Thanks to my ska blogging comrade Tone & Wave, I just came across a rare BBC recording of The Untouchables live at the 1985 Glastonbury Festival.These BBC transcription discs are high-quality live-recordings which were intended for radio broadcast only and were made in a very limited quantity normally not exceeding 100 copies.
The Untouchables 'Wild Child' album was released 28 years ago during the spring of 1985. It remains one of the earliest and most popular examples of purely American-styled ska mixing in soul, pop and funk. The success of The Untouchables and their giant step from local Los Angeles ska/mod heroes to a major label deal with Stiff Records in the U.K. is a classic story about how old fashioned DIY marketing, self-promotion and good luck used to work in the music business (now all you need is a YouTube video!).
Josh "Acetone" Harris joined the band in 1983 right before they signed to Stiff Records. He was originally hired to engineer sessions for the band's two indie singles "The General" and"Tropical Bird." The session producer suggested to the band that Harris add an organ part. Since the band lacked a keyboard player, they approved. The only organ available was an old Acetone, which is much smaller than a Farfisa (hence Harris' nickname). Later, Harris was brought in as a replacement for one of the original members, guitarist, Terry Ellsworth. Eventually other members were replaced and the band evolved into the group that recorded 'Wild Child'.
In a series of detailed messages he posted over two years on a Mod message board Harris shared the fascinating details of the fast moving chain of events from 1983-1985 that lead to the band getting signed to Stiff Records and the 'UT Mania' in the U.K. and Europe that followed (which ironically happened just as 2-Tone had finally been declared dead and buried ). Part travelogue, part diary, part 'That Thing You Do' music movie whirlwind, Harris' memories are priceless in their detail and provide anyone who has ever wondered what its like to be signed to a label, record an album and hit the road to tour. Read below about his memories of the band's Glasto appearance:
"We once flew into the U.K. to play Glastonbury Festival (early summer of 85?). We left 95 degree Los Angeles to arrive in 50ish degree London and we were forwarded off to the venue. As we were a fun and merry bunch and loved a little laugh, we decided to perform wearing our California surfer finest to this rainy outdoor event. There we were in sunglasses, shorts, tropical shirts, keds. Upon arrival on stage, the moshers down front became a bit overcome with emotion. They began to pummell us with mud. Maybe they didn't appreciate our sense of humor, maybe they did, I don't know. After the set, we preceeded off to our dressing room, which was one of several backstage trailers. Narrow wood planks led through the mud, from the stage to the trailers. I had heard from quite a few Brits that I had a striking resemblance to Mick Talbot, a keyboard player (like myself) who played with Style Council. They happened to share the bill with us. Now who do I see walking up the plank right toward me, but old Mick himself. Just like Robin Hood and Little John (Mick was Little John, of course)facing off. Well he did look an awfully lot like me, but I was definitely better looking, no question. I was tempted to nudge him off the plank as we carefully passed, but ever the gentleman..."Below is audio and track listing of the band's 1985 Glastonbury performance:
1. (I Spy For The) F.B.I.
2. Soul Together
3. Freak In The Streets
5. Free Yourself