The long wait is over! The man who wrote ’3 Minute Hero,’ ‘Missing Words,’ ‘Celebrate The Bullet,’ ‘On My Radio,’ and the track that started it all, "The Selecter," (the flip side to The Specials "Gangsters") has finally released new music. As one of 2 Tone Records greatest musicians, songwriters and founder of The Selecter, Neol Davies is back with a superb new single ‘Dolla Fe Dolla’ which was recorded exclusively for The London International Ska Festival 2012 and is now finally available on vinyl from Phoenix City Records and from iTunes.
I've been meaning to post about Davies (who I interviewed a few years back) for some time now and his new music in particular. I have a very soft spot in my heart for him and for Pauline Black. The first real tour my band Bigger Thomas ever did was during the summer of 1991 as support for The Selecter when they re-formed for tour the U.S. They were both very kind to us and it was surreal at times to be standing off stage and watching two of my musical heroes perform songs that formed the soundtrack to my musical education. As such, I was excited to finally hear a recorded version of some of the new material Davies has been writing of late.
According to an interview Davies recently did with M Magazine explaining the stories behind many of classics he wrote for The Selecter, the new song is built on a hypnotic chord change that builds towards a tension that is released when he slides into one of his memorable solos.
"Dolla Fe Dolla is a new song I’m very happy with. It’s going to be on a 7” record exclusive to the International Ska Festival. Everybody I’ve played it to really likes it, it’s a song about the current times of financial mess-around and how money just drives everything and again, commenting on hypocrisy – all my favourite subjects!
The way writing usually works for me is finding a groove or a few chords on my guitar and the best times are when that happens and a hook phrase comes too. This is one of those songs where that happened.
I started messing about with a really simple chord change: G, B-flat, back to C and after a few dozen times of doing that I started to sing the main line ‘Dolla, Dolla, fe Dolla, Dollar’, just like I got the hook for On My Radio. There was space for a little melodic hook between the main refrain and so I put a little line ‘Buy Everything’ in between.
Straight away I could see it was a great way to split voices – the backing singers doing the main hook and the lead voice singing the phrase in between, which is a thing I like doing, part of my style perhaps. The verse needed a bit of work but I like to keep the groove simple without it sounding too simple and I got a little bit of blues in there with the bassline. It has one of those chord sequences where it’s crucial to get the tempo just right – if it’s too slow or too fast it sounds a bit awkward and we spent a lot of time just getting the rhythm guitar – the off beat -against the main beat to make it really danceable."Davies and his band headlined the London International Ska Festival in early May. Below are a selection of live songs performed at the festival including a mix of new songs (Dolla Fe Dolla, Shake The World), old songs (Too Much Pressure, Three Minute Hero) and a cover. Based on what I can gather, Davies had a special guest on organ. That's right, Jerry Dammers of The Specials, sat in with the band and you can hear his handiwork on The Skatalites classic "Reburial" below. Look for Dammers on the left side of the stage.
Dolla Fe Dolla
Shake The World
Too Much Pressure
Three Minute Hero