RL - Not surprised at all ... I was working with The Specials in early 1979 doing their front of house sound, it was obvious to anyone attending their gigs that they were going to make it.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Interview with Roger Lomas - 2Tone Producer
RL - Not surprised at all ... I was working with The Specials in early 1979 doing their front of house sound, it was obvious to anyone attending their gigs that they were going to make it.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
The Black Seeds - The new UB40?
What's going on with UB40?
I was also inspired by the UB40 story because none of them knew how to play their instruments when the started and neither did I. That didn't stop them and it has never deterred me even though I can't read or write music. I play the bass by ear and have educated myself by listening to hours and hours of music.
Formed in 1978 and named after an unemployment benefit document, UB40 have enjoyed huge success, with more than 70 million records sold worldwide and 51 hit singles including Red Red Wine and I Got You Babe with Chrissie Hynde – more than The Beatles or Rolling Stones.
Now their eagerly awaited new album, 24/7, is to be released next week.
The new release takes on added significance for UB40 fans as it will be the last album ever recorded by the band's original line-up. Ali Campbell, the band's lead singer, left earlier this year to pursue a solo career, followed by keyboard player Michael Virtue. The original line-up of boyhood friends from the inner-city areas of Birmingham, whose multi-racial line-up has always seemed like a microcosm of multi-cultural Britain, even managed to conquer the notoriously hard-to-crack American market.
They credit their longevity to the fact that there is no room for egos. Which is why the recent split with two founder members has come as such a shock. The departures have led to bitter recriminations on both sides.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
The Ripps - Coventry Strikes Again
People on the boards were saying The Ripps were the reincarnation of The Specials and it didn't hurt that they were also from Coventry. Truth be told the sound of the first album "Long Live The Ripps" which came out last year has more in common with the Sound of '77 and the songs lift liberally from The Jam, The Buzzcocks, The Sex Pistols etc. There is a tinge of ska here and there but overall I give them the thumbs up. I'm hopeful that the new album that is coming out this summer and is being produced by Roger Lomas will be more 2Tone/ska/Clash-style reggae and if the 3 songs now up on their Myspace site (http://www.myspace.com/theripps) are any indication it will (I particularly like "The People Have Spoken and Rude Boy).
The band is 3 piece and has a woman on the drums (which is pretty rad). They also have an interesting back story. The review below from Indie London provides the lowdown on the band.
COVENTRY upstarts The Ripps boast a sound that’s fast, furious but mostly fun: it’s essentially punk power pop that’s as effusive as early Supergrass but with an outsider edge that stems from brothers Patch and Raul Lagunas’ parents, who were political activists in General Pinochet’s Chile, living in exile in the UK since the ’70s.
Their influences range from the obvious likes of The Clash, The Pixies, The Buzzcocks and Blur, to the more surprising likes of the B-52’s and The Shangri-la’s. Former single Loco is typical of what to expect; a joyfully exuberant opening salvo that taps into the “loco” nature of proceedings. It’s essentially a love song about two dysfunctional people who want to party but it’s delivered with such gusto that it’s impossible not to be swept up in its cavalier attitude.
It’s followed by the similarly brash Vandals, a rousing blend of early Blur-style guitar riffs and punchy lyrics (“we are the vandals, a generation of losers and wasters heading for trouble”). There’s elements of The Jam and The Specials too. Slightly angrier and certainly more punky is Hypocrite, while the opening riffs of Vampires appear ripped right out of Pixies’ culture.
It’s a distinct feature of the album, however, that it’s easily divided into angry punk moments and more infectious power-pop. Needless to say, it works best when occupying the latter territory.
Stranger, for instance, is a firm highlight; a track that begins with a whistle and unfolds with some catchy hooks and vocal melodies. Holiday employs some Beach Boys-style melodies before careering head-first into breezy Brit-pop territory, a la Blur. And You Don’t Even Care drops some cheeky, laddish lyrics into the mix to conjure an anthem about juvenile affection and unrequited passion. During such moments, the album positively vibrates with the energy of youth and the sound of a band finding its feet. Hell, there’s even a nod towards Kaiser Chiefs territory on final track, I Don’t Like You Any More, which employs the same sort of chant-along chorus that made Every Day I Love You Less And Less so memorable.
But in spite of its obvious comparisons, Long Live The Ripps appears happy to wear its influences on its sleeve because it also retains a confidence in its own ability to entertain. The result is mostly infectious in a loud, brash, guilty pleasure kind of way. Download picks: Loco, Stranger, Holiday, You Don’t Even Care, Benefits, Bad Influence
You Don’t Even Care
I Don’t Like You Anymore
The Ripps - Long Live The Ripps
Friday, April 25, 2008
Rare 2Tone Spin-off: Pauline Black with Sunday Best featuring Lynval Golding and Neville Staple
Pauline Black with Sunday Best features the unmistakable vocals of The Selecter frontwoman. After the band split, Black released a few singles including "Pirates on the Airwaves" which included Neville Staples and Lynval Golding, formerly of The Specials and Fun Boy Three.
While I won't say this is the best song I have ever heard all three of them perform, its novelty makes it worth a listen or two as part of the ongoing history of 2Tone.
According to Vinyl Goldmine Pirates on the Airwaves has never appeared on CD even though countless Selecter and Pauline Black compilations have been put on the market over the years. Downloads of both the A and B side (which features the toasting of Neville Staple) are below courtesy of Vinyl Goldmine.
Pauline Black with Sunday Best - Pirates on the Airwaves
Inside The Songwriters Mind - An Interview With Dave Wakeling of The English Beat
Dave: It was a phrase of my father's when I would disagree with him and try to stand up to him as I was growing old. He'd be like, "You're just whistling in the graveyard." So it was like he was accusing me of a false sense of courage, like I was trying to act more bravely. I think the phrase was actually whistling past the graveyard. He said it to me as, "Oh, you're just whistling in the graveyard." I actually stick quite a lot of my dad's little phrases and witticisms in songs. And I suppose in Birmingham they had a sort of colloquial history that most people's dads would have said to them. But it was trying to build up a false sense of courage and call up your girlfriend, knowing whatever it was that she was going to catch you at because you weren't telling the truth.
The first single for The English Beat was an uptempo cover of the Smokey Robinson classic "Tears Of A Clown." It was released on the Chrysalis subsidiary 2-Tone Records, which was started by Jerry Dammers of The Specials. After this single, The English Beat negotiated a deal with Arista records to form their own Go Feet label, which gave them a great deal of creative control.
SF: It was always strange to me how Jamaican sayings make their way over to England, the reggae sayings.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Madness Rareties (Volume 1)
In November '82, they released their 4th studio album, "The Rise & Fall". The album was well received in the UK, but didn't get an American release. Instead, many of the albums songs were included on the US compilation Madness, including "Our House", which was their most internationally successful single to date. "Our House" reached number 5 in the UK music charts and number 7 in the US charts. Many reviewers compared the The Rise & Fall to The Kinks' Village Green Preservation Society, and it is at times retrospectively considered a concept album.
In 1983, their single "Wings of a Dove" peaked at number 2 in the UK charts, followed by "The Sun & The Rain" (no.5, nov 83). Their following album, Keep Moving, peaked at number 6 in the UK album charts, and two singles from that album reached the top 20 in the UK music charts. The album also included backing vocals by Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger who had just left The Beat to form General Public.
Here is the first volume of four rareties and its a true cornucopia of extended 12" versions and demos of songs from the middle period of Madness albums (The Rise & The Fall, Keep Moving and Mad Not Mad) when they were moving away from ska and incorporating more pop, soul, rock sounds. I've always loved the "Keep Moving" album that followed their U.S. success with "Our House".
01. Cardiac Arrest (Extended 12" Version)
02. Our House (Extended Version)
03. Tomorrow's Just Another Day (12" Warp Mix)
04. Wings Of A Dove (Blue Train Mix)
05. The Sun And The Rain (Extended Version)
06. Michael Caine (Extended Version)
07. Yesterday's Men (12" Version)
08. Uncle Sam (Ray Gun Mix)
09. Sweetest Girl (Extended Mix)
10. Seven Year Scratch (Hits Mix)
11. Yesterday's Men (Demo Version)
12. Uncle Sam (Demo Version)
13. Sweetest Girl (Dub Mix)
Madness Rareties Volume 1
(Here is the password for download: geantvener)
Sunday, April 20, 2008
The Coventry Automatics
From the liner notes: "The story behind the recordings dates back to 1978 when a six piece band called The Automatics travelled to London to record a number of demo tapes with the intention of securing a record deal with a major British record label. The group, consisting of Jerry Dammers on keyboards, Lynval Golding on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Roddy "Radiation" Byers on lead guitar, 'Sir' Horace Panter on bass, Silverton Hutchinson on drums and Terry Hall providing lead vocals, laid down a total of thirteen songs. Despite the obvious potential of the material, major companies seemed unwilling to take a chance on the group and after months without progress, the group finally decided their best and possibly only chance of success lay in releasing their material on a label of their own. Fortunately, the conditions for such a move could not have been more favourable. The wind of change blown in by punk had left the way open for new talent to emerge in its wake and by the late seventies a framework for small, independent labels to operate and achieve national distribution and air-play was firmly established in the UK."
Here is the track listing and the link to download the album (credit to I Supply the Country With Butter blog on the download)
Rock & Roll Nightmare
Look But Don't Touch
It's Up to You
Too Much Too Young
(Dawning of A) New Era
The Coventry Automatics - Dawning Of A New Era
Fun Boy Three Live!
I found this live album on a blog called "I Supply The Country With Butter"
Incredible live set from former Specials members, Terry Hall, Lynval Golding and Neville Staples. Recorded in 1983 for the Old Grey Whistle Test program, this album catches Fun Boy Three at the top of their game. Unforgettable versions of Fun Boy Three classics, such as Our Lips Are Sealed, We're Having All The Fun, Summertime and a cover the Specials classic, Gangsters!
Stone Fox Chase (Theme) Area Code 615
The More I See (The Less I Believe)
The Pressure Of Life
Things We Do
Our Lips Are Sealed
Tunnel Of Love
We're Having All The Fun
T'aint What You Do (It's The Way That You Do It)
Well Fancy That [Kid Jensen Radio 1 Show]
Tunnel Of Love [Kid Jensen Radio 1 Show]
Fun Boy Three Live on Old Grey Whistle Test 1983
Even better was a discovery of a live video of Our Lips Are Sealed on You Tube which I have also posted for all you other FB3 fans. I remember hearing that Terry, Neville and Lynval were backed by a band of all women but it was great to finally see them.
The Debut of 2 Tone Records
You can download the original 45 disc here:
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Ska Weekend Preview
The festival is touted as the largest Ska festival in the country by its organizer Ben Altom. The event usually takes place during April, but has been moved to July for 2008, and draws some of the most popular ska, punk and rocksteady bands in the country (Mustard Plug, VooDoo Glow Skulls, The Slackers, Westbound Train, Hub City Stompers, King Django and The Pietasters all played the festival in 2007) it also routinely attracts more than 1,500 people. The festival was held in Knoxville's historic "Old City" but will move to the Knoxville World's Fair Park in 2008 to accommodate a larger audience and more stages.
I plan to preview the bands that have been announced (save Bigger Thomas) and will post songs, reviews and video so any one who is interested can check them out.
Here is the list of announced bands. More are expected:
FATTER THAN ALBERT
THE TAJ MOTEL TRIO
CHASE LONG BEACH
MANIC SEWING CIRCLE
ROYAL CITY RIOT
RYAN SCROGGINS AND THE TRENCHTOWN TEXANS
Saturday, April 12, 2008
City Gardens - House of Ska
I've been thinking alot about the early days of Bigger Thomas (when the band was also called Panic!) and the club that helped put us on the map in late 80's and early 90's. City Gardens was a mecca for disaffected, suburban kids in NJ who were outside the mainstream and were looking for more out of the music that was being force fed on the radio (Springsteen and 80's pop crap).
I remember the first show I ever saw at the club (The Groceries, a local NJ band with a good following) when I was a college freshman at Rutgers. The club was in run down part of Trenton and it was a dark and dingy place but I was always excited to go there. The car rides with my friends to and from the club were always memorable and the characters who ran the club (one Randy Now) seemed larger than life to me as a 18 year old. Its fair to say that my experiences seeing a variety of diverse shows at City Gardens molded me into the music fan I am today.
As a young ska aficionados in the early to mid 1980's, the best part of City Gardens was the number of ska shows that Randy booked. He was clearly a fan of the genre and he went out of his way to bring in local and regional bands from NYC and Philly. It was always easier to wait and see these bands when they came to Trenton then to trek into CBGB's or The Ritz and it made me love the club even more that they came to us in NJ.
My love and passion for ska led me to start a band in New Brunswick while I was a student at Rutgers University. In fact, it was a chance meeting that Roger and I had with Steve Meicke (original and current band sax player) at a Ranking Roger show at City Gardens in August 1988 that took the band (then known as Panic!) from the planning stages to gig ready.
I don't remember the sequence of events anymore, but somehow Randy Now heard about our little ska band making some noise in New Brunswick and New York in the fall of 1988 and spring of 1989 and he offered us a show opening for Boston's Bim Skala Bim in March 1989. We must have made an impression because he kept on booking us for the next 2 1/2 years until the original band split after a bittersweet gig opening for our musical heroes The Special Beat in September 1991.
Its safe to say that Randy Now played a huge role in helping Panic!/Bigger Thomas become the band we are nearly 20 years later. He acted as an unofficial booking manager, connection maker and guru to us. The sheer variety of shows we played opening for bands as diverse as De La Soul, Burning Spear and Token Entry ensured we were seen and heard by many. In fact, people still come up and say to us that they remember seeing us at City Gardens back in the day.
To honor Randy and City Gardens I have posted all the punk cards of shows we played. These cards which Randy made by hand (long before home computers and graphics programs) used to arrive in the mail every month or so promoting shows at the club. I loved getting them and planned many weekend s based on shows I wanted to see. I am amazed at the variety and diversity of bands Randy booked at the club. Looking back its a who's who of punk and underground rock hall of fame bands like Nirvana, Green Day, The Ramones, DEVO etc. I'm proud and more than awed by the company of bands we shared the stage with all these years later.
If you want to see some real rock and roll history be sure to visit Randy's web site where all the punk cards are on display: http://www.randynow.com/punkcards.html
Long Live City Gardens! Long Live Punk Cards! Long Live Randy Now!
Friday, April 11, 2008
Why I Love Ska
After nearly 20 years as a bass player in a ska and reggae band called Bigger Thomas http://www.myspace.com/biggerthomas I have amassed a sizable collection of ska and reggae music and memories. I've seen hundreds and hundreds of shows as well as gotten to meet and perform with many of my musical heroes. For my very first post I want to share some music that made me who I am as a bass player and a fan of ska and reggae.
These bands and songs are responsible for my musical education and still inspire me to this day:
The Specials: To this day they are the be all and end all of what 2Tone meant to me. The idea of the band meant as much to me as the music and it was the template for starting my own band, Meeting Lynval Golding and opening for bands he played in is still a thrill for me. That he is a lovely fellow and gentleman reaffirmed my belief in humanity. Note that David Steele from The Beat is playing bass in the video of "Do Nothing" below.
The Beat: The band that I have always wanted to be in from the first time I heard I Just Can't Stop It. I have David Steele and his unorthodox mix of reggae and punk bass playing to thank for picking up the bass guitar in the first place. I have modeled my bass playing on his. To this day the best show I ever saw was REM and The Beat at the Fountain Casino in Aberdeen, NJ on April 24, 1983. The experience of that show is followed closely by meeting and opening shows for Dave Wakeling's English Beat the last few years.
Here is a Westwood One Radio broadcast of The English Beat taped onto open reel, then recorded to cassette to edit out the commercials.
1) Get A Job (6:37)
3) Twist and Crawl (2:25)
4) Save It For Later (3:18)
5) Mirror in the Bathroom (5:32)
6) End Of The Party (3:45)
7) Rough Rider (5:22)
8) Tenderness (4:06)
Bim Skala Bim: In my opinion the best American ska band ever (along with The Untouchables) and the 2Tone influence is unmistakable in early songs like The Key, Jah Laundromat and Solitary Confinement from their first self titled album. We played a number of shows with them in our early days at City Gardens in Trenton, NJ. For my money Vinnie Nobile is the world's best trombone player and his distinctive sound makes the band. Vinnie now plays with the reformed Pilfers.
Here is a link to a download of Bim's 1995 album "Bones"
Here is a link to a download of Bim's 1989 album "Tuba City"
Bad Manners: One of the best live 2Tone ska era bands of all time. I wore out my first copy of their self-titled LP and songs like Lip Up Fatty, Inner London Violence, Special Brew and Lorraine were the soundtrack of my teen years in high school. I saw them at the Ritz in New York City with my friends in August 1984 and it still ranks as one of the most memorable live shows I have seen. Buster and his band of free spirits really knew how to entertain. Later we opened a few shows for them and just played a show with them at the Filmore East (AKA Irving Plaza) a few weeks ago. Buster remembered us and invited our band to share his dressing room. He is such a down-to-earth and level-headed person.