Friday, July 30, 2010

Bim Skala Bim Reunite For A Series Of Summer Shows

Boston's Bim Skala Bim have quietly announced a series of four shows around New England in early August. These shows will be their first since they opened one of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones' Hometown Throwdown shows last December and a few nights later played a New Year's Eve bash at the Middle East in Boston. Before these two shows, they had not played together in eight years.

Bim Skala Bim and The Toasters (from New York) both formed in the summer of 1983, apparently within about a month of each other and have the distinction (along with The Untouchables from Los Angeles and Heavy Manners from Chicago) of helping to create and build a thriving American ska scene in the 1980's. The band were influenced by the 2-Tone, as well as bands such as The Clash, UB40 and Bob Marley. They released several albums over the course of their career and they started their own record label to release music by other ska bands.

Here are a few videos of the band performing a few of my favorite songs from a show in Boston in 1992 including 'In The Mail', 'Jah Laundromat' and 'Diggin' A Hole':

The August show dates include:

August 5: Jerky's Bar & Grill (Providence, Rhode Island)
August 6: The Middle East Downstairs (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
August 7: The Beachcomber (Wellfleet, Massachusetts)
August 8: The Webster Underground (Hartford, Connecticut)

But don't call this long weekend of a shows a full-fledged reunion just yet, though. A note on the band's website doesn't sound terribly official: 'Some of you may have noticed that shows and dates seem to change unexpectedly at the last minute after you've already made plans. Well ... sometimes things come up (or fall through) for reasons you don't even want to know about. We hope we haven't caused anyone too much inconvenience, and we'll do our best to keep this list as accurate as possible, but you may want to check with the club/school/theater before rushing off to a show just to make sure the show's still on.' Here's to hoping the band decides to play more shows like this in the coming months.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Jolly Boys Make A Come Back: Mento Pioneers Cover Amy Winehouse's 'Rehab' & New Order's 'Blue Monday'

I love a great comeback story. And I love a comeback story even better when its well deserved. If any band has finally earned their time in the sun, its The Jolly Boys , who are among the best known original purveyors of mento, the indigenous folk music of Jamaica that pre-dates ska, rocksteady and reggae.

Mento typically features acoustic instruments, such as acoustic guitar, banjo, hand drums, and the rhumba box that carries the bass part of the music. Mento music had its beginnings in Jamaica in the 19th century, and was a unique fusion of African and European musical traditions. It wasn't until the early 1950s that true mento recordings first began to appear on 78 RPM discs. The 1950's was mento’s golden age, as a variety of artists recorded mento songs in an assortment of rhythms and styles. It was the peak of mento's creativity and popularity in Jamaica and helped to give birth to the island's fledgling recording industry.

The Jolly Boys were the house band for Hollywood legend Errol Flynn who hosted huge parties at an estate he owned in Port Antonio, Jamaica in the 1950's. Flynn is responsible for the band's name as well, as he was moved by their upbeat songs about drinking, work and women. The Jolly Boys used their house band to the Hollywood elite status to launch a career that has lasted nearly 50 years. While they have endured their share of ups and downs (more downs sadly) the Jolly Boys have become the most recognizable face of mento in the world. Below is a short promo film on the history of the band that helps put their musical odyssey in perspective.

Now all in their 70's and 80's the band is enjoying a resurgence thanks to a UK music producer named John Baker. He's helping to revive and reinvigorate the band by positioning them as Jamaica's Buena Vista Social Club with a twist. He's steered them towards an updated sound called 'Modern Mento' with a new album called 'Great Expectation' that includes covers of songs by The Clash, Amy Winehouse, New Order, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and The Doors among others. The UK media has been lapping it up with long profiles in both The Telegraph and The Guardian which have helped promote a UK summer tour.

Here are videos of the band performing Winhouse's 'Rehab' (she is a fan of the band and loves their version) as well as version of New Order's 'Blue Monday' which takes on a whole new life as a mento song.

The band is offering a free download of the song 'Iron Bar' on their Web site. According to the band's Web site, it is one of mento’s oldest and most beloved songs. A rude song about a drunken domestic mix up, it was once commonly performed by road workers and farmers as a 'digging song.' Its many recorded versions have made it an enduring mento classic. You can get it here.

The Jolly Boys’ album 'Great Expectations’ will be released on September 20th. They are about to embark on a UK tour and can be seen live at Cambridge Folk Festival this Sunday August 1st, Bush Hall, London, on Tuesday August 3rd and then at the Big Chill Festival on August 8th. More information is available at their Web site and on their Facebook page.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Madness Readying New Album for 2011: New Songs May Debut On Fall Tour

Is it 1980 or 2010? For those of you living in the UK, it might seem like musical deja vu with The Specials, UB40 and both versions of The Selecter all playing shows this year. Now add Madness to the mix. Following quickly on the success of their 2009 album, ‘The Liberty Of Norton Folgate’, Madness have reportedly returned to the studio to record songs for an album that will be released some time in 2011. The band have also just announced the kick-off of a fall UK tour they have dubbed 'Do Not Adjust Your Nut' and its being rumored that some of these new tracks may get their first public airings during these shows. Special guest on all of the dates will be ex-Beautiful South front man Paul Heaton. It also been reported that the band have been reviewing a trove of unreleased tracks from recent times and beyond, which suggests a number of previously recorded, but never released songs may also finally see the light of day.

The news about the tour and new songs has generated significant discussion over at the Madness Central forum. I tend to trust what I read there and the admins tend to be on top of their game. One regular poster named Graham, who seems to be privy to inside information on the band posted this last week." for the possibilities of new material.....various members of the band have said over the last 18 months or so that they'd like to do something new....or have been working on new material....Suggs even went so far as to say they wanted to do it quickly....add to that the fact they had a number of songs left over from Folgate that weren't used (and could have been honed a little in the meantime)....and I guess it's possible they could have got something together....' Adding further fuel to all the fire of discussion about new songs came in a recent interview the band's drummer Daniel 'Woody' Woodgate did with Irish radio channel RTE. Have a listen to the interview here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Specials Cancel August Central Park Show in New York: Visa Issue Scuttles US Tour

Sadly the news is true. The Specials have announced that they will not be appearing at a free show on Sunday, August 22 at Central Park Summerstage in New York City due to visa issues. The legendary ska pioneers will, however, play their scheduled Toronto dates on Friday August 27th and Saturday August 28th at Sound Academy and plan to return to the US in early 2011 for additional dates. You can read the band statement here.

According to sources inside the band that I spoke with, the problem is that the U.S. government won't issue one of the band members a visa. Band management have been negotiating with the U.S. embassy in London for some time but have failed to secure the necessary documents. Once it became clear that the visa was not forthcoming, the band was forced to cancel the show and hope they can return to the U.S. in January 2011 assuming the issue can be sorted out.

The band's first performance in the U.S. in 29 years was on the Jimmy Fallon Late Night TV show back in April. However toaster/singer Neville Staple was notably absent. The band later cancelled shows in Toronto leading some to speculate that it may be Staple who is the focus of the visa related issues.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

UB40 Film Retrospective: 'Labour Of Love' & 'Dance With The Devil'

Ever since I found out about the upcoming 'Singing Off' 30th Anniversary tour, I've been in quite a UB40 state of mind. To that end, I was reminded about some of the more interesting projects that the band embarked on during the height of their popularity in the 1980's including producing two films -- the widely seen and very popular 'Labour Of Love' and the never seen and never to be released 'Dance With The Devil'.

In the 1980’s film and video was such a big part of the marketing of music, that bands had to have a video in order to promote a record. With that in mind and with a goal of breaking the 'Labour Of Love' album on MTV in the U.S., UB40 decided to make a long form film to promote the 'Labour Of Love' album. Filmed in 1983 and released in 1984, it's a 30 minute film starring Ali Campbell in the lead and featuring all the members of the band, their friends and locals in various roles. Shot in black and white in and around Birmingham, it was directed by Bernard Rose (a well known 80's music video director who would later go on to direct major motion pictures). Ostensibly it's a love story set in inner city Birmingham. There's no 'message', no blueprint, just a gritty slice of what life was like where UB40 grew up.

While most of us here in the U.S. probably saw the 'Red Red Wine' video, several hundrewd times when it was in regular rotation on MTV, in fact its just a scene from the longer film which was scripted so various scenes could be cut and shown as videos. Once you've seen the whole movie in context, you do get a greater appreciation for the creativity involved in the overall concept. That said, the film does not feature Oscar-worthy acting (though the fights are quite realistic), and unless you have lived in the UK or have friends with Brummie accents, some dialogue is definitely lost in translation. Regardless, I was obsessed with it and somehow came across a VHS copy which I watched regularly in the mid-80's. In case you've never seen it, or haven't seen it in years, its worth another viewing below. By the way, that's saxophonist Brian Travers and trombonist/percussionist Norman Hassan stealing a car in the opening scene.

Having enjoyed critical success with the 'Labour Of Love' flick, the band decided to try their luck a second time to help promote their 1988 self-titled album 'UB40'. The film 'Dance With The Devil' (named for one of the album's songs) was overly ambitious and much darker than 'Labour Of Love' with Ali Campbell playing a con man who dresses as a Priest to steal from unsuspecting marks but soon grows devil horns and a tail. You get the picture. The album featuring the song 'Where Did I Go Wrong' was a huge success in the UK and rest of the world, but was overlooked here in the U.S. because it was released just as 'Red Red Wine' was enjoying a second wind on the U.S. charts eventually hitting #1 on the Billboard singles chart in October, 1988.

Brian Travers took the helm on directing the film which came as the band were navigating some difficult times following the drunk driving conviction of bassist Earl Falconer which resulted in the death of his brother Ray who was the band's sound engineer. Travers has provided an overview of the long lost film on a post on the UB40 fan forum: 'We called it ‘Dance with the Devil ‘ after an instrumental track on the album, the premise being Ali was a con man and after stealing a priests costume from a church went begging at people house for contributions to his orphans fund. Of course he was a drinking, swearing untrustworthy reprobate who spent all contributions on himself and as a penance for his sins starts growing devils horns, they start as nasty spots turning into little horns sprouting from his forehead as well as a tail. Of course this was liberally sprinkled with our songs from the album, it was a contemporary musical. There was a moral sting in the films tail but it wasn’t really a great piece of art , we rushed to make it in ten days , while at the same time Earl's court case was going on , we were desperate to keep him busy and not thinking about what had happened . We decided in the end not to release the full length film, which I was pleased about, it simply didn’t gel, didn’t do what we wanted it to do but we did use the musical performances as our videos to promote the records so it wasn’t a complete waste of time and pretty much made back its budget. The thing is its just not easy to make films, everyone thinks they have a idea for a film but between the idea and the reality of the finished piece lies a million miles of unknown possibilities. That's why the guy’s that do this make so much money, they are like rare diamonds and even then, they can still get it wrong.

Though it was shelved, members of the band have distributed copies which have found their way into the hands of rabid fans who have posted it on YouTube. Though it may not come close to matching 'Labour Of Love' artistically, the film remains a curiosity because it was never released and is worth a viewing, particularly for fans of the band and the album.

Friday, July 16, 2010

UB40 Announce ‘Signing Off’ 30th Anniversary Tour of the UK

UB40 have just announced plans to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their seminal debut album, ‘Signing Off’, by performing the whole album live during a tour of intimate venues across the UK throughout October and November 2010. In addition to performing ‘Signing Off’ in it’s entirely, UB40 will perform a second set featuring some of the band’s most loved tracks.

To further celebrate the albums 30th anniversary, EMI will release a special, remastered double-CD together with a bonus DVD. The album features hit singles ‘King’/‘Food For Thought’ and ‘I Think It’s Going to Rain Today’ (#4 & # 6 on the UK singles chart, respectively), along with other UB40 classics such as ‘Tyler’, ‘Madam Medusa’ and ‘Burden of Shame’.

It's funny to think that once upon a time UB40 were considered every bit as relevant and trend-setting as 2-Tone bands like The Specials, The Selecter and The Beat. I would actually go as far as to say the band's first two albums, 'Signing Off' (released in 1980) and 'Present Arms' rival much, if not all of the 2-Tone output. The album artwork for ‘Signing Off’ was a master stoke, famously depicting a replica of the bright yellow unemployment card from which the Birmingham-based band took its name: Unemployment Benefit Form 40. The title of their debut album also made direct reference to someone moving off of collecting unemployment benefits. Indeed, the band was known to allow anyone carrying their UB40 card into shows for free. Design wise and marketing wise the first album and its tour was on par with anything that 2-Tone did. Rumor has it that Jerry Dammers did approach the band with a offer to record for the label, but he was politely turned down.

In my humble opinion, UB40's 'Signing Off' remains one of the best reggae albums ever released and it had a profound impact on me as a young musician (I remain a fervent fan of the band despite their commercial ups and downs). First I was inspired by the band's politics and world outlook as well as their multiracial makeup which was a powerful statement on its own. I was also motivated by their story: a group of school friends decide to start a band. More interesting was the fact that most of them did not know how to play their instruments when the band started, Instead, lacking suitable work, they spent time in a dingy basement rehearsal space learning their instruments by playing along to reggae covers. It was time well spent as they emerged in 1979 with a batch of fantastic singles and album cuts.

UB40's grip on the pop-reggae market today is in stark contrast to their indie beginnings. In fact it may be difficult for younger fans to comprehend just how their arrival shook up the British musical scene. They appeared just as 2-Tone had peaked and the UK reggae axis of Steel Pulse, Aswad and Matumbi was starting to make musical waves. UB40 did not fit into either musical camp. Their rhythms may have been inspired by Jamaican reggae and ska, but they had such an original take on the genre that all comparisons were moot. Even their appearance on the singles chart was unusual, as they placed three double A-sided singles into the Top Ten in swift succession before releasing 'Signing Off.'. Both sides of their debut single — the roots rocking indictment of politicians refusal to relieve famine on 'Food for Thought' and the dreamy tribute to Martin Luther "King" were included on the disc, as well as their phenomenal cover of Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" off their second single.

The new album cuts were equally strong. The moody roots fired "Tyler," which kicks off the set, is a potent condemnation of the U.S. judicial system, while it's stellar dub "25%" appears later in the set. The smoky Far Eastern flavored "Burden" explores the dual tugs of national pride and shame over Britain's oppressive past (and present). If that was a thoughtful number, "Little by Little" was a blatant call for class warfare. Of course, Ali Campbell never raised his voice, he didn't need to, his words were sharp, and the sweeter his delivery, the deeper they cut.

Today, the group have moved on from their radical past (having recently weathered a nasty break with Ali Campbell who was replaced by his brother Duncan), but there's no mistaking their militancy here. The music was just as revolutionary, their sound unlike anything else at the time. From deep dubs shot through with jazzy sax, to the bright and breezy instrumental '12 Bar' with its splendid loose groove, that is transmuted later in the set to the jazzier and smokier 'Adella.' It's hard to believe this is the same UB40 that topped the UK charts with the likes of "Red Red Wine" and "I've Got You Babe"." Their fire has dampened and the band has mellowed, but on 'Signing Off' it blazed high. It stands the test of time, still accessible to the pop market, but edgy enough for those fans convinced there's nothing about the group to admire. It remains a timeless masterpiece.

Tickets for the tour which runs from October through November go on sale this Friday, July 16.

Below is a link to where you can purchase a copy of the 30th anniversary re-issue of UB40's 'Signing Off' album:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Exclusive: Interview with Neol Davies of The Selecter

The history of The Selecter is in many ways the history of 2-Tone. The band was a microcosm of many diverse parts of both the 70's white and black music scenes in Coventry, with all the main players in The Specials, The Selecter and various other bands having had some some musical connection with one another. In fact, during the mid-70's, Neol Davies and Jerry Dammers played together in a popular soul band called Nitetrane (fronted by Ray King, a rival to UK soul legend Geno Washington). It was this musical apprenticeship, including an infamous 2-week tour of Tunisia, that set Davies and Dammers on their ways to later issuing an iconic 7" single and kicking off a social and cultural revolution. As far as musicians go, Davies remains an unsung guitar hero in my book. Along with Roddy Byers of The Specials, he deserves a lion share of the credit for successfully combining rock-influenced guitar with reggae rhythms to invent something extraordinary and new.

Davies (whose neighbor was The Specials original drummer Silverton Hutchinson) was one of the few White musicians who ventured to the Holyhead Youth Center in Coventry, which was a social center for West Indian youth. As The Selecter's original bassist Charley Anderson has noted, 'Silverton lived on the same street as Neol Davies 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 (a short lived Coventry reggae band featuring almost all the original members of The Selecter). 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. It was there that Davies met many of the musicians who would later fill the ranks of The Specials and The Selecter and where he learned to play reggae. More significantly, it was in the Holyhead Youth Center where, improvising bluesy riffs over Bob Marley riffs, he honed the guitar sound that would later define songs like 'Missing Words', 'Celebrate The Bullet' and 'Washed Up And Left For Dead' (see and listen below).

After touring with a re-formed version of The Selecter in the early 90's, Davies started a number of other musical projects, including Box Of Blues with Horace Panter. He recently joined up with Pauline Black and Charlie 'H' Bembridge for an acoustic set by The Selecter as part of Holocaust Memorial Day in Coventry in early 2009 and released a free download of a song called 'Return Of The Selecter' in 2009 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of the original version. He has also has been known to sit in with Pama International.

Until recently, Davies had ceded The Selecter spotlight to Black. While the band's 30th anniversary came and went in 2009 without a formal reunion, Black has been carrying the flag for the band and its contribution to 2-Tone, performing shows across the UK, EU and South America throughout 2009 and 2010. However, on June 1, 2010, Davies tossed his hat in the ring, distributing a press release announcing the launch of his own version of The Selecter featuring a new front man, an all female horn section and the promise of some new songs. His band are scheduled to perform their first show in London later this month. Of course this means there are now two versions of The Selecter. What's a fan to do? My recommendation is to support both bands and keep fingers crossed that at some point, like their counterparts in The Specials, they will put their differences aside and play a proper reunion for the sake of the fans.

I recently connected with Davies to learn more about the early days of The Selecter, his guitar playing and sound and to find out a bit more about his new band. Read on.


When did you realise that you wanted to be a musician?

I wanted to play the guitar as soon as I heard it on the radio in the late 50's. My brother Leon gave me a guitar when I was 9. By the time I left school in 1968 I knew I didn't want to work in a factory or office all my life, even though I did both from then up to 1979 when 2-Tone enabled me to be pro from then on.

When did you hear reggae and ska for the first time?

It just seems like it's always been there somehow. I guess the date would be the same as when it was first on radio, which is where I got my music then. I might have heard things at my friend's homes when their dads might have been showing off their radiograms! As I got older I jammed with people who could play reggae (some were later in The Selecter), and I learned the feel the more I played.

You have an incredibly distinct guitar sound. Who influenced your style as a young guitar player and what kind of guitar do you play?

I started with a Watkins Rapier and a Burns Tri-Sonic as my two electrics, both had tremolo arms but were cheap and hard to play. I was about 22 when I bought a Gibson SG Junior. I played that for some years until I bought my first Fender Stratocaster in 1976 and started to explore using the tremolo in a different way, not just adding a wobble to one note but as a part of my playing. I had three waves of influence. The first was twang like The Shadows/The Ventures into early Beatles etc. The second was mid-60's pop and I mean The Kinks, The Who, The Small Faces, The Spencer Davis Group. The third was the blues and reggae, in particular Peter Green, into Jimi Hendrix....then it was the 70's and I started to write songs.

I've always been fascinated with a proto version of The Selecter called The Transposed Men (named after the comic book above) that you formed with John Bradbury of The Specials in 1977-78. Tell me about the genesis of the band and the sound you were going for? A number of The Selecter's most well known songs were written during that time right? Do any recordings of that band exist?

After the recording of the 'Kingston Affair' instrumental it seemed like a good idea to form a band. I remember having to persuade Brad that he needed a drum kit but once he did actually buy one he instantly became one the best reggae drummers because he had spent many hours listening to reggae and dub. We rehearsed a set and played several gigs, and nearly got a deal with Virgin Records. The line up included Desmond Brown on Hammond organ (who joined The Selecter), Kevin Harrison on guitar (he later formed urge) and Steve Wynn on bass. I have one recording of several songs from a mono cassette at a rehearsal which Kevin has helped me archive and enhance.

Not everyone knows the story of how your first single 'The Selecter' came about. The song was originally titled 'The Kingston Affair' right? It was just you, John Bradbury and a man named Barry Jones who played a memorable trombone line.

It was the time of DIY singles and Brad suggested that he and I make a single. I thought it was a good idea because up until then I had been recording demos at home on a Revox. I knew Roger Lomas, who had built a studio outbuilding in his garden, about the size of a garage. He had a 4- track tape, mixer, echo, flanger pedal and a drum kit. We both went to visit Roger who agreed to produce and engineer the sessions and we had many laughs while we were in that room.

The melody, the drum beat and the sandpaper percussion were my conceptions. I played the bass, guitar and percussion. Brad played the drums ( first thing recorded-no click track!!) and we were lucky to get Barry Jones to play the trombone. First, he could play well and second, we didn't know any other trombone players. He was able to translate my ideas of swooping notes like I was doing with the tremolo arm. Brad was an "executive producer" and a motivator of and in the project which is why I split the writing credit with him. Although we signed a publishing deal for the track, nothing came of it. We formed Transposed Men, and then Jerry (Dammers) was planning to record 'Gangsters' and he asked Brad to play on the recording. Brad became a permanent member of The Specials which was the end of Transposed Men. There was no "b" side for 'Gangsters' was made so, months later, the two tracks became the first 2-Tone Records double "A" sided single. I overdubbed a rhythm guitar to the original mix of 'Kingston Affair' and Roger Lomas produced that session, and I re-named it 'The Selecter' by The Selecter. I formed The Selecter as a 7 piece band about 4 months later.

Is it true that the original hand stamped sleeve of the first 2-Tone single read 'The Special AKA Gangsters Vs The Selecter' but that you stamped yours the other way around 'The Selecter Vs The Specials AKA'? I understand its quite a collectors item right?

Well, I don't know. It's an item in my collection! I couldn't resist it. We were all stamping these endless boxes of records so I simply reversed the stamps. None of us knew what was about to happen at that point.

I'm a big fan of the 'Celebrate The Bullet' LP. Can you share a bit about the experience of writing the songs for that album and the approach you took to recording them? They really sound unlike anything else from the 2-Tone era.

The main thought I had then was to re-connect with the sound of 'The Selecter" and 'On My Radio' which had been produced by Roger Lomas. The title track's drum patterns and the guitar/trombone were a continuance of the original sound I wanted for the band, but we were pushing to move the music forward too. Music and fashion moved fast then so there was pressure to come up with the new. Although it didn't sell- the title stopped airplay of the single- I was very pleased with the album and over time many people have said how much they love it and it was received well by the critics at the time. you can't always get what you want but if you........ (The picture above is of Neol's 12 string Fender guiate which he found in a pawn shop on The Selecter's first American tour in 1980. He used it on several tracks of the Celebrate The Bullet album which was recorded when the band returned from the tour. He no longer owns the guitar, but the sounds he created with it will live on...)

What was your impression of American ska when you toured the U.S. in the early 90's?

I was glad to see so much of it, being played with passion a lot of the time. yes it's good that the music is still loved all over the world by many different people. from The Skatalites to now. It's just such a great rhythm.

You recently announced you will be performing a show as The Selecter later this month at the Hoxton Bar & Kitchen in London. Can you tell me about your new band? What is the line-up? Who will be singing? What songs will be performed? Are more shows planned?

I have more songs and music that belong in that era so I've created a new version of The Selecter which will play my songs from the original days. The complete line-up will be announced on very soon but there is Hammond organ, there are trombones and the singer's name is John Gibbons. I need the audience to answer about more shows!! I know it's been a while....

There seem to be two versions of The Selecter at the moment. What are the chances that you, Pauline and other members of the original band will end up on stage together sometime this year to celebrate your 30th anniversary?

I don't wish to comment further than to say the 30th anniversary was, for me at least, last year. 1979 was the year 2-Tone Records was launched and The Selecter broke through with 'On My Radio'. Thanks for the chance to answer your questions and thanks for those taking the time to read them.

Davies version of The Selecter will play their inaugural show at The Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen in London on Thursday July 29th while Pauline Black's version of The Selecter including Gaps Hendrickson will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the 'Too Much Pressure' album with a concert on Saturday, November 13, 2010 at the Bloomsbury Ballroom in London.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

'This Is England 86' to be a 4 part TV Series on Channel 4 in the UK: Show Follows Up Where Movie Left Off

Fantastic news for fans of Shane Meadows 2006 gem of a film 'This Is England'. The award winning director has wrapped filming of a four-part television sequel to the film that will air on Channel 4 in the U.K. this fall. 'This Is England', which picked up several awards including the 2008 Bafta for Best British Film, centred on young skinheads in the summer of 1983. It followed 12-year-old Shaun, played by Thomas Turgoose, and his acceptance into a group of skinheads, which is eventually split by a growing racist influence. 'This Is England '86' revisits the main characters – Shaun, Woody and Lol – in 1986, when the World Cup was taking place in Mexico and 3.4 million were unemployed in Britain.

Shaun is an angry and lonely 12-year-old who has recently lost his father in the Falklands War. Surrounded by unemployment, malaise, and picked on at school, he finds companionship and an outlet for his frustrations among a group of skinheads whose leader, Woody (Joe Gilgun), takes the boy under his wing. This seems harmless until Combo (Stephen Graham), a violent and racist skinhead rejoins the group after a 3-year stint in prison, shattering the group's camaraderie with racism and crime.

Below is one of my favorite scenes from the film when the main character Shaun chances upon a non-racist skinhead gang (which includes two Jamaican members), led by the charming and laconic Woody. Shaun immediately takes to Woody as a surrogate father figure and is soon admitted in to the gang. Admission means parties, a new girlfriend, a new haircut, a new Ben Sherman shirt, and a new pair of DM boots (purchased by his mother in an extremely funny scene) as well as a whole new group of friends who treat him as an equal.

Meadows has a blog where he has been updating fans with news and information about the television series. He recently posted the first promo video for the television series below.

Meadows has confirmed some information about the television series, including that Combo (again played by Stephen Graham) returns, that the fate of Milky will be revealed, and that part of the story will be based on a wedding between Woody and Lol that is called off. He said if the series succeeded, he would follow it with another series.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Secret Dub Life Of The Flying Lizards: Jah Lloyd Mixed By The Flying Lizards Creates The Most Unlikely Dub Reggae Record You Will Ever Hear

While the convergence of punk and reggae might have all started when Rastafarian DJ Don Letts played reggae records between punk bands at the Roxy, there were ongoing and significant collaborations between members of each musical tribe which lead to some of the best music of the entire era: The Clash (who played reggae covers) and Mikey Dread, The Slits and reggae producer Dennis Bovell (who invented Lovers Rock) and The Ruts who recorded the reggae song 'Jah War' and released it on Misty In Roots label.

Perhaps the most unlikely collaboration (or should I say collision!) of reggae and avant garde punk occurred in 1978 when David Cunningham (who was beginning to have success with the U.K. punk-pop absurdist band The Flying Lizards ) remixed a series of songs recorded by Jah Lloyd (Patrick Francis) , a well-known Jamaican-based reggae singer, deejay and producer. Though they never met face-to-face, Cunningham's mix of Jah Lloyd's songs remain a great example of the reggae/punk ethos. Though the songs remained unreleased until the mid-90's, 3o years on, this collection may be one of the most interesting and unusual dub reggae albums of all time.

For those unfamiliar with Cunningham (above in the studio in the early 80's) or The Flying Lizards, they scored a still icon-status hit with a hysterically manic cover version of Berry Gordy's "Money (That's What I Want)". The song still retains a unique sound and once you have heard it you will never forget the buzzing, clicks and odd sounds that pervade it. It's anti-pop music of the highest degree and it scored a totally unexpected hit for Cunningham and company (a shifting group of musicians and singers). According to an article in the Sound Collector from 2001, "The Flying Lizards wasn't actually a band at all. It's not practical to judge The Flying Lizards solely in terms of their status as a rock band, or one of their albums as a finished or commercial product marketed by a record company. The Flying Lizards were above all a way of doing things, in the studio and in the mass consumer market."

Cunningham owed much of his sound experiments with The Flying Lizards to the sound of dub reggae. Julian Marshall, the piano player on "Money" told Melody Maker in 1979; "David played me the original version to refresh my memory, put one mike in the piano and another one by the metronome on the floor. We did it twice, the second time with various things - Chopin sheet music, a glass ashtray, rubber toys, a cassette recorder, a telephone directory - thrown into the piano to get a kind of banjo effect. David said 'That's fine,' and I was slightly amazed: it sounded fairly wrong. But the next time I heard it, at Utopia, where he was cutting it, it sounded fantastic." In many ways Cunningham was one of the first UK producers as artist, and his path followed another musician turned producer who sought to provoke and irritate through his explorations and experiments with sounds -- Lee 'Scratch' Perry.

Cunningham further explained his Perry-like production style on 'Money' to the Record Mirror in 1978; "Then I took the tape to Brixton and put the other bits on there, using a borrowed drum kit. The knock on the record is a snare drum and tambourine being played together, I was hitting the snare drum with a stick. I was in a different room to the tape recorder so I just got a very long mike cable and took the mike out to a very echoey room right next to the toilets and overdubbed it. There isn't any bass drum on the record, it's just bass guitar being hit with a stick. Then we put the guitar solo and backing vocal on and put it back onto the Vox, and that was the master tape really."

The unlikely story of how Cunningham and Jah Lloyd came to work together begins when Cunningham received a mono tape in 1978 from Jah Lloyd and was told to do whatever he wanted with it. Cunningham knew he wanted to create a dub record out of it, but since it was a mono master tape, the only thing he could do really was magnetic tape splicing (this was long before samplers). Without the ability to use standard studio techniques to create dub sounds, Cunningham employed endless, overlaying loops to make the dub effects. The fact that this was all done manually on the magnetic tape is impressive to say the least, and its very possible that there is not another dub album that relies so heavily on tape loops, or even uses them at all.

Patrick Francis began his career in the mid 1960s as a singer in The Mediators and worked as a solo singer with tracks such as 'Soldier Round the Corner' and 'Know Yourself Blackman' recorded for producer Rupie Edwards. In the early 1970s, he turned to production, recording The Mighty Diamonds. Recording as Jah Lloyd, he turned his hand to deejaying, enjoying hits in Jamaica with 'Black Snowfall', 'World Class', and 'Beware of the Flour'. He then recorded with Lee "Scratch" Perry, who decided to rename the deejay Jah Lion. One of their songs "Soldier and Police War" (a deejay version of Junior Murvin's 'Police & Thieves') topped the reggae chart. This success lead to a two-album deal with Virgin Records' Frontline label. This is where Jah Lloyd and Cunningham's musical fates intertwined.

The songs on 'The Secret Dub Life of The Flying Lizards' have a haunted 'Ghost In The Machine' quality with creaking hinges, bouncing ping pong balls, popping champagnge corks, wounded trombones, shuffling papers and other odd sounds that float in out of Jah Lloyd's hypnotic reggae tracks. According to liner notes for 'The Secret Dub Life Of The Flying LIzards' that Cunningham wrote in 1995 when the record was finally released, 'The source tapes for this CD were recorded in Jamaica by Jah Lloyd (Patrick Francis) as part of a series he made for Virgin Records' Front Line label. The original tapes were not released and were offered to me by Front Line' with the suggestion that I should 'remix' the music. I accepted the project, expecting lots of time in one of Virgin's studios to play with the music and the equipment, only to be presented with a mono master tape of the music. So I began to invent (or perhaps re-invent) techniques of editing, looping, filtering and subtraction to deal with unremixable mono material (these were the days before samplers). the subsequent work took a long time; as I thought it might be something of an indulgence I only worked on it at weekends and evenings rather than let it interfere with other projects.

Below is video for the track 'Flicker':

You can visit Cunningham's web site for more information about him and his current art and music projects. The 'Secret Dub Life of The Flying Lizards' is available for sale on and Piano Records (the original distributor) as well as other online retailers.

Below is a link to where you can purchase a copy of 'The Secret Dub Life Of The Flying Lizards: