Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Watch Neville Staple Video For "Road Block" from Ska Crazy Album

Neville Staple has released a video for “Road Block” from his forthcoming solo album "Ska Crazy" due out on May 13th on Cleopatra Records.

The video features the former singer of The Specials walking around a series of empty streets in a working class neighborhood in Coventry while two street gangs battle each other. The song  laments the violence and despair that still plagues inner cities across the U.K. — touching visually and sonically on the band's 1981 hit “Ghost Town.”

Staple and producer Rory Nolan wanted the video the reflect the reality of life in Coventry.  According to Nolan:
“The actors were aware of the potential confrontation with other known gangs while filming. But everyone agreed to take a risk and work with it for Neville. We had a plan if anything kicked off and I was glad the actors I’d taken on board shared the same fearlessness as I was taught growing up. Having Neville and MC Daddy Woody walking around the set gave an air of confidence and respect to the square that left us to film freely, something I never would have imagined happening walking this square as a kid.”

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Touched By The Hand Of Jah! -- Hear A Rare 1982 New Order Cover Of Keith Hudson's 'Turn The Heater On'

It may come as a bit of surprise, but Joy Division's lead singer Ian Curtis was an unabashed fan of reggae music.  Like many of his punk and post-punk musical contemporaries (Joe Strummer and John Lydon come to mind), he heard reggae music growing up in the early and mid-1970's before starting Joy Division.

Reggae inspired Curtis to introduce the melodica to his Joy Division band mates. Though originally considered a child's instrument, melodica became popular in Jamaica and featured prominently in 70's dub reggae, used frequently by Augustus Pablo who made it his musical trademark. While melodica only made it on to one Joy Divisiion track (the song 'Decades'), New Order inherited the melodica from Curtis after he died employing it on well known tracks 'Your Silent Face' and 'Love Vigilantes.' Melodica also features on New Order's rare reggae inspired cover of  Keith Hudson's song Turn The Heater On' from his 1975 album 'Torch Of Freedom' album which they recorded in 1982 for a John Peel radio session as a tribute to Curtis - who had been a huge fan of Hudson.

Known as the 'Dark Prince of Reggae'. Hudson was a true reggae innovator who initially used money earned as a dentist's apprentice in the late 60's to rent studio time to record and produce other artists including Delroy Wilson, Alton Ellis and Big Youth.  Later he focused his efforts on writing and recording his own songs and albums releasing 'Flesh of My Skin, Blood of My Blood' described as 'reggae's first true concept album', with lyrics relating to black history and "conscious" themes and followed it with 'Torch of Freedom' which featured vocal cuts with their instrumental versions following immediately after, an extended play format that was to come into fashion in Jamaica a few years later.

New Order's take on reggae on 'Turn The Heater On' is instinctive, and although it's much faster and lacks the groove of Hudson's version, it's modern sound via synth drums and keyboards is very fitting and sounds like an original rather than a cover.  The band would later record a cover of Jimmy Cliff's reggae classic 'Viet Nam' for the 'War Child' compilation.

Have a listen to both tracks below for a side-by-side comparison.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Specials Release Limited Edition 7" Single On 2-Tone Label For Record Store Day 2014

How did you celebrate Record Store Day?

The Specials released a limited edition 7” single as part of Record Store Day that features two previously unreleased dub mixes created at the time of the ‘More Specials’ mixing sessions in 1980 by band drummer John ‘Brad’ Bradbury (Sock It To ‘Em, JB) and by the band's founder Jerry Dammers (Rat Race). Did you grab one?  If you did, what do you think?  My ska blogging pal (Duff Guide To Ska) and Rude Boy George band mate Steve Shafer was up and out early this morning to procure a copy.

I have to say that I was very excited to see the 2-Tone label spinning round and round on the videos below. Give the videos a spin yourself and play them LOUD!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Neville Staple Previews Tracks From "Ska Crazy" Album Out In May 2014

Neville Staple, former singer with The Specials, has posted a video that previews tracks from his new album "Ska Crazy" that will be released on CD and vinyl on May 13th on Cleopatra Records in the U.K. The album is now available to order as a pre-release on Amazon in the U.S. and the U.K.

The 10 track album, which also includes dub remixes. features a mix of originals and covers including a reggae version of the Fun Boy Three classic "The Farmyard Connection" as well as "Time Longer Than Rope," "Hypocrite," "Johnny Too Bad," and "Wet Dream."

Staple announced he was leaving The Specials in late 2012 and has since toured the UK regularly appearing at ska festivals across the country.

Check out the video preview of "Ska Crazy" below.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bad Manners Off Coachella 2014 Line-up

Sadly, Bad Manners will not be performing at the 2014 Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California this weekend and next.  The band was removed by the festival organizers with little fanfare or an official announcement in early March.  Fishbone will carry the ska flag, performing Sunday April 13th and Sunday April 20th.

The Coachella organizers have been ska boosters. For three our of the last four years, a 2-Tone era ska band was part of the prestigious line-up. In 2010 it was The Specials, who were touring the U.S. for the first time since the early 1980's. In 2012, Madness brought their nutty sounds to the desert festival, and last year it was The Selecter who wowed the crowd with a blazing mid-afternoon set.

There has been no official announcement from Bad Manners about the Coachella cancellation. UK media reported that the band failed to show up for a gig in West Cumbria in mid-March.  A sold out house waited for the band to hit the stage, only to be told that the show was cancelled when the band had failed to show by 10:30pm.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Everett Morton of The Beat Launches His Own Beat-inspired Ska Band

According to a story in the Birmingham Mail (UK), Everett Morton, the original drummer for The Beat and more recently for Ranking Roger's version of The Beat, has announced he has been fired from Roger's version of the band and started his own band -- Beat Goes Bang -- that will play songs by The Beat, cover version and original material.

Morton has recruited former Dexy's Midnight Runners and General Public keyboardist Mickey Billingham, along with guitarist Neil Deathridge, who played with the band from 2003 until 2010 to join him in his new endeavor along with other local Birmingham-based musicians.  This means there are now three bands with original members of The Beat performing its songs, Ranking Roger in The Beat, Dave Wakeling in The English Beat and Everett with Beat Goes Bang.

According to the story:

The creation of a new band follows a turbulent few years for Everett, who broke his knee, severely hindering his playing for some time. “I was helping a friend put his caravan away when he fell on me,” Everett explains. “I was ill for nearly a year and I went back to work but just couldn’t manage playing again. Ranking Roger found another drummer while I had a rest for a bit.” But Everett claims there were changes in direction within the band and not long after he returned he says he was sacked. “I wanted to carry on but I was sacked,” says Everett. “I wanted to keep on playing so I started ringing up some of the guys to form a new band,” he says. Responding to the claims, The Beat vocalist Ranking Roger said he retired Everett from the band. He added: “When he broke his knee we got someone in to do the gigs. He was off sick and when he came back it just wasn’t the same. For me it wasn’t the strongest Beat and I just told Everett we should stop working together. I didn’t sack him, I retired him while he was still good.
Beat Goes Bang will play its first show at the legendary Hare and Hounds in Birmingham This Friday April 11 and will feature Saxa, The Beat’s original saxophonist.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Specials Release Re-Arranged Version of "Why?" On YouTube

The Specials have released a re-arranged version of the song "Why?" on their YouTube feed.  The song, originally written by guitarist Lynval Golding about being beaten with lead pipes by three skinheads during a radically motivated attack in 1980.  The original version of the song was released in 1981 as the B-side of the Ghost Town EP.

The 2014 version has been updated with new lyrics and a dubbed out arrangement courtesy of band drummer John Bradbury. The song was released on YouTube on Friday, April 4th which also happened to be the anniversary of the day that the Reverend Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis in 1968.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Happy 6th Anniversary To Marco On The Bass! Download My Solo Record "Big Power" For FREE!

Its been six years since I launched Marco On The Bass in April 2008 and here I am — 900+ posts and 1,000,000+ 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.

To celebrate, I'm releasing a collection of songs that I have recorded over the last few years. The inspiration for these songs comes from my love of all things ska and reggae, but I also wanted to pay my respects to DJ culture and artists like Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim, Beats International), Gorillaz (Damon Albarn) as well as Acid Ska and Big Beat studio artists (Longsy D, Basement Jaxx) who have created unique and entertaining mash-ups that mix sampled vocals and found sounds over traditional reggae and ska bass, guitar and drums. So without further ado, I present to you 'Big Power' for your FREE downloading pleasure. All comments (good, bad or indifferent) are welcome!

Six 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 bands Rude Boy George and Bigger Thomas on the sidebar of the blog or at Bandcamp or come to one of shows if you are near where we play.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sheila Hylton Covers The Police's "The Bed's Too Big Without You" And Scores A Hit!

“Lived through the days, but late at night….”

In contrast to the spiky experimental sounds recorded by The Slits (who were produced by Dennis Bovell) and the heavy dub of The Clash (produced by Mikey Dread), The Police took inspiration from Bob Marley, whose accessible pop had established itself widely by the late 70s. It was this reggae influence that The Police synthesized into their sound that set them apart from many of their contemporaries. The band melded Andy Summer's rock guitar to Sting and Stewart Copeland's reggae-styled riddims to create some of the most accessible and catchy reggae influenced music of the late 70's and early 80's.

According to Sting, reggae became a part of the bands DNA during the recording of "Reggatta De Blanc" album in 1979.  "That was where it all clicked. There was so much happening in my writing and singing, Stewart's and Andy's playing, and suddenly it all meshed together. We had reggae influences in our vocabulary and they became synthesised into our infrastructure until it was utterly part of our sound and you couldn't really call it reggae anymore. It was just the way we played. That's the great thing about rock'n'roll. It bastardises everything, and I much prefer mongrels over pure races. As a musician, you learn your craft and emulate and copy people, and suddenly there's a moment in your development when you grow up and finally become yourself. I think 'Reggatta' was that moment for us. Then we got caught up in the whole business of becoming a "successful rock group" and almost lost it. We calmed down after that, but we had to work hard to get back into that serendipitous state again."

Though bands like The Police and The Clash took much of their inspiration from Jamaican music and culture, it was a two way street of respect and influence as Jamaican artists of the late 70's were inspired by the energy of punk and ska and its counterculture anti-establishment stance. You don't need to look any further than Bob Marley and his reggae anthem "Punky Reggae Party" to see the link between UK ska and punk bands and JA reggae artists. The lyrics to the song name check leading UK punk bands and pick up Johnny Rotten's rant against corporate rock and roll. And so, with The Police successfully performing reggae pop music that catapulted them up the charts, Jamaican artists, took notice.

Sheila Hylton was juggling careers as a flight attendant and reggae singer in 1980 when she stepped into a London record store and bought a copy  Reggatta de Blanc, which included the song "The Bed's Too Big Without You." Hylton was so taken with the song's reggae grooves she decided to record her own version on her return to Jamaica. According to Hylton, "One of the first things I said to myself was, 'It would be great to get Sly and Robbie on this song'." 

Hylton was British-born but moved back to Jamaica as a young girl.  According to her Trojan Records profile:
Five years after her birth in London, Sheila Hylton was living in Kingston with her grandparents, whose influence on the musical development of the child proved profound. Her grandfather, a keen Jazz enthusiast, exposed the youngster the sounds of such luminaries as Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong, while the developing sound of Ska was never too far away.
Sheila went on to attend the Jamaica Commercial Institute, which ultimately led to a secretarial position with Tony Laing at Total Sounds Records. Although the job served to further inspire her musical aspirations, she decided instead to train as a flight attendant with Air Jamaica, due to her grandfather's involvement in aviation with Pan American Airlines. She did not altogether abandon her hopes of making a career in music, however, and through her association with Total Sounds, she concurrently embarked on her musical career with respected producer, Harry Johnson. Her initial recording was a version of the Ebony's 'Life In The Country', although it was her popular version of the Emotions' 'Don't Ask My Neighbour' that led to a series of successful sessions at Harry J's Kingston studio.
In the early '70s, Harry Johnson had issued a hugely successful version of the Dusty Springfield / Baby Washington hit, 'Breakfast In Bed' by Lorna Bennett and with Sheila's voice the perfect vehicle for a reworking of the song, the producer had her re-cut the song in the latest style. This new version even managed to surpass Lorna's interpretation when it entered the British Pop chart in 1979, so inspiring UK-based Popsters UB40 and Chrissie Hind to record it nine years on - their version scoring a Top Ten hit in 1988.
In 1980, Hylton recorded an adaptation of `The Bed's Too Big Without You' with Jamaica's Riddim Twins, Sly Dunbar & Robbie Shakespeare working alongside Johnson. The recording proved an instant favourite and marked her second foray into the UK Pop charts.

Check out side by side versions of the track. Which one do you prefer?