Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Duff Review: Hotknives "Razor Blade Alley" and Crabs Corporation "The Opium Eaters" b/w The Values featuring Neil Innes and Bedders "Madness" and Rude Boy George "Driving In My Car"

Jump Up Records/Specialized
Yellow vinyl 7" single

(Review by Steve Shafer)

This sweet slab of wax is the second single spun off of Specialized 3: Mad Not Cancer, the four-CD collection of Madness covers released in support of the Teenage Cancer Trust in the UK. The first excellent single featured King Hammond and Bim Skala Bim covering "Bed and Breakfast Man" and "Nightboat to Cairo" respectively--The Duff Guide to Ska review of it can be checked out here.

On the A side, Third-wave UK stars The Hotknives tackle Lee Thompson's "Razor Blade Alley," a precautionary story of unsafe sex with a prostitute that results in case of venereal disease ("I'm just too shy to check in, but this pain of pissing razors is cutting in"), keeping the jazzy vibe of the tune in the keys, but adjusting the guitar and rhythm section so that their terrific version is much more of an urgent ska tune. Argentina's Crabs Corporation transform Mike Barson's jazzy instrumental The Opium Eaters (from Madness' 1981 album 7) into an fantastically trippy and dubby early reggae cut.

On the B side, The Values featuring Neil Innes (of Monty Python and Rutles fame) and Bedders (Mark Bedford of Madness, of course) serve up a jaunty and slightly sardonic version of Madness' signature tune (Prince Buster's original "Madness") that's a cross between something you might expect to hear off "Life of Brian" and Benny Hill. Great stuff. I'm a member of Rude Boy George, so I can't objectively review our version of "Driving in My Car," but we've heard from many people that they like how we've successfully transformed what was essentially a quirky novelty track into (what we think is) a pretty great all-out ska song.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Duff Review: King Hammond "Bed and Breakfast Man" b/w Bim Skala Bim (featuring Dave Hillyard) "Nightboat to Cairo" (from Specialized 3)

Jump Up Records/Specialized
White vinyl 7" single

(Review by Steve Shafer)

This is the first single spun off of Specialized 3: Mad Not Cancer, which is a four-CD collection of Madness covers released in support of the Teenage Cancer Trust in the UK (for the record, the first Specialized benefit CD was a tribute to The Specials; the second one to The Beat; and the planned four release is focused on The Clash).

Side A features the always terrific King Hammond (AKA Nick Welsh) with a sweet arrangement of "Bed and Breakfast Man" that, to me, sounds like something Laurel Aitken would have done in the 1980s. It irons out the quirkiness of the original, replacing it with a more straightforward, traditional ska vibe that works really well here (I also love KH's intro: "This is an old London folk song...").

Bim Skala Bim, with The Slackers' Dave Hillyard along for the ride, turn in a more faithful version of the beloved and classic "Nightboat to Cairo" (though the bubbly Bim organ is instantly recognizable as theirs!). Of course, this track sounds terrific in their more-than-capable hands and is probably simply brilliant live.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Duff Review: "Rhoda Dakar Sings The Bodysnatchers"

Pledge Music
CD/LP/digital download
(The CD is also available to purchase through the London International Ska Festival website.)

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Of all the 2 Tone-era bands, The Bodysnatchers (2 Tone's only all-female act--and the only women in the late 70s UK ska scene apart from Pauline Black) were the ones who were criminally under-documented on vinyl during their relatively brief--but brilliant--existence, from late 1979 to 1981. Apart from two fantastic singles (a cover of Dandy Livingstone's "Let's Do Rocksteady" b/w "Ruder Than You," co-written by The Bodysnatchers and the band's friend Gaz Mayall in 1980; and the band's "Easy Life" b/w a cover of Bob Andy's "Too Experienced," also released in 1980) and an amazing live version of "Easy Life" included on the Dance Craze soundtrack (1981), The Bodysnatchers weren't able to keep it together long enough to record their debut album before fragmenting over how to move forward. One faction of The Bodysnatchers wanted to go pop (the majority of the band): Sarah Jane Owen, Stella Barker, Penny Leyton, and Miranda Joyce formed The Belle Stars, releasing a pop version of The Bodysnatchers' original "Hiawatha" as their first single (later, they had a massive hit with their cover of The Dixie Cups' "Iko Iko"--the song was originally written by James "Sugar Boy Crawford"--when it was featured on the 1988 "Rain Man" film soundtrack); after The Belle Stars' demise, Owen and Layton then joined The Deltones, another amazing all female UK ska act, in 1984. The remainder of The Bodysnatchers wanted to be more political--Ms. Dakar and Nicky Summers went on to work with The Special AKA, releasing the first Bodysnatcher song the band ever wrote, "The Boiler" (an extremely disturbing story of date rape, only meant to be listened to once, according to Jerry Dammers); Dakar then joined The Special AKA, singing and co-writing songs on their sole studio album (read my thoughts on that record here).

After two long, challenging, and apparently very unpleasant years recording The Special AKA's extraordinary In the Studio (in a recent interview with Reggae Steady Ska, Ms. Dakar stated that she's never listened to the finished album), Ms. Dakar took a long break from the ska scene (though she did occasionally sing and record in the 80s and 90s with non-ska acts like Happy House, Palm Skin Productions, Dr. Robert of the Blow Monkeys, and Apollo 440). However, according to Paul Williams' book "You're Wondering Now: The Specials from Conception to Reunion," in 2002 Jennie Matthias (Belle Stars/Big 5) contacted Dakar to see if she was interested in touring with her and Pauline Black of The Selecter as part of a "Ska Divas" supergroup, performing Bodysnatchers, Selecter, and Belle Stars songs--all backed by a band that included Nick Welsh (who, at the time, was the songwriter and bassist of that iteration of The Selecter, and had been a member of Bad Manners, as well as the man behind King Hammond).

These shows rekindled Dakar's love of ska music and later led to a series of fruitful collaborations between her and Welsh (that apparently had been initiated at the suggestion of Ms. Black). In 2006, Welsh left The Selecter and formed Skaville UK--and arranged for Dakar to sing vocals on several tracks on each of that act's two albums (1973 in 2006 and Decadent! in 2008) and she performed gigs with them, as well. Welsh also co-wrote several songs and played all of the instruments on Dakar's 2007 solo record, Cleaning in Another Woman's Kitchenand the two released the more rock-oriented Back to the Garage in 2009. Dakar also was a featured guest vocalist on Madness' "On the Town," from their stunningly good 2009 album, The Liberty of Norton Folgate (read my thoughts on that record here).

After having been approached by a seemingly never-ending stream of Bodysnatchers and 2 Tone fans over the span of several decades about the possibility of her releasing an album of unrecorded Bodysnatchers' tunes (a full-on reunion was never in the cards; the split in 1981 wasn't amicable)--coupled with the 35th anniversary of the band's formation and an opportunity to perform Bodysnatchers' songs on Halloween at the Jazz Cafe in Camden--led Dakar to get in touch with Sean Flowerdew (Pama Intl/Phoenix City All-stars/London International Ska Festival) to see if he thought it was feasible to put together some sort of recording. Of course, he did--and with Dakar's suggestion that they crowd fund the album through PledgeMusic (full disclosure: I financially supported this project in exchange for a CD and LP!), they assembled an all-star ska backing band (featuring two Specials, Lynval Golding on guitar and Horace Panter on bass; Sean Flowerdew on keys and co-producing; Mark Claydon of The Get Up on drums; Lenny Bignell of the Sidewalk Doctors and Phoenix City All-stars on guitar and co-producing; and Karl Wirrmann from Intensified on sax) and recorded 10 tracks live in the studio in one day (including five original and unrecorded Bodysnatchers songs).

While some DGTS readers of a certain age may have been fortunate enough to have seen The Bodysnatchers perform many of these tracks live, this record will be the very first opportunity for many a 2 Tone/Bodysnatchers fan to experience much of this music (it was mine!) and they won't be disappointed, as the songs and performances are nothing short of stellar (Ms. Dakar is in extremely fine form)!

[Some may grouse about the inclusion of the three previously recorded cuts here, plus another cover that was captured in Dance Craze--"Easy Life," Too Experienced," "Let's Do Rocksteady," and Desmond Dekker's "007"--but they likely would have appeared on The Bodysnatchers album, had that come to pass back in 1981. The versions here compare very favorably with the original arrangements (these aren't radical updates--they're true to The Bodysnatchers' 2 Tone sound--and they're terrific) and they deserve inclusion on Rhoda Dakar Sings The Bodysnatchers, since they are the band's signature tunes.]

Much like The Slits' "Typical Girls" (and keeping with 2 Tone's mission to address social, political, and economic injustice within undeniably catchy songs that make one want to dance), The Bodysnatchers' "Easy Life"--the first track on Rhoda Dakar Sings The Bodysnatchers and certainly one of the band's finest moments--challenged 1970 British society's prevailing and very much entrenched attitude regarding the role of women (something we're still grappling with today) and acknowledged how difficult it was/is to defy these imposed expectations and fight for real equality--particularly for young women just reaching adulthood. It was also revolutionary in that they were women singing ska songs--in a scene dominated by young men--from a woman's point of view:

"I've been waiting so long
For this here time to come
I've been waiting ever so long
For this here time to come
But now it's here, do I want it?
Now it's here, I'm not sure if I want it
Why don't I plump for the easy option?
Yes, I could go for the easy option

It could be so easy
Life could be so easy
It could be so easy
Life could be so easy

We are near to our equality
Girls and boys with pay parity
We are near to our equality
The law says there is equal opportunity
But still it's a struggle
Yes, life is still a struggle
I could stay home and play houses
Care for my man and press his trousers

It could be so easy...

Hey girls, it's not too late
To stay home and vegetate
Just like mamma says you should do
Life society says you should do
Is this our natural fate?
I wasn't born to procreate
If I didn't have to use my brain
I know that I would go insane
I refuse, I want to say no
I don't care if it's hard, if it's slow

It could be so easy..."

(One much appreciated bonus to picking up this CD is that it contains song lyrics in the insert; before it arrived, I had been listening to the digital download tracks over and over in my attempt to discern the lyrics to the previously unreleased tracks! Note to bands: Please take the time, effort, and expense to print/post your lyrics somewhere so that fans can easily discern your songs' messages...)

"The Ghost of the Vox Continental" (the Vox Continental is a transistor-based combo organ that was used by Jerry Dammers and Madness' Mike Barson, amongst many other 2 Tone and new wave musicians) is an amusing ghost story about a keyboardist who is crushed by his organ during a load-in, but, even in death, is so devoted to the band that he continues to perform at gigs ("The ghostly keyboard player/Returned to haunt the band/The untouched keyboard moved to/The touch of a ghostly hand...They tried hard for a replacement/But no one stayed for very long/No need for them to learn the set/Vox Continental knew each song"). Of course, the song features a very prominent organ line that has slight echoes of Johann Sebastian Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" (which has been associated with horror movies since its use in films like "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" in 1931 and the 1962 Hammer Production of "The Phantom of the Opera"; many ska fans will recognize that The Toasters used its opening measures as the introduction to "Frankenska," on their 1988 Thrill Me Up album).

The carousel-like organ line that opens "Happy Time Tune" belies the suffering and want contained within its lyrics. While enduring the cold and wet London morning, Ms. Dakar recalls a seemingly idyllic family holiday to visit relatives in Jamaica ("We played cricket on the soft grass/Picked Julie mango from the trees"). But these pleasant memories are tempered by the grinding poverty in Jamaica and the song suggests that one should always be aware and appreciate that some people don't have it as good as you do and will never have the chance to go on holiday from the day-to-day lives: "There is another side to Jamaica/Far away from your Orange Street/Where poor people live in iron shacks/No work, no shoes on them feet/For them, there is no happy time/For them, no sun a shine/For them, no bird a sing/You should know everything."

The brilliantly evocative and cinematic "Private Eye"--think Humphrey Bogart as Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe in "The Big Sleep"--so deftly captures the essence and spirit of film noir. For portions of the song, Ms. Dakar is a femme fatale ("Said he liked my bleach job, used to be a brunette/I looked at him sideways, he lit my cigarette") who has a history with Marlowe ("He saved my life a few years back/Some crazy meathead was on my track"). One of the great things about this song is how its point of view shifts--at first, Ms. Dakar is the omniscient narrator describing Marlowe on a stakeout on Sunset Boulevard in LA ("Check the drugstore across the street/Saw his suspect come out to meet/Tall man in black, fedora hat/Hailed a cab/That was that"), then she's the femme fatale, followed by the aforementioned, stalking "meathead" encountering the PI ("Marlowe smashed through the door/Stuck a Lugar in my face!"), and finally she's Marlowe, with his lament about his destiny to live on the seamier side of life, but how his profession (and ingrained moral code) keeps him from succumbing to the plethora of sin around him.

"I don't know why I'm a PI, it just doesn't make sense
Every day's a parking lot, the crowd of losers is dense
Wheeling with wasters, dealing with drunks
Whiskey for breakfast, coffee for lunch
High-class fluff, low-class hotels
Drugstore cowboys, nights spent in cells
Got no family, I got no home
All my romance takes place on the phone
Don't work too much, it don't really matter
If I didn't exist like this
I'd be with the rest, in the gutter"

The immensely catchy "The Loser" finds the singer giving dating and sartorial advice to an uncool guy whose approach toward women is painfully wrong. He heeds all of it and transforms himself into a popular ladies' man. To the dismay of the singer, she finds herself falling for him, too, even though she knows his front is more of a put-on than real:

"Time when by and I noticed the change
Acting still, but the role was new
You tried less, achieved and enigmatic pose
Taken in, girls surrounded you
Suddenly, when next we met
I realized I'd fallen for this drip
On each arm clung adoring girls
"By the way, thank you for the tip""

The take-away of the incredible, but sorrowful, rocksteady-ish "Mixed Feelings" is that one shouldn't settle for relationships that are conflicted, compromised, or fake: "So many people spend their days/Wondering if they like or hate/Too many people waste their time/Telling, telling the truth and wish they were lying/They are laughing, but crying/Just crying inside/Knowing their heart was broken..."

Apart from the strange notion that had the native peoples of North America only shared their lands with the white European invaders and not fought "with national pride," they wouldn't have been almost completely wiped out, "Hiawatha" is a welcome plea for rejecting nationalism and embracing multiculturalism (two prominent issues that England was beginning to grapple with in the late 70s/early 80s), as well as keeping in mind that we're all descended from common ancestors, if you go back far enough: "Integration, social changes/Different customs, faces/Stops us from getting in a rut." (It should be noted that in the Belle Stars' music video for "Hiawatha," the awful "native" costume touches and set--with totem poles!--trade on stereotypes and almost negate the positive message of the song!)

Rhoda Dakar Sings The Bodysnatchers is The Duff Guide to Ska's pick for album of the year. It's a superb album in its own right and an incredibly momentous development for the global ska scene--a "lost" 2 Tone record has been recovered, finally rendering the 2 Tone label discography complete. Get Rhoda Dakar Sings The Bodysnatchers now!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Video/Photos of Rude Boy George, The Scofflaws, and Beat Brigade at Otto's Shrunken Head on 12/5/14!

Editor's note: File this post under shameless self-promotion--but it's also helping to promote some of our favorite, fellow NYC area bands!

If you weren't able to catch the packed and sweaty Rude Boy George record release party with our incredible special guests The Scofflaws and Beat Brigade at Otto's Shrunken Head last Friday night, you can take great comfort in the fact that some of the night was pretty well documented for your viewing/listening pleasure--thanks to Bryan Kremkau of SkaPunkPhotos (check out his awesome photos here and here), All-Nite Images (lots of great black and white photos can be seen here) and Otto Yamamoto (see his video below). Massive thanks to the photographers/videographers for doing this!

The following 45-minute black and white video shot by Otto Yamamoto is like a Dance Craze for (part of) the NYC ska scene in 2014 (with veterans from the 80s and 90s!), as it captured some amazing live footage of The Scofflaws, Rude Boy George, and Beat Brigade up close and in action!

Here's a rundown of what's in this video by time code:

00:00  The Scofflaws: "Rude Boy Train"
04:46  The Scofflaws: "Theme from the Godfather"
09:48  The Scofflaws: "Nude Beach"
15:02  The Scofflaws: "Nightmare"

19:13  Rude Boy George: "Always Something There to Remind Me"
22:00  Rude Boy George: "Love My Way"
25:48  Rude Boy George: "On My Radio"
29:04  Rude Boy George: "Kids in America"

32:33  Beat Brigade: "401 Kill"
38:06  Beat Brigade: "I Second That Emotion"

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And here's some fantastic color video of RBG and The Scofflaws from Bryan Kremkau of SkaPunkPhotos...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Rude Boy George "Confessions" Record Release Party!

Here's a shameless plug for the band I'm in, Rude Boy George...

If you're in the NYC area (or beyond--I know someone from Brazil whose planning to catch our show), please come out for the Rude Boy George record release party this Friday night (12/5/14) at Otto's Shrunken Head (14th Street, between Avenues A and B in Manhattan)! We do some pretty cool 2 Tone ska and rootsy-reggae versions of new wave and post-punk classics.

This is a FREE show with three of the best ska bands in NYC!

Here are the set times:

10:00 pm: The Scofflaws

11:00 pm: Rude Boy George

12:00 am: Beat Brigade

If you haven't seen them recently, The Scofflaws have a new album's worth of awesome new tunes in regular rotation, as well as their hits from the 1990s ("Paul Getty," etc.). And Beat Brigade will be performing many songs off Kings (read The Duff Guide to Ska review here)--their incredible long-awaited debut album that was issued last summer.

As I mentioned, this is a record release party for Rude Boy George's debut album, Confessions (which can be pre-ordered here and features songs by Berlin, Naked Eyes, INXS, Human League, The Romantics, Billy Idol, Madness, Squeeze, and Eurythmics).

At Otto's, we'll have digital download card/stickers for sale at the gig, as well as our new t-shirt, stickers, buttons, and a limited-edition yellow vinyl single on Jump Up Records from the Specialized 3: Mad Not Cancer benefit CD (supporting the Teenage Cancer Trust in the UK) that features our cover of Madness' "Driving in My Car."

Below, please find a video of Rude Boy George in action, playing our version of the Talking Head's "Psycho Killer" from the last time we were at Otto's in April.

We hope to see your face in the crowd Friday night!

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Life's Little Victories: Record Collecting #5 (The Slits' "Typical Girls" 7")

Over the summer, while rummaging through the bins at my favorite (and undisclosed!) used record shop, I came across the 12" version of The Slits' 1979 debut single ("Typical Girls" b/w "Heard It Through the Grapevine") for $15. For whatever stupid reason (wasn't feeling flush with cash that day?), I didn't grab it, but when I got back to work, I listened/watched videos of both tracks--and was particularly taken with their ragged, punky-reggay-ish cover of Marvin Gaye's hit (where Ari Up sometimes sings: "I heard it through the bass line..."). So, I checked Discogs and found that picking up a copy of this single (and I wanted the 7" version) from any US sellers would cost a pretty penny (let's just say that the $15 price at my favorite record haunt was very reasonable).

I now very much wanted this record.

I ended up being outbid on two separate eBay auctions, but finally stumbled upon a mint (!) copy of the 7" single that I was able to "Buy Now" for $20 (including shipping!)--which has a sleeve that folds out into a poster of Pennie Smith's photo that was used for The Slits' debut album, Cut (Smith also shot the cover of this single).

To be honest, I really didn't take to The Slits back when I was first introduced to them through Jon Savage's incredible and absolutely essential 1992 book "England's Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond" (which led me to discover and buy albums from dozens of punk and post-punk bands) and catching the punk segments of the surprisingly good 1995 PBS/BBC documentary series "Rock and Roll: An Unruly History" (watch part of the punk segment that highlights roots reggae's relationship to 1970s UK punk rock and features interviews with Johnny Rotten, Paul Simonon, Don Letts, Mick Jones, Ari Up, Bunny Wailer, Mikey Dread, and Lee "Scratch" Perry here and here). But I get them now.

I'm in the midst of reading Slits' guitarist Viv Albertine's superb and brutally honest autobiography "Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys" (watch a recent interview with Albertine from Britain's Channel 4 here). One of the many great bits of info she shares is how her final break-up with Mick Jones of The Clash, whom she had dated on and off for years, led Jones to write "Train in Vain," which turns out to be an answer record to The Slits' "Typical Girls" (The Slits: "Typical girls stand by their man"; The Clash: "You say you stand by your man/Tell me something, I don't understand/You said you loved me and that's a fact/And then you left me, said you felt trapped/Well some things you can't explain away/But the heartache's in me till this day/You didn't stand by me/No, not at all/You didn't stand by me/No way"). Of course, "Typical Girls" lists all the "acceptable" behaviors imposed on women by 1950s and 1960s Western societies (and reinforced by their media)--and was everything that The Slits were defying and attempting to obliterate in the late 70s. It's smart, cheeky, and ironic feminist commentary, as well as an apt Slits mission statement--and it's made somehow all the more stinging and poignant by Jones' wounded reply to it. He wanted/expected the stereotypical 1960s girlfriend, but got one of the original riot girls instead.

It's very much worth it to check out the lyrics to this song--as, 35 or so years on, our male-dominated world still holds many of these same attitudes towards women...

"Typical Girls"

"Don't create
Don't rebel
Have intuition
Can't decide

Typical girls get upset too quickly
Typical girls can't control themselves
Typical girls are so confusing
Typical girls, you can always tell
Typical girls don't think too clearly
Typical girls are unpredictable, predictable

Typical girls try to be
Typical girls very well
Typical girls try to be
Typical girls very well, well

Typical girls are looking for something
Typical girls fall under spells
Typical girls buy magazines
Typical girls feel like hell
Typical girls worry about spots, fat
And natural smells, stinky fake smells

Typical girls try to be
Typical girls very well, well

Don't create
Don't rebel
Have intuition
Don't drive well

Typical girls try to be
Typical girls very well
Can't decide what clothes to wear

Typical girls are sensitive
Typical girls are emotional
Typical girls are cruel and bewitching
But she's a femme fatal

Typical girls stand by their man
Typical girls are really swell
Typical girls learn how to act shocked
Typical girls don't rebel

Who invented the typical girl?
Who's bringing out the new improved model?
And there's another marketing ploy
Typical girl gets the typical boy

Who invented the typical girl?
Who's bringing out the new improved model?
And there's another marketing ploy
Typical girl gets the typical boy, typical boy

The typical boy gets the typical girl
The typical girl gets the typical boy
The typical boy gets the typical girl
The typical girl gets the typical boy"

Sunday, November 9, 2014

HR and The Scotch Bonnets to release "Quest" EP

I'm ashamed to admit that last year I never got around to completing my review of The Scotch Bonnets' phenomenally good debut album Live Ya Life (this Baltimore/DC rocksteady-reggae-soul crew released their CD through a successful Kickstarter campaign--and I highly recommend it if you don't already have it). With this in mind, it should be noted that The Scotch Bonnets are releasing Quest, a six-song EP that they recorded with HR of Bad Brains, which will be released on December 2, 2014 by Morphius Records.

After playing a series of gigs together last year, HR and the Bonnets had initially planned to collaborate on one track for Morphius Records' 20 anniversary compilation XX. But they left the studio session with six cuts--and the president of Morphius Records felt that they all deserved to see the light of day. From The Scotch Bonnets' press release, it seems like Quest promises to be one of the more compelling and unusual ska/reggae releases of the year:

"From the romping pub ska of "Cheyenne" to the spacey reggae love vibes in "My Universal Love" to "Just A Kid," a rare Bonnets soul-rocker, Quest is an eclectic mix of songs sung by both HR and Lady Hatchet. The EP's title track boasts HR's first recorded boy-girl duet, his avant-garde vocals in juxtaposition with Lady Hatchet's R and B tinged hooks. And what HR session would be complete without a little studio experimentation? Precisely that can be found on "H.R. Psalm," a mesmerizing HR composition for which he conducted the band as they played along to a previously recorded HR track!

The EP boasts three new vocal performances by HR. Two of those songs, the title track "Quest" as well as "My Universal Love" were penned by Pablo Fiasco many years ago. Long guarded as instrumentals, the tracks were finally given to HR to complete during these sessions."

HR will be backed by The Scotch Bonnets on a series of mid-Atlantic tour dates in support of the Quest EP early this December:

Thursday, December 4: Baltimore, MD: Holy Frijoles
Friday, December 5: Washington, DC: Comet Ping Pong
Saturday, December 6: Brooklyn, NY: Palisades
Sunday, December 7: Philadelphia, PA: Kungfu Necktie

Catch them live if you can!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

NYC Fall 2014 Ska Calendar #18

Don Letts with his trusty Super 8!
Friday, November 14, 2014 @ 8:00 pm

Rude Boy George, Across the Aisle, The Screw-Ups

Two Boots of Bridgeport
281 Fairfield Avenue
Bridgeport, CT
$5 cover

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Saturday, November 15, 2014 @ 9:00 pm

Live Reggae NYC presents Top Shotta Band featuring Screechy Dan, African Love HiFi, The Far East

Secret Project Robot Art Experiment
389 Melrose Street
Brooklyn, NY

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Saturday, November 15, 2014 @ 5:30 pm

Skanksgiving 2014 w/The Pietasters, Mephiskapheles, Westbound Train, Avon Junkies, Backyard Superheroes

Starland Ballroom
570 Jernee Mill Road
Sayerville, NJ 08872
All ages
$17 in advance/$20 day of the show

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Saturday, November 29, 2014 @ 8:00 pm

Rude Boy George, The New Limits, and Special Guests

433 Park Avenue
Worcester, MA

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Friday, December 5, 2014 @ 9:30 pm

Beat Brigade, Rude Boy George and The Scofflaws!

Otto's Shrunken Head
538 East 14th Street
Manhattan, NY
No cover/21+

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Saturday, December 6, 2014 @ 7:00 pm

HR with The Scotch Bonnets, The Far East

906 Broadway
Brookyn, NY

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Friday, December 12, 2014 @ 10:30 pm

Straight to Hell (Clash Tribute) Celebrating the 35th Anniversary of "London Calling"

B.B. King's
237 West 42nd Street
New York, NY
$12 in advance/$15 day of show
All ages
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Friday, December 19, 2014

The Scofflaws

89 North
89 North Ocean Avenue
Patchogue, NY

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Saturday, December 20, 2014 @ 8:00 pm

Rude Boy George

Cafe Nine
205 State Street
New Haven, CT

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Saturday, December 20, 2014 @ 8:00 pm

The Slackers, Mephiskapheles, Jesse Wagner

The Bell House
149 7th Street
Brooklyn, NY

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Sunday, January 4, 2015 @ 7:00 pm

Rude Boy George (with Selector Duff Guide Steve spinning ska and new wave before the show!)

Sellersville Theatre
24 West Temple Avenue
Sellersville, PA

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Thursday, January 8, 2015 @ 8:00 pm

Hollie Cook, The Barr Brothers and Taylor McFerrin

Highline Ballroom
431 West 16th Street
Manhattan, NY

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Rude Boy George Celebrates Marc's Birthday

Hill Country BBQ
30 West 26th Street
New York, NY

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Copy Cat Cover Songs Night: New Wave w/Rude Boy George

Otto's Shrunken Head
538 East 14th Street
Manhattan, NY
No cover/21+

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Update: Tracklisting for Rhoda Dakar's Bodysnatchers Album!

While we recently learned who joined Rhoda Dakar in the studio recently for her PledgeMusic project to record (mostly) unreleased Bodysnatchers songs (members of The Specials, Pama Int'l, and Intensified), we now know which songs they recorded:

"Easy Life"
"The Ghost of the Vox Continental"
"Happy Time Tune"
"Private Eye"
"Too Experienced"
"The Loser"
"Mixed Feelings"
"Let’s Do Rock Steady"

And since the project has been "overfunded" at 156%, an additional digital download-only track will be recorded and made available only to pledgers.

Obviously, a few of these tracks were recorded by The Bodysnatchers and released as singles on 2 Tone ("Easy Life," "Let Do Rock Steady," and "Too Experienced") and "Hiawatha" was released as The Belle Stars' debut single (though it was a Bodysnatchers original). The rest you only may be familiar with if you were in the right place and time to catch The Bodysnatchers when they were in action on stage (sadly, I was not--so these are mostly new to me!).

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Members of The Specials, Pama Int'l, and Intensified Join Rhoda Dakar In the Studio to Record Unreleased Bodysnatchers Songs!

If you're looking for another reason to support Rhoda Dakar's PledgeMusic project to record The Bodysnatchers' unreleased 2 Tone-era material (in celebration of that band's 35th anniversary), she announced last week that the recording had begun and revealed which musicians were with her in the studio:

Drums: Mark Claydon (The Get Up)
Bass: Horace Panter (The Specials)
Keys: Sean Flowerdew (Pama Int'l, Phoenix City All-stars)
Guitar: Lenny Bignell (The Sidewalk Doctors, Phoenix City All-stars)
Guitar: Lynval Golding (The Specials)
Sax: Karl Wirrmann (Intensified)

Obviously, this is an incredible band backing Ms. Dakar on this project--and the presence of two of The Specials should make this of even greater interest to ska fans!

If you're interested, there is still time to support Rhoda Dakar's PledgeMusic project (I've already put up the cash for a CD and a limited edition, hand-numbered LP, since I have a romantic attachment to vinyl!). It's your chance to get your hands on what arguably could be considered a "lost" 2 Tone album--music from The Bodysnatchers' set that was never committed to tape...

Read a recent and fantastic Fred Perry Subculture interview with Ms. Dakar here.

And listen to an October 8th interview with Ms. Dakar on CKUT's Roots Rock Rebel show (that refers to an earlier Duff Guide to Ska post on this PledgeMusic project!) here.

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On a related note, while I was putting together a post on the (30th anniversary) reissue of The Special AKA's In the Studio album on heavyweight vinyl, it reminded me of how essential Rhoda Dakar's singing was to the extraordinary sound and brilliance of that album (plus, she co-wrote the sublime "Nelson Mandela")...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

John Holt, RIP

The great reggae singer John Holt, who first rose to fame with The Paragons, passed away in London on October 19, 2014 at age 67. The cause of death has not yet been released. Read Holt's obituary in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, and the BBC News.

We extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends.

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Like many people, I first heard Holt's music via Blondie's cover of "The Tide Is High" (which was featured on their Autoamerican album, released in 1980--and was a number one single on the Billboard Hot 100, selling over 1 million copies in the USA). After I discovered ska via 2 Tone in the early 80s and began to learn more about the Jamaican originators, I discovered The Paragons and came across some of Holt's solo work on various rocksteady and reggae compilations (I think the first solo Holt song I heard was his amazing cover of the somewhat cheesy "Mr. Bojangles" on the bizarrely sequenced The Trojan Story!). But my two favorite Holt songs--which are possibly some of the greatest rocksteady/reggae cuts ever written and recorded--are "Ali Baba" (from 1969 and produced by Duke Reid) and "Strange Things" (from 1971 and produced by Phil Pratt), both of which sound completely otherworldly--and are out of this world. The man and his wonderfully smooth, rich, and expressive tenor voice will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Last Reissue: The Special AKA's "In the Studio" Heavyweight Vinyl LP

Heavyweight vinyl LP

It appears that Rhino's and Parlophone's campaign to reissue all of The Specials' albums on heavyweight, 180 gram vinyl will soon be complete with the upcoming release of The Special AKA's remastered In the Studio album on October 27, 2014 in the UK and on November 17, 2014 in the USA. While used copies of this original LP are fairly easy to find, this will be the first time this record will be back in print since 1984.

According to Paul Williams' "You're Wondering Now: The Specials from Conception to Reunion," The Special AKA's In the Studio took two, very difficult years (during which Jerry Dammers nearly lost his sanity and nearly took John Bradbury, Rhoda Dakar, John Shipley, Gary McManus, Stan Campbell, Dick Cuthell, and Rico Rodriguez with him!) and almost half a million pounds to record, which swallowed up the budgets of the three additional albums that the band were contractually obligated to deliver afterwards. (The This Are Two Tone compilation was released in 1983 by Chrysalis in an attempt to recoup at least some of the money that was hemorrhaging in The Special AKA's never-ending recording sessions). Upon its release, In the Studio generated great reviews, but wasn't the hit Chrysalis or the band needed it to be (it only climbed to #51 on the UK charts)--though "Nelson Mandela" made it up to #9 on the UK singles chart and became a worldwide anti-apartheid anthem.

Back in 1984 when I was still in high school, I picked up In the Studio after hearing the incredible "Nelson Mandela" on WLIR, the awesome new wave/modern rock radio station on Long Island that broadcast to the New York City area. Even though it wasn't a ska album (by then I was used to my former 2 Tone heroes moving far beyond ska; Madness and The Beat had already led the way) and "Nelson Mandela" wasn't representative of anything else on the record, I completely loved it. In the Studio was a compelling, sophisticated, and meticulously crafted mix of no wave jazz, reggae, and soul that grew on you and didn't sound like anything else that was unleashed on the UK pop charts in 1984 (i.e., Wham, Duran Duran, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, etc.). The album was claustrophobic (see "Night on the Tiles" and the jab at "Housebound" agoraphobic Terry Hall), full of righteous outrage (see "War Crimes," which was about Israel's invasion of Lebanon), brutally uncompromising in its principles (see "Racist Friend," which urged you to completely disassociate yourself from anyone, friend or family, who held racist views), and yielded what may be the catchiest protest song ever written and recorded, the euphoric hit "Nelson Mandela" (pleading for the release of the ANC leader who had been jailed by the apartheid South African government for decades)--the one moment of pure joy on record that often found the world to be a terribly and disappointingly ugly, petty, predatory, and unjust place (see "Alcohol," "What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend," "Bright Lights," "Lonely Crowd," and "Break Down the Door").

In the Studio wasn't the hit pop album that the Chrysalis execs pined for (while facing down all of that red ink on their spreadsheets) or the ska album that Specials fans were expecting following the brilliant Ghost Town EP (though their hopes would have long been dashed by the string of decidedly non-ska singles from this album that preceded In the Studio's release). The Special AKA--defiantly led by Jerry Dammers--stubbornly refused to give the people what they wanted, but delivered what they thought they needed to help them navigate increasingly desperate times. Thirty years on, In the Studio sounds as strikingly unique and innovative as it did in 1984--every song is stellar--and its lyrics still contain their sting and relevance. The music and its messages endure. I only wish that The Special AKA could have found a way forward. I suspect that there was much more musical brilliance to come.

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Here's a live performance of "Nelson Mandela" by The Special AKA (but without Stan Campbell, who had left the band by then) with Elvis Costello, Ranking Roger, and Dave Wakeling that was taped for The Tube in 1984.

And here's the fantastic (and hilarious) video for "What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend"...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Duff Review: Radio Riddler "Purple Reggae"

Mita Records
CD/digital download

(Review by Steve Shafer)

As someone who loves all things new wave and who's a member of a band doing ska/reggae covers of new wave/post punk hits, my antennae shot up when I first heard about Radio Riddler's Purple Reggae project, a song-by-song reggae take on Prince and The Revolution's Purple Rain. Back when this record and film were released in the summer of 1984 (following the massive success of 1999--so much so that my dad even used my purple 1999 t-shirt with the title song's lyrics on the back for a cringe-inducing sermon he gave one youth Sunday at our church), Purple Rain was one of those near-perfect albums (take a look at the track list), where almost every song on both sides of the record was stellar. And the songs touched on enough musical genres to have extraordinarily wide appeal--they attracted fans of new wave, classic rock, pop, funk, rhythm and blues, and more.

It was inescapable, too. Cuts from Purple Rain were all over radio and MTV--and deservedly so. If you were a teenage consumer of music at the time, Purple Rain had a profound impact. Years on, the album has become a touchstone of your youth and the songs evoke all sorts of sharp memories. You know where you were, what you were doing, and who you were doing it with. I'll always remember how the girls in my circle of friends were all out crazy for Prince--they dug his music, his intense and charismatic performances, and his overt sexuality that was tempered by all the theatricality and androgyny. My girlfriend at the time was the one who scored us tickets to see Prince and The Revolution at Madison Square Garden and it was a pretty great show, even if we were in the last row in the nosebleed seats and could only see Prince through a pair of binoculars.

For the past several years, Radio Riddler--Brian Fast Leiser and Frank Benbini of Fun Lovin' Criminals--have been creating reggae and dub mixes of songs by many of their favorite artists (such as Marvin Gaye). This has led them to take on a reported five-year project in celebration of Purple Rain. (I wonder how Prince feels about Radio Riddler's logo, which appropriates Warner Brothers' logo. He had an ugly and long-running battle with WB, which was just recently resolved...) Timed to celebrate the 30th anniversary (!) of the release of Purple Rain, Radio Riddler's Purple Reggae, featuring guest vocals by Suggs (Madness), Sinead O'Connor, Ali Campbell (ex-UB40), Citizen Cope, Deborah Bonham (sister of the Led Zeppelin drummer), and Beverley Knight (a hugely popular soul/r and b singer in the UK, who has an MBE in recognition of all of her charity work), is an ambitious, ingenious, and throughly enjoyable tribute this classic album.

The most successful realization of this effort may be Radio Riddler's incredible version of "Let's Go Crazy" with Suggs on vocals--his relaxed, assured, and upbeat delivery is the perfect counterpoint to the amped up music and propulsive riddim he's riding. It's always been my favorite track on Purple Rain (I've always thought of it as a "1999, Part II" with its "enjoy yourself, it's later than you think" attitude about our mortality, coupled with the subliminal Cold War-era dread of living with the pretty high possibility of nuclear war--the air raid siren at the beginning and end of Radio Riddler's mix reinforces what was then a very real threat, as does the Pac Man-like "game over" sound effect when the track fades out...). This version uses many of the same elements of the original--Prince's unique, processed electronic drum sound, which is used throughout this album, and the song's emphasis on the repeated organ line--but everything's been revamped with a bouncy and extremely catchy reggae skank and it works exceedingly well. (I'd almost recommend you buy this album on this track alone, but that would give short-shrift to all the amazing songs that follow...)

"Take Me With U" moves into loping reggae/soul territory with Deborah Bonham's impassioned singing (it's no longer a duet, as it was between Prince and Apollonia) and this arrangement sheds some of the original's tightly-wound urgency, but in turn adds more emotional depth and impact. In contrast, "The Beautiful Ones'" tempo is sped up here, giving Prince's mostly breezy, delicate ballad (with Benbini singing falsetto) a bit of worried urgency over whether she'll choose the other guy over The Kid that the source lacks (until the end, of course, when Prince freaks out). Radio Riddler manage to translate the electro-funk of "Computer Blue" into a great horn-driven ska track (with a killer reggae break in the middle, featuring trombone and melodica). Back in the day, I remember thinking that "Darling Nikki" was a ridiculously indulgent (and kind of embarrassing) track (and it still is), marring Prince's otherwise extraordinary album. At least Radio Riddler's cooly seductive dancehall-ish version--with Benbini at the mic--is a much more pleasant/less skanky experience.

While Prince and The Revolution's mega-hit "When Doves Cry" is a spare drums/keyboard track with no bass line (that endows it with a tension and claustrophobic feeling that reflects the pain and desperate sorrow in the lyrics--as well as a distinctive sound that was unlike anything on the radio at the time), Radio Riddler sneak the bass back in under the bubbling keys (after all, how can you have reggae without the bass?!). And their inventive arrangement (it opens with a marimba and accordion covering the keyboard riff from the original) along with Citizen Cope's wounded singing are completely stellar. Given Sinead O'Connor's past association with Prince (she had an enormous hit in 1990 with the Prince composition "Nothing Compares 2 U") and her well-known love of reggae (in 2005, she recorded the superb Throw Down Your Arms, where she covered roots reggae cuts by Burning Spear, Junior Byles, Peter Tosh, Bob Marley, Lee Perry, The Abyssinians, and others, backed by Sly and Robbie), it's brilliant that Radio Riddler were able to feature her on this recording. It's even more fantastic that O'Connor sings "I Would Die 4 U" (where Prince, um, strives to be like/assumes the qualities of the son of God and pledges to sacrifice himself in order to redeem his lover), given her deep religious beliefs and that fact that she's an ordained priest in the Catholic Latin Tridentine Church. She serves up a restrained, but very moving performance, as if she's already carrying the sins of the world on her shoulders and knows what will have to be done to save us.

The slow, but strutting funky-reggae arrangement of "Baby, I'm a Star" provides Beverly Knight the space to show off her gorgeous voice and considerable talent--and so effectively convey the mighty swagger of the lyrics that she gives Prince a run for his money. She owns this. Purple Reggae is capped off by an awesomely melancholic, but defiantly joyful rendition of "Purple Rain" sung by the unmistakable Ali Campbell. If you played this track for someone who didn't know what it was, they'd swear it was a long-lost UB40 cut from the 80s, when they were in their prime.

Radio Riddler's Purple Reggae is a superb (and fun!) re-imagining of this classic record, one that is faithful to the spirit and sound of the original, while successfully transforming these songs into dynamic, new reggae cuts. If you're a fan of reggae and of Prince, Purple Reggae is a must!

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Duff Review: The Bluebeaters "Toxic (One Drop Version)" b/w "Catch That Teardrop"

Record Kicks
7" vinyl single
(Available through Jump Up in the USA)

While I can honestly say I hadn't knowingly heard any version of Britney Spears' 2003 hit "Toxic" until dropping the needle on The Bluebeaters' 7" single containing their wickedly fierce cover of it, I've got to admit that the original is a truly great pop song--I've just watched the borderline NSFW "Toxic" video for the first time tonight...and now feel dirty! (My only excuse for being this out of touch was that 2003 was a particularly tough and weird year for me.) A well-constructed, catchy pop song should lend itself to being interpreted--and still sound great--in whatever musical genre you like (apparently "Toxic" has been covered by many bands of various musical stripes--including Hard-Fi, who mash it up nicely with The Clash's version of Vince Taylor's "Brand New Cadillac") and The Bluebeaters' vintage ska stomp of "Toxic" is nothing short of stellar.

The flip side, "Catch That Teardrop"--and I only know this from reading about it on Record Kick's site--is a Northern Soul track, originally recorded in 1962 by The Five Royales from Winston-Salem, NC. And The Bluebeaters deliver another fantastic Skatalites-like cover with it (and certainly know how to pick great original tunes to play, both famous and obscure).

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Here are the lyrics to the chorus of "Toxic" that you'll find yourself singing days from now (get your falsetto in shape!)...

"With a taste of your lips
I’m on a ride
You're toxic, I'm slipping under
With a taste of a poison paradise
I’m addicted to you
Don’t you know that you’re toxic?
And I love what you do
Don’t you know that you’re toxic?"

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Life's Little Victories: Record Collecting Edition #4

Editor's note: Forgive me, but this post is a little heavy on nostalgia and my own personal history. Read ahead at your own risk...

I have to admit that every once in a while, when I first slide out a newly purchased used record from its sleeve, I secretly hope that the record's previous owner accidentally left some weird and wonderful surprise in it--like clippings of reviews of the album or some band-related memorabilia--in addition to the original lyric sheet (which is always appreciated). In the past year or so, I've bought used LPs that contained someone's typed (on a typewriter!) and annotated lyrics for The Equators' Hot, as well as the free single that came along with the first pressing of XTC's Drums and Wires that was now in my hands.

Last week, I picked up a somewhat tattered, cut-out copy of The Untouchables' Agent Double OO Soul LP. I had bought the CD at Tower Records when the album was originally released in 1988, but never purchased the LP (I was in college, didn't have much extra money, and CDs were the special new format!). When I got around to playing the album the other day, not only did I find the vinyl to be in mint condition, but the sleeve also contained an Agent Double OO Soul comic book (which includes the songs' lyrics) and the very same promo poster that I had ordered back in 1988, which I eventually hung framed on the wall of the Moon Records store on East 10th Street (see it in the photo below). At some point in the mid-2000s, the poster was ruined--along with many other ska posters and t-shirts I had collected over the years--in a massive flood in my parents' basement. Water seeped into many of my Rubbermaid storage bins that I had been keeping there. By the time I realized what had happened a month or two later, everything was damp, rank, and moldy. I was forced to throw out bag after bag of ska history. So, I was thrilled to have another copy come into my hands all these years later.

My favorite musician Laurel Aitken at the Moon store on 10th Street
with The Untouchables poster on the wall in the background.
Coming across this record reminded me that I had written a review of Agent Double OO Soul for my Fordham University, College at Lincoln Center newspaper that was paired with my write-up for Moon Records' Ska Face: An All American Ska Compilation (see a screen grab of both reviews below from the 2/22/89 edition of the CLC Observer; you can also find my review of the NY Citizens' On the Move in the 3/23/89 issue). Even though there weren't that many ska fans at my college, The Untouchables were a familiar name to many, as they opened for UB40 at a concert at Fordham's Bronx campus in the fall of 1985 (unfortunately, I did my freshman fall semester at a college out in Ohio before transferring to Fordham in winter of 1986, so I missed this performance).

While my review of Agent Double 00 Soul might have been a bit overly positive and enthusiastic, it certainly wasn't the bomb that many deemed it to be. Like Fishbone's extraordinary Truth and Soul (which was released around the same time), Agent Double 00 Soul is poorly sequenced, burying all of the ska and reggae tracks on side two, many of which happen to be the strongest songs on the album (see "World Gone Crazy," "Cold City," "Shama Lama," "Cool Boy," "Education," and "Sudden Attack"). But, all in all, on Agent Double 00 Soul, The Untouchables had strayed too far from their brilliant and perfectly calibrated balance of Wild Child ska, soul, and r and b.

The UT's comic book!
When what may have been the last NYC Untouchables' date was announced for late April of 1989 at Joey Ramone's basement Downtown club (at the corner of Bond and Broadway), my friend and fellow ska fan Andy was reluctant to see the show, since he'd heard bad things about the record from some of his other friends. But once we were there, he was all in, as The Untouchables unleashed one of most brilliant and energetic live performances I've ever seen (Black Rock Coaltion funk-metal rockers 24-7 Spyz were also on the bill and were extraordinarily good). Much of the set was comprised of cuts from Wild Child, as well as the better ska/reggae songs off Agent OO Soul, but even some of their shakier tracks from Soul sounded pretty awesome in their live versions.

Walking in the rain back up Broadway toward Union Square after the gig (we were already soaked from dancing to the UTs), Andy and I passed a construction site across the street from The Cat Club (where Moon Records' NYC Ska Live would be recorded about a year later) that had a huge, many-layered section of wheat-pasted gig posters that was starting to separate from the plywood wall in the downpour. The Untouchables' poster for their Downtown gig was on the top layer, so we liberated what must of been a three feet wide by eight feet tall section of them (with countless other posters beneath them) and somehow got it back the apartment I shared with four other Fordham students up at 125th and Broadway (where my tiny bedroom was at eye level with the elevated number 1 subway train). This giant, sagging strip of posters was propped up against one wall in my room for the rest of the semester, but ended up in the garbage when our lease was up that summer. I was moving into my first post-college apartment with a bunch of friends and my girlfriend (now wife) and this large, dirty, and unwieldy bit of music ephemera had to go; we just didn't have the space.

My Untouchables shirt that I bought at their gig at Downtown in Manhattan on 4/29/89.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Life's Little Victories: Record Collecting Edition #3

Back in the early 80s, WLIR--the modern rock/new wave/post-punk station on Long Island that broadcast to the New York City metro area (and which brought a host of truly amazing and much needed music into my drab and unhappy adolescent life)--played a fair amount of angular, white-boy, post-punk funk from bands like APB, Gang of Four, Heaven 17, early Ministry, and many others dabbled in this style, from The Clash, the Talking Heads, to Duran Duran. And since new wave served as an umbrella for a host of non-pop-mainstream genres (and there was much more of a willingness for bands to venture into other genres then), I was exposed to--and loved--a lot of different types of music and bands.

Recently, several decades later, I found myself flipping through the bins at one of my favorite used record stores and came across The Higsons' "Run Me Down" 7" single on 2 Tone Records. I'd picked up their (non-ska) "Tear The Whole Thing Down" single a few months ago (their only other release on 2 Tone) and liked it enough--but not so much that it compelled me to immediately buy "Run Me Down" (it was in mint condition, but priced significantly higher than most of their other used singles--though not outrageously so). Plus, I'm not obsessed with acquiring every single 2 Tone release in all of their iterations...

However, later that day I looked up "Run Me Down" on YouTube and upon hearing it instantly recognized it as one of those post-punk funk songs that WLIR played the hell out of (though I never knew the name of the band that performed it, since the DJs didn't always announce the songs they played). It's track that I really liked then and one that now is very much a new wave classic (at least in the NYC area for a people of a certain age!). So, the next day, during my lunch break, I rushed over to the record shop and was relieved to find that no one had snapped it up (according to Discogs, the 7" single of this release is very hard to find, though the 12" version is still to be had).

"Run Me Down" is a brilliant rejection/put me out of my misery song--something I could relate to back then--but one with wry humor, a great groove, and you have to love the female backup singers' work here (listen to the song below)!

"You came around the corner in your big black car
and the lights danced on the windscreen
Blind behind your huge dark glasses
You slipped a smile that could have killed a cat

You said to me you should have run me down
I had to agree, I had to agree
'Cause we've been through hell to be standing here
On this dusty road with a burnt out future

It all began in that car of yours
It wasn't me you were making love to
You're squeezing me and still you smile
But a good assassination should be silent

I don't want you and you don't want me
So, why hang on to something that's dying?

I think it's sick the way you talk to your car
You won't ever talk to me
(You should have run me down)
The roads are littered with your accidents
Why won't you let me join them?
(You should have run me down)

I don't want you and you don't want me
So, why hang on to something, something that's dying?

(Come on boys, dump the car)
Set another round up on the bar
(Forget the past, forget the future)
Collapse into a drunken stupor

Run me down, you should have run me down
(You should have run me down)
Run me down, you should have run me down
(You should have run me down)
I wanna see it, I wanna hear it, I wanna live it!
(You should have run me down)
The feel of metal against my flesh
You should have run me down"

Thursday, September 18, 2014

NYC Fall 2014 Ska Calendar #17

The Bodysnatchers at the top of the heap!
Monday, September 22, 2014 @ 7:00 pm

The Far East w/Pears

The Grand Victory
245 Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY

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Saturday, September 20, 2014 @ 5:00 pm

Sweet Lucy, Fortunate Youth, Ease Up, Ground Swell, SensaMotion Band

Knitting Factory Brooklyn
361 Metropolitan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$15 in advance/$17 day of show
All ages

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Monday, September 22, 2014 at 10:00 pm

Dub Champions Festival Opening Night w/Mad Professor and Francois K

18 Little West 12th Street
New York, NY
$10 in advance/$20 at the door

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014 @ 6:00 pm

Dub Champions Festival w/Lee Scratch Perry, Subatomic Sound System

Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

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Friday, September 26, 2014 @ 9:00 pm

Dub Champions Festival w/Victor Rice (mixing Dub Side of the Moon), I Grade Dub, Tsunami Bass, Analog Players Society, Liondub, Jr. Volcano and more!

The Paper Box
17 Meadow Street
Brooklyn, NY
$17 in advance/$20 day of show

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Friday, September 26, 2014 @ 9:00 pm

Reggae in the Slope w/Brooklyn Attractors and Kevin Batchelor, and Channel One Sound featuring Crucial Selector Shalar

Under the Tea Lounge
837-839 Union Street
Brooklyn, NY

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Saturday, September 27, 2014 @ 8:00 pm

Outlaw Ritual, Radio Jarocho, Skarroneros, The Church Committee, and Consumata

Black Bear Bar
70 North 6th Street
Brooklyn, NY

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Monday, October 13, 2014 @ 8:30 pm

Hollie Cook, Rioux, Brittany Campbell

289 Kent Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$10 in advance/$12 day of show

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Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 @ 7:00 pm

Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra

Irving Plaza
17 Irving Place
Manhattan, NY

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Friday, October 24, 2014 @ 10:30 pm

The Scofflaws

Beau's Bar
54 Broadway
Greenlawn, NY

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

3rd Annual Devils Night w/Mephiskapheles, The Toasters, No Redeeming Social Value, and The Ladrones

Mercury Lounge
217 East Houston Street
Manhattan, NY
Tickets: $23.85 (through this link)

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Friday, December 5, 2014 @ 9:30 pm

Beat Brigade, Rude Boy George and special guest!

Otto's Shrunken Head
538 East 14th Street
Manhattan, NY
No cover/21+

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Friday, December 19, 2014

The Scofflaws

89 North
89 North Ocean Avenue
Patchogue, NY

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Saturday, December 20, 2014 @ 8:00 pm

The Slackers, Mephiskapheles
149 7th Street
The Bell House
Brooklyn, NY

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Life's Little Victories: Record Collecting Edition #2

After re-reading sections of Paul "Willo" Williams' essential "You're Wondering Now: The Specials from Conception to Reunion" this past August while on holiday, I came across a passage about Specials' drummer John Bradbury's short-lived label Race Records that he ran with Sean Carasov, who was the manager for the all female punk band the Mo-dettes, as well as a roadie and merch guy for The Specials. One of the acts on Race Records that caught my attention was The People, which featured ex-Selecter members Charlie Anderson and Desmond Brown, who had left The Selecter before the recording of Celebrate the Bullet (according to a 2009 interview with Marco on the Bass, Anderson "didn't think it was the right direction for the band"), as well as Chris Christie, who had been in the Coventry reggae band Hard Top 22 in 1977 with Anderson and Brown (along with several other members of The Selecter), and John Hobley from another Coventry band, God's Toys. The People's sole release was a 1981 single: "Musical Man" b/w "Sons and Daughters."

I was intrigued, so I looked up the A side "Musical Man" on YouTube and really liked its reggae/rock sound, which--ironically--wouldn't have been out of place on The Selecter's Celebrate the Bullet--compare the (slightly psychedelic) reggae of "Musical Man" with "Selling Out Your Future." So, I decided to try to track a copy of the single down on the internet. As luck would have it, I was able to purchase a near mint copy of the single for not too terrible a price and am psyched to have this somewhat rare release in my collection.

In addition to the fantastic songs, what makes The People's single particularly compelling is that it's clearly a 2 Tone affair (even if The People's sound isn't). Specials' engineer/producer Dave Jordan produced it (and according to Anderson, Lynval Golding was also involved, though he is uncredited on the release), John "Teflon" Sims designed the artwork (and the illustration on the back of The People's single--the A side is a tribute to Rico--is reprised and further developed for Rico and The Special AKA's "Jungle Music" single picture sleeve, which was issued in 1982), and it was released on Bradbury's imprint (he had set it up as a "musicians' label," according to Paul Williams, lending each band the money to record their music, recouping his loan on sales, and if the release went bust, he forgave the band's debt).

As previously mentioned, "Musical Man" was dedicated to Rico and his musical brilliance and perseverance:

"Musical man
Keeps on blowing down
Got to let it flow
All the time

Some will criticize him
Some will judge him bad
It's the music, the music, the music
Keeps him going

Breaking apart
Right from the start
What keeps him going
I don't know

Musical man
Musical man
Musical man
Keeps on blowing down
All the time"

"Sons and Daughters" is terrific, hard-hitting, socially conscious track (with a bass line reminiscent of The Police's "The Bed's Too Big Without You") and very much in the 2 Tone vein of speaking out about socio-economic and racial injustice:

"I think about my sons and daughters
I start to think about their future
Why they make it just hating
down here?

Some are at the bottom
and some are at the top
Beating the system
With a holy load of mockery

We love our sons and daughters
We're thinking about their future
We love our sons and daughters
And we're thinking about their future

My woman and I we quarrel
For reasons we know why
Weeks and weeks of misery
Can't live our lives on the dole

But we've got to carry on
Yes, we've got to laugh it off
We love our sons and daughters
And we're thinking about their future"

From the vantage point of several decades on, I find both of these track to be pretty great and am somewhat puzzled as to why this release didn't fare better. Certainly, fans of UB40 would have found much to like in The People's sound. But the close association with The Selecter and 2 Tone must have put fans of both off when they discovered that The People didn't deliver a Specials/Selecter-like ska sound. It's a shame that The People didn't forge on--despite the changing UK pop tastes at the beginning of the 1980s--they had a very good thing going...

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