Sunday, March 29, 2009

Marco On The Bass Podcast Series: A Celebration of 80's American Ska & Reggae

This week's podcast is a joint effort with my fellow ska blogger Tone and Wave. Together we've put together a podcast that celebrates and pays respects to a variety of bands and artists from the 1980's who were responsible for establishing and helping to build the foundation for the American ska scene that exploded in the late 80's and early 90's. We've focused on bands that were playing ska and reggae either right before the advent of 2-Tone in the UK or at roughly the same time.

I've focused my podcast on ska and reggae bands that you may or may not have heard of before. What's striking is how many bands started popping up in so many different places around the U.S.. They include rarities from more popular bands (The Untouchables, Bim Skala Bim) and hard-to-find gems from bands you may have never heard of before (The Boilers, The Nails, Blue Riddim Band). While 2-Tone often gets the lion share of the attention for combining the energy and anger of punk with the rhythms of reggae, there were American bands who were playing their own variation of 2-Tone styled ska and reggae years before their British brethren.

Here are highlights about several of the bands in this week's podcast:

Heavy Manners - Caught the attention of Peter Tosh of The Wailers when they opened a show for him in Chicago. Impressed with their live show and musicianship he ends up taking them into the studio to produce their first album which includes the song 'Taking The Queen To Tea'.

The Boilers - One of the best live bands from the large and diverse NYC SKA scene of the mid and late 1980's. The band features a young Jeff Baker (AKA King Django) on trombone and vocals. He would go on to form Skinnerbox and lead the well-known Stubborn All-Stars. He is also a respected ska and reggae producer and solo artist.

The Nails - Boulder, Colorado-based band that moved to New York in the late 70's and recorded one ska single 'Transcontinental Ska'. The band morphed into a well-known alternative rock band and had an underground college rock hit with '88 Lines About 44 Women'.

The Terrorists - New York City's premiere reggae band. The band sold out shows all over New York in the late 70's and early 80's with their faithful reggae rhythms. The band were so good they attracted the attention of Jamaican producer extraordinaire Lee 'Scratch' Perry who joined them for a short time and produced the 12' track 'Love Is Better Now'. They also claimed Roland Alphonso of The Skatalites as a featured member for a few years.

Blue Riddim Band - Can undoubtedly claim the title of America's first reggae band. The truth is it's hard to describe Blue Riddim because they were so unbelievably good. Seven white guys from Kansas City who laid down reggae grooves so massive that the speakers shook on their bases. The first American band to be invited to play Reggae Sunsplash. I've included their rockin' live version of the satirical 'Nancy Reagan' from the 1982 Reggae Sunsplash.

Tone and Wave has included bands that were not traditionally defined as ska bands, but who included ska influences in their sounds or recorded ska songs that added to the growing canon on American ska. Have a listen to The Plugz and Crazy 8's for a great example. For more detailed information on the Tone and Wave play list go to the Tone and Wave blog.

Below is the track listing for both mixes. Enjoy!

Marco On The Bass Mix

Heavy Manners - Taking The Queen To Tea [Chicago 1982]
The X-Streams - Rhythm Of Life 7" [Arizona 1980]
The Boilers - Coeur A Voil [New York 1988]
Bim Skala Bim - Jah Laundromat [Boston 1985]
The Nails - Transcontinental Ska [New York 1980]
The Terrorists - Love Is Better Now 12" [New York 1981]
The Untouchables - Tropical Bird (b-side to The General 7" single) [Los Angeles 1983]
The Hoovers - I Got You Babe [San Francisco 1980]
The Uptones - Outback Master [San Francisco 1983]
Blue Riddim Band - Nancy Reagan (live at 1982 Reggae Sunsplash)[Kansas City 1982]

Tone and Wave Mix

The Plugz - Touch for Cash [Los Angeles 1981]
The Donkey Show - Insomnia [Los Angeles 1989]
Camper Van Beethoven - Skinhead Stomp [Redlands, CA 1985]
Talk Back - Rudy [Los Angeles 1984]
Kill Me - Mr. Potato Head [New York 1985]
The Young Executives - Original Sin [Bellvue, Washington 1982]
Cryin' Out Loud - Live it Up [Hoboken, NJ 1985]
Crazy 8s - Find Myself a Sunny Spot (live) [Oregon 1988]
Eddie Vedder - Reggae Woman [Los Angeles, 1988]

Marco On The Bass + Tone and Wave Podcast


California Mod Scene said...

Thanks for recognizing the X-Streams.

You may want to try to track down the early 80's L.A. groups Galaxy of Prizes and Ska Cha Cha, which were produced by Mark Nine, who was later a guitarist for Nina Hagen. Anyway Galaxy of Prizes appeared on the "Mashin' Up the Nation" comp with "Ska Lip Soul", and Ska Cha Cha is on an older Planet Ska Comp, (Unicorn Records, PHZA 57) with "Lost Angeles".

Also, the early 80's Utah ska group 004 had a couple of songs, "Brite Lite" and "I Don't Love You", which are out there somewhere.

"Talk Back" (on your list) was Kevin Williams's group, which succeeded his earlier group, the Hot Spots.

Captain Skalett said...

Marco & Tone&Wave

Just listened. Definately some of the best i've heard from America. I have to admit to being a bit of stuffy prejudiced Brit over 2-Tone. But i have been scratching my head over what SKA is/was on your side of the pond, especially over the last 15/20 Years or so.. Thank You. Brilliant.


dublinsax said...

Many thanks to both of you for so many of those hard to find tracks