Part of the thrill of writing this blog has been the opportunity to discover the vast array of hard-to-find and out-of-print ska and reggae music recorded during the 2-Tone era in the UK. It was such a productive and exciting time and the musical partnerships, collaborations and cross pollination of ideas among so many different musicians was astounding.
This weeks podcast is an homage to a variety of bands and performers who were all inspired or reinvigorated by the advent 2-Tone. Kicking things off are Desmond Dekker and Laurel Aitken who both helped to popularize ska and reggae in the UK in the 1960's and early 70's and were able to re-launch their careers during 2-Tone by partnering with young up and comers. For Dekker it was backing by The Akrylykz from Hull, while Aitken connected with The Ruts who were successfully combining punk and reggae.
21 Guns was a short-lived 2-Tone styled band from Coventry signed to Neville Staple's Shack Records label. Fronted by ex-Squad singer Gus Chambers (he replaced Terry Hall when he joined The Specials) backed by roadies from The Specials, this difficult to find single shows some interesting flashes. It's followed by Rico & The Special A.K.A's 'Jungle Music'. This single was released in 1982 after the original line-up of The Specials had split and marks one of the rare occasions that the legendary trombonist performed a vocal track.
Eddy Grant may well have been the original father of 2-Tone. As the leader of multi-racial 60's band The Equals, he was on the forefront of melding black and white music. Later as a solo artist he enjoyed success in the late 70's with his singles 'Walking On Sunshine' and the political rocker 'Living On The Frontline' which chronicled the everyday difficulties of living in inner city Brixton. The Members were another band on the outside of 2-Tone who were also experimenting with reggae. Their lament about how the rich were able to hide money from the tax man was a full on reggae workout. This version captures them live from the soundtrack to seminal music movie 'Urgh'. The original studio version was recorded with Rico Rodriguez on trombone.
While not busy behind the drum kit for The Specials. John Bradbury started his own record label called Race Records and quickly signed two 2-Tone inspired bands. Night Doctor, was a 10-piece reggae band and The People which featured ex-members of The Selecter who had left the band shortly before the band recorded their second album 'Celebrate The Bullet'.
Pauline Black With Sunday Best was a short lived collaboration between Pauline Black of The Selecter and Lynval Golding and Neville Staple of The Fun Boy Three/The Specials. The song is very difficult to find and is considered a collectors item. Finally, The Ruts were at the forefront of the Rock Against Racism movement. Along with Misty In Roots, they spearheaded the partnership between punk and reggae bands that took off at the same time that 2-Tone was ruling the charts. The song 'Jah War' is taken from their album 'The Crack'.
Here is the podcast play list:
Work Out - Desmond Dekker (Black & Dekker LP)
Jesse James - Laurel Aitken & The Ruts(Peel Session)
21 Guns - 21 Guns (Shack Records 7" produced by Neville Staple of The Specials)
Jungle Music - Rico & The Special A.K.A.
Living On The Frontline - Eddy Grant
Offshore Banking Business - The Members (Live from Urgh! Soundtrack)
Just Enough - Night Doctor (Race Records 7" produced by John Bradbury of The Specials)
Musical Man - The People (Race Records 7" featuring ex-members of The Selecter)
Pirates On The Airwaves - Pauline Black & Sunday Best (Pauline Black with Lynval Golding and Neville Staple)
Jah War - The Ruts
Marco On The Bass Podcast #3