Friday, April 26, 2013

The Hooters Celebrate 33 1/3 Years!: Philadelphia Band Started Out Playing Ska & Reggae

There is a great story in about the 33rd anniversary of The Hooters very first show in the Philadelphia suburbs in 1980. It also includes an excellent interview with the band's drummer David Uosikkinen. The band, which also features co-fromtmen Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman is playing a reunion show tomorrow night at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia.

The Hooters started out as a bar band playing punk-influenced reggae and ska cover songs and took their name from the melodica (AKA: Hooter) that was featured on many of their songs. Their very first recording, was a demo of Don Drummond’s ‘Man In The Street’ which was played a lot on local radio though never released commercially.  I didn't know at the time that it was a cover, but I remember thinking it was an amazing song. Only later did I make the connection that it was a great version of what has become one of my favorite Don Drummond/Skatalites songs.

Check out live versions of "Fighting On The Same Side" and a rocking version of "Man In The Street" recorded in 1982 which really give a sense of the bands great reggae and ska meets rock sound and of the kind of local draw they had in Philadelphia.

The band became so popular in the early 80's that they opened for The Who's farewell tour concert show in September 1982 at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia on a bill that also included The Clash. After taking a break following this show (during which Bazilian and Hyman wrote songs for Cyndi Lauper's debut "She's So Unusual" including "Time After Time"), the two frontmen reformed the band with Uosikkinen and new members.

It was this version of the band would go on to record and independently release the album Amore which included ska and reggae influenced versions of their original songs. This led to them signing a deal with Columbia Records and they re-recorded a few of their ska sounding songs as rock songs on Nervous Night and went on to MTV fame.

Once again it is interesting to see the way ska and reggae has really influenced and changed the sound of so many bands. Frankly, I've always been disappointed that The Hooters didn't stick with the ska and reggae sound they started off with.  If they had, they could have been responsible for bringing the sound into the mainstream and on to American radio.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Viva Ska Vegas Festival On May 4th Features California 3rd Wave Lineup

Viva Ska Vegas returns to Las Vegas this May 4th with a line-up of California-based 3rd wave ska bands that represent an entire era of music that has come to define the sound of American ska.

The one day festival on Saturday May 4th at the Henderson Events Plaza is headlined by Orange County third wave ska band Reel Big Fish (RBF) and pulls together acts from across California who have contributed greatly to the ska scene and continue to stay faithful to it. In addition to RBF, the 10-band lineup includes notable bands like The Chinkees (fronted by Mike Park of Skankin' Pickle and Asian Man Records fame), Let's Go Bowling (one of the original American ska bands who formed in 1986) and The Skeletones.

Tickets starting at $22 are now available on the festival's website.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Selecter Live From Coachella 2013!

The Selecter performed their first U.S, show in more than a decade this past Saturday as part of the Coachella Festival.  In case you missed the live feed on YouTube, watch 20 minutes of the band's set below, which focused exclusively on songs from the album "Too Much Pressure" including the following tracks:

Three Minute Hero
Time Hard
They Make Me Mad
Street Feeling
Train To Skaville
Carry Go Bring Come
James Bond
Missing Words
On My Radio
Too Much Pressure (Pressure Drop)

The band will be playing a series of shows across the West Coast of the U.S., before returning to play at the Coachella Festival again next Saturday April 20th. The remaining tour schedule is below:

April 15th - The Glass House, Pomona, CA with Lee 'Scratch' Perry
April 16th - Regency Ballroom, San Francisco, CA with Lee 'Scratch' Perry
April 17th - Ace of Spades, Sacramento, CA with Lee 'Scratch' Perry
April 20th - Coachella Festival, Indio, CA
April 21st - Rialto Theatre, Tucson, AZ

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Selecter Kick Off "Non-Stop Pressure U.S. Tour 2013" At Coachella Festival

American fans of 2-Tone ska living on the West Coast of the U.S. are in for a treat!  Hot on the heels of The Specials tour of the Southwest and West Coast in March, The Selecter are about to embark on their first U.S. tour in a decade! And if that wasn't exciting enough, the band will be joined by Lee "Scratch" Perry on four of the dates!

The band will be playing Coachella Festival in Indio, CA on Saturdays April 13th and 20th with the remaining five tour dates sandwiched in between, including stops in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Sacramento.  The full tour schedule is below:

April 13th - Coachella Festival, Indio, CA
April 14th - Hard Rock Cafe, Las Vegas, NV with Lee 'Scratch' Perry
April 15th - The Glass House, Pomona, CA with Lee 'Scratch' Perry
April 16th - Regency Ballroom, San Francisco, CA with Lee 'Scratch' Perry
April 17th - Ace of Spades, Sacramento, CA with Lee 'Scratch' Perry
April 20th - Coachella Festival, Indio, CA
April 21st - Rialto Theatre, Tucson, AZ

The Selecter have just released an excellent, new 10-track album titled "String Theory" (read my review here). The album uses the band's iconic 2-Tone sound as the musical foundation for ten modern ska songs that are rooted in the band's legacy but that explore a new spin on 2-Tone's original ideals. To get a sense of the band's electric live show, check out some great versions of old and new songs that fans attending the shows can expect to hear.

The first video clip includes the tracks "Danger," "My England" and "Celebrate The Bullet" from a show in Liverpool in early March during the band's UK tour:

This clip includes the track "London's Burning" from the new album "String Theory":

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Apple Stomp Bands Announced! 2-Day New York Ska Festival Headlined By The Suicide Machines & The Slackers

Irving Plaza in New York City will be the in place to be on May 31st and June 1st when the 2-day Apple Stomp ska festival rolls into town! 

The festival, which is organized by Asbestos Records and Live Nation is anchored by two headliners who have helped define the diversity of American ska -- The Suicide Machines and The Slackers.  The rest of the bill includes a diverse mix of bands from the various 80's and 90's disciplines of American ska (ska punk, ska-core, 3rd wave, and NYC 2-Tone) including Spring Heeled Jack, Pilfers, Mephiskapheles, Murphy's Law, MU330, The Pietasters, Thumper, Metro Stylee, What's Your Problem Brian, Westbound Train and Bigger Thomas.

The Apple Stomp festivities will kick off  with a pre-show party on Thursday May 30th at Characters NYC in Midtown Manhattan. An after show party is also scheduled for Cake Shop on Saturday night June 1st.

Two Day Tickets will go on-sale this Friday, 4/12/13 at noon EST.

The Specials Announce More U.S. Tour Dates -- Four Shows In New York Metro Area!

The Specials have just announced a series of east coast dates for a summer U.S. tour that kicks off in Ottawa and includes stops in Toronto, Boston, Silver Spring, MD, Danbury, CT, New York City, Long Island and the Jersey Shore! Dates and venues below:

July 8: Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest, Ottawa, ON
July 9: Cool Haus, Toronto, ON
July 11: House of Blues, Boston, MA
July 12: The Fillmore, Silver Spring, MD
July 16: Ives Concert Park, Danbury, CT
July 17: Hudson River Park, Pier 26, New York, NY
July 18: The Paramount, Huntington, NY
July 20: Stone Pony, Asbury Park, NJ

Monday, April 8, 2013

Stand Down Margaret! - Dave Wakeling Of The English Beat Reflects On The Passing Of Margaret Thatcher

The death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher today at the age of 87 is monumental from a cultural and musical stand point for those of us who came of age in the 1980's.  Thatcher and U.S. President Ronald Reagan galvanized musicians on both sides of the Atlantic to critique them for their right wing domestic policies and heavy handed approach to foreign affairs. In the U.K., 2-Tone era bands were united in their opposition to her, with The Beat, The Specials (Ghost Town) and UB40 (Madam Medusa) all recording songs took her to task for gutting social welfare programs and declaring war on the working class and more vulnerable members of British society.

On the news of her passing today, Dave Wakeling of The English Beat who penned the iconic "Stand Down Margaret," shared the following statement:
"Although I rejoice in no one's death, Margaret Thatcher's passing is an important event for those who lived under her regime. She made competitors out of neighbors, and people stopped talking at bus stops, even about the weather, in the shadow of her affected, pretend posh accent. margaret made herself big on the tears and suffering of others, more Cromwell than Churchill, yet however much pain she caused us, I wish comfort and solace to her family today."
Here is one of the best live versions of the song ever recorded by the band in 1980.

The New York Times had the following succint overview of the way Thatcher in particular generated significant opposition from the community of musicians:
From the beginning, some of the toughest depictions came from musicians. Opposition to her free-market ideology infused albums like Gang of Four’s 1979 “Entertainment!” and, in the same year, the Clash EP “Cost of Living,” the cover of which Joe Strummer reportedly wanted to include a collage featuring Mrs. Thatcher’s face and a swastika. Robyn Hitchcock, in the song “Brenda’s Iron Sledge” (1981), imagined Thatcher’s Britain as a surreal dogsled ride to hell. The Beat’s “Stand Down Margaret” (1980) called on her to resign. In 1985, Billy Bragg, Paul Weller, Kirsty McColl and other musicians founded Red Wedge, a collective aimed at forcing her to do just that.
When that effort failed, some turned to dark fantasies. In “Margaret on the Guillotine” (1988), Morrissey trilled “People like you/Make me feel so tired/ When will you die?” Elvis Costello, in “Tramp the Dirt Down” (1989), promised “When they finally put you in the ground/ I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down.”

Friday, April 5, 2013

UB40 Reveal The Title Of Their New Country Meets Reggae Album -- "Getting Over The Storm"

UB40 have confirmed the title of their new country themed reggae album -- "Getting Over The Storm." The band's saxophonist Brian Travers confirmed the news on his Facebook page:
Don't tell anyone BUT I hear that these guys are going out on the road June 14th -22nd in UK, rumour has it that their new album 'Getting over the storm' (working title) is not only INCREDIBLY 'pedal steel guitar' GROOVY BUT it's been mixed in REGGAETASTIC STEREO and about to be handed over to Virgin/EMI....
So just what do the songs on the album sound like?  A fan who has heard an advanced copy of the album posted the following review on the UB40 community forum:
"And I'm surprised to say it but what a great idea to do the country theme. I didn't really know what to expect with that but it really really works. The best thing about it is, they're all songs that will sound cracking live. They've all got a feel to them that makes you unable to keep still when listening to them. There's one or two that just couldn't possibly be left off a set list and one that they will unfortunately be unable to do live which is a real shame as that's one of the highlights. I was surprised to learn there is a mix of originals and covers which works brilliant - I had assumed they were all covers. The originals keep up the country style - but you can definitely tell which ones they are as they still sound just like UB40 tracks. Out of the covers, I've heard of most of the artists but don't recognise the songs. None of them are really well known songs which I think is a good thing. I honestly think that this is an album we will be listening to for a long time. Every track is so easy to listen to - there's nothing heavy or too deep. I like their political numbers but do prefer the love song type tracks which these are. There's a great one that is a cover track, but Duncan has re-written the lyrics. You wouldn't be able to tell though as the new lyrics just fit so perfectly."
Though the release date has still not been confirmed yet, the band has announced dates for a U.K. tour this summer, which likely means the album should be out by late May or early June.  More information as it becomes available.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Read A Rare Copy Of The Beat fanzine ‘The Noise In This World’ From 1981!

Here is a special treat for fans of The Beat!  I recently came across a rare copy of the band's fan club newsletter -- The Noise In This World -- from May 1981.  The newsletter is chock full of fantastic information, articles about the band, interviews with the band members and some incredibly priceless pictures and serves as a fantastic companion to Malu Halasa's long out-of-print and impossible to find book about the band "The Beat: Twist & Crawl."

The Noise In This World (taken from the name of the song on I Just Can't Stop It) was produced, edited and neatly handwritten by a close friend of the band named Marilyn Hebrides, and her editorial perspective, punk rock cut and paste design style, comments and insights about her friends who had suddenly become pop stars makes for some very entertaining reading. You can read the entire edition below.

As background, Hebrides shared a cottage with the band's guitarists Dave Wakeling and Andy Cox on the Isle of Wight in 1978, where the three of them worked to build solar panels, When they weren't busy working, Wakeling and Cox played their guitars and wrote songs. As such Hebrides was privy to the very early days of the band as the duo of Wakeling and Cox began writing songs that would be recorded for their first album. One of those songs was a nascent version of "Best Friend" which caught Hebrides attention.  She urged them to start a band.  When they did and quickly became a success, they in turn asked her to be in charge of their fan club. It is from this unique vantage point that this edition of the newsletter, issued just before the band's second album Whappen was released, includes much of the band's back story and beginnings, as well as first person accounts written by the band members of their experiences touring in Ireland and the U.S. It even includes interviews and information about Cedric Myton and The Mood Elevators, who were signed to the band's own Go Feet label.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Rare Photo Of First & Only General Public Show With Mick Jones!

Now here is a very rare piece of 80's musical history!  Above is a photo (courtesy of 2-Tone historian and music writer Pete Chambers) of the very first General Public performance at the Crompton Arms in Birmingham circa 1984 featuring Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger of The Beat, along with Horace Panter of The Specials on bass and ex-Dexy's Midnight Runners members Stoker on drums and Mickey Billingham on keyboards. 

While that may be historical on its very own, its the inclusion of Mick Jones (upper left with the baseball hat on his head) who played only this one live show with the band. Jones left the band part way through the recording process of their first album "All The Rage," to start Big Audio Dynamite, though he is listed in the album's inner sleeve credits as a group member (he did not appear in any of the band photographs).

According to Chambers review published in a local Midlands music paper (and later plagiarized for a review in Sounds magazine a week later!) the brand new band only had 8 songs in its inaugural set (it played the eponymous "General Public" twice).  According to Chambers review:
"The Beat sound would be a hard sound to wipe out, after all Dave's voice was much of The Beat sound, so instead of trying to hide their obvious musical pasts, they have used the more striking elements of their former sound and added a thicker and far more glossy feel, making a very full, exciting and stimulating sound.  For me the stand-out songs were "Tenderness" a song that would suit the title "Venom," Dave's voice is at it's best, rich and nasty, a great song that is anything but tender.
General Public dub version is one of those songs that just make you smile, every one was spot on in this song, no mess, no hurry, just fine overall musicianship and Mick Jones echoed scatter-dub guitar finished the song off a treat."
I was lucky enough to see the first General Public performance in the U.S. at The Ritz in New York City in late 1984. True to their very first show reviewed by Chambers, they played a short 9 song set repeating their set opener General Public as their closer. While there is very little live video of the band from those early days, below is footage from 1984 of the band doing an in studio interview and performing versions of "General Public" and "Never You Done That" on an unidentified UK music program.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Ranking Roger Of The Beat Answers Your Questions This Thursday April 4th!

Have you ever wanted to ask Ranking Roger of The Beat a question? Here are a few of my suggestions:  Did he really toast over a version of "Rock The Casbah" by The Clash?  Was he really in Big Audio Dynamite? What's its like to be in a band with his son? What's the story behind the song "Nancy Reagan" that he recorded with Blue Riddim Band? What was it like to be in that VH1 show Band's Reunited?  How about this doozy -- Is there a snowball's chance in hell that he and Dave Wakeling might ever play together on stage again? Whatever your question may be, now's your chance to ask it! 

Ranking Roger is hosting a Q&A session on The Beat's twitter page this Thursday April 4th from 8pm to 9 pm U.K. Time (which is 3 pm to 4 pm EST in the U.S.). The session will allow fans to ask Roger questions and to get an answer from him in real time. There will also be a competition/give away during the Q&A (during the last Q&A session a pair of tickets was given to a lucky fan).  If you are a fan of The Beat, General Public or 2-Tone music in general, this is a rare chance to connect with Roger.

Years ago, information about music and bands was filtered and shared one way -- via radio, MTV, magazines and fanzines to fans.  The only way you could hope to see your musical heroes was at a live show and personal interaction was limited to catching them outside the venue or after the show when they made their way to their tour bus.  One of the amazing things about the advent of Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media has been the way it has created two way, unfettered access between bands and fans to communicate and connect. 

I've had the good fortune to meet Ranking Roger a few times and he was always a gentleman, down-to-earth and approachable to everyone he met -- band members and fans alike.  The very first time I met Roger  was at City Gardens in Trenton, NJ.  I was there with future members of Bigger Thomas to see Roger's solo band in the summer of 1988 (read my feature on Roger's solo record Radical Departure).  As we walked around the club we spied Roger playing pin ball in the back bar.  We approached him to say hello and he spent time speaking with us.  We let him know we were starting a ska band and he was very encouraging. 

Flash forward a few years and we were lucky enough to open the first show that Special Beat played in New York in late 1990.  My band mate Roger Apollon and I were asked to be a part of a BBC TV show interview with Roger, Neville Staples, John Bradbury and Horace Panter about the growing popualrity of ska in the U.S.. Roger winked when he saw us and said he remembered us from City Gardens!

The last time I saw Roger was when we opened a show for Special Beat in 1991. My Bigger Thomas band mates and I were sitting in a dilapidated closet sized hole in the wall of a dressing room in Asbury Park, New Jersey when there was a knock at the door. We opened it and there was Ranking Roger! He came in to talk with us for a bit about his experiences touring the U.S. and wished us luck with our set.  It was a very classy move and made the show even more memorable for us.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Marco On The Bass Celebrates Fifth Anniversary!

Its been five years since I launched Marco On The Bass in April 2008 and here I am — 750 posts, 400,000 unique visits and 700,000+ page views later — still chugging along, posting news, profiles. interviews, gig alerts and offering all sorts of content about ska, reggae and all its various story lines and off shoots.

Five years in, this blog is still a labor of love — when I started I figured I’d write about the 2-Tone ska, reggae and rocksteady music I loved and see if people were interested. And not only have ska and reggae fans responded (readers have visited from 203 countries and territories), but it’s gotten much bigger and better than I ever expected.  I've thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to interview 2-Tone era heroes like Pauline Black, Lynval Golding, Neol Davies, Rhoda Dakkar, Roddy Byers and many others who share my passion and to highlight the past, present and future of American ska. My goal still remains to help tell interesting stories and share my love for ska and reggae.

I’d like to personally thank everybody who stops by, subscribes to the RSS feeds, follows me on Facebook and Twitter. Sustained by your comments and my love of all things ska and reggae-oriented, this site is a one-man operation and, for the time being, is likely to remain that way — so all of your support and comments are greatly appreciated. Your kind words and encouragement keep me going. In many ways this is the best non-paying job I have ever had.

If you are a fan of what I'm doing here, there are ways you can help spread the word: Go 'Like' Marco On The Bass on Facebook and suggest the page to your friends; If you’re on Twitter, follow me there. Retweet the good stuff.  Please consider downloading music from my band Bigger Thomas on the sidebar of the blog or at Bandcamp or come to one of shows if you are near where we play.  If you live in the New York City are please consider coming to one of the monthly Electric Avenue ska shows I co-host with my fellow NYC ska blogger Steve Shafer (Duff Guide To Ska) which brings our blogs to life with shows that highlight the diversity of ska and reggae across the Northeastern U.S.

With that out of the way, let’s take a quick look back at five years of Marco On The Bass. Below you’ll find a few of my favorite posts and some of you the readers most popular posts.

I started blogging just as The Specials 30th reunion started to gain steam in the spring of 2008. It's been incredibly exciting and gratifying to follow and write about the whole story from early rumors through multiple tours, including a 2-night stop here in New York in 2010 and a show scheduled for this July. I've also enjoyed chronicling the history and stories of American ska and reggae like Blue Riddim Band, The X-Streams, The Untouchables. Heavy Manners, The Terrorists, Bim Skala Bim, The Toasters, The Shakers and more. I also loved doing a series of the story behind songs including ones about "One In Ten" by UB40 and "Our Lips Are Sealed" by Fun Boy Three as well as a profile of Musical Youth. One of the most difficult but important posts I wrote was a tribute to Tommi Infamous, singer for Bomb Town, who passed away last Fall.

Interviews with Pauline Black of The Selecter and Rhoda Dakar of The Bodysnatchers/The Special A.K.A. remain among the most popular and well read blog posts. Features about the sad demise of The Special AKA vocalist Stan Campbell, the story behind Pete Townshend's of The Who's cover of The Beat classic "Save It For Later," and the long musical appreciation that has existed between Rnking Roger and Mick Jones. Posts I wrote about the rise and fall of Acid Ska in the late 80's and the story behind VH1's aborted attempt to reunite The English Beat for their 'Bands Reunited' series remain very popular. A post about The Equators who were signed to Stiff Records and released the overlooked 'Hot' album during the 2-Tone era is still widely read.

Here's to another great year of ska and reggae!