council, Stoker joined Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger of The Beat (along with Mick Jones of The Clash and Horace Panter of The Specials) to start General Public, while Brown formed Flag with ex-Secret Affair guitarist Dave Cairns. Blythe teamed up with former colleague Big Jim Paterson in The TKO Horns.



According to a great fan web site about the band, The Bureau toured America with the Pretenders. Part way through this tour they discovered that the money had run out and they were virtually bankrupt. They had no money for food and were reduced to scavenging from the Pretenders. The tour also included the Stray Cats. The Bureau opened the show and waited for the Pretenders to take the stage then each night they raided the Pretenders dressing room in search of food and booze. One night they were caught by the Stray Cats leaving the Pretenders dressing room with their swag bags. The Strays were leaning against the wall of the corridor outside the dressing room, very probably preening their outstanding quiffs. 'Hey man,' said Brian Setzer, 'That's not cool,' and Archie snaps, 'Right, that's fucking it!' he dropped his bags of swag, 'All of you, outside now! I'll fucking have the lot of you out now!!' The Stray Cats declined the offer of a fight, seemingly Runaway Boys is more than just a song. The Bureau managed to make it home and survived by wheeling and dealing their way across America. Archie sold tour passes to get Mick Talbot a bottle of whiskey for his birthday. Mick was actually assaulted outside one gig and required stitches to his face. The sight Talbot's face was enough to scare away any more trouble. The Bureau versus The Pretenders Campaign of 1981 passed into rock legend.

Here is a video of the band performing "Only For Sheep"


Here is a live TV performance of "Got To Be Now" from 1981



In March 2005, WEA re-issued the long-lost album. There were two gigs, at the Glee Club in Birmingham and Borderline in London. Defying geography, let alone history, The Bureau started to work on new songs, with Geoff Blythe flying from New York, and music and musicians flitting between London, Birmingham and Newcastle. In 2008 a brand new album was born, wryly dubbed "...And Another Thing". The original band will perform 3 shows in the UK to celebrate the release of the new CD on October 6th, 2008. You can hear previews of the new songs on the bands MySpace site.

Friday October 3rd
The Sound Bar
205 Corporation Street
Birmingham
West Midlands

Wednesday October 8th
The Cluny
36 Lime Street
Ouseburne
Newcastle upon Tyne

Thursday October 9th
Jazz Café
5 Parkway
Camden Town
London

Here is a download of their first single "Only For Sheep"

The Bureau - Only For Sheep

TKO Horns: Providing Brass for the Cream of 80's UK Pop, Ska and Soul


The life of a horn player in the world of modern music is an interesting one. I can't think of many contemporary pop bands that feature a single horn player, let alone a horn section anymore. Personally, I've always played in a band that has featured a horn section. I can't imagine life without them, both on and off the stage.

During the boom in ska, reggae, soul and pop music in the UK in the late 70's and early 80's, horn players and horn sections were everywhere you looked. The Specials had Rico and Dick on trombone and flugel horn. Madness had Lee (Kix) Thompson on sax. The Beat had Saxa on sax. UB40 had Brian Travers on sax, Astro on trumpet and Norman Hassan on trombone. Outside of ska and reggae circles, bands like Dexy's Midnight Runners prominently featured a horn section as did Paul Young's soul band The Q-Tips and later The Bureau (featuring members of the original Dexy's Midnight Runners and Mick Talbot of The Merton Parkas). All is all it was a very horny time.

It must have been this proliferation of music with horns that led artists like Paul Weller of The Jam and Elvis Costello to add horn sections to their bands and recordings in the early 80's. The Jam famously included horns and a horn section of their final album "The Gift" most notably on the track "Precious". Costello went a step further. Having heard the horn players in both Dexy's and The Q-Tips were now available (Paul Young had embarked on a successful solo career) he contacted them and asked to add them to his live band and to the recording of his next LP "Punch The Clock".

I have to confess that despite the fact that Elvis Costello is on record saying he hates the "Punch The Clock" album, it is one of my favorite recording. The album is pop at its best: catchy melodies/lyrics, good grooves, upbeat tempos, and well constructed song forms. It's a fun album with substance--what all pop music should aspire to be and it has horns!

The story of the well-known "TKO Horns" who add the punch to "Let The All Talk" and "Everyday I Write The Book" among others is best told by one of the members of the section. Saxophone player Paul Speare was a member of both Dexy's and The Q-Tips when he was tapped along with Jim Patterson (trombone), Brian Maurice (alto sax) and Dave Plews (trumpet) to join Elvis Costello & The Attractions. He relates the fascinating and interesting story in great detail at his web site. It's a great read and I highly recommend it.

Among the highlights: Learning charts for new songs and playing them for the first time at the Royal Albert Hall in the span of 5 days as well as touring the US, UK and Europe, recording the "Punch The Clock" LP and meeting Yoko Ono.

Paul's destiny also intersected with that of 2-Tone and The Special AKA, as Costello recommended him to Jerry Dammers who asked him to perform the tin whistle melody that features in "Free Nelson Mandela". He also performed on the studio version of "Keep On Moving" by Madness and "Actions Speak Faster" by Difford and Tillbrook.

Here is a live video of "Jackie Wilson Said" by Dexy's featuring Paul on Saxophone:




Here is the "Let Them All Talk" video featuring Paul and the TKO Horns that he references on his web site:





Here is the "Free Nelson Mandela" video featuring the tin whistle melody that Paul played in the studio



Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Stiff Records Story As Narrated By Suggs of Madness


As 2-Tone Records and to a lesser extent Go-Feet Records (The Beats personal imprint) showed, it was independent labels that were driving the ska scene in the UK. However we would be remiss to overlook the incredible impact of Stiff Records had on UK music and culture.

When new wave hit in the '70s, independent labels like Stiff Records became a grass-roots alternative to the music establishment. Stiff Records which started in 1976 set itself apart with marketing and advertising that was provocative and witty. Stiff billed itself as "The World's Most Flexible Record Label". Other slogans were "We came. We saw. We left.", "If It Ain't Stiff, It Ain't Worth a Fuck", and "When You Kill Time, You Murder Success" (printed on promotional wall clocks). On the label of Stiff's sampler compilation Heroes & Cowards was printed: "In '78 everyone born in '45 will be 33-1/3". A very early Stiff sampler album, A Bunch of Stiff Records, introduced the slogan, "If they're dead, we'll sign them" and "Undertakers to the Industry".

Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Ian Dury, and Madness are just some of the eccentric greats who emerged via Stiff, but other lesser knowns, notably The Equators were key to the world of ska. What unified Stiff's musical menu — punk, R&B, pop, ska, soul, nonsense — was a rejection of standard rock & roll excess and the belief that money isn't the only reason to make records.

Leave it to the talented folks at BBC6 and Madness frontman Suggs to tell the story of the influential record label, home to artists ranging from Motorhead and The Damned to Kirsty Macoll. Amazingly Stiff Records still exists albeit in digital form alone and only after taking a nap from 1986 to 2006. You can visit the new Stiff Records site here.

Thanks to Judge Fredd for the heads up about this great piece of radio journalism.

Here are the downloads in four parts:

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Lambrettas - Mod Revival Band Embraces 2-Tone Sound and Scores Hit



While 1979 was when 2-Tone exploded on the UK music scene, that summer also saw the resurrection of another musical tribe: The Mods. The 2-Tone and Mod movements had many similarities. While 2-Tone looked to the rude boys of Jamaica and the early ska, rocksteady and reggae for inspiration, the mods of the late 70's worshipped The Who and The Jam. The release of the movie "Quadrophenia" in the summer of 1979 set off a mod band revival which mirrored the 2-Tone bands in many ways. The bands who followed in the wake of The Jam included Secret Affair, The Chords, The Purple Hearts and The Lambrettas.

Out of all the mod revival bands, The Lambrettas were contenders for the British mod-pop-ska title, throwing down with groups like the Beat, The Selecter and Madness. The Lambrettas were formed near Brighton by Jez Bird (vocals/guitar), Doug Sanders (guitar/vocals), Mark Ellis (bass), and Paul Wincer (drums). The band first performed on June 9, 1979, playing at an all-day Mod concert. Their biggest hit was in 1980, with a ska cover version (complete with horns) of the 1950s Leiber and Stoller song, "Poison Ivy", which reached #7 in the UK Singles Chart (in a nod to the popularity of 2-Tone at the time, the band released the single for Poison Ivy in a sleeve with a look alike knockoff of Walt Jabsco dressed as a Mod). They also scored a #12 hit with the follow-up, "Da-a-a-nce". In the same year, they released the album "Beat Boys in the Jet Age", which reached #28 on the UK Albums Chart, and another charting single, "Another Day (Another Girl)".

Towards the end of 1980, with Beat Boys doing well (#28 in the British album charts), the band embarked on a European tour, opening for Madness which established them further within ska circles but moved them further away from Mod circles. During 1981 they recorded their second album, "Ambience", which included two tracks featuring the saxophone playing of Wesley Magoogan of The Beat (who had replaced Saxa). Despite the album’s fine production values, and a more solid sound that included a variety of genres, it was not a success. The Lambrettas had tried to move on from their Mod image to reach a larger audience, but failed to do so as the public moved on from ska and mod power pop.


Here are some videos of the band including their UK Top 10 hit "Poison Ivy" and "Da-a-a-nce"





Unfortunately founding member and guitarist Jez Bird died of cancer on August 27, 2008, at the age of 50.


Here is the track list for "Beat Boys In The Jet Age"

D-a-a-ance
Cortina MK II
London Calling
Poison Ivy
Leap Before You Look
Beat Boys In The Jet Age
Page Three
Living For Today
Watch Out I'm Back
Don't Push Me
Runaround
Face To Face

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Ammonites - Brighton's Ska/Pop Answer to 2-Tone


Brighton has always been a source of some of the best bands and music in the UK. During the late 70's and early 80's in particular, Attrix Records was both a record store and a record label that sought to capture and record the bands that made up the local scene at the time. The label was best known for a series of compilation LP's (Vaultage 78, Vaultage 79 and Vaultage 80), made up of local bands. One night John Peel played three tracks off Vaultage 78 by Brighton's ska band The Piranhas and suddenly all of the UK were aware of the band and Brighton's music scene. The Piranha's used the exposure to sign a major label deal and tour the UK with other 2-Tone era bands.

During the very early days of my band I was able to borrow a copy of Vaultage 80 from a friend at Rutgers University. I was immediately taken with a magical ska/pop track called "Blue Lagoon" by an outfit called The Ammonites. I taped the song on to a cassette tape with other ska and reggae songs and played that tape regularly until I lost it somewhere. Though it only clocked in at 2:18 it was a simple, catchy soulful 2-Tone like ska song featuring great guitar and the best sax solos I had heard this side of Saxa of The Beat. The Ammonites proved there was a ska scene in Brighton that went beyond The Piranhas.

I was lucky enough to stumble upon a fantastic quality rehearsal tape that the band recorded in 1980-81. You can listen to each song and/or download each track individually from The Ammonites section of the Punk Brighton Web Site. Take my advice and download all fifteen songs as I think you will agree with me that The Ammonites might have given any of the more established 2-Tone bands (particularly The Beat who they sound a lot like) a run for their money. Of note is their cover of Clancy Eccles "Fatty Fatty" which Bad Manners went on to record. In 1981 The Ammonites recorded a single "Big Eaters" b/w "Dressed To Kill". While the single is hard to find the two songs are part of the rehearsal recordings below. If you want to learn more about the band, click this link (courtesy of the Punk Brighton Web site) to read an article that appeared in Bright Times fanzine in 1980.



Below is the track listing for Vaultage 80 which includes "Blue Lagoon" as well as great songs by other punk and rock bands from Brighton.

VAULTAGE 80

BIRDS WITH EARS-Head in my bag
The OBJEKS-Negative conversation
EMMA SHARPE & THE FEATURES-Motorway
The REWARD SYSTEM-Extradition
THE HOLLOW MEN-Never Again
IDRENES-Red gold and green
DICK DAMAGE and the DILEMMA-Do the Winklepicker
The RED SQUARES-The Russians are coming
The MOCKINGBIRDS-Money
The EXCLUSIVES-Sinking gondola
APRIL and the FOOLS-You I do
The AMMONITES-Blue Lagoon
BRIGHT GIRLS-Hidden from history
LIFE SIZE MODELS-Have you seen my friend


Here is the album download

Vaultage 80

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

15-16-17 - Late 70's Teen Trio Help Establish Lovers Rock in the UK


A counterpoint to the explosion of punk and ska in the UK in the late 70's was the emergence of Lovers Rock. Short lived UK reggae girl trio 15-16-17, so named after their ages at the time, cut a sweet sounding 'lovers rock' album called "Magic Touch" in 1978 under the watchful production eye of Dennis Brown. Brown relocated to London from Jamaica and while there he linked up with Castro Brown (no relation) and started the DEB label. This occurred right at the same time a new style of Reggae called Lover's Rock was being popularized in the UK. Dennis and Castro smelled a good thing (along with other producers like Lloyd Coxsone and Dennis Bovell) and put together three teenage girls from London, Sonia Williams (15), Christine McNabb (16), and Wraydene McNabb (17) and had them record 10 tracks (including a number of covers) that ended up on the "Magic Touch" L.P.

15-16-17's sound ranges from fun, and youthful -- sort of like an earlier version of Musical Youth -- on "Girls Imagination" (a clever remake of The Temptations' "Just My Imagination" from the girl's point of view), "I've Been Watching You," and their take on The Supremes' "Baby Love" to a sultriness that exceeds their ages on "Someone Special," the ethereal "The Weather," and a lovely cover of The Bee Gees' "Emotions".

For the uninitiated, Lovers Rock sounds like a Philly Soul ballad played over a fat reggae bassline, it usually has a soulful kind of intro, not just a straight riddim like "rub-a-dub". Also as a generalization, the majority if not all Lovers releases come out of the UK, for reasons that I am not clear on, Lovers just never took hold in JA or NYC.

Here are videos of two of the songs on Magic Touch:

Black Skin Boy


The Weather



TRACKLIST:
1-Girls Imagination
2-Funny Feeling
3-I'm Hurt
4-The Weather
5-Emotion
6-Magic Touch
7-Someone Special
8-Baby Love
9-I've Been Watching You
10-Black Skin Boys

Here is the download:

Nick Harrison - A marriage of ska and indie-pop with ‘Oi Rude Boy’


The UK seems to be chock full of young singer/songwriters who are writing great songs that combine ska and indie rock. The newest kid on the block is Nick Harrison and his entry "Oi Rude Boy". The song is written as a tribute to the 2-Tone ska sound of the late 70s early and 80s and it's fans who continue to support the movement today. The song is well-developed, heavily ska-influenced pop, sporting colorful swatches of trumpet, laid back backing vocals and lilting rhythms. Hugely likeable and almost eerily familiar-sounding (early XTC? Ted Leo & The Pharmacists?), the only thing that’s really missing from "Oi Rude Boy" are the hiss and crackles of a late 70s/early 80s ska record.

The single was released as a limited edition 7" and download only on August 25th 2008 with the album 'One Drop' to follow in early 2009. Nick is a 23-year-old from Folkestone who has just signed to A&M amid much expectation/speculation that he's going to repeat the success of Duffy except rather than retro-soul, he is reviving the ska revival, only with a contemporary indie-rock twist. There is something distinctly Sting-like about his clean, clear singing style while his songs are remarkably Police-sounding. You can check out his website here to listen to more of his songs and download another.

Here is the video for the song:

Monday, September 8, 2008

Happy 50th Buster Bloodvessel of Bad Manners!

Buster Bloodvessel (Doug Trendle) celebrated his 50th birthday on September 6th. The ska legend, famous for his bald head, big belly and one of the largest tongues in the music business plans a 50-city UK tour to celebrate his birthday. He's quoted in the Manchester Evening News as saying, ""Most people only have the one party when they turn 50, but me? I've decided to go for 20 parties in September with 30 more on either side."

Buster is much thinner which is the result of gastric bypass surgery a few years ago. According to an article in the Essex Echo, Buster has gone from 32 stone (448 lbs) to 14 stone (196 lbs). Buster says of the weight loss: “A few years ago I had to undergo gastric bypass surgery and they cut out two thirds of my stomach. “I had an inoperable hernia, which the doctors couldn’t get to through all the fat, and if they didn’t do something about it, I could have had a heart attack. “But the surgeon, or God as I like to call him, did a great job and now I’m in even better shape than ever before. “I was always a wildman on stage when I was really fat, but I think our shows are even better now as I can move around even more. “The crowd don’t seem to mind my new slim line look. They still shout ‘you fat b**tard’ at me during the gigs – so everybody’s happy!”

Buster and Bad Manners had 9 Top 40 UK hits in the early 80's including "Lip Up Fatty", "My Girl Lollipop", "The Can Can", "Special Brew" and "That'll Do Nicely" and gave Madness a run for their money as the Kings of Ska comedy. My band had the pleasure of performing with Buster and Bad Manners this past March and he proved once again what a down-to-earth gentleman he is. I was also able to witness his pre-gig routine of head shaving that he has done since the early days of the band and compared tongue size with him. It was no contest.




Thanks to Steve From Moon at the Duff Guide To Ska for the heads-up on Buster's 50th.

The Specials Live @ Bestival: September 6, 2008


Following up on news of The Specials first show in 27 years, below are live videos of the set they performed at Bestival on Saturday Septmber 6, 2008.

Taking the stage at 5.30 pm, the band played a greatest hits set, including 'A Message To You, Rudy' and 'Too Much Too Young', as well as their cover of Toots And The Maytals' 1969 hit 'Monkey Man'.

Frontman Terry Hall announced in April 2008 that The Specials would be reforming for an autumn tour and possibly recording. It remains to be seen if this show was a one-off or a warm-up for a much anticipated fall tour of the UK.

A Message To You Rudy


Gangsters/Dawning Of A New Era/Do The Dog


It's Up To You


Monkey Man/Blank Expression


Too Hot


Rat Race

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Pictures of The Specials @ Bestival: The Reunion Moves Forward without Jerry Dammers


Word out of the UK is that "Terry Hall & Friends" (essentially The Specials without Jerry Dammers) played a bouncy and rapturously received greatest hits set at Bestival on the Isle Of Wight yesterday. I've included pictures from the show which were taken by Mike Cornwell the admin of The Specials.com community pages who attended the show.

The other side of this story that is still developing and has caused fault lines between the band members, their management, band insiders and hardcore fans is the exclusion of Dammers from the show yesterday and the reunion moving forward. In particular, hardcore fans of the band are upset that the first reunion of the band since Hall, Golding and Staple left following the release of "Ghost Town" took place as an unannounced "surprise" gig and that they were unable to make plans to attend. There is some discussion that the band of 6 decided this was the best way to play their first show together, away from the media crush and scrutiny that would have accompanied a high profile reunion show.



From what I can gather, Dammers was not told about the show yesterday and was not invited to secret rehearsals the other 6 members of the band held to prepare for it. This follows a war of words between Dammers and Terry Hall's manager that I posted about in July. In fact, its possible that Dammers took his complaints about being left out to The Specials.com community pages over the last few days and posted under a variety of aliases. I was able to read a few of the posts before they were deleted by the moderators. All in all they struck me as very angry and bitter and seemed to focus their vitriol at Terry Hall and his manager in particular with an emphasis on greed driving the reunion and that 6 alone without Jerry were not The Specials. That is likely why the band will not perform as The Specials if the reunion moves forward as expected.

According to fans who attended the show, it opened with a minute long video introduction. They performed during a rain storm to a sea of multicoloured umbrellas bouncing up and down to songs including 'A Message To You' 'Gangsters' and 'Nite Club', Lynval introduced "A Message To You" with a strong message about when he was stabbed 25 yrs ago, '...I will never pick up a knife' said Lynval. One broken guitar string and broken organ key later it was all over.



The set consisted of songs from the first album, starting with "Gangsters" and ending with "You're Wondering Now". There was a brass section and someone who filled in for Dammers on keyboards. Apparently Neville had to rush off to another gig but the rest of the band spent the evening celebrating with their families, except for Lynval who hung around in the thick of the crowds (and mud) to watch Amy Winehouse.




I'm thrilled the band have decided to reform. While I'm saddened that Jerry will not be a part of the band, I can also empathize with the decision to move on without him. My conversation with Lynval earlier this summer suggested that the band would not be put off by Jerry's attempts to slow down, delay or postpone the reunion and that fact that all 6 have decided to work together without Jerry would indicate solidarity on that position. After nearly 30 years its time to music above personality conflict (see The Police) and get on with it. I for one can't wait to see them.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Specials Reform & Perform at Bestival on The Isle Of Wight


Well the rumor is true! The Specials (billed as Terry Hall & Friends and minus Jerry Dammers) were the surprise act today at Bestival on the Isle of Wight.

According to a post made by Roddy Radiation on his Web site, it's looking like six of the original members will be reforming and they will be touring using their own names because Dammers owns The Specials name. Jerry may take part at the last minute and apparently the door is still open but it appears doubtful he will join given Roddy's post below.

Here is Roddy's post: Even tho me and Brad + Nevelle wanted Jerry on board i dont think we would of got passed the third rehearsal somehow.. Jerry cleverman tho he is ,has always had some strange idears. At the last rehearsal that only 4 of us turned up at he said he wanted to play the old stuff half the tempo of the original recordings and proceeded to programe his very old battered drum machine.. We played "Stereotype" and by the end of the song my head was almost touching my guitar (i was playing sitting down) i felt like all the pain and bad memorys had come back to haunt me once again.. I dont think the Specials would be even considering giging if we had the seven together, it would of dragged on until next year with fewer and fewer members turning up.. Sad but im affraid very true*

More info as it becomes available.

GUGUG: One man, a ukulele, a melodica and some amazing ska classics


GUGUG is a Scottish fellow named Gus who has become a YouTube sensation. With just his ukulele, a plastic melodica and other instruments (kick drum, bass) he is a one man, overdub machine who has recorded some brilliant versions of ska classics by The Skatalites as well as covers of 60' pop, country and Ramones songs.

Here are just a few of his ska songs:

Man In The Street



Phoenix City



Guns Of Navarone



Exodus



You're Wondering Now

Friday, September 5, 2008

"Jesus Is a Friend Of Mine" - Insanely catchy Christian ska song by Sonseed


One of my bandmates has suggested that we cover this ska song "Jesus Is A Friend Of Mine" by Sonseed that he found on YouTube. I don't know that we will but I felt compelled to share it here. While cloying, cliched and annoying its also very catchy and finds a way to worm inside your brain. I can't stop humming the melody and singing the chorus.

I found a bit more information about Sonseed here if you are interested.

Watch/listen at your own risk. I dare you to watch it only once:


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Legacy In The Dust: The Four Aces Story - Film Screening & Live Music


Clubs define a scene and they can take on mythic status. Here in New York, CBGB's (RIP) was host to thousands and thousands of bands but will forever be known as the place that launched The Ramones, The New York Dolls and Talking Heads. Personally, my youth is forever linked with City Gardens in Trenton, NJ. Its where I saw my first ska and punk shows and where my band made its first mark 20 years ago (here is a punk card promoting a show we played with Bad Manners in 1989).

The 2-Tone and reggae scene of the late 70's was also defined by clubs where important shows took place, The place to see The Specials and The Selecter in Coventry was Tiffany's (which is now the Public Library) and TiC ToC. The West Indian community in London had The Four Aces Club. I've just learned about a documentary screening of "Legacy In The Dust: The Four Aces Story" scheduled for Friday September 19, 2008 at Cafe OTO in Dalston, London. The documentary traces the history of the East London club famous for over 30 years as the home for black music and reggae music in particular.

The screening will be followed by a discussion with the club founder and owner Newton Dunbar and filmmaker Winstan Whitter and live music from UK reggae legends Winston Reedy, Princess Lin, Delroy Pinnnock and Freetown.

According to the Cafe OTO web site: Legacy in the Dust will take you on a sensational journey from the 1960’s when Newton Dunbar first arrived in the UK from Jamaica and founded one of the first Reggae-oriented music venue’s called ‘The Four Aces Club’, which for some 33 years was home to the most influential black music and musicians to date. It showcased new music genre’s like; Bluebeat, Ska, Rocksteady, Reggae, Jazz and Soul performed at the time by artists like Alton Ellis, Desmond Decker, Jimmy Cliff, Count Shelly, Ann Peebles, Percy Sledge, Ben E King Billy Ocean, Cimarons, Aswad, Black Slate, Matumbi and many others. This gave the club authenticity to attract artists like The Clash, Chrissie Hynde, Bob Marley, The Slits, Sex Pistols, Marc Bolan and Bob Dylan who were heavily influenced by the infectious pulsating rhythms!

The clubs success led to regular raids from the local Police, which gave it a bad reputation, the press targeted the venue as ‘A Yardie Drug Club’. Despite the negativity that clouded the club it went on to pioneer the early indoor Rave scene’s called ‘Labyrinth’ in the late 80’s during the days of Acid House, Happy Hardcore, Drum & Bass and Jungle music. It launched artists like; The Prodigy, Ratpack, Ragga Twins, DJ Slipmatt, Billy Bunter, Vinyl Matt and Kenny Ken. It came under fire from the landlord and was forced to close its doors in the late 90’s due to a compulsory re- possession ordered by the local Authorities, to make way for the regeneration in Hackney for the forth coming London Olympics in 2012.

Here is a 6 minute promo from the documentary:



Below are the event details. If you happen to attend please let me know.

Friday September 19, 2008
Cafe OTO
18-22 Ashwin St
Dalston
London
E8 3DL
info@cafeoto.co.uk

Doors open 7:30pm
Film starts 8pm
Discussion 9:45pm
Live Music 10:30pm till late!

Black Slate: UK-Jamaica Hybrid Reggae Band Known for "Amigo"

During the Fall of 1980, the UK pop charts were about as diverse as they have ever been. The Top 25 alone included the likes of The Police, Madness, Bad Manners, Bob Marley & The Wailers and a little known UK reggae band called Black Slate who had caught the ear of the nation with their hyper catchy one hit wonder song "Amigo". The song cracked the Top 10 and reached its peak at Number 9. The band hit the charts again a few months later with the follow-up "Boom Boom" which reached Number 51.

The legacy of punk has been widely recognized, we can see a direct link between the late seventies anarchic punk music and the more politically based new wave groups and indie guitar groups that followed in the 80’s. Another rather more unusual spin off of the punk era was a popularization and eventual emergence into the charts of Ska/Reggae. In the early days when live punk bands were playing small venues, DJ were filling in the time in between acts not with punk records as none of these new acts had been recorded yet but with reggae and Ska records. This led to an awareness of reggae to a young white audience and it wasn’t long before home-grown reggae group were springing up alongside the punk influenced new wave bands. These new British reggae groups tended to be based in parts of the country where there was a large black population and thus London and Birmingham were natural breeding ground for this music. London gave us the short-lived Black Slate and the longer lasting Misty In Roots and Aswad. Birmingham gave us notable acts such Steel Pulse and UB40.

Black Slate formed in 1974, and included musicians from England, Jamaica, and Anguilla. They backed Delroy Wilson and Ken Boothe on their UK appearances, and had their first reggae-chart hit themselves in 1976, with the anti-mugging song "Sticks Man". They toured the UK for the first time in 1978, and formed their own TCD label, having a minor hit with "Mind Your Motion". They also backed Dennis Brown when he toured the UK, and in 1980 their Rastafarian rallying call, "Amigo", was picked up by Ensign Records, and broke into the UK Singles Chart. An album, "Sirens In The City", followed on Ensign the following year. The band released two further albums "Six Plus One" in 1982 and "Black Slate" in 1985.

Here is the promo video for "Amigo":






Here is the track listing for 1982's "Six Plus One":

01-Sticks Man
02-They Can't Make Us
03-Rasta Reggae
04-Live Up To Love
05-Look What Love Has Done
06-De Yah Pon Creation
07-Africans To Africa
08-Rastaman Song
09-King David
10-Six Plus One

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Headline: "Don't Knock The Baldhead" - Another overlooked band of the 2-Tone era

Headline were a 2-Tone era, 6-piece ska band signed to Virgin Records who released one single "Don't Knock The Baldhead/Highway Hassle" and an album in 1980. The band were a UK media darling for a very short time and were known for their wild stage entrances. Here is a description of the band from a support slot they played with The Stranglers in July of 1980:

Suited and booted, Headline come on from the left side of the stage, strutting linear, like a black version of Madness in Nutty Boy fashion. Headline march, march, march, chanting a deep baritone mantra: ‘Don’t knock the baldhead - Don’t knock the baldhead! Boongy boong boongy woongy! Don’t knock the baldhead!’ It’s an unforgettable entrance. They hit centre stage, and suddenly scram in all directions to grab guitars, microphones and drumsticks. Acappella out, in comes their schizoid mesh of pop-tinged Ska. Black suits, black ties, white shirts, skanking natty dread – five black baldheads and one white guy. Lean lead singer Michael holds onto the mic stand as bassist Winston bobs about, tugging at his black Music Man bass, with Kevin skanking on guitar and synth-player Richard leering at the mob, playing bubblegum synth riffs, with knees-ups and Ska ‘chikka-chiks’ a-plenty. The crowd’s earlier coolness thoroughly thaws as "Rudi Don’t Fear" and "Highway Hassle" fill the theatre with infectious, insistent Ska - followed by "Bald Head Revolution", and a return to their single, "Don’t Knock The Bald Head".

Below is a re-posting of an article from a Stranglers web site that includes an interview with Headline's bass player Winston Blissett that was conducted in 2006. These days he plays bass for ambient trip-hoppers, Massive Attack.

“I can’t believe anyone can remember Headline – I really cant! Incredulity continues as Winston admits to being part of a great outfit that never got to crack the big time. “We were great, weren’t we? I loved Headline. We actually started out as a funk band called Raw Funk – massive around southeast London - unknown everywhere else! But we’d all had enough after two years of it. Then one day, we’re in the car - 2-Tone was out - all our parents were Jamaican-born - so we said: we’ve all grown up on Ska - why don’t we just form a Ska band? Within the space of just two hours, we were Ska - we shaved off our big Afros and Headline was born.”

The band soon found some luck with the help of promoter Keith Altham’s publicist, Claudine. Her husband, musician Michael Riley, was eager to help. “Mike was helping out on the management side, but he must have been getting itchy feet after Steel Pulse. He had to leave, though…. Anyway, he asked us if he could join the band. We said yes. Our first gig was at the Nashville.”At first, summer support slots bring some positive vibes from the music press, and Headline’s profile was on the ascent, with gigs with Bad Manners. Some of them are still fresh with Winston: "Some of the Bad Manners gigs got a bit racial, I suppose. The crowd could get a bit… boisterous, but we just laughed it off at the time.”

On the bill for The Stranglers tour, Winston’s tells me about a raucous night at Birmingham Odeon: “We did our set, and then watched The Stranglers do theirs. They came onstage – and the whole place erupted. It was during their set one guy in the audience heckled throughout - then he started spitting – right after Hugh told the crowd not to. So Jean Jacques karate-kicked this guy, who went flying back into the crowd. But the thing was - Jean Jacques just carried on playing, and then he turned to me, shaking his head as if it to say - “God…” Anyway, this guy who got kicked was there after the gig bragging about being kicked in the guts by Jean Jacques! I couldn't’ believe it!” “The place was jumping throughout The Stranglers set. It was crazy. The vibe was terrific. But then the PA started rocking side to side – and we all held on to it to stop it from falling on top of the audience. Health and Safety was out of the window that night! Meanwhile, there was this Stranglers bouncer, a big guy…who was pulling bodies out from the front row. They’d resuscitate them, and as soon as they’d come to, jump back into the crowd again! It was manic!”

A record deal with Virgin finally came through, and in the company of the illustrious owner of the record company himself.“It was amazing. We went along to Richard Branson’s barge in Little Venice to sign this contract. There was a buffet laid on and everything. Branson was really into what we were doing. I was really surprised. We had a good laugh with him and his MD, Simon Draper, and afterwards we got a lift home in his Roller. I remember it must have been Valentine’s Day because he had to deliver some roses at a doorstep – but he wouldn’t do it himself: he made Simon do it. It was all very cloak and dagger, in a very posh, trendy part of London. I’d love to know who it was. Anyway, that’s how I know we got signed on February 14th to Virgin Records – signed by the man himself.”

The band recorded their debut album at Roundhouse Studios in Camden. Along with the magnificent Bald Head, they covered the Folke’s Brothers’ classic, Oh Carolina, a song Shaggy took to the top of the charts in the early 1990’s. Like a few of the other tracks, it suffered from attempting to cover all bases, to be Ska, pop, and bordering pap. This was a far cry from their spirited performances on the stages of the capital. Soon after the album hit the shops, internal squabbles fractured the friendship of the south London posse:“Headline was never about money, just the excitement. We had an excellent buzz. It was a fantastic band, even if I say it myself. But then it went down the path seen so many times, the usual rock ‘n’ roll story, where the big time just goes to some people’s heads. The band thought there was a conspiracy… it was stupid, and neither Mike, myself or Claudine liked that. In August 1980, me and Mike left. It was very sad because the talent in the band was phenomena. When we split, I felt so bad for Richard Branson because I felt we’d let him down in some way. It was upsetting.”

A slimmer Headline hobbled on, and released their second single without Winston and Michael who formed Bumble and the Beez. Then Siouxsie picked up on the band. “We were recording with a couple of guitarists and a violinist. We were actually in between drummers, and our demo didn’t have a drum track. One day, Michael’s wife, Claudine was in her office and Siouxsie Sioux walked in. She could head the tape playing in the background and asked who it was. From there, she invited us to support the Banshees at the Hammersmith Odeon – but on one condition: that we don’t bring in a drummer: she wanted it the way she first heard us.. So that’s what we did, just with Mike standing at the front singing, with a bass drum at his feet, holding a cowbell, and me on the bass.”

Still resident in Lewisham, I wondered what happened to the others. “I occasionally bump into the others, but we don’t keep in touch. We have a bit of a laugh about the old days. Although I do keep in touch with Michael. He’s Senior lecturer in music production at Westminster University.”But did you know Bad Manners covered Bald Head not too long ago? “Never! I didn’t know that!”

Headline's 1980 LP is nearly impossible to find. Instead, here is video of Bad Manners performing a cover of "Don't Knock The Baldhead" which has become a mainstay of their live set.

The Specials rumored to play UK Music Festival on September 6th


Rumors are circulating that The Specials may perform at this year's Bestival. According to information posted on the VentnorBlog, the band are favorites to fill the 'Surprise Act' slot on the main stage on Saturday September 6th. Terry Hall, who appeared at last year's Bestival alongside Lynval Golding, told BBC Radio earlier this year that the band would be reforming for a festival in September.

Hall is already likely to perform with the Dub Pistols on Friday night, so an appearance with The Specials the following day could be in the works. Last year Madness took the same surprise slot on the main stage.

If you live in the UK and plan to attend Bestival let me know.