Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Show #133 April 25, 2015

Giddy up Lorraine!

Lorraine- Bad Manners Lorraine 
Wrong Side Of 25- The Connection Let It Rock 
No. 1 Boy- The Rezillos Zero 
It's Alright, It's OK- Hawks Hawks 
Just Listen- Adam Schmitt Illiterature 
^It Must Be Love- Madness The Business 
Lovers- The Runaways The Runaways 
The October Paradigm- The Effection Soundtrack To A Moment 
*Stupid Marriage- The Specials The Specials 
*Missing Words- The Selecter Missing Words 
*Ranking Full Stop- English Beat Ranking Full Stop
*Easy Life- The Bodysnatchers Dance Craze 
Rainbow Quartz- The Grip Weeds How I Won The War 
I Love You Better- David Grahame Yellow Pills Vol 4 The Best of American Pop! 
Girlfriend- The Leftovers Eager to Please 
**Yes Yes Yes- The Ska-Dows Yes Yes Yes 
**Ska Trekkin'- The Tigers Ska Trekkin' 
**Smart Boy- The Akrylykz Smart Boy 
I Love A Mystery- Hoodoo Gurus Gravy Train 
Make Believe- Lisa Mychols Above, Beyond and In Between 
Hook, Line And Sink Her- Just Boys Hook, Line And Sink Her 
***Rudie Can't Fail- The Clash London Calling
***Romance- The Members 1980- The Choice Is Yours 
***Tom Hark- The Piranhas Play Kwela 
Weather Advisory- Legendary Wings Do You See 
Do Ya, Do Ya, Do Ya- The Yum Yums ...Play Good Music 
Skinhead Love Affair [as Buster's All Stars]- Bad Manners Christmas Time Again 
>My Boy Lollipop- Millie Small My Boy Lollipop 
Twist and Crawl- English Beat Keep the Beat - Very Best of 
Doesn’t Make It Alright- The Specials The Specials 

^Power Pop Peak:  #33 Billboard Hot 100 8/20/83

*SacroSet 1:  2 Tone Records
**SacroSet 2:  Lesser Known UK Ska Bands
***SacroSet 3:  Punk Bands Go Ska

>Power Pop Prototype:  1964

One the great things about being a music fan in the late 70's and early 80's is that there were always great new records to listen to.  Punk Rock, Power Pop, Boston Rock, Paisley Underground, Jangle Pop, New Wave, Post Punk, Hardcore- every time Cousin Rich and I came off the escalator at the Harvard Coop there was some new treasure to discover.  And there were no geographic limitations- we'd buy records from bands all across the USA, from England, Ireland and Scotland as well by groups from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, France and more.  There was one consistent element to all this music, however:  it was 100% white. 

Of course I never thought about it back then, but in 1980 don't think I owned one record by a black artist.  I didn't get into Hendrix and Funkadelic until college and the Bad Brains were still a few years away.  That all changed when I bought The Specials first album.  In a rare event, it was not Cousin Rich who hipped me to the band but my friend Ted.  He and I were in the same homeroom in Intermediate School (what they called Jr. High in Duxbury) and I thought he was hilarious but in high school home room I was grouped alphabetically with the "L's" while he was with the "M's" so we lost touch.  

A few years later I heard that Ted and his group of friends were all into the same music as Cousin Rich and I. Thanks to his job at the Chart House restaurant, Ted had money to buy records and, something I'd never thought of before, cool clothes, sunglasses, etc.  He wore this blue jacket with these patches on it of bands called The Specials, The English Beat and Madness.  I didn't know those groups but I thought the graphics were cool.  How can you not love the references to early 60's Madmen-era magazine advertising.  I bought The Specials album along with The Beat's I Just Can't Stop It and was blown away by both records.  What I learned was that this music was called "Ska," and is now known as "2nd Wave" or "2 Tone Ska" (after The Specials' record label).  This music had some of the same social messages as punk rock but was upbeat and fun.  Songs about racism, poverty and the working class with a catchy, catchy beat!  What's more, my record collection had just broken the color barrier- though at the time I was barely aware of this fact.  

2 Tone Ska didn't last long but for a few years was a huge phenomenon in England.  Along with the 2 Tone bands I played tonight there's Madness, the most successful 2nd Wave group, and Bad Manners along with a goodly number of also-rans/bandwagon jumpers.  My favorite in the latter category is The Tigers.  Not only did they put out novelty song "Ska
To boldly go....
Trekkin'" about the TV show Star Trek, the group is made up of members of prog rock dinosaurs Van Der Graaf Generator!  How did that come together?  "Hey guys, put down the keytars and let's come back to the 27 minute prog opus about Ozymandias we've been working on for the last 18 months...right now it's time to giddyup! giddyup! giddyup!"  Bands like The Clash and The Members were also influenced by Ska yet their songs are nowhere near as hilarious as "Ska Trekkin'."

RIP 2 Tone Ska 1979-1982
2nd Wave Ska's relatively short lifespan, arguably from 1979 to 1982 or so, can't be blamed solely on fickle music tastes.  On their second records many of the bands started experimenting with different sounds that to my ears weren't as interesting.  A lot of the songs on More Specials sound kind of like Muzak to me and while I like The Beat's Wha'pen in, my opinion it's not nearly as good as their first record.  Madness became more of an R and B/pop group as well.  It seems like most 2nd Wave bands wanted to move beyond the core Ska sound as soon as possible.  This is interesting to me because it dovetails with what happened with the music the first time around.

It wasn't until the mid-80's that I found out out about Ska's first wave in early-60's Jamaica.  (Give me a break- this was before the Internet.)  The film Legends of Ska from this year's Sonoma International Film Festival is all about that era.  It's clear to see how much of an influence this music had on 2 Tone Ska- The Specials' "Gangsters" is a re-working of the 1964 song "Al Capone" by Prince Buster, whose song "Madness" is where the 2nd Wave group got their name.  Bad Manners' "My Girl Lollipop" is a cover of tonight's Power Pop Prototype "My Boy Lollipop" by Millie Small, which was the first international Ska hit in 1964.  Even the 2 Tone Logo is an homage to Peter Tosh on the cover of The Wailers 1965 debut:

Bunny Wailer, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh

Timeless Cool
Some might quibble that the logo has a white face, but 2 Tone founder Jerry Dammers is a white guy and there is no denying his deep love for Jamaican Ska.  He reignited interest in Jamaican artists like Prince Buster, Derrick Morgan and The Skatalites that continues to this day.
Early 1960's Mutt and Jeff Sound System
Jamaican Ska was birthed by market forces.  Sound Systems (huge mobile DJ parties with beer and barbecue for sale, like a rave with better music) were in heavy competition to play the latest R and B records from the U.S. (Check out Fats Domino's 1959 hit "Be My Guest" for an early influence on the Ska rhythm).  When this music started drying up (The Shirelles and The Everly Brothers apparently failing to meet Jamaican rump shaking standards), Sound System operators, like the aforementioned Prince Buster, started making their own records and Ska was born.  After only a few years though, Jamaican Ska gave way to rocksteady and reggae.  Here's my interview with Brad Klein, director of Legends of Ska:

While the 1st Wave of Ska was mostly black Jamaican guys and the 2nd Wave was racially mixed Brits, including women like Pauline Black of The Selecter and all-female group The Bodysnatchers, 3rd Wave Ska consisted mostly of white dudes, a lot of whom came out of the punk rock scene.  
Less Than Reel Big Goldfish
With little of the musical innovation of 2 Tone Ska and almost none of its social consciousness, 3rd Wave Ska is one of my least favorite kinds of music- right up there with Jacuzzi Jazz. 
To me it's essentially white frat boy party music with horns.  I used to joke that God invented Ska so trumpet players could get laid.  Of course 3rd Wave Ska ended up being the most commercially successful iteration and was a big deal in the mid-1990's.  During those years when my band V.O.I.D. was playing there would always be at least one Ska band on the bill- it got to the point where even seeing a trombone backstage would fill my mouth with bile.  Years later, when I heard Po the Kung Fu Panda's catch phrase, before I knew the correct spelling, I thought "that's a little random, but I couldn't agree more- SKA DOUCHE!"

I'm past all that now and while I still change stations every time Sublime comes on the radio, I will always appreciate the artistry, genius and personal cultural awakening I experienced through 2 Tone Ska.

Download this show below (click to stream or to download, right click and "Save Link As")

No comments:

Post a Comment