Sunday, May 3, 2009

Marco On The Bass Podcast Series: More 80's American Ska

This week's podcast heads back across the Atlantic to highlight more ska bands that were part of the early, mid and late 80's explosion of American ska. In particular I wanted to focus on the diverse and thriving ska scene of the mid and late 80's that stretched across the northeast of the U.S. from Boston to Washington, DC. On any given weekend there were ska shows at clubs throughout these cities and my band played with many of the bands featured in this weeks podcast including Bim Skala Bim, Second Step, The Now, Public Service and 6 Feet Under. Each band had a unique and individual sound but we were all part of the growing collective of bands that helped to establish a scene in this part of the U.S. that still exists today.

Here are highlights about each of the band's in this weeks podcast:

Bim Skala Bim from Boston were one of the most popular and talented U.S. ska bands to emerge in the 80's. Razorbeat Records released 'Mash It Up', a compilation of Boston ska bands which included the hard-to-find relic 'Veil of Sadness' that is unavailable elsewhere.

Second Step were part of the core of ska band's that coalesced around CBGB's in NYCs East Village in the Mid 80's that included The Toasters, The NY Citizens, The Boilers and Urban Blight. Their original line-up was among the best live ska bands I ever saw and the song 'Two Men In Suits' was a highlight of their live set.

My band Bigger Thomas was the first ska band from New Jersey and we played shows across Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. with most of the bands included in this podcast. The song 'Caught' was recorded for our second demo tape that we sold at shows in 1988-89.

The Now were a great mod-ska band that hailed from the nation's capital. We played a number of shows with them at Trenton NJ's legendary club City Gardens. The song 'Get Out Now' featured on the compilation 'Mashin Up The Nation - The Best of American Ska'.

Public Service was formed in 1983 at Penn State University and were single handedly responsible for developing a ska scene in the City of Brotherly Love. The funky ska song 'Bad Thing' was penned during this early phase of the group's career and remained a part of their repertoire for many years.

One of my favorite band's from the northeast US scene was 6 Feet Under who were from Connecticut and brought a decidedly punky ska vibe to very witty and humorous songs including 'Hormonal Inspiration'.

One of the first ska albums I picked up in the mid-80's was 'Come See, Come Ska' on Ska Records by Gangster Fun from Detroit. The band started in 1986 as a joke band but quickly became one of most popular and iconic US ska bands of the 80's and 90's and helped to build a thriving mid-western ska scene that is now centered in Chicago. The song 'Red Light' is a change of pace from the band's usual hyperactive 2-Tone style.

The Boxboys were LA's first homegrown ska band and built the bridge that spanned the vast and mythical chasm between dance floor and stage for L.A.’s first mod band, The Untouchables. According to Kevin Long of The Untouchables, The Boxboys influence on the Untouchables exceeded that of the far-removed English Two-Tone and mod sets the group admired; whereas the English bands gave shape to the dream, The Boxboys embodied it. The song 'Separate Rooms' is featured in the almost impossible to find 45" 'Skaletones In The Closet' from 1980.

The Nails were another American band who dabbled in 2-Tone sounding ska at the same time the real thing was happening across the pond. The band was originally called The Ravers and got their start in Boulder, Colorado. Like a million bands before them, they left for the bright lights of New York City where they became The Nails. Here they became a staple of the downtown New York music scene of the late 70's/early 80's and ska was a big part of their early set. The band released their third single, "Transcontinental Ska" backed by "Young And Wild" in 1980.

The Crazy 8's from Portland, Oregon were one of the most hard-working and energetic American ska groups in the '80s; however, they broke up a few years before record labels probably would've finally seen their commercial potential. The song 'Find Myself A Sunny Spot' is from a live recording from 1988 that the band recorded during a day of shows on 8/8/88.

Here is the play list:

Bim Skala Bim - Veil Of Sadness (Boston - 1985)
Second Step - Two Men In Suits (New York - 1986)
Bigger Thomas - Caught (New Jersey - 1988)
The Now - Get Out (Washington, DC - 1988)
Public Service - Bad Thing (Philadelphia - 1986)
6 Feet Under - Hormonal Inspiration (Connecticut - 1988)
Gangster Fun - Red Light (Detroit - 1987)
The Boxboys - Separate Rooms (Los Angeles - 1980)
The Nails - Young and Wild (New York - 1980)
Crazy 8's - Find Myself A Sunny Spot (Portland, OR - 1988 )

Marco On The Bass Podcast #10


biopunk said...

Hey Marco, something is not right with the files.

biopunk said...

All good to go now!


JJ Loy said...


I just did a segment on Ska's The Limit where I tried to distinguish 80's American Ska from what it usually thought of as 3rd Wave.
Mashin Up The Nation was huge album for me.

I love all your posts on the subject- Keep it up!

Marco On The Bass said...

Hi JJ. Thanks for the comment, I enjoyed reading your post about 80's American ska.