Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Stranger Cole & Patsy To Perform Rare Show In Brooklyn, NY: Ska Originators Backed By Crazy Baldhead

Stranger Cole and Patsy!  The names are synonymous with the founding of ska and rocksteady in Jamaica in the early 1960's.  Some of my earliest memories of discovering original 60's ska are of hearing Cole belt out the lilting and anthemic 'We Are Rolling' and Patsy duet with Derrick Morgan on 'Housewifes Choice' from the raw and always sensational 'Intensified: Original Ska 1962-66' album that rarely left my turntable in college.

Ska and reggae lovers living in the New York City metropolitan area are in for a real treat. Cole along with Patsy will be making his first ever appearance in New York at the Bell House in Brooklyn, NY this Saturday October 1st. The iconic singers will be backed by New York ska band Crazy Baldhead which counts guitarist Jay Nugent of The Slackers as a member. Tickets for the show are available for purchase online.  This is a chance to witness Jamaican musical history live and direct!

Stranger Cole began his career in the era of rocksteady and is one of the pioneers of reggae music as we know it today. Cole has worked with producers such as Arthur ‘Duke’ Reid, Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd, Prince Buster, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee and Sonia Pottinger and recorded duets with Gladstone Ellis, Patsy Todd and Ken Booth.  Cole is a true reggae originator with a soulful voice to boot.

For most of the early 1960s, Millicent 'Patsy' Todd along with Millie Small (My Boy Lollipop) was one of the premiere teen stars of ska. She recorded numerous duets with singers Derrick Morgan and Stranger Cole. Todd's best-known hit with Morgan was Housewife's Choice for producer Leslie Kong. Her biggest hits with Cole included the uptempo When I Call Your Name and the ballad Give Me The Right, which were done for producer Arthur 'Duke' Reid. Since the late 1960s, Todd has lived in the United States. Most of those years were spent in New York City where she worked as a secretary at Lennox Hospital in Manhattan.

Have a listen to 'When I Call Your Name' a sweet duet Cole and Patsy performed together in the 60's and one that is sure to be on the set list this Saturday night!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Story Behind Rico's 2-Tone Classic 'Jungle Music': Song Originally Written By Stevie Wonder

The story behind the recording of 'Jungle Music' by Rico & The Special A.K.A. is yet another fascinating reminder of the way that reggae songs are written, morph and are re-invented again by new artists for new audiences. Who would have guessed that a song that is so identified with 2-Tone and members of The Specials was originally written by Stevie Wonder and also later covered by a member of Musical Youth!

The song (originally known as 'What You Talkin' Bout (You Don't Like The Reggae Beat)' had its genesis in an onstage jam session that Stevie Wonder did with a hotel house band in Jamaica that featured Glenroy Washington, a journeyman reggae musician who played and performed with a who's who of 70's and 80's reggae producers and bands.  Washington provided the backstory on the song in a online interview:
"I was living in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. We were the resident band at the hotel, The Americana. It's now called the Sheraton. So, while we were there, one day we met these two sisters, the Andrews sisters. Stephanie and Bonnie Andrews from California. We were talking, having a conversation, and one of the ladies says she works for Stevie Wonder. She is his coordinator. In my mind I was saying "yeah, right." But, she said Stevie is coming to spend a vacation there, and she came down to scout out the area, to make sure and do different things. We didn't believe her at all, but one Saturday night we were on stage and playing with this guy, doing his show, and in walks this woman with Stevie Wonder. And the whole place was in an uproar. He already reserved front row seats, right in front. So he came down and sat right in front of the stage. After everybody settled down, we were doing our show, and he wanted to talk to us after. Because he was sitting there rocking, and he say he like the way the band sounds. So for about two weeks, every night he would come on stage and jam with us. The place would be packed. He get on stage .... one night he played drums, most night he played keyboards. That was fun. He came and jammed with us. He wrote a couple of songs for me. There was a song called 'Jah Business,' and 'Jah Coming.' And then there was another song that we made up right on stage, 'What You Talking About,' that musically we did a cover of it .... (sings): "What you talking about, say you don't like the reggae beat, you must be craaaaazy." We did it on the 'Tempted to Touch' rhythm, but 'Tempted to Touch' wasn't even around yet."
Washington would later move to the U.S. to work with Wonder and this version of the song was later covered and released by Dennis Seaton of Musical Youth in a failed attempt at a solo career in 1984 following the break-up of Musical Youth.  Check out the video below (which prominently features Wonder) and you will note that while the Wonder and Rico songs share a chorus that is where they similarities end!

It turns out that Rico heard the Stevie Wonder version performed at the Reggae Sunsplash festival in Jamaica.  He liked the tune so much that he wrote and performed a variation of it with members of The Specials (Jerry Dammers, John Bradbury, Horace Panter and Dick Cuthell) who backed him on a short German tour.  The song proved to be a crowd pleaser and the band returned to Coventry to record the song.  It turned out to be one of the last singles ever released on the 2-Tone label in February 1982.

Nearly 30 years later the song, a delightful reggae-cum-ska track with hints of African hi-life remains a pure pleasure and would form the musical blueprint for Dammers and Cuthell who just two years later would write and record their most famous piece of music -- 'Nelson Mandela'.  The best part of the song is the perfect symmetry of Rico singing and playing trombone!  George Marshall author of 'The Two Tone Story' put's the song in the pantheon of 2-Tone classics:
"Jungle Music could have come straight out of Walt Disney's Jungle Book let alone Walt Jabsco's stable (a compliment from a big fan of the film's music), and was Rico's most commercial released to date. He even put his trombone down often enough to supply the vocals. ... Of all the 2Tone records not making the charts, the colourful Jungle Music has the right to feel most hard done by. Still, the public's loss was the true fan's gain."
I recently discovered the very rare Barney Bubbles’ video promo for the song. According to Paul Gorman who is author of the book 'Reasons To Be Cheerful' about Bubbles, the video was a sunny contrast to the doom laden 'Ghost Town' video which Bubbles also directed:
"The Jungle Music film serves as a carnivalesque counterpoint to the appropriately dour Ghost Town, evoking in part the innocence of Technicolor 50s coffee bar newsreels. As in Ghost Town, the musicians (including Dammers in his bluebeat hat-defying giant sombrero) travel in a classic car, but this time arrive to celebrate multi-cultural Britain, not mourn its inner-city decay."
Here is all its glory is the rarely seen video for 'Jungle Music' as directed by Barney Bubbles.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sound Effects Album From 1960's Is Inspiration for The Specials Ghost Town Cover

The look and visuals of 2-Tone have been as much an inspiration for me as the sound of the music. Indeed, among the most satisfying experiences I've had writing this blog has been the chance to meet and interview the talented artists who were as much responsible for its overall success and legacy as the musicians who wrote and performed the songs.

The arc of my life over the last 30 years has been defined by ongoing change. However the one constant has been my ongoing love affair with 2-Tone ska and its iconic imagery. In fact, my own band Bigger Thomas plays 2-Tone influenced ska and our logo since the very start has been a direct descendant of Walt Jabsco, whom we affectionately call 'Mr 2-Tone' (and who looks a lot like Jerry Dammers on the back cover of The Specials first record). A debt of gratitude is owed to three individuals: Jerry Dammers; David Storey and John Sims.

Sims met David Storey at Chrysalis Records where they worked together as a team for over ten years. Working directly with Jerry Dammers, they were responsible for a huge amount of 2-Tone graphics including the album covers for The Selecter, Dance Craze and The Specials 'Ghost Town' single. As well as record sleeves, they produced hundreds of promotional items: posters, ads, T-shirts, badges etc. Where Sims strengths were as a 'Swiss School' typographer, Storey's strength was on the pictorial/collage side, so they made a perfect team.

As The Specials officially kick-off the European leg of the last tour of their three year reunion, I came across the album cover that inspired Dammers, Storey and Sims magnificent cover art for the Ghost Town single. Thanks to LPCoverLover.com who uncovered the original late 1960's masterpiece from an old Soma Records  release of Halloween themed 'Sounds To Make You Shiver'. Soma was based in Minneapolis Minnesota and were better known for garage band guitar hits like “Surfin Bird” by the Trashmen). While the Ghost Town cover that Dammers, Story and Sims created takes the Soma cover as inspiration, note that only 2 of the skeletons from the original made it on to the cover! Nevertheless, the album cover captured the dark dread and gloom that hung over a recession ravaged U.K. in 1981.  Ironically, thirty years later the album cover's timeless imagery is still relevant.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Voting For 2012 London International Ska Festival Band Competition Launches!

Voting for the 2012 London International Ska Festival band competition has launched!   Ska fans from around the world can now vote to select one winner from the 20 finalists who hail from the US, Mexico, Canada, UK, Scotland, Spain, Denmark and Indonesia.  The winning band will receive and all expenses paid trip to travel to London to perform at the festival.  The names of all the bands are listed below.  In order to vote you need to email the band's name in the subject line of the email to enquiries@rockersrevolt.com. There is only vote per person (only valid email addresses will be count) and the contest ends on December 1, 2011. You can listen to tracks from all 20 finalists on the London International Ska Festival band page.  As of today nearly 600 people had voted so things are off to a flying start.

The 2012 edition of the Festival will be held May 3-6, 2012 at the Brixton Academy, Shepards Bush Empire and Islington Academy.  Bands already confirmed for 2012 edition of the festival include: Dandy Livingstone (Jamaica), The Dualers (UK), Neol Davies aka The Selecter (UK), The Hotknives (original line-up; UK), The Moon Invaders (Belgium), Los Granadians (Spain), Capone & The Bullets (Scotland). More bands and DJs will be confirmed and announced over the coming months.

FULL DISCLOSURE:  I play bass in Bigger Thomas, so while I would hope the many readers of the Marco On The Bass blog will consider voting to send my band to London,  please vote for your favorite band out of the 20 on the list (we are in good company).   If you need a bit more convincing then please download one of our albums for free from the sidebar along the right side of the blog and give us a listen.  If you like what you hear please vote for us.  After 23 years of blood, sweat and tears and many ups and downs the trip to London would be a dream come true for us.   Here are a few videos of us if you need some visuals including a cover of Monkey Man with specials guests Drew Stansall (saxophone) and Nik Torp (piano) of The Specials!:

Bigger Thomas - I Can't Remember My Name

Bigger Thomas - Monkey Man (featuring Drew Stansall and Nik Torp of The Specials)

And if it can't get your vote for my band Bigger Thomas then, I'd love to see an American band win this contest, so I've started the list below with the US acts...

Bigger Thomas (New York, NY)
The Forthrights (Brooklyn, NY)
Maddie Ruthless (New Orleans, LA)
See Spot (Los Angeles, CA)
Green Room Rockers (Bloomington, Indiana)
Babylove and the Van Dangos
Offbeat Offensive
The Riffs
The Downsetters
The Simmertones
Monkey Boots
Kinky Coo Coos
Captain Accident
Jamaica 69
Los Furios
The Oldians
Jeramiah Ferrari
The Liptones

Hope to see you in London next May!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Suggs of Madness Signs Publishing Deal To Write Autobiography: Book Due Out Fall 2012

Fans of 2-Tone bands will soon need to make more space on their book shelves!  Pauline Black of The Selecter's new book 'Black By Design' is now out. Late last week Lynval Golding of The Specials announced that he is busy at work on his own memoir.  And now Madness fans can look forward to a tome from lead vocalist Graham McPherson (A.K.A Suggs). The book is due out in the Fall of 2012.  Horace Panter and Neville Staple of The Specials have previously published 2-Tone themed books as have Ali and Robin Campbell of UB40.

U.K. publishing house Quercus announced that they had purchased the world wide rights to Suggs' autobiography.  According to non-fiction publishing director Richard Milner at Quercus:
“Like millions of others, I was a huge fan of Madness growing up, and everyone at Quercus is hugely excited to be publishing Suggs’ autobiography. Popular music is littered with short-lived successes, but part of the reason Madness endures is Suggs’ literate, heartfelt and cheeky dissection of British life. His voice leaps off the page, taking the reader on an extraordinary journey in the company of one of our genuine national treasures.”
This will not be Suggs first book writing adventure.  He previously authored 'Suggs And The City: My Journey's Through Disappearing London' in 2009.  The book was billed as the Madness frontman's personal guided tour of the unseen nooks and crannies of his London hometown.

Suggs embarked on a solo spoken word tour earlier this summer dubbed 'Live Suggs' (which garnered good reviews) and much of the material that he performed will likely form the basis for his autobiography. Described as part music, part personal vision, part music hall extravaganza the show was 'a surprising, hilarious and sometimes sad story. He navigates his audience through his hooligan youth, the dangers of undreamed-of pop success at just 18. The brawling, the boozing and the riotous mishaps of a life he can still not quite believe is happening to him.' Watch videos below of Suggs spoken word show and of him performing the songs 'Baggy Trousers' and 'Shut Up'.

Suggs performing 'Shut Up'

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Honoring The Life & Times Of Peter Tosh

I intend to mark today solemnly with quiet meditation and reflection and then I will play the music of Peter Tosh very loudly to mark another tragic occasion that occurred twenty-four years ago today. Sadly September 11, 1987 was the day that Peter Tosh was murdered under mysterious circumstances.

In no way, shape or form can I do justice to the life and times of Peter Tosh within the confines of a blog post.  I would never even attempt to try.  Its too daunting a task.   Instead I turn to the the brilliant documentary 'Stepping Razor Red X - The Peter Tosh Story' directed by Nicholas Campbell and released in 1993 to tell the story.  In fact, the power of the documentary is that it is told through Tosh's own words which he kept in a series of cassette tapes he recorded that were discovered after his death. (read a New York Times review of the film which helps put the documentary into context).  The film succeeds in providing a detailed look at Tosh that is distinct and separate from the role he played in founding The Wailers and further helps to portray him as a separate musical personality with political and social viewpoints which clashed with that of the Jamaican establishment and government.
"And in the early 1990s when I realized that the whole world was only focusing on Bob Marley and everybody had forgotten about Peter, I decided to put together this film so the world could understand the mind of this great poet." -- Wayne Jobson - Producer of Stepping Razor Red X
If you are a fan of Tosh or are interested in learning more about his influence and impact on promoting reggae music then I recommend watching the documentary in its entirety.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10

To further honor Tosh, below is a fantastic 60 minute set he performed live at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles from 1983. The show features 'Pick Myself Up,' 'African,' 'Glass House,' 'Get Up, Stand Up,' 'Not Gonna Run,' and a smoking cover of 'Johnny B. Goode'.  Rest in peace Stepping Razor!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lynval Golding of The Specials To Write A Book About His Life & Adventures In Music

Add Lynval Golding of The Specials to the illustrious list of 2-Tone era musicians (Horace Panter, Neville Staple and Pauline Black) who have written books about their personal and musical experiences playing ska. The guitarist and prime mover behind The Specials successful 3 year reunion which wraps up this fall, is collaborating with Paul 'Willo' Williams author of the definitive history of the band 'You're Wondering Now -- The Specials from Conception to Reunion'.  The two have been meeting together for several months and are in the early stages of mapping out Lynval's story and perspective on the band and his life changing experiences playing music.  The current working title of the book is 'Back In Time'.

While it will more than likely touch on Golding's experiences with The Specials, its sure to explore more personal issues related to his experiences as an child immigrant moving from Jamaica to a pre-multicultural Britain. The memoir may also relate the inside story on the band's improbable reunion in 2008 and the effect and impact that has had on him, his family, his bandmates and fans of the band around the world.

I spoke with Williams about the book writing process he and Golding have recently embarked on.

What prompted Lynval to decide to write a book?
I think Lyn has reached that point in his life where he wanted to look back over at what he had done so far, pay his respects to family and friends that have helped him along the way, get points in his life straight, exorcise a few demons and talk about his love of The Specials and his family.

Are you two collaborating together on the project?
Yes we are.  I was very honored when he approached me as he felt I was the right person to help him. Its a project thats been talked about for about a year or so on an intense level, but he had his mind set on doing the book a couple of years ago. Lyn provides great material and I do the rest! I am doing research as well. Lyn is also photographing lots of things as he goes around which we can use.

Will it be an autobiography or will it focus more on his life as a musician and the band's recent reunion?
Its a mix of all those really.  He is very up on talking about the monumental reunion -- Its an important factor he wants to get down. The story flits from his early days in Jamaica ( this is VERY hard reading - his departure to England will make people shed a tear) to facts about how he got into music. Big influences on his life, but I don't want to be say too much just yet!

Have you started working together on a first draft?
The first draft started back in April and he comes up to my place when he is over in the UK.  Our last session was in August.  I set the recorder going and the man just talks with a passion. There is also the wonders of skype and email. We will probably link up on the tour as well. I am loving putting it together!

Do you have a publisher yet?
No not yet. Its something we haven't really thought about but Lynval will have his own ideas and I have a few contacts so I'm sure we will come to some arrangement with someone.

Any anticipated timing for publication?
No nothing set yet. Obviously Lyn has other stuff to do first! We have thought about schedules but the book will tie in with something very special and personal (no pun intended) that Lyn has up his sleeve but it will be not too far off.  I'm afraid its a case of watch this space at the moment!

Is there a working title?
The working title we have at the moment is 'Back In Time'.  Again, as you will see later down the line, the title will all make sense. Its a labor of love for him. Its a project he wants done right.  He is so passionate about this.

Where do you think Lynval's book fit into the crop of recent 2-Tone themed books by Horace, Neville and Pauline Black?
Well, the good thing I think about this is that it briefly touches on the original Specials story. His idea, and he is right in many respects, is that that particular story has been done -- by Horace, Neville and even myself.  There's nothing more he could add. So this is about the charismatic man under that pork pie hat. A heart on the sleeve moment, but the reunion, of which he has played a huge part, will be a big focus and believe me, it will be worth reading.

So there you have it!  While the band may be embarking on the final tour of their reunion, fans of The Specials and 2-Tone can look forward to reading all about Lynval and his unique perspective and experiences as as musician.  Stay tuned!

Many thanks to Paul 'Willo' Williams for the picture.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Story Behind 'Love Of The Common People': Country Ballad To Reggae Pop To 80's Hit

The first time I heard 'Love Of The Common People' as sung by 80's blue-eyed soul singer Paul Young, I was struck by the lyrics to the song. In contrast to the cheery melodies and backing vocals, the lyrics tell a bleak story of poverty and joblessness. There is a mention of 'free food tickets,' a reference to government food stamp and welfare programs, and the lyrics also describe the subject family as having holes in their clothes.

The song was written as a Woody Guthrie-like folk ballad by John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins in the late 60's.  Though Hurley and Wilkins did not expressly convey it the lyrics, the song is a protest of what they saw as the failure of the American government to do more for the poor and unemployed than it already had.  As we endure the third year of the Great Recession, I could not think of a more appropriate song to write about, as a Republican Congress dominated by Tea Party members seek to cut and limit more and more of the safety net of unemployment insurance, Medicare and other benefits that the millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans have used to barely scrape by.

The song was first released in January 1967 in the U.S. by The Four Preps but gained prominence when it was recorded by Country singer Waylon Jennings.  Most of us who came of age in the 80's are most familiar with the Paul Young version which dominated U.S. and U.K. radio during 1983.  However, the most powerful versions of the song are soul and reggae versions.  The first was recorded by Washington, D.C soul/funk band The Winstons in 1969. However the definitive version was recorded by reggae vocalist Nicky Thomas in 1970, reaching number 9 in the UK Singles Chart. It was Thomas's only major hit single, and became his signature song, coming to define the term 'pop reggae'.

The story of how Paul Young came to record the song is very interesting.  Young met Jake Burns of Irish punk band Stiff Little Fingers at one of their concerts.  The band had added the song to their live set and Young asked Burns whether Stiff Little Fingers were planning to release the song as a single. When Burns told them they weren't, Young asked if they minded him releasing it as a single. They said he could, not thinking the single would do well. Burns later self-mockingly stated in an interview, 'Pfft! Go ahead. You'll never get anywhere with that, mate. Yeah, number 2, that'll teach me!' The Stiff Little Finger's version has a great punky reggae feel.

Young initially released his interpretation of 'Love of the Common People as a single in 1982, but it failed to chart. It was only when Young had his first hit in 1983 with 'Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)' that his record company decided to release the song again. The single peaked at #2 in the UK, and reached the number one spot in Ireland and the Netherlands. The song features a wonderful trombone solo in the middle which was provided courtesy of the one and only Rico Rodriguez. The trombonist had just endured the break-up of The Specials and decided to branch out and was tapped by Young to join his band.  Rodriguez mentioned the song in an interview.
Q: And it was time to escape the English raining to some sunshine for a change.
A: Yes, and before me go to Jamaica me do one recording with Paul Young, a song from Nicky Thomas, 'Love Of The Common People', and I think Paul Young made a hit out of it.
Q: OK, pop stuff.
A: Yes, and I did the solo in that. And when I was in Jamaica I used to hear it on the radio in Jamaica, but since I'm in Jamaica here nobody don't even know is me who do the solo on that record. But it got regular play, it was regularly played on the radio.
Look for Rodriguez in the video of the song below.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Little Roy's 'Battle For Seattle' Out Now!: Nirvana Transformed Into Reggae Classics

Little Roy's much anticipated reggae take on Nirvana 'Battle For Seattle' has just been released and the 10-track album is getting rave reviews from U.K. media. I imagine it will only be a short time before music media in the U.S. start to wake up to this gem of an album given its the 20th anniversary of the release of the first Nirvana album in 1991.

Little Roy's take on Kurt Cobain is a revelation as he and his backing band draw out new melodic and vocal subtleties from the original grunge masterpiece that are striking and inspiring. While you immediately recognize each and every song, they stand alone as brand new interpretations which speaks volumes. This is no run of the mill covers project.  Much love and thought was put into bringing these songs new life.  Little Roy is able to mine the surface below Cobain's self loathing anger to find the sweet and dare I say joyful vulnerability hidden below and transforms them from raging rockers into something incredibly beautiful.   I've been playing the album constantly since I got it a few days ago.

The reggae legend who cut his first single at the legendary Studio One in 1965, recorded 'Battle for Seattle' with Wailers guitarist, Junior Marvin, producer Prince Fatty and other reggae musicians (notably  vocalist George Dekker of The Pioneers and brother horn players trombonist Henry 'Buttons' Tenyue and trumpeter Patrick Tenyue who had a long residency with UB40) in a style similar to that of The Easy Star All-Stars, who have released reggae versions of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Radiohead’s OK Computer. Its my humble opinion that this collection may be better than those because Little Roy's vocals are a constant and help hold the entire collection together.

Despite the amazing final product, Little Roy confessed that initially he found it was a challenge getting his head wrapped around the original songs: “When I listened to the lyrics as [Cobain] sung them, I found it hard to pick up on what he was saying. The lyrics came too quickly for my ears and were buried in the music. It sounded to me like he was crying out. You have to listen deep to get it. The melody was always there, though, so I knew this was a chance for me to bring them up so people could really hear what Kurt was saying.”  And in many ways, Little Roy has served to translate Cobain in a way that may have missed our ears when we were all younger and angrier. While all the hits are here, its two of the more obscure tracks on the album 'Very Ape' which is now slow 60's style rocksteady burner with a memorable organ melody that will stick in your head and 'Son Of A Gun' which is now a shimmering and memorable lovers rock track which may be the best songs on the album.

Little Roy debuted songs from the album at a live performance in London late last week with support from Hollie Cook and the Prince Fatty Soundsystem. Little Roy also played the set to large crowds at festivals in Leeds and Reading and was greeted with great enthusiasm. Check out two live performances from the Reading Festival below:

Little Roy - Lithium

Little Roy - Come As You Are

The album is available as a digital download from iTunes in the U.S. and iTunes in the U.K. and all other major online musical retailers.  Do yourself a favor a pick up a copy!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Remembering The Ska/Reggae Sounds Of Amazulu

Amazulu were a guilty pleasure.  Arriving on the UK music scene in the early 80's just as 2-Tone had run its course, this 6 piece multi-racial band of mostly self-taught musicians initially launched themselves as a serious reggae and ska band long before they morphed into a new wave pop cover band.  In fact, the original version of the band drew attention with their political tinged songs, capturing  the attention of noted music Svengali Falcon Stuart (who discovered X-Ray Spex and took Adam Ant mainstream) as well as BBC radio DJ John Peel who was an early fan and recorded two radio sessions with the band.

The band's first single was the political tinged 'Cairo' backed by 'Greenham Time' which was an ode to the women protesting the placement of U.S. Cruise missiles at Greenham Common military base in the early 80's. Despite their relative lack of musical experience, 'Cairo' is a catchy if serviceable slice of early 80's era reggae and the edgy video was miles from the the lush pop videos the band would later produce.  The B-side 'Greenham Time' is the more interesting of the two tracks.  Its a chant down Babylon/feminist reggae rocker that would have sounded right at home on The Slits first few albums. (download the long out-of-print track which was a John Peel favorite at the bottom of the post.).

Amazulu's reggae growing bona fides brought them to the attention of Jerry Dammers and Dick Cuthell (taking a much deserved break from recording The Special AKA 'In The Studio' LP) and Dennis Bovell who took the production reigns behind the band's single release of 'All Over The World' backed by the sunny 2-Tone sounding ska of 'Moonlight Romance'.  Though the single failed to chart, the band and 'Midnight Romance' were prominently featured performing a more ska sounding version of the song in an episode of the 'Young One's' which guaranteed them national exposure and set them up for the pop success they would have with later material like 'Excitable', 'Don't You Just Know It' and the smash 'Montego Bay'.  Watch a television performance and a rare live performance of the track below:


  Amazulu - Greenham Time