Monday, December 2, 2013
Antonee First Class of The English Beat Releases "Step On Through" Featuring Tappa Zukie & Militant Barry
If you have caught Dave Wakeling's version of The English Beat during any of his coast-to-coast U.S. tours over the last five years, then you have had the pleasure of enjoying the singing, toasting and stage moves of the band's resident toaster and MC, Antonee First Class. He complements Wakeling's crooning with crisp toasts and shines on his own songs and freestyle chats. But what you may not know is that Antonee comes from reggae royalty, which he wisely taps on his brand new, irresistible single Step On Through (available on iTunes and Amazon.com).
Antonee (the son of 70's/80's reggae artist Militant Barry and the Godson of 70's reggae singer Tappa Zukie, who together recorded a number of important reggae tracks which which were popular in Jamaica and the U.K.) has updated the duo's 1977 track Living In The Ghetto by sampling the bass line and the chorus and adding his own take on 21st century ghetto life. It's a song that harkens back to the golden age of 70's reggae with a traditional sound (produced by Antonee and ex-English Beat bassist Wayne Lothian) that is sorely lacking these days and that should appeal to both reggae heads and 2-Tone fans.
I spoke with Antonee, who shared that his father (who served as Tappa Zukie's UK manager before embarking on his own career as Militant Barry) were, along with Don Letts, responsible for helping to popularize reggae with punks, particularly John Lydon of The Sex Pistols (who was a huge reggae fan) and The Clash. Zukie's MPLA was a favorite of Mick Jones.
"I learned all I know about reggae from my father and Tappa Zukie. I've had nuff sleepless nights as a kid in recording studios with these two, not to mention ghostwriting songs before I was even a teen. They are well affiliated with the punk rock scene of the 70s & 80s. They use to take The Clash and The Sex Pistols to reggae dances in the UK. U2 once opened for Tappa, whom my dad was road managing in Ireland before they were U2. My father was also Miles Copeland A&R for his record label. I used to see Sting and The Police at Copeland's house as a kid before they went famous. They was actually learning the reggae through people like my Dad and Tappa. Dave Wakeling's favorite reggae artist and the first reggae record he ever bought was by Tappa Zukie, whom I lived with. My music history is longer than the average!"
So its no surprise that Antonee has connected with Dave Wakeling, who was a punk when he started The Beat in the U.K. in 1978. The reggae-punk connection was particularly strong with Miltant Barry who recorded the song Pistol Boy, which was produced by Tappa Zukie and questioned whether or not Side Vicious really killed his girlfriend Nancy Spungen.
Read more about Antonee's life as a musician and his time running a reggae record store with his father in Pittsburgh here and listen to his toasting on my new band Rude Boy George's reggae version of The Romantics classic Talking In Your Sleep.