If you happen to attend one of The Specials upcoming shows (the band are in Australia at the moment with stops planned for New Zealand and Japan before another UK tour this fall) and you see a woman with a video camera walking around among the crowd, be sure to stop her and say hello. She is interested in what you have to say about the band and what its 30th anniversary tour has meant to you.
The woman is Michelle Golding (the daughter of band guitarist Lynval Golding) and she is making a documentary about the band's 30th anniversary tour. According to Golding, "I am shooting behind the scenes with the band and crew, and interviewing people who are attending the gigs about their experiences. Come say hi if you see me loitering around with a camera, I am really interested in peoples recollections of the band but also younger peoples reactions to the band."
Golding plans to edit the footage she is collecting into a documentary and may also include footage shot by fans to expand the scope of the project. If you have been to a show and have high quality footage be sure to drop Golding a line. She posted a message on The Specials fan forum this week reaching out to fans of the band and letting them know about the film project:
Hi guys, firstly massive thank you to everyone who has contributed so far to the film, and for all the invaluable info available on here. Couldn't do it without you.
We head to Australia, New Zealand and Japan next week, hoping to find some of you to talk to on camera.
Don't be shy, you can't miss me, I'm the one with the video camera and 'slightly stunned by the amazing response' look on her face. Come say Hi, let me know where all the good meet ups will be so we can capture this moment forever.
The documentary is a work in progress at the moment so no information or details on its release is available yet. You can contact Golding via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
This past Friday night saw the closing of yet another venerable club here in New York City. The Knitting Factory joined CBGB's, The Continental and many others that helped to grow, nurture and support the NYC ska scene over the last 25 years. The Knit (as it was affectionately known) regularly booked ska bands and ska shows during its 20 year run in Manhattan and was host to numerous '3 Floors Of Ska' shows which took advantage of the stages on the three different floors of the club to hold what amounted to a giant ska festival under one roof. Given its support over the years, it was no surprise that the club decided that its last show ever in Manhattan would be a ska show (the club is moving to a new location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.)
My band was invited to play the last show and I was grateful to have one last time to perform on the main stage and to walk around the club's unique nooks and crannies. Even better was the turnout of NYC ska band members and fans who came to dance and celebrate at The Knit one last time. Even Rob 'Bucket' Hingley of The Toasters was on hand, along with many old NYC ska fans from back in the day who reminisced about the good old days and discussed the current state of NYC and American ska. With so many people on hand who remembered the early days of the NYC ska scene, discussion turned to all the old bands who were there in the beginning and the first compilation record that really helped to put NYC ska on the map but also to sow the seeds of 3rd wave ska in the U.S.
The 1985 compilation 'NY Beat: Hit and Run' was the very first compilation of U.S. ska ever. Released by Moon Records, it neatly captures the very beginning of the New York ska scene. While the music here is more influenced by the British 2-Tone movement than the later bands that would drive the third-wave revival, its a diverse mix of ska, reggae, pop, punk, rock and soul. Artists included are the A-Kings, Beat Brigade, The Boilers, City Beat, Cryin' Out Loud, The Daybreakers, Floorkiss, The Press, The Scene, Second Step, The Toasters and Urban Blight.
The original issue of the comp was celebrated with a big show at Danceteria (the Knitting Factory of its day and age) featuring all the major bands who were part of the NYC ska scene at the time. In many ways it was the high point for the NYC ska scene which really exploded both in the New York City area and outside the northeast, particularly in California. I was at the show, and it inspired me to pick up the bass guitar and start my own ska band.
There were plans to re-issue the comp about 10 years ago but they were scuttled because it was impossible to locate many of the artists on the record who had disappeared or were untraceable to get their permission. That said, the record is nearly impossible to find and its unlikely that it will ever be re-issued. If you can find an original copy on vinyl, then you should consider buying it. Standout tracks include The Boilers soulful 'Brighter Days' which was recorded specifically for this comp as well as 'Opportunity' by Second Step, Armageddon Beat by Beat Brigade and the catchy pop/funk ska of 'Escape From Reality' by Urban Blight. The comp also featured the first recorded toasting of one Jeff Baker (AKA King Django) on the Too True track 'Free South Africa'.
Track listing: Matt Davis - The Toasters Why is the Boat so Small - Floor Kiss Free South Africa - Too True Brighter Days - The Boilers Shocker - The Toasters Opportunity - Second Step Escape From Reality - Urban Blight Just Another Warning - The Press Walking - The Scene Preying Man - The Daybreakers It`s Not Up To You - City Beat The Distance - Cryin`Out Loud 7259 - The A-Kings Armageddon Beat - Beat Brigade
Though it may have been short-lived, Britain's Ska Records (a sideline to its more popular cousin Oi Records) deserves credit for releasing albums by U.S. ska bands of the late 1980's. Label founder, Roddy Moreno, is a well known figure in the global skinhead community and led The Oppressed (a well-known Oi band) and The Rude Boys (a ska band) from Cardiff, Wales. While living in New York City, Moreno helped establish the Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARP) movement in response to the growing number of racist skinhead attempts to hijack both the image and culture of ska loving skinheads.
The majority of the releases on the label stem from Moreno's time living in New York City in the late 1980's with all but one band (his own) being American. His goal (as part of a deal with Rob Hingley of The Toasters and Moon Records) appears to have been to bring the new third wave ska sounds blaring from the U.S. across the ocean and to expose them to the British ska market. All of the releases on the label received very small pressings and have become very difficult to find, particularly here in the United States where they were often sold as imports. Some of the records never got released by a domestic label here in the U.S. thus becoming collectors items. The label is probably best known for issuing the Skaville USA series of compilations which offer a great time capsule of early third wave ska here in the U.S.. Of note are the Boilers hard to find 'Rockin' Steady', Gangster Fun's 'Come See, Come Ska' and The New York Citizens 'Pounding The Pavement' as well as seminal releases by Bim Skala Bim.
Ska Records Discography
SKAR001 -- Various Artists -- Skaville USA
SKAR002 -- Bim Skala Bim -- Boston Bluebeat
SKAR003 -- Various Artists -- Skaville USA Volume 2
SKAR004 -- New York Citizens -- Pounding The Pavement
SKAR005 -- The Boilers -- Rockin' Steady
SKAR006 -- Various Artists -- Skaville USA Volume 3
SKAR007 -- Shot Black & White -- Understand
SKAR008 -- Bim Skala Bim -- Tuba City
SKAR009 -- Gangster Fun -- Come See, Come Ska
SKAR010 -- Various Artists -- Skaville USA Volume 4
SKAT001 -- The Toasters -- East Side Beat
SKAT002 -- The Rude Boys -- Rude Boy Shuffle
Of particular interest to me is the release by Shot Black & White. The band were unique because they were one of the few who added a healthy dose of rock and roll to their progressive rock/ska hybrid. While they were initially part of the NYC ska scene of the mid 80's playing shows with the other core bands of the scene (they were originally known as The Daybreakers and had a track 'Preying Man' on the N.Y. Beat:Hit & Run compilation), they set out to blaze their own trails outside the NYC ska scene playing shows with non-ska bands.
I first encountered Shot Black & White in 1987 when a band I was in competed against them in a battle of the bands competition at the Green Parrot club at the New Jersey shore which they won (my band Bigger Thomas won the contest the following year). First prize was 40 hours of free recording time which Shot Black & White used to record the album 'Understand' which to the best of my knowledge was only released and distributed on Ska Records.
Of all the Ska Records releases, Shot Black & White's remains one of the most obscure and difficult to find and there is little to no information available about the band. What I do recall is a band that had a great look with a high energy stage show and a very theatrical front man known only as Tome. The band's bass player Winston Roye has become a professional musician here in New York who has performed with Jewel, Lauren Hill, John Doe of X, Ace Of Base and is now playing with American Idol finalist and Broadway star Constantine Maroulis.
Shot Black & White
Bass - Winston Roye Drums - Joe Mattis Guitar - Michael Schwartz Guitar, Harmonica - Joshua Simon Vocals - Tomé
Below is the track list and download for the band's only release 'Understand'. The album is notable for fairly obscure lyrics (similar in tone to The Reluctant Stereotypes who recorded in the late 70's) but is a refreshing rock/reggae combination in the vein of the first General Public album with some smoking lead guitar and harmonica playing and very smooth backing vocals.
Track list: Day in Day out End Of Days Far Off Freedom I Believe Man Look Around Put Down The Arms Underprivileged Race Understand Win Instantly
Despite unseasonable weather for summer that may have dampened the spirits of most bands, Madness performed a jubilant set in windy conditions for a happy crowd of fans attending Madstock in Victoria Park in London this past weekend. The band were joined by Rhoda Dakkar (who sang of the 'On The Town') and Jerry Dammers (whose Spatial AKA Orchestra were added to the Madstock bill) who joined them for rousing versions of 'Night Boat To Cairo' and 'One Step Beyond'. For those unable to attend the show, the band have made the whole Madstock set available for sale on a 'Nutty Sound Concert Stick. More purchase information is available here.
According to fans in attendance, it was the hordes of organized pickpockets rather than the rain and wind which made the show a difficult experience. The UK seems to have been hit by an epidemic of pickpockets at outdoor shows who make the most of their opportunity to strike while fans are swept up in a dancing frenzy.
Of interest to fans of 2-Tone and The Specials was Dammers first return to the stage following The Specials reunion, with his Sun Ra inspired orchestra who played a very jazzy version of 'Ghost Town'. Watch and listen to what The Specials may have sounded like if Dammers had returned to the fold:
Finally, following in the footsteps of the Beastie Boys who made a concert film with fan generated video a few years ago, Madness have asked fans who attended Madstock to send them any footage for possible inclusion in 'Madstock The Movie". According to the band, "If you have a Video Camera (or a decent Video Camera on your Phone) Your footage could be immortalised in the Madstock Live Film! Submit the clips of your Madstock day, if it gets included in the final edit, you’ll also be listed in the film credits as Camera Crew!" Click here for more info.
Sadly missing from the 2-Tone celebrations taking place this summer across the UK are The Selecter. Like their compatriots in The Specials who had not played together in 28 years before taking the stage this past spring, the original line-up of The Selecter have also not played a show together since 1981. At that time, the band made the decision to leave 2-Tone records and began recording sessions for its second album 'Celebrate The Bullet', which was a creative success but a commercial failure.
More than any other 2-Tone era band, The Selecter reflected the Black British experience. On the surface, this predominantly black band represented the black diaspora in the UK. On a much deeper level, The Selecter were true trail blazers. They were the first Black British band (led by a black woman no less) to achieve a level of pop success and media visibility, that while short lived, succeeded in making them cultural icons who helped influenced a whole generation of bands that followed in their wake.
The history of The Selecter is really the history of Coventry as a hotbed of musical experimentation and inspiration. The early 70's in the UK midlands was a time when young working class white and black musicians finally came together to play music. Originally it was collaborations built around soul and R&B bands (e.g. The Ray King band which included many original members of The Specials and The Selecter), but eventually the sound of ska and reggae that Jamaican immigrants brought with them to the UK became the sound of places like Coventry, Birmingham and London. Amazingly, it was a youth center in Coventry that brought together many of the musicians who would later go on to start The Specials and The Selecter.
I've been reading Neville Staple's autobiography 'Original Rude Boy'. The book is a great read about The Specials, but more importantly, the first third of the book is really a history of the Black British experience through Staple's eyes. Other members of 2-Tone bands also have their own compelling stories to tell, including Charley Anderson who was the original bassist for The Selecter.
Anderson. was born in Negril, Jamaica, but moved to Coventry when he was 11 years old. It turns out his brother and Lynval Golding were best friends and often rehearsed downstairs in the Anderson garage. He gained his first stage and music experience by dee-jaying at sound systems in the Coventry area and then started a band with his brother and Golding. Though The Selecter’s success didn’t change his life financially, Charley has been quoted as saying “It was a great mental boost – like graduating with a triple Ph.D. on how to survive in music.” After touring with The Selecter, Charley focused on his own career. He started The People with his ex-Selecter band mate Desmond Brown and he toured Ireland with The Century Steel Band, and later moved to Mombasa, Kenya where he formed The Vikings Band. He now lives in Bogota, Colombia and has been in the UK recently to re-connect with some of his band mates and members of The Specials.
Anderson recently conducted an interview with me about his experiences moving to Coventry as a youth and the varied and creative musical path he has been on ever since. Much like Lynval Golding in The Specials, Anderson is quietly working behind the scenes to bring his band mates back together to honor The Selecter's legacy. He is hopeful he can pull it off. In the meantime enjoy the interview.
What was it like to move from Jamaica to England as an 11 year old boy? It was a real shock to the system the first reaction was how cold it was then I got off the plane at Heathrow airport in those days we had to have a hair cut clean like a skinhead rude boy. It was a time when you get dressed to travel you had to look your best suit and tie wit drainpipe trousers the full works I forgot my hat on the plane as soon at the cold hit me in my clean head I knew felt a taste of what to, that was in the month of May, soon summer arrived, it was then a matter of getting used to the weather. The English houses were all connected together with some semi detached I wonder why they were all joined and how can people live in such a small space, at school everyone wanted to fight me because I was the new kid and didn’t understand the local slang, we were taught proper English in Jamaican schools pronounce words correct, and to have manners.
The teachers used a bamboo cane for punishment if you caused trouble during class, fighting was at least six of the best, you has a choice on your hands or your backside. I might have had one or two, but never graduated to six of the best.
How different was life for you and your family in England? Getting up to a cold room was the hardest thing - constant cold feet, cold hands, at school I did pretty well but it took a few years to settle. My father was a professional shoe maker. He could not get a job so he settled for the Ford Factory and preached in the church. He played guitar and accordion. My mom was a seamstress. Miss Mary could design and make her own clothes and had many customers in Jamaica. She worked for GEC UK. We had a soda delivery business from home at weekends and we went round in a van selling to Jamaican customers. So I got to know a lot of the black families from an early age and one youth I met is still my friend up to this day.
What was it like growing up in Coventry in the 70's? Discrimination in the work place - It was a terrible time trying to fit in. I was not black or white so many people saw me and didn’t realize I was from Jamaica until I open my mouth. I discovered Martin Luther King as the education system in the UK did not cater for black history so we were confused to find out the truth about what happened to the black nation. It was a real wake up call. I became radical, looking deep into myself to ask myself Who am I? What happened to me? I feel black but don’t look black… I became conscious of who I wanted to be and it had to be African Rastafarian.
I was adventurous and travelled to Blues Parties in different cities. We didn’t have night clubs in the UK only the major cities, so we organized a night club at a house in every city where black people lived and there were blues being played.
Did you grow up listening to ska and reggae music? Ska music was the first music I can remember. In Negril, Jamaica where I was born we had the Fisherman’s Club on the beach where sound systems would come and set up the speakers and put the tanoy speakers high up in the tree and big sound boxes on the ground. We used to attend these and when all the out of town people had gone the locals took over. We kids had our own dancing competition to see who could do the best shuffle to the local sound master El Red. My favorite song was Bonanza - I didn’t know there was a TV series, it was the Ska Version! I spent my lunch money in the juke box just to hear Millie Small’s My Boy Lollipop and Sweet William. Byron Lee and the Dragonaires Ska band, Desmond Decker, The Skatalites, Justin Hinds, Owen Gray, Jimmy Cliff, Prince Buster, Laurel Aitkins, etc.
When did you discover that you could play the bass? What kind of bands did you play in growing up? I was about 14 when a friend of my brother named Flash brought a bass to my house to show my brother who was thinking of getting into a band playing Saxophone. I had no idea I would play one bass day - it was out of reach as I had no money.
My friend Fritz had an Acoustic with 3 strings and when I was about 17 years old I could play Guilty by Hone Boy. Lloyd Minto the Bassist with Coventry-based Merrytones used to give me lessons before I bought my bass. He was the most gifted bassist but I wonder up to this day why he didn’t peruse music as a career. I guess it was so tough in those days to make a living as a professional musician. In Chapter 5 we played Bob Marley Santana Booker T and the MG rock and roll Ska.
Charlie Aitch from Gloucester arrived in Coventry with Lynval where they were living and playing some music. They came to Coventry to join up with local music guru Ray King. I went on the road mixing for a soul band True Expression, sang and sometimes played bass and also learned to play the rhythm pans with the Tropical Harmony steel band at week end they always have a gig and I was never out of work. Lynval ended up with Jerry Dammers in the Automatics (The pre Specials) Aitch and I formed Hard Top 22 consisting of the members who would eventually become the Selecter: Gaps, Aitch, Desmond, Komie Amanor, and I.
How did you meet Lynval Golding? Lynval played guitar along with my brother Winston Anderson (sax), Lloyd Minto (bass) Desmond Brown (organ), Horace Chambers (vocals), Tony Thomas (sax), Colbert Campbell (drums) - The Merrytones. The band rehearsed in Miss Mary’s garage under the house. We all lived in the same area and walked many nights from town to home or from parties. I was the young kid that hangs around with the big boys. I was taller than most so I could get into night clubs from when I was 15, and I travelled in the back of the van to all their gigs no matter where, and I was like part of the equipment. Lynval and I became friends from those days. He is more like a brother like all the Merrytones. I still have a deep fond feeling for all of them, as they are like my first music masters.
The seeds of The Selecter were sown along time before the band started. Tell me about the Holyhead youth facility in Coventry City center? The Holyhead was sponsored by the local education authority through the Race Relations council. Paul Stephenson formed the West Indian Youth Council. I became aware of this while at College doing a Electrical Engineer Apprenticeship. I met Cedric Bogle who invited me to the Centre, where I was shocked to see the West Indian youth only had use of the facility twice a week for two hour sessions. I asked what was under the trap door, it was a rat infested cellar used to store beer. But I recognized the potential straight away.
I went to the city meeting with Courtney Griffiths (now a QC) and pleaded our case with the Community relations committee. They granted us access to the basement and gave us 25 Pounds to help paint the place out. Then we started Jah Baddis Sound System with Neville Staples and ET Rockers (Now on tour with the Specials).
Furthermore, the Centre saved a lot of us from going to jail. At the time the boys used to hang out outside Burton tailoring in town waiting for their girlfriends to finish work. This became a big problem for the police, because the shop owners didn’t want to see young black boys loitering outside the shop chatting up the girls. So we addressed this to the Chief of Police through the Youth Council, and the wise chief brought the officers who we were complaining against in to the club for a meeting. We had a chance to pinpoint all the problems, and the chief gave us funds to purchase a table tennis table. That at the time was a revolutionary move for the city police as at last they had some communication with the young blacks. We went so far as to appoint the police liaison officer - sergeant John Jackson - to be chairman of the youth Centre, and that meant maximum protection.
Now we had a place of our own to rehearse and in the meantime Lynval and all the Merrytones left Coventry for bigger opportunities in London. Desmond and I used to hang out a lot and he said one day "Charley, go buy a bass guitar. I need you to play with me on the piano; we can have a jam session at your apartment". As soon as we could play a few songs I invited Gaps Hendrickson who was a good shuffle dancer in the Ska days and played guitar. He also sang but was a very shy vocalist. With a bit of a push he was up for the challenge. One night Silverton Hutchinson (original drummer with the Specials AKA Coventry Automatic) came to visit us in the basement. He had never played drums seriously before but he offered to fill in as we didn’t have a drummer. A drum set was at his house from some guys he was rehearsing with (he was a vocalist at the time) and he went for the drums and had the best jam of his life. The next day he bought a new Hayman set and Chapter 5 was born with Joy Evering on Vocals (Now in Canada).
Silverton lived on the same street as Neol Davis and suggested we invite him to play lead guitar over reggae music. He rehearsed with us in the cellar a few times and also performed two gigs with Chapter 5 (the Wood End Festival- the first reggae festival in Coventry - and the Santa Rosa Reggae Club in Birmingham). It was almost a disaster at the reggae club - Neol's guitar was so loud, people were not used to hearing lead guitar on reggae, we nearly got canned off the stage.
You have been quoted as saying playing in The Selecter was "..a great mental boost – like graduating with a triple Ph.D. on how to survive in music.” What did you learn from the experience? I learned about accountancy, marketing and promotion, radio plays and plugging, publishing, and understanding contracts…you know, the business side of music.
Tell me about The People, the band you started with your ex-Selecter band mate Desmond Brown. Why did you leave The Selecter? The People was formed after I left The Selecter. In the beginning it was just me, Desmond and Silverton Hutchinson. Then Chris Christie joined us. We supported the Specials and did quite a few gigs around London. But Desmond was having psychological problems so the bad was dismantled after we finished our one single, “Sons and Daughters” and “Musical Man”, produced by Lynval Golding and Dave Jordan. With regards to my leaving The Selecter, I refused to play on “Celebrate the Bullet”. I didn’t think it was the right direction for the band and the rest is history. We all know John Lennon was shot two days before the album was released. Maybe I had a premonition.
What brought you to Mombasa, Kenya where you formed The Vikings Band? One day I met Ranjit Sondhi at Maria Guinness’ home, she was married to Denny Cordell (producer of Whiter Shade of Pale). Ranjit invited me to come down to Mombasa to organize and produce the Vikings Band and to serve as entertainment manager at his father’s hotels. This path led to me eventually travelling to south Sudan with Unicef and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which were filming a documentary by Olle Gjerstadt on the plight of the people affected by war, violence and displacement. Through this experience I was introduced to humanitarian work and I have been interested and active in this ever since. On my return to Mombasa the only way I could process what I saw and felt was by putting it all down on music. And for this I am eternally grateful to my Vikings friends, Bruno DaSilva, Bernard Putchinyen, Otis Mzererah Ngetsa, and Reno Roho who supported me in what I consider to be my greatest work, the Sudan Project, Journey to Akot.
What was The Century Steel Band? Did you live in Ireland at the time? I sang with the Century Steel Band in the ‘70s in the UK. I was interested in the sound, as the steel pan is a relatively new instrument if you consider the history of music. When I joined they were exclusively using steel pans, with bass, tenor, alto, guitar and double second tenor pans. Bass pans could play four notes. The other pans would have about sixteen notes, and the lead pan could play up to 36 individual notes. I figured out a way to mike up the steel drums. At the time they were using six full drums just for bass. We ended up replacing these drums with an electric bass, and then we experimented with hanging the pans on boxes to get a full acoustic sound. After The Selecter and The People, I joined them in North Hampton to record their first recording (1982). Later on we added keyboard, sax and guitar on studio recordings to create a fusion with the Caribbean steel drum sound. The result was very highly regarded. It was unique and was one of Denny Cordell’s favorite sounds. We collaborated in Dublin on overdubs on Toots and the Maytels album tracks and we were in the process of producing an album for the Century Steel Band when sadly, Denny passed away.
Tell me about the Ghetto Child project you are working on? How has living in Latin America influenced your world view? Ghetto Child supports the work the World Food Programme is doing to eradicate child malnutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean. The song “Ghetto Child” was inspired by my watching young street kids steal car parts of people’s cars and then try to sell them back to them the next day. It brought home to me the fight they go through every day just to survive and somehow I wanted to make a tribute to them, to their determination, and also to raise awareness.
Living in Bogota is like living in a European city in Latin America. The cultural life is very rich and there is a lot going on. I have found tremendous support from Colombian friends and have linked up with such bands as the Fabulous Cadillacs (Los Fabulosos Cadillacs) from Argentina, who were inspired by TwoTone! It is easy to work in Bogota because although you are in a city of 8 million people, there are pockets of like-minded people who are genuinely interested and wanting to collaborate. On the other hand, parts of Colombia are still very close to Africa, where the people such as the Arawaks are struggling to preserve their language, music and culture, which is extremely rich and in many cases undocumented. This for me was amazing as a Jamaican, to see ancestors of the original inhabitants of our island here in Colombia.
I hope to link up with some of these indigenous groups and create some music with them. I use Ghetto Child to highlight existing social project like the Theodora Centre for learning and personal development for young women and men run by the Dr Rev Margaret Fowler, this is a special project to me its run by the church in Negril where I remember singing for the first time in front of people.
Below is a video of Charley and members of The Selecter and other Coventry-based musicians rehearsing 'Ghetto Child' for the 'Love Music, Hate Racism" show in April:
This year marks the 30th anniversary of The Selecter. Is there a reunion in the works? Do you and your band mates have any plans to perform this year? We had four Selecter members on stage in April in Coventry with my production of Charley Anderson and Friends show, we have 5 members of the original band who can perform, Desmond Brown has not played organ for long time and I don’t think he would come back.
Neol Davis Gaps Hendrickson Charlie Aitch, fans will get a chance to hear the Selecter live version our original song on the B side of The Specials Gangsters this was the original 2Tone records first release.
The Selecter guitarist Neol Davis was one the highlight of the night along with the legendary Carlos Garnett on sax. We performed The Selecter, Danger, Too Much Pressure, and James Bond at the end of the show a total surprise the fans went crazy.
We are currently planning more shows with the line up from the Coventry City show, with Selecter X Steel Pulse members for later on this year managed by Global507 planned for late 2009 early 2010 in Latin America, also mixing the sound tracks for the live DVD soon to release
Below is a short promo video that Charley produced about his musical life and his new single 'Ghetto Child':
You can purchase the 'Ghetto Child' CD at CD Baby.
Sellout or fan appreciation? Whatever you may think of the free CD available in today's Sunday Times of London newspaper (which is owned by Rupert Murdoch), the giveaway of The Specials triumphant live performance at the Brixton Academy in May is a novel way for the band to stay in the public eye and to help promote the remaining slate of summer festival shows and the second leg of its UK tour this fall. Its also a way for The Times, which is struggling like all newspapers are these days, to improve its sagging circulation. The CD giveaway is accompanied by a long article on the band with interviews with all key members.
The debate over the CD giveaway seems to fall along the same political faultlines as those surrounding the band's reunion in the first place. The legion of fans who are ecstatic over the reunion as evidenced on the band's fan forum are happy to have a memento of the occasion. Supporters of Jerry Dammers, who continues to remain on the outs with the band, have criticised the giveaway and the band's deal with Rupert Murdoch and the right-leaning Times as a political misfire for a band born as a reaction to the Thatcher regime in the UK.
As part of my ongoing quest to document the origins of the NYC ska scene of the early and mid-80's I am profiling key musicians and bands who played an important part of giving birth to one of the most vibrant ska scenes in the U.S. One of those musicians was Carmelo DiBartolo who founded Beat Brigade and was a constant in the band as it morphed from a 2-Tone influenced ska band to a latin/funk band it later incarnations.
However it was the early version of the band featuring DiBartolo and his bandmates Jack Hoppenstand (guitar), Andrey Frolov (drums), Frank Usamanont (bass), Nelson Rivera (sax) and Eric Storckman (trombone) that were a mainstay of the early NYC ska scene and ska shows. The band's diversity reflected the diversity of New York itself and their Clash and English Beat-inspired sounds (with a dose of Elvis Costello on top) was fresh and energetic.
While the original band went its separate ways before it could really fulfill its potential, I'm happy to report that a good number of the original band members are currently rehearsing with a goal of playing a reunion show in the New York City area this fall. Keep your eyes open for a reunion show announcement here.
Carmelo took time out to conduct an interview with me:
What was it like growing up in New York City in the early 80's? Really a fun place to be ....Still gritty (post Giuliani,) Lots of options...both lifestyle and music.... You could go to a disco one night, the Reggae Lounge the next, and Play at Cb's the next...no pre-dispositions, no pigeon holes everyone was pretty cool (or at least that's what i remember)
When did you first get into music? Do you remember the first record you ever bought? Who introduced you to ska and reggae? My first record was KISS Alive...great stuff ! My next record was Give'em Enough Rope....then Marley and Tosh. I learned to play on a plastic guitar with nylon strings....My voice was always my strongest asset...but i've become a "not so bad guitarist"
When did you discover that you could sing and play guitar? Were you in any other bands before Beat Brigade? I started singing before i played the guitar, and started singing with whatever i learned.... and started writing immediately....pretty lame stuff... but then again i was 16 !
How did Beat Brigade get started? Where did you meet your band mates? Ad in the Voice ! (how's that for New York Rock and Roll)...I went to audition with Jack and Andy...then we found Frank. Later Nelson, then Eric and Dave.
How would you describe the early sound of the band? Did you make a conscious decision to play ska and reggae? Dave Barry of The Toasters (who also played in Beat Brigade at one point) said that the Beat Brigade brought a lot of The Clash/ Elvis Costello/ English Beat to the table. We were heavily influenced by many bands (The Smiths, The English Beat, The Jam (my fave), The Clash...plus we had all of the classic rock influences that no one ever admits to ...The Stones , Zep, The Beatles, ...the Who ! It's all there ! all in my mind.
Were you aware that there were other ska bands in NYC at the time? Had you seen or heard The Toasters or Urban Blight? What was the time line from the formation of the band to its first gig? I heard about all of them as the movement progressed,then we all started playing together... and it was ...cool. Like the scenes that we all had read about... Historically ....Punk in London and New York. Ska in Jamaica., San Francisco in the 60's...we all new each other and enjoyed each other company..
What was the New York ska scene of the mid-80's like? I always got the impression that it was very tight knit scene. Yes ...almost too much...but in retrospect I miss everyone and hope they are all well.
Can you share any unusual stories about any live shows that were particularly memorable? Did the band tour at all outside NYC? My most memorable show was at Danceteria for the NY Beat album release...it was a happening. The most memorable tour was with the later incarnation of Beat Brigade ( Latin/ Soul/ Ska/ Reggae) when we were in the deep south with a multi racial band. We rocked !
Tell me about being part of the N.Y. Beat: Hit & Run compilation that Moon Records released in 1986. Was 'Armageddeon Beat' recorded for the compilation? Being a part of such a memorable album is quite an honor ! I thank Bucket (Rob) for including us.... We had recorded it just for the Album ...bit it was a bit of a local anthem (props to Ski)
Tell me about recording the split 7" single "Talk is Cheap" b/w "Try and Try'. Were there plans to record more songs or an album? We all wanted it to go on forever...we have quite a body of recorded work (check our myspace page) and it does not even scratch the surface of the later stuff (funk and latin)
Why did Beat Brigade break-up? ...the same reason that all bands do...we were young and idealistic about our music and all had a different vision of what we should sound like ...we needed a producer to tell us all to shut the fuck up and play, then maybe thing would have been different. I think that had it been a few years later ...the mainstream would have been more accepting of our music.
What have you been doing musically since Beat Brigade? Yes ! A Moderately successful Rock/ Funk/ Reggae/ Ska band called Crispy Brown...We broke up in '96 but have since re-united for some show's (great players)
What are your lasting memories of performing with Beat Brigade and the NYC ska scene of the 80's? It was for one brief shining moment, a cool, fun , young, musical, and wonderful thing to be part of...full of love, music, drink and laughter (Oh yeah and some great chiba )
Any chance of a Beat Brigade reunion? BIG YES... I Miss those guys and that Music ! Bring it On !
You can read more about Beat Brigade at their MySpace Web site here.
The U.K.'s summer of ska marches on. The Specials played Glastonbury over the weekend and Madness are gearing up for Madstock in mid-July (which will also include Jerry Dammer's Spatial AKA Arkestra on the bill). There are even rumors that some members of The Selecter may play shows at some point in 2009 to mark their 30th anniversary.
One band that has been out of the 30th anniversary spotlight of late, but who played a very significant role in the launch of 2-Tone in 1979 is The Beat. Part of the reason may be the cold war between former co-frontmen Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger. Sadly it would seem that both are intent on doing their own thing and that a reunion remains unlikely. Each leads his own separate band with Wakeling based in the U.S. and Ranking Roger in the U.K. and E.U. While Wakeling's version of The English Beat are getting ready to kick-off a cross country summer tour of the U.S. with Reel Big Fish, Ranking Roger's version of The Beat have also been very busy of late. The band, who are in the midst of a lengthy U.K. tour are rumored to be wrapping up a new album that is being mixed by Adrian Sherwood.
Below is a recent video interview and live footage of Ranking Roger's version of The Beat playing a sold out show at the 100 Club in London:
I had the good luck to meet and chat with both Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger. My band played support to Wakeling's English Beat a number of times over the last few years and we opened a few times for Special Beat with Ranking Roger when they toured the U.S. in 1990 and 1991. Both of them are wonderfully down-to-earth and approachable. The first time I met Ranking Roger my band mates and I were sitting in a dilapidated closet sized hole in the wall of a dressing room when there was a knock at the door. We opened it and there was Ranking Roger! He came in to talk with us for a bit and wished us luck with our set.
Of particular interest to fans of both versions of The Beat is that Ranking Roger's band just recorded a live radio session and interview with Mark Lamarr on his BBC 2 show 'God's Jukebox' which included three new songs and a very entertaining interview with Roger, his son and members of the band including Mickey Billingham and original drummer Everett Moreton. The session and interview were recorded on June 16th and aired over this past weekend. For fans outside the UK who have not had a chance to see or hear The Beat, the songs are quite good particularly 'Dangerous' which has a nice laid back reggae groove and 'One Pretty Woman' which features Ranking Junior on lead vocals and has a more contemporary reggae sound. You can download the show below:
Tracklisting: 1. Interview Part 1 2. Dangerous 3. Interview Part 2 4. One Pretty Woman 5. Interview Part 3 6. Interview Part 4 7. A Hundred Tonnes Of Love 8. Interview Part 5 9. Interview Part 6 10. Ranking Full Stop 11. Interview Part 7
Also, as a bonus here is the demo of The Beat's 'How Do You Do' recorded a few years ago. The song starts out sounding a bit like a song by The Police and then kicks into straight ahead 2-Tone ska with a nice sax riff and melody.
Thanks to Liam at Liam_Ska's Heavy Heavy Monster Blog for the original link to the downloads. Judge Fredd at The Beef, The Original and The Cover also has a great post up about Roger and his band. Check it out here.