Sunday, January 30, 2011

This Is Ska - Watch The Original 1964 Documentary In Its Entirety

In honor of both the Reggae Britannia live show and documentary and the upcoming London International Ska Festival, which includes a number of original Jamaican reggae and rocksteady artists from the 60's and 70's, I wanted to post about the very rare 'This Is Ska' film/documentary that was originally released in 1964.

Running just under 40 minutes and filmed on location in Kingston, Jamaica, it features performances by a who's who of up-and-coming ska artists of the day including Prince Buster, Jimmy Cliff and The Maytals. They would all later go on to create rocksteady and early reggae hits that changed the course of music history around the world, influencing multiple generations of musicians including the entire roster of 2-Tone bands.  After watching the film, I can't help but wonder if it inspired Jerry Dammers to film 'Dance Craze.' 

The line-up and songs performed in order of appearance incldue:

Jamaican Ska - Byron Lee & The Dragonaires
Sammy Dead-O - Eric 'Monty' Morris
One Eyed Jack - Jimmy Cliff
Wash Wash - Prince Buster
Treat Me Bad - The Maytals
She Will Never Let You Down - The Maytals
So Marie - The Charmers
Rough 'N' Tough - Stranger Cole
Two Roads Before Me - Roy & Yvonne
I Don't Know - The Blues Busters
Sammy Dead-O - Byron Lee & The Dragonaires
King Of Kings - Jimmy Cliff

While the film has never been officially released on DVD, it came out on VHS and Laserdisc in Japan in the late 1980's. According to a Swedish music blog, a television show there announced they had 'discovered' the film on a trip to Kingston in 2000 and aired the film.  If they had done a simple Google search they could have discovered that the film wasn't lost at all! 

Now through the magic of YouTube, you can watch the entire film below.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Reggae Britannia Live Concert & BBC TV Show Celebrate The Influence Of Reggae On British Music

Jamaican ska and reggae rhythms have formed the foundation of popular music in the U.K. over the last 50 years and almost every British music craze from skinheads to mods, punks to 2-Tone rude boys and ravers and dubsteppers owe much of the sound and style of their favorite songs and albums to the enduring influence of ska and reggae.

The impact of West Indian culture and reggae rhythms on British culture is the topic of 'Reggae Britannia' a widely anticipated BBC documentary directed by Jeremy Marre, (who also directed the excellent 3-part Soul Britannia documentary series) that tells the story of how reggae music and culture has formed an intrinsic part of British life since the mid-Sixties and how black reggae and ska musicians, either from Jamaica or British-born, found their music and identities shaped by the rejection or acceptance of British audiences. Read a great article in The Telegraph about the documentary.

Marre explains the genesis of the documentary: “I wanted it to be a positive story,” says Jeremy Marre, the film’s director, “to show how reggae in this country evolved, and impacted on British music, society and even politics, and how reggae, as it evolved here, took on a kind of Britishness. It evolved its own style, flavour and lyrics, which were specific to these islands.” The documentary includes interviews with Jerry Dammers and Neville Staple of The Specials, Dennis Bovell, Chris Blackwell, UB40, Paul Weller, Janet Kay, Carroll Thompson, Dennis Alcapone, Boy George and many more.

To coincide with the airing of the documentary on the BBC, the Barbican (a club located in London) is hosting a live 'Reggae Britannia' concert on Saturday February 5th (the show is long sold-out) to celebrate Reggae's influence on British music and culture. The show will feature hits from the 1960s to the present day and tell the history of reggae in Britain from Ska, through Rocksteady, Roots, Dub, Lovers Rock and beyond. Music Director Dennis Bovell (of Matumbi and LKJ's backing band) has assembled an All-Star band which includes some of the most important reggae musicians in the British scene to back up a all-star cast of singers and toasters including Dennis Alcapone and Winston Reedy, Dave Barker, Pauline Black, Ken Boothe, Ali Campbell, Brinsley Forde, Neville Staple and Big Youth.

In fact the BBC are filming the Barbican concert and it will be broadcast together with Marre's documentary a few days later.  Its times like this that I wish I could get the BBC here in New York! Here's to hoping this all gets released on DVD!

Here are the details:

Reggae Britannia live concert
February 5, 2011

Reggae Britannia documentary
February 11, 2011
9pm - Reggae Britannia documentary
10.30pm - Reggae Britannia live concert from the Barbican

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pauline Black's Memoir 'Black By Design' Now Available For Pre-Order on

Add Pauline Black to the illustrious list of 2-Tone era musicians who are writing books about their personal and musical experiences.  The singer, actress and TV presenter has just announced that her memoir 'Black By Design: A 2-Tone Memoir'' is now available for pre-order through in the U.K. and will be published in August of this year.

While it will more than likely touch on Black's experiences with The Selecter, its sure to explore more personal issues related to Black's experiences as a mixed race child being adopted by a white family. It will also examine issues of racial identity during a time that the U.K. was struggling with its own issues of racism and the challenges of assimilating Black and Asian immigrants into British society and culture.  In that regard, it may touch on topics raised by Neville Staple in his memoir 'Original Rude Boy: From Borstal To The Specials' which was his recollection of life growing up in Coventry and detailed his Black British experience.  

I asked Black about her book during an interview I conducted with her last summer.  Here is what she shared with me about the process of writing her memoir and the difficult questions and topics related to race and identity that she explores:

You just signed a publishing deal for your memoir 'Black By Design.' What was it like to write a book? Did you sit down and write everyday?
I have been writing short stories and opinion pieces for BBC Radio 4 in the UK for years, since the early 90’s. I also wrote a novel in the mid 90’s “The Goldfinches” which picked up publishing interest, but then the recession hit and money was scarce and the interest evaporated. Therefore I did not approach my book as a novice. I knew that I wanted to write my own memoir. When a “ghost writer” is used it is usually obvious. The main difference between my first outing into the book world and now, is that I got a literary agent. Without a literary agent it is almost impossible these days for a writer to be taken seriously by publishers. Publishing interest in my memoir was there from the beginning, largely because I was the only female among the bands that did the legendary “2-tone tour” in 1979 and also because I have extended my repertoire over the past 30 years to include, acting, presenting, radio broadcasting & writing, while still remaining active as a musician throughout the 90’s and Noughties. Therefore my story covered a wider brief. I didn’t want my memoir to be just about the brief period of the 2-tone years. Fortunately my literary agent and publisher agreed with my approach. For the book to have been signed by influential, maverick publisher “Serpent’s Tail” is very much a dream come true. They have a great publishing history reflecting many of the books that have influenced me throughout my life, most notably many of the “Harlem Renaissance” writers like Langston Hughes and Nella Larsen.

Primarily, “Black By Design” is about my search for my cultural and racial heritage, which, I discovered, had surprisingly original beginnings. It vigorously discusses the twin evils of “racism” and “sexism”, which gave me the motivation to join a 2-tone band in 1979 and enter the ongoing musical polemic offered by that inclusion.

I wanted my book to be “ideas driven”, to ask some difficult questions about what it meant to grow up black in a predominantly racist Britain in the 50’s and 60’s and how being adopted into a white working class family influenced my decision to choose music as a career path. I didn’t want to write some dishonest potted history of my private life or just a scrupulously kept diary. Hopefully I have achieved my goal.

Black by Design is now available for pre-order from in the U.K.  

Personally, I can't wait to read the book! 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

'Rude Boy 8-Bit' Compilation Collects Ska & Reggae Recorded On 80's Era Video Game Consoles

And now for something completely different!  As someone who came of age in the 80's, I spent an inordinate amount of time at the video arcade at the local mall where I played classic video games like Pac-Man, Space Invader, Frogger and Asteroids.  When the arcade was packed and all the games were being played at once, the electronic pings, bleeps and bloops created a cacophony of sound. The melody for Ms. Pac-Man is still rooted in my memory!

As the 80's went on and video game technology became more sophisticated and home computers became cheaper and more accessible, video games moved from arcades into home gaming consoles. As users moved on to the next generation of games and personal computers, the computers and gaming consoles that were all the rage in the early 80's were soon abandoned. Nevertheless, small groups of artists and musicians have embraced these forgotten computers to produce music which is commonly known as chiptune or chip music after the microchips that powered game consoles. The game technologies that are typically used in chip music production are those most popular from the 1980s through the mid 1990s including the Commodore 64, Nintendo Game Boy and Nintendo Entertainment System.

There is now an active community of musicians and producers who only record music and songs using these chip-based sounds.  To my surprise I discovered a compilation of reggae, ska, dub, and everything in between, called 'Rude Boy 8-Bit: Jamaican Music On Japanese Consoles' that was performed and recorded by artists from around the world using a variety of 80's era game console technology. The collection was organized by Euan Lynn on 8-Bit Collective and the entire album is available for free streaming and download from the player below.

Some of the songs are surprisingly melodic and complex, employing vocals and samples as well as legitimate dub and reggae production effects.  The best songs on the compilation include 'I Believe You Jah', 'Bam Dub' which is a chiptune take on Sister Nancy's 80's reggae classic 'Bam Bam' and the chirpy, 8-bit ska of 'Rebound. The bottom line is that ska music yet again remains vital and that digital artists have embraced the genre enough to put the compilation out.

Let me know what you think.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Show Alert!: Punky Reggae Fest In Brooklyn Highlights NYC Ska & Reggae Scene

Nothing to do this weekend?  Then join me in heading over to The Lake in Bushwick, Brooklyn for Punky Reggae Fest, a 2-day festival highlighting a fantastically diverse line-up of ska and reggae bands and DJ's who are showcasing all the great ska bands and musicians who call New York City home.

The first night of the festival on Friday January 21st features All Torn Up!, Royal City Riot, Karuhata, Vic Ruggiero Trio, Blackout Shoppers, Top Shotta and The Frightners.

The second night on Saturday January 22nd features: Desekilibrio, Obamanation, The Hard Times, Yo! Scunt, The Bluebeats, The Facts and The Forthrights featuring Jeremy Pena.

And if that's not enough ska entertainment for you, the festival features some of the best NYC-based ska and reggae DJ’s including Crazy Baldhead Sound System (AKA: Agent Jay from The Slackers), Deadly Dragon, Shockwave, Hagler, Rudies Don’t Care and Al Paragus

Here are all the details:
January 21st & 22nd
The Lake
258 Johnson Ave. (between Bushwick Pl. and White St.)
Brooklyn, NYC
Cost: $8

Take the L train to Montrose and walk on Bushwick Ave. until you hit Johnson Ave and make a left.

Take the J/M train to Flushing Ave. Walk on Flushing until you hit Bushwick Ave. turn left. Walk on Bushwick Ave. until Johnson and make a right.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Honoring The 80's Reggae Dancehall Album Art of Wilfred Limonious

Album art and design remains a personal interest and passion of mine and some of my favorite interviews on this blog have been with artists like John 'Teflon' Sims (who designed a good deal of the 2-Tone album and single covers for The Specials, The Selecter and more) and Bob Fingerman (who designed album art for The Toasters). I recently discovered a treasure trove of Reggae and Dancehall LP artwork by graphic designer Wilfred Limonious who created the colorful, hand drawn, comic book style album covers for a majority of the Dancehall reggae albums released in the 80's and 90's.

Just who is Wilfred Limonious?  According to a web site which is archiving most of his work, Limonious was a graphic artist who created many of the most memorable Jamaican LP covers of the eighties and early nineties. His work remained relatively unknown outside of Jamaica because most of these records were never released internationally. Reggae and Dancehall aficionados frequenting vinyl import stores around the globe however often keep fond memories of these rare records not only due to the music but also because of Limonious' vivid and often hilarious illustrations. Digging deeper into the crates one will also find examples that go beyond the often cited cartoon characters. Particularly his hand-made renditions of those geometric shapes that were ubiquitous in the eighties have a charm of their very own. Unfortunately very little information can be found about Limonious on the web and its sadly rumored that he passed away in the early 2000's.

Like most notable album artists, Limonious has a unique style and approach that is closely identified with a specific time and place in reggae music history. Dub poet Mutabaruka said of the 80's rise of Dancehall, "if 1970s reggae was red, green and gold, then in the next decade it was gold chains".  As digital reggae took Jamaica by storm in the mid-80's and artists embraced 'slack' culture, the album art they selected to represent them was evocative of the message in the music -- boasting, dancing, sex, money and violence. As the WFMU radio blog pointed out, 'On the one hand, Limonious was a kind of Caribbean Russ Meyer, seemingly obsessed with large breasts and very adept at portraying them in colorful attire. On the other hand, he was a skilled caricaturist whose portraits of reggae/dancehall stars like Frankie Paul, Sugar Minott, Augustus Pablo, General Trees, Early B, Carl Meeks, Charlie Chaplin, Coco Tea, Barrington Levy, Half Pint, Willi Williams, Yellowman, are not without real wit.'

Though Limonious may no longer be with us, his unique and colorful album covers live on.  Have a look at a few of my favorites and visit the archive for a deeper dive.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Toasters Celebrate Their 30th Anniversary In An Original NYC Style!

The Toasters kicked off their 30th anniversary tour of the U.S. with a homecoming show at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn this past Sunday night, but not before Rob 'Bucket' Hingley stopped by a pre-party that my fellow ska blogger Steve Shafer (Duff Guide To Ska) and I hosted in his honor. At the pre-party, Bucket shared that he is hoping to play a few 'special shows' during 2011.

While the band are known around the world for carrying the ska torch and Bucket long ago moved his home base to Spain in order to tour Europe more easily, New York still remains the band's spiritual home and its where Bucket often honors the band's legacy.  The show on Sunday night was no different, as the band was joined by its former toaster/vocalist Coolie Ranx (who appeared on the Dub 56 and Hard Band Fe Dead albums) for an extended version of one of their most popular and iconic tracks 'Run Rudy Run' taken from their first 'Recriminations' EP (which was produced by Joe Jackson).

If you watched until the end then you heard Coolie spill the beans about some big plans the band has for later this summer. Needless to say there will be a lot more details to share as they become available!

Special thanks to Mike DeMatteo at The Establishment for the video and to Sid Reitzfeld for hosting the pre-party at Dusk Lounge.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Neol Davies' Version of The Selecter Performs Short Set In London

Neol Davies' version of The Selecter kicked off the year in ska 2011 with a short 30 minute set at Koko in London over the weekend performing 'Out On The Streets', 'Three Minute Hero', 'On My Radio', 'Too Much Pressure', 'Missing Words' and a new song titled 'Dolla Fe Dolla'.

Davies' version of The Selecter features John Gibbons on lead vocals, Daniel Crosby on drums, Andre Bayuni on bass, Tim Cansfield on guitar, Dean Ross on Hammond organ/piano, Faye Treacy, Hannah Taylor and Ellie Smith on trombones and Victor Trivino on percussion.

According to an interview I did with Davies at the end of last year, the band has plans to tour and to release new music in 2011 including the single 'Dolla Fe Dolla.' Davies continues to pen new songs for a new album that will include the new songs 'Haunted', 'One Mother', 'Shake The World', 'Times That You Wished You Could Fly' and one or two instrumentals, 'Return of The Selecter', and some film themes he has re-arranged plus a cover or two.

Below are two videos from the Koko show in London:

Out On The Streets

Dolla Fe Dolla

The band have just announced a show for Saturday January 29th at the Kasbah Nightclub in Coventry. More details available here.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Hoovers Live On KSAN-FM From 1980: British Ska Transplants Bring 2-Tone Sound To San Francisco

Here is a great piece of 80's American ska history!  Believe it or not, but at one time 2-Tone Records is said to have considered signing a U.S. band to their label and that band was based in California...who was it? Answer: The only American band that Jerry Dammers thought worthy of the 2-Tone label was The Hoovers. Who?

The Hoovers were led by two Brits, Paul Whiting on keyboards and William Sell on guitar who relocated to San Francisco from London in the late 70's and carried their London accents with them, making them the only American ska band from the 80's that sounded like their British 2-Tone contemporaries. Though the 4-piece had no horn section, they sounded very much like a manic American version of Madness. They recorded an LP in 1980 titled "Skin and Blisters" which includes a ska version of Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe" long before UB40 decided to do a pop-reggae version with Chrissy Hynde. The band are still active and perform around the northern California area.

I profiled the band over 2 years ago including an interview with Whiting, but recently my fellow ska blogger Tone and Wave recently posted a very rare live radio broadcast of The Hoovers from San Francisco radio station KSAN-FM that was recorded sometime during 1980.  I spoke with Whiting who confirmed some details about the recording: The radio station was KSAN.  It was a show called 'Rising Stars.' It took place at 'The Stone' in San Francisco which was, at  the time a pretty nice club on Broadway. They recorded in a remote truck outside the club and I think it went directly to a two track reel to reel and to radio as it happened. It is amazing to think (especially these days) that a commercial radio station would give time to new unsigned artists. Can't remember much else about the show except I think we opened and there were two other acts. KSAN turned into a country station soon after.  Two songs did in fact become part of the first album, 'Pretty Little Blossom Song" and 'Captain Scarlet"

The songs on the recording are all from the band's album 'Skin and Blisters' and include:

1 She Want It
2 World Gone Mad
3 To Your Mother
4 Captain Scarlett
5 Pretty Little Blossom Song

The download link is below.  Enjoy a piece of rare American ska history!

The Hoovers Live on KSAN-FM 1980

Friday, January 14, 2011

Help Kickstart The Reggae 69 Fan Club!

If you have a copy of the new Bigger Thomas CD 'Steal My Sound' (if you don't have a copy, you can download a pay-what you want copy here), you may have noticed that the liner notes were written by a certain Jason Lawless. I think its fair to say that Lawless may be one of the most passionate and exuberant advocates for ska and reggae here in the U.S. Based in Los Angeles, he manages the Dancing Mood suite of blogs and web sites.  Now he's attempting to take what he does for the ska and reggae community to another level by spearheading an effort to launch the Reggae 69 Fan Club.

The Reggae 69 Fan Club is based on the model of the Columbia Record Club of the 70's and 80's with a twist. While the mission of the club is to release a limited edition collection of 7" vinyl records to celebrate the music of Jamaica and ska and skinhead youth sub-culture, the way you join and pay is unique. First, members join using, which is a web service that helps launch creative projects by letting its users state goals while raising funds. The best part of this innovative approach, is that prospective club members don't get charged unless the project actually launches.

So what do you get for joining?  At a basic level, you'll receive the vinyl singles recorded by California ska and reggae bands like The Impalers, Revivers, Ocean 11, Roger Rivas, and The Bullets. Join and donate at a higher level and you will get all sorts of cool stuff like exclusive club badges, patched, a poster, t-shirt, etc. According to Lawless, “The Reggae 69 Fan Club needs your support though if it is to succeed. We’ve lined up some great bands who you know of already – bands that love and bleed for what they do everyday. We’d like to help get some new music out for them – the real vintage reggae lovers – for the DJ’s out there and the fans.”  One of Reggae 69 Fan Club's first releases will be a double A side from the Irie Beats band of "lost" tracks produced by Brian "Boom Boom" Dixon of The Aggrolites. You can stream the track here.

Need a bit more information? Watch this video which further explains the idea and concept:

To make all of this happen, you the fans and music lovers need to pledge a total of $5,000 through the Kickstarter web site. While the club is well on its way to meeting its goal, the deadline to get in on this deal is this Saturday, January 15, 2011 at 11:00 pm (U.S. EDT).  To get more information visit the Reggae 69 Fan Club web site where you can download a free copy of The Bullets 'Sun Drenched Witch'

To join the club visit the Reggae 69 Club page. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Horace Panter of The Specials Launches Art Web Site

As The Specials gear up for what appears to be the final tour of their current reunion, the band have been enjoying some much deserved down time.  One member of the band who has been making the most of his free time ahead of the band's ambitious 2011 tour, which kicks off in Europe in June, has been bassist Horace Panter. Known for his incredibly inventive bass lines which define many of The Specials most iconic songs (think 'Ghost Town,  Nite Klub, Do The Dog) and as the author of 'Ska'd For Life' which chronicled his experiences in The Specials, Panter is also an accomplished fine artist and has just launched a fantastic web site, Horace Panter Art, to highlight, publicize and sell his work.

The roots of The Specials are many faceted, but really begin at Coventry's Lanchester Polytechnic where Panter graduated with a degree in Fine Art, and where he met fellow art student and band founder Jerry Dammers . Although most of Panter's career has been defined by his involvement in music, art has always been an equally defining part of his life. Being on tour with The Specials (and later General Public) afforded Panter the opportunity to visit local art galleries around the world, where he found inspiration for his own work. His distinctive style is something that he has developed over many years and his influences are eclectic and reflected in his very colorful work. He labels his style as ‘appropriation and subversion’, often merging images and styles into one painting. See the 'Robot At The Beach' above which Panter describes as 'The robots meet Henry Rousseauʼs jungle ... at the beach. An art version of King Tubby meets the Rockers Uptown! All the different elements (robot, foliage and sea) seem to work together.

In the years before The Specials recent reunion, Panter worked as an art teacher at a specials needs school in Coventry.  There was a great story about him and the work he did with his students in The Guardian from February of 2009 that is well worth the read.  It gives you a real sense about Panter's approach to art as well as his very varied life outside the band.

Panter was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about his art background and his own artistic inspirations.

Tell me a bit about your art background outside of The Specials?
Traditionally, in the UK, if you wanted to be in a group, you went to art college. I went to one in Coventry and that's where I met Jerry Dammers, blah, blah, blah. I have a degree in fine art
Consequently, art has always been a big part of my 'creative side'. When we'd get into New York, everyone else would go to the hotel bar, but I'd go to MOMA. I spent 10 years as an art teacher at a special needs school in Coventry before the Specials reformed and I continued to visit UK art shows and paint.

What inspires your style and what inspired you to launch Horace Panter Art?
The downtime that the Specials has afforded me has allowed me to get serious with my painting. I really like the idea of 'practical' art, art that serves some kind of purpose, especially religious icons. You want a safe journey ?, Take this picture of saint somebody-or-other. You want your crops to grow good this year? Draw a picture on the ground (and kill a goat, only I don't do that side of things!!). I go for Henri Rousseau, a French naive artist of the early 20th Century and Peter Blake, an English Pop artist from the 60's (he designed the Sergeant Pepper's cover). I go with the Pop/Warhol maxim of 'elevating the mundane'; making a 60's robot into an icon. (Icon is a very over-used word, so is 'awesome' but I'm starting to ramble here.)

How do you create your prints?
The originals are painted in acrylics on wooden panels and the prints are done using the 'giclee' process, which means they ain't just photocopies. It's something that I hope will occupy my time for the next 20 or so years, along with playing bass guitar of course.

There are currently 16 limited edition prints available for sale on the web site. They are all signed and numbered so buyers can be assured they are receiving a genuine product. Panter will also be adding a selection of merchandise including organic t-shirts and canvas bags.

Horace Panter Art to see the prints or purchase one and visit Panter's Facebook page to stay updated about his ongoing works in progress.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Toasters Kick-Off 30th Anniversary U.S. Tour In 2011 - Pre-Party To Celebrate New York Show Planned For Sunday January 16th At Dusk Lounge

To help celebrate the kick-off of The Toasters' 30th (!) Anniversary Winter Tour of the U.S., Marco on the Bass and Duff Guide To Ska are co-hosting a pre-show party for their NYC gig this Sunday afternoon (1/16/11) at the Dusk Lounge in Manhattan (click on the poster above for all the details).

Bucket and other members of the band will be on hand--and DJ Duff Guy will be at the helm of the Fat Albert Sound System, which will be pumping out an awesome mix of vintage ska, skinhead reggae, 2 Tone, and modern ska (and word has it that Sammy K from The Forthrights will also guest DJ a bit, and preview tracks from the band's recently released 7").

So get yourself down to the Dusk Lounge in Chelsea (24th between 6th and 7th Avenues) to hang with Bucket and the boys this Sunday afternoon from 4:00-7:00 pm. Then, catch the L train to Brooklyn for The Toasters gig at The Knitting Factory that night with Royal City Riot, The Rudie Crew, and DJ Agent Jay. The venerable New Yorker even profiled the band's show so you know its a momentous occasion.

Here are The Toasters' dates for their 30th Anniversary winter tour of the US. Make sure you see the band and raise a pint or two in Bucket's honor!


Sat 15th Kingston, NY @ The Basement
Sun 16th Brooklyn, NY @ The Knitting Factory
Mon 17th Vienna, VA @ Jammin’ Java
Tue 18th Allentown, PA @ Crocodile Rock Café
Wed 19th Norfolk, VA @ Jewish Mother Backstage
Thurs 20th Charlotte, NC @ The Milestone Club
Fri 21st Nashville, TN @ The Muse
Sat 22nd Hot Springs, AR @ Low Key Arts
Sun 23rd Houston, TX @ Walter’s on Washington
Mon 24th Lubbock, TX @ Jake’s Backroom
Tue 25th El Paso, TX @ Lips Lounge
Wed 26th Albuquerque, NM @ The Launchpad
Thurs 27th Tempe, AZ @ The Clubhouse
Fri 28th Las Vegas, NV @ The Bunkhouse
Sat 29th Camarillo, CA @ Rock City
Sun 30th San Diego, CA @ SOMA
Mon 31st Fullerton, CA @ Slidebar


Tue 1st Sparks, NV @ The Alley
Wed 2nd San Jose, CA @ The Blank Club
Thurs 3rd San Francisco, CA @ Red Devil Lounge
Fri 4th Eureka, CA @ Red Fox Tavern
Sat 5th Portland, OR @ Plan B
Sun 6th Vancouver, BC @ The Venue
Mon 7th Seattle, WA @ Studio 7
Tue 8th Spokane, WA @ A Club
Wed 9th Boise, ID @ Shredder
Thurs 10th Salt Lake City, UT @ Burt’s Tiki Lounge
Fri 11th Casper, WY @ Downtown Grill & Venue
Sat 12th Colorado Springs, CO @ The Black Sheep
Sun 13th Denver, CO @ Marquis Theatre
Mon 14th Omaha, NE @ The Waiting Room
Tue 15th Iowa City, IA @ Gabe’s Oasis
Wed 16th Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock Social Club
Thurs 17th DeKalb, IL @ Otto’s
Fri 18th St. Louis, MO @ Firebird
Sat 19th Indianapolis, IN @ Melody Inn (Punk Rock Night)
Sun 20th Toledo, OH @ Frankie’s
Mon 21st Lansing, MI @ Mac’s Bar
Tue 22nd Akron, OH @ Musica
Wed 23rd Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr. Smalls Theatre
Thurs 24th Trenton, NJ @ Championship Bar & Grill
Fri 25th Ithaca, NY @ The Haunt
Sat 26th Providence, RI @ Club Hell
Sun 27th Cambridge, MA @ The Middle East

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Haircut One Hundred Reunites To Perform 'Pelican West' In London On January 28th!

I'm proud to announce that I am an unabashed fan of Haircut One Hundred.  The band's sunshine pop sound fused funk and jazz and led a whole legion of fans to experience the delights of a world filled with 'Lemon Firebrigades' and the possibility of 'Boy Meets Girl'. Their album 'Pelican West' is a gem of innocent pop wonder and a much loved treasure of many a forty something teenager. So, indulge me if you will kind readers, for a rare non-ska post, as I share my excitement about an album that I played nearly as much as ones by my many 2-Tone era favorites.

The exciting news is that four of the original band members, Nick Heyward, (vocals and guitar), Graham Jones (guitar), Leslie Nemes (bass) and Blair Cunningham (drums) are reuniting for a special performance at London’s indig02 venue on Friday January 28th. The band will recreate their trademark sound with a performance of the entire 'Pelican West' album in its entirety, including the top 10 hits ‘Favourite Shirt (Boy Meet’s Girl)’, ‘Fantastic Day’ and ‘ Love Plus One’.  This is not the first time the group has played together since breaking up in 1984 shortly after Heyward's departure. The members were featured in VH-1's 'Bands Reunited' show in 2004 and played a one-off performance at London's Cadigan Hall in 2009.

Below is a live version of 'Favourite Shirt (Boy Meets Girl) and 'Kingsize' from 1982 that also includes a short band interview :

One of the reasons that I'm such a fan of the album is likely due to the production work of Bob Sargeant who made his name producing all three albums by The Beat. In fact, 'Pelican West' and 'Special Beat Service' share many of the same characteristics of guitar driven pop mixed with percussion and horns (in fact The Haircuts percussionist Mark Fox also played on 'Special Beat Service' further cementing the link).  Both band's enjoyed musical breakthroughs in the U.S. as a result of Sargeant's production work and were considered part of the early 80's 'new wave' invasion.

As a very special treat for those among you who may share my affections for The Haircuts, below is a  live recording of a show the band performed at The Rox Southgate in London almost 30 years ago on November 30, 1981.  It includes nearly all the songs from Pelican West as well as a cover of 'Low Rider'! Have a listen and enjoy!

01 Low Rider
02 Baked Beans
03 Love Plus One
04 Love's Got me In Triangles
05 Milk Film
06 Boat Party
07 Lemon Firebrigade
08 Favourite Shirt
09 Kingsize
10 Low Rider - Jam
11 Favourite Shirt (Reprise)

Haircut 100 - Live The Rox Southgate, London (31.11.1981)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Reflections on Canadian Reggae Artist Snow 18 Years After 'Informer' Topped The Charts

It is hard to believe that it was 18 years ago this month, that Darrin O'Brien, also know as the Canadian reggae artist Snow, released his debut album '12 Inches Of Snow. Fueled by the single 'Informer' which held the top spot on the U.S. Billboard Singles Chart for an unbelievable seven weeks in 1993, Snow went on to earn a Guinness Book Of World Records designation for having earned both the biggest selling reggae single and highest charting reggae single in history. 'Informer' went on to sell 8 million units worldwide and 3.2 million units in the U.S.  Those two facts alone still boggle the mind.

While the merits of O'Brien's songs and chatting skills have been debated and he is often denigrated as a 'one hit wonder', his story is worth reflecting on because in the long run, it can be argued that he helped to further popularize reggae and dancehall reggae in particular, opening many Americans ears to the sound for the first time.  As the product of multi-cultural Toronto, O'Brien was raised in the Allenbury Gardens housing project which included a large number of Jamaican immigrants.  It was here at age 15 that O'Brien learned to love Dancehall reggae and learned to chat and toast from Jamaican friends.  It's also where he ran into trouble with the law and those experiences informed much of '12 Inches Of Snow' and the song 'Informer' in particular.

Say what you will about O'Brien and his music, but I think the man deserves more credit and respect then he receives. Often accused of cultural misappropriation because he used Jamaican patois and reggae to chat his songs, O'Brien actually embraced his Irish heritage and his Canadian identity more then many people may realize.  According to Canadian social scientist Rebecca Haines who has written about music and ethnicity, O'Brien actually makes it clear who he is and who he isn't when he declares 'Heritage Irish/No not Jamaican' to clear up any confusion among his listeners about how he has mastered Jamaican reggae music, style and language. In fact in choosing his moniker, Haines argues that O'Brien clarified for listeners that though he grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood, he is both white and Canadian singing in 'Informer':

But inna a de dance they say where you come from
People dem say you come from Jamaica
But me born and raised Canadian, So me want y'all fe know
Pure black people dem is all a man know

Nevertheless, Snow's musical legacy remains mixed.  Though he later gained immense credibility in Jamaica and with Jamaican dancehall artists recording the hit 'Anything For You' with Beenie Man and Buju Banton, he is still trapped by the immense popularity of 'Informer' and remains misunderstood by many.  Indeed, fellow Canadian Jim Carey's video 'Imposter' from the TV show 'In Living Color' may unfortunately be what most people remember about Snow.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Dave Wakeling of The English Beat Releases Single To Benefit Children With Autism

English Beat front man Dave Wakeling has just issued his first new recording since the last General Public 'Rub It Better' which was released in 1995.  The acoustic recording of 'The Love You Give Lasts Forever' is part of a fund raising campaign for the organization Acoustic for Autism, headed by producer Louis Gendron and record executive Mike Cusanelli, who have autistic children. The organization releases acoustic songs on iTunes and directs all proceeds to organizations helping families touched by autism.  The song is available exclusively on iTunes.

Not only was the song, 'The Love You Give Lasts Forever,' chosen for the project, it ended up being the title of The English Beat's current tour, which stops tonight, January 6th at the Sellersville Theater 1894 in Sellersville, Pennsylvania. My band Bigger Thomas is playing support for the sold out show.

The song is just one of many new ones that the band is now performing live and that they plan to record and release in 2011. According to Wakeling the band have been very busy, "We've been working like crazy," Wakeling says. "We have 21 new songs started, recording great foundations, and we're busy decorating the tree, as it were," with an eye toward "a number of releases" soon — including a full-band version of "The Love You Give Lasts Forever."

Here is live video of Wakeling performing the song:

The band wraps up the tour at the Highline Ballroom here in New York this Sunday January 9th.  As an added benefit, any one who is unemployed can see the show for half-price provided they bring a recent unemployment pay stub as proof. 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Bigger Thomas CD 'Steal My Sound' Now Available As 'Pay What You Want' Download!

Happy New Year to all Marco On The Bass blog readers! In the spirit of welcoming in 2011, my Bigger Thomas band mates and I have decided to offer all readers and ska music fans a very special deal on our recently released album 'Steal My Sound'.  Following in the path blazed by bands like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails and many others, we are making our latest album available as a 'pay what you want' download.  If you feel like sharing a few dollars/pounds/euros in exchange for the album that would be wonderful!  If you want to download the album for free then please do so!  There is no obligation and either way we hope you will download and enjoy the music regardless.  The album is called 'Steal My Sound' for reason!

Radiohead ushered in a new era in the way that bands make their music available to their fans with the release of 'In Rainbows' in October 2007.  The 'pay what you want' approach earned the band millions and untethered them once and for all from needing a record company to manage the marketing and promotion of their albums. The technology now exists for all bands, great and small, to follow the path blazed by Radiohead and we are able to do it now as well through a site called Bandcamp.

At the risk of a indulging in some self promotion for the album, here are what a few reviewers have had to say about 'Steal My Sound':

Do The Dog Skazine - The latest album by New York-based band Bigger Thomas titled 'Steal My Sound' is a must for all lovers of quality 2-Tone, mixing up razor sharp Beat-like rhythms with slick chatty vocals in the mould of 'Dub 56' era Toasters material. Impressive stuff indeed from a band who have been together an incredible 22 years!  

Duff Guide To Ska - Steal My Sound is a serious album filled with tales of crushed hopes and diminished expectations. It mirrors the ugly reality of adult life, when you realize that things aren't going to turn out as you imagined they would when you were younger. But amidst the reconfigured world of middle-age, the band has found a gritty determination to follow their path and find satisfaction and happiness on their own terms. And they make some incredible music in the process.

New Jersey Noise - This, their 5th album, contains some of their best songs yet: 'Matinee Idol', 'Permanent Error', and 'Pure'. They are keeping that 1980's sound alive and doing it well. In keeping with that theme they even got John "Teflon" Sims, the artist behind much of the 2 Tone artwork, to design the cover.

Need a bit more incentive?  Here is a video we produced for the song 'Shamokin' from 'Steal My Sound':

As a special bonus, we engaged the creative services of John 'Teflon' Sims to design the art for this release. Sims was a designer in the art department at Chrysalis Records during the height of 2-Tone, and worked directly with Jerry Dammers to help conceive the album covers and promotional art for The Specials, The Selecter and all 2-Tone releases. It was an honor to have him design the art work for this release and its available as part of this download package.

So if the reviews and video above have piqued your interest in any way, then click on the link below and start 2011 out with some of our 2-Tone inspired songs that we have lovingly created for your listening pleasure. If you feel like donating some money to our cause we would be most grateful!  If you want the music for free, its yours for the taking as well.  The bottom line is that my band mates and I want you to listen to and enjoy our music. The only thing it will cost you is your e-mail address in exchange for 10 of the best ska and reggae songs we have ever recorded.

Here is the download link:

All feedback is welcome!  Leave a comment after you've given the album a spin.  Happy New Year again!