Sunday, April 5, 2009

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

This week's podcast follows in the footsteps of last week's podcast. I've gathered together songs from 10 more bands from the 1980's who were responsible for establishing and helping to build the foundation for both the American and Canadian ska scenes that exploded in the late 80's and early 90's. I'm highligting bands that were playing ska and reggae either right before the advent of 2-Tone in the UK or at roughly the same time.

This podcast includes ska and reggae bands that you may or may not have heard of before. This time around I've expanded it to include bands from the Great White North who sowed the seeds for the vibrant Canadian ska scene that has given birth to The Kingpins, Planet Smashers and Bedouin Soundclash. This podcast focuses on 3 specific regions of North America that seemed to serve as the cradle of American and Canadian ska - namely California, Western Canada and The Northeastern US. They include rarities from bands you have heard of before (Fishbone, The Donkey Show, The Villains) and hard-to-find gems from bands you may have never heard of before (The Fabulous Titans, The Targets, The B-Sides). 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 and Canadian 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:

The Fabulous Titans - A ska and reggae band based in the Bay Area of California that had its roots in The Shakers who were the first American reggae signed to a major label (Warner-Elektra in 1976). The FT's signed and recorded 'Rico's Lament' for the Chiswick record label in the UK and later were the first U.S, band ever invited to tour Cuba.

The Offs -Completely overlooked and unique San Francisco based ska/punk band whose first single 'My World' came out the same week as The Specials first single. The Offs kept innovating, and produced some of the most original hybrid music to come out of the American music scene of the late '70's mixing funk, soul, R&B, ska, and reggae, and making it all their own.

The Targets - Another diamond in the rough from the verdant Southern California mod/ska scene of the early 80's . Little is know about the band which shone brightly for just a two short years. The instrumental track 'Unity Beat' pays respects to the unique side stick offbeat drum and twist and crawl bass sound created by The Beat.

The Donkey Show - LA's premiere mid and late 80's ska band who took the torch from The Untouchables and helped make Southern California the epicenter of American ska. Known for their male and female lead vocalists and for their legendary sax played Dave Hillyard who now plays with The Slackers. The song 'Ease Down' comes from their live album recorded at Berkeley CA's famous Gilman Street Club.

Fishbone - A rare cover of 60's ska track that LA's finest recorded with 1950's Mickey Mouse Show star Annette Funicello for the soundtrack to the movie 'Back To The Beach'. Enough said.

The Villians - Ska band folk heroes in Vancouver and throughout Canada for their crazy live shows and ability to publicize their antics. The band's first single 'Life Of Crime' chronicles their run-in with Canadian immigration upon their arrival from London.

The B-Sides - Little is know about this early 80's Canadian 2-Tone style power pop ska from Vancouver. Their one and only LP 'Red To Black' is long out of print and a collectors item.

The Erector Set - Boston-based ska/reggae band who recorded one 7" single in 1981 whose A side was included on the American Skathic compilation from 1995. The song 'No Room For Comfort' is the hard to find B side of the single.

Mephiskapheles - New York City-based ska band that lead a late 80's revival and a band that my band Bigger Thomas played with fairly regularly. The song 'Doomsday' comes from a cassette tape recording the band sold at shows in 1989.

Shot Black & White - New York City-based reggae/rock band that bridged the gap between the late 80's NYC SKA scene and the alternative rock club scene. Another band that my band played with a few times and who beat us out in a battle of the band's competition in 1988 which provided them the money to record the album that 'Understand' is on.

Below is the track listing for the podcast mix. Enjoy!

Marco On The Bass Mix

The Fabulous Titans - Rico's Lament [San Francisco 1982]
The Offs- My World [San Francisco 1980]
The Targets - Unity Beat [Torrance, CA 1983]
The Donkey Show- Ease Down (Live) [San Diego 1989]
Fishbone - Jamaica Ska (with Annette Funicello) [Los Angeles 1987]
The Villians - Life Of Crime [Vancouver, BC 1980]
The B-Sides - Late At Night [Vancouver, BC 1981]
The Erector Set - No Room For Comfort [Boston 1981]
Mephiskapheles- Doomsday [New York 1989]
Shot Black & White- Understand [New York 1989]

Marco On The Bass Podcast #6


dublinsax said...

Many thanks, I hadn't heard most of these tracks before

Anonymous said...

Thanks for including the Targets, Donkey Show and Shot Black & White - great songs! One request: could you track down "Mugsy Shambles" from the Skeletones first EP (87 or 88) for a future podcast?

Marco On The Bass said...

Hi Aaron,

The Skeletones are a great band! I'll have a look around and see if I can find 'Mugsy Shambles'. My next podcast is all American again so keep an eye out.


Anonymous said...

Some other bands that would be great to see are: The Rhyth-o-Matics (cool afro-ska album called "Walking in the Shadows") from S.F. and NYC's the Beat Brigade - their song "Try & try again" reminds of Fishbone's intensity. Philly's Public Service had some good tunes too.

Juan said...


I believe that The Targets on your blog is a band that I am familiar with. The bass player in the band ended up being my sons soccer coach several years ago.

It would be cool if we could compare some notes on the band.


ERic Bird said...

The Donkey Show was from San Diego and Proud of it.As one of the founding members and writer of half thier origionals , I'd say I was a good authority , just got done editing the mistake on wiki.

Chuck Wren said...

Erector Set were from Cincinnati Ohio, not sure how everyone got on a tangent about being from Boston. The American Skathic series was strictly midwest ska past and present! Somehow that band got in contact with me at the very beginning of the series...totally do not remember how to be honest.