Friday, May 30, 2008

Man In The Street - The Hooters Take The Skatalites To The People

I grew up in Central New Jersey and went to college at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. It was equidistant to both New York and Philadelphia from where I lived. Though I was always drawn to New York for concerts and records, there were some interesting things going on ska wise in Philly in the early 80's. Through word of mouth I heard about The Hooters. I liked their first independent album Amore which has a ska/reggae feel. After getting signed they re-recorded many of the ska sounding songs as rock songs and went on to MTV fame and fortune. I lost interest.

Believe it or not, when the Hooters started out in the early 80’s they could have been described as a ska band(including melodica on many of their tunes, hence the band name Hooters). Their very first recording, a demo that got a lot of airplay on WMMR in Philadelphia in 1980 (where they were a popular local band) was a version of Don Drummond’s ‘Man In The Street’. It was 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 cover version of what has become one of my favorite Don Drummond/Skatalites songs.

Once again it is interesting to see the way ska and reggae has really influenced and changed the sound of so many bands. Too bad that The Hooters didn't stick with the sound. I think they could have been the US version of The Police.

Below is a live version of The Hooters performing "Man In The Street". The band has taken Drummond's classic trombone melody and turned it into a great guitar riff. To all you skeptics shaking your heads take my word and give it a listen. Its really good.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Fishbone Documentary: Everyday Sunshine

Last night I happened to watch this awesome documentary about The Ramones. As I watched I was thinking to myself, what other great American band mirrors The Ramones in so many ways? (childhood friends who start a band, blow up big, conquer the musical world, influence a generation of other bands, fight with one another, lose members, replace members, continue to carry on etc).

I don't even know what to say that hasn't already been said about Fishbone. Hands down one of the best live bands I have ever seen. I remember hearing their first record being played inside Tower Records in NYC around 1985 when it first came out. I was a ska freak even back then and when I heard "Party At Ground Zero" blowing through the store's speakers I ran over to the counter and asked the clerk what was on the turntable. When he told me "Why Fishbone of course!" I bought the LP on the spot. They've been a favorite band ever since.

Well imagine my surprise at learning a documentary about Fishbone is in the works. About time really. In my mind its long overdue. Here is the documentary description: From the shifting faultlines of Hollywood fantasies and the economic and racial tensions of Reagan's America, Fishbone rose and became one of the most original bands of the last 25 years. With a blistering combination of punk and funk they demolished the walls of genre and challenged the racial stereotypes and the political order of the music industry and of the nation. Party At Ground Zero is about music, history, fear, courage and funking on the one. Everyday Sunshine traces the band’s past and present, while providing a comprehensive view of the historical and cultural forces that gave rise to a legendary Black Punk Rock, Funk, Ska, Metal, Reggae, and R&B band from Los Angeles that continues to defy conventional categories and expectations.

I like the description of the documentary. I know I will go see it when it comes out next year. Despite the rock, funk and metal, I will always think of Fishbone as a ska band, I believ at their very core and despite their forays into metal, funk, rock, etc, ska is the lifeblood of the band.

Below are two clips from the documentary.

Sunless Saturday

Cheyenne Star Forever Moore

2-Tone Archive - Toni Tye's Photos Capture The Scene in B/W

Every key music scene has photographers and photos that capture it's true essence and flavor. Between February and May 1980 Toni Tye took some iconic photographs of the current 2 Tone ska scene, including the bands and their devoted fans, but then they were lost! Luckily for everyone she was able to revive some shots from rough prints and they are now available.

In 1980 while living in The Midlands, Toni Tye was invited to shoot stills (for a proposed book on 2 Tone) at the rehearsals and the gigs being filmed for the film ‘Dance Craze”. She focused mainly on the unique scene, the kids, the skins, the fashions and the bands backstage. The Body Snatchers, The Selecter, Madness & Bad Manners were shot variously on location at Hemel Hempstead, Lewisham Odeon, Electric Ballroom, Wembley, Coventry, Aylesbury, Sunderland and Shepperton between February 28th-May 3rd 1980.

Many believe that Toni Tye's photos of the 2-Tone bands and their fans from that iconic time are the definitive illustration of an era in UK music history. In fact Tye's photos have been exhibited across the UK. Most recently in 2006 and again in 2007 as part of celebrations around the founding of 2-Tone in Coventry and Skinhead Culture in the UK.

Here is an interview with Tye from Blow-Ups, a site that has turned some of her photos into very cool t-shirts:

Who approached you in the first instance to join the tour?
I was introduced to the director Joe Massot by an old friend, Robin Hogarth, who liked my documentary portrait style. He suggested I come along on their shoots for ‘Dance Craze’ & do my thing with the idea we would produce a book of images to go with the film.

How did your approach differ from the other photographers on the 2 Tone tour?
The film crew were shooting the bands’ on stage performances & I mainly turned the camera on the fans...the nutty scene; the fashions, tattoos, skanking….With an all areas pass I also shot backstage/dressing rooms, quieter moments with bands & roadies...I really had no idea who was who.

Do you have a personal favourite image?
Mirror image of Rhoda Daker of Body Snatchers

How did you manage to lose the originals!?
I went to the West Indies for 2 months & left all my negatives & transparencies (dumb) & my choice of prints with the production team to use for publicity & start their work of selection for our book. On return I found the film had premiered (in haste as the scene was moving on) & a very basic fanzine of my pics had been produced. No one could tell me where my originals had gone... supposedly lost at the printers! (right). No royalties paid... I just had a box of my small rough prints left from which all my archive work has been generated.

Which band member was the least camera shy?
Madness collectively posed on every sight of the camera!

Do you have images that didn’t make the final cut?

Alas…hundreds…all lost

What was the atmosphere like backstage between the various bands?
Well, front of stage you’d find bands dancing to each other's sets along with the fans

How would you describe the fans at the gigs?
Mainly very young… school kids at the afternoon gigs with all the gear on…really relating to the speedy energy & the lyrics. Then there were the Skins…mostly cool….some heavy energy & classic fights at later gigs.

Did you dance at the gigs?
Certainly! Who could stand still….

What made the scene unique in your opinion?
This was/is street music….seemed like fans & bands, black & white were in it together.

Are there any current bands or youth movements you would be interested in photographing?
Idea to shoot ‘Women in Ska’….where are they?

Here are just a few of the fantastic pictures on the site. They are available for sale on Toni's site. A great gift idea for the Rude Boy or Girl in your life.

Charlie from The Selecter signs autographs for kids

Coventry kid with Selecter album

Rhoda from The Bodysnatchers

Sara Jane from The Bodysnatchers

Buster Shaving

Fans at a show

Selecter Interview

Monday, May 26, 2008

Neol Davies - The Selecter

I've been meaning to post about The Selecter for some time now and Neol Davies in particular. I have a very soft spot in my heart for him and for Pauline Black. The first real tour my band ever did was during the summer of 1991 with The Selecter when they re-formed for a one-off tour to play shows in the U.S. They were both very kind to us and Pauline remembered us recently when I saw her last summer. I'll post more about Pauline at another time.

Neol Davies was a massive mover in the 2-Tone movement as the lead guitarist and songwriter for The Selecter. If Jerry Dammers was the President of 2-Tone then it was surely Neol who took the vice-presidency. While The Specials were busy experimenting with irony, it was The Selecter who really drove home the message of unity with Neol’s hard-hitting compositions. Songs like On My Radio, Three-Minute Hero and Too Much Pressure will always be rightly linked to him but there’s a whole lot more to Mr Davies than just The Selecter. Pre-Selecter days saw him playing in bands like the bluesy Cat’s Grave, Mead, Chapter Five and the seminal Transposed Men. His post-Selecter days gave him the chance to champion his love for the blues once more with The Box Of Blues, a project that included Horace Panter & Anthony Hearty.

I've always been very interested in how all the 2-Tone bands got started. It turns out that many members of The Specials and The Selecter travelled in the same circles in mid-70's Coventry and were in bands together. One that was key to the birth of The Selecter was the Transposed Men. The line up consisted of Neol Davis, John Bradbury (before he defected to the Specials) Kevin Harrison, Desmond Brown (later in Selecter) and Steve Wayne. Kevin Harrison has added an early rehearsal sudio recording to his personal history site of On My Radio. This is just a rehearsal tape but shows the song in development with some different musicians before Selecter was born a little while later.

On My Radio - Transposed Men

Neol's musical career has continued evolving. Below is a live performance of the Skatalites classic "Ali Pang" re-arranged and performed by Neol and his 8 piece instrumental ska band in 1995. Apparently this is the only video recording of the band that exists though there is an unreleased album. Now he is best known for his band Box Of Blues which features Horace Panter on bass. For more information on Neol's musical endeavors and a detailed history of his life in and outside The Selecter please visit his great web site.

Exclusive: Interview with Lynval Golding about The Specials Reunion

Last night was a real treat for me and my band mates. We opened a sold out show for The English Beat at the Sellersville Theatre in Sellersville, PA. We've been lucky to play with them 6 times or so over the last 2 years, but there seems to be something extra special about the shows we've played with them at the Sellersville Theatre. The staff at the club are great and treat us so nicely. The people who come out to the show are always so appreciative and kind to us when we play there. I think it may be one of my favorite places to play a show these days.

We arrived around the same time that Dave Wakeling and his band rolled up in their tour bus. Dave walked in and sat down to talk with us and tell us about the current tour which has been going great with sold out performances up and down the East Coast. As we were talking Lynval Golding walked in guitar in hand. I could not believe my good fortune. Not only is Lynval one of my musical heroes, but he is a true gentleman and always willing to talk to fans. He treats everyone with respect and I love that about him. It turned out he had joined Dave for this tour and the band was planning to play a number of Specials songs in the set (they played Message To You Rudie, Do Nothing and Enjoy Yourself).

I had briefly met Lynval before, but I walked over to say hello and while he tuned his guitar, I asked him about The Specials rumored reunion. So here is the scoop and it seems pretty legitimate. It turns out Lynval and Terry Hall are the driving force behind the reunion and that Neville, Horace, Brad and Roddy are all on board. According to Lynval he has rehearsed with Terry, Brad, Horace and Roddy and the songs they have played sound amazing. Unfortunately a lot of the band meetings have included lawyers and managers and that has made it slow going to pull it together. Lynval said that he and most of his band mates recognize that this reunion is for the fans and they all realize that the time is right to do this. Initially they plan to play 12-13 shows around the UK this October and November and based on how the shows go they will discuss booking shows in the US.

In terms of how everyone is getting on, it sounds like Jerry is the major stumbling block here. Lynval mentioned that Jerry has "a lot of baggage" and that while they have told him they want him to be the musical director of the band, he is having trouble accepting that all 7 band members are now on equal footing and its not his band anymore to say what will happen and when. That seems to jive with the recent interview with Jerry I posted here recently where he expressed his concerns that the band was not ready to play out live. Lynval confirmed that the other members are committed to playing together and that the reunion will go forward with or without Jerry.

Further to my informal conversation with Lynval about the reunion here is a interview with him that was recorded in Seattle at the end of April.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

English Beat Live - The Palace Theatre, Hollywood, CA 3/8/83

My band Bigger Thomas is opening for The English Beat tomorrow night at the Sellersville Theatre in Sellersville, PA. Its always a thrill to play with them and I always enjoy getting a chance to talk and hang out with Dave Wakeling and the members of the band (Wayne Lothian on bass, Rythym Epkins on drums and Fernando Jativa on Saxophone). In honor of the show I've posted a great live show by The English Beat from The Palace Theatre in Hollywood, CA from March 8, 1983.

The set list and performance is absolutely brilliant and shows off the band when they were really at the top of their game and on the cusp on breaking big in the US. This bootleg features 23 songs pulling heavily from the first and third albums with three songs from the often overlooked 2nd album "Whappen".

Enjoy and if you happen to near Sellersville, PA tomorrow then be sure to stop by.

The English Beat - The Palace Theatre 3/8/83

Friday, May 23, 2008

Blue Riddim Band - America's First Reggae Band

A few weeks ago I called The Untouchables America's first ska band. In that same vein the Blue Riddim Band were America's first reggae band. I picked up their only LP "Restless Spirit" at the famous Princeton Record Exchange in the mid-80's on a whim and it became a staple on my turntable. They had a minor underground hit with "Nancy Reagan" in the mid-80s and they also recorded a great and very hard-to-find 12" remix of the song featuring Ranking Roger called "Nancy Goes To Moscow."

Never heard of them you say? Well then you are in for a treat. This group of blue eyed, white dudes from Lawrence Kansas have the distinction of being the very first American reggae band to be invited to play at a Reggae Sunsplash concert. Their 1982 set as dawn was rising over the stage is legendary and they earned 2 encores from the crowd of 20,000 Jamaicans who were mesmerized by their "blue eyed reggae." They toured the US non-stop in the mid-80's. Their Sunsplash performace was nominated for a Grammy for best reggae album. Chances are if you were in college at that time and had a penchant for reggae you crossed paths with BRB.

Here is a great read on the band written by Mike Warren in The Pitch in 2002, a Kansas City entertainment newspaper. Unfortunately singer and trumpet player Scott Korchak passed away in September 2007.

Twenty-three years ago, Bob Marley played Hoch Auditorium at the University of Kansas. Local fans knew and loved Marley's music, but their regular exposure to roots-reggae came from the opening act, Pat's Blue Riddim Band, and that group's frequent visits to KC's Parody Hall and Lawrence's Off the Wall Hall. Kansas City's PBR, as it was, and frequently still is, affectionately known, held its own with the king of reggae that night.

Pat's Blue Riddim Band had a reg-gay old time in the 70's. "We were the first guys down the pike -- we had that opportunity," longtime Blue Riddim drummer Steve "Duck" McLane says, warm memories audible in his voice. "What was really cool [in our career] was having a chance to open for Bob Marley, Sly and Robbie, and Black Uhuru. Every night we'd get clobbered by them, but we'd climb up another notch. It was a real chop-builder."

In its earliest incarnations, PBR consisted of friends who graduated from Shawnee Mission East in '67 and '68. "We were born out of that late-'60s Kansas City scene -- the Vanguard, the Aquarius -- places where people were hanging out," McLane says. "We'd all played jazz and R&B together, in all different kinds of aggregations." McLane, who started hearing reggae when he played in New York and south Florida in the early '70s, immediately knew it was something he wanted to do.

"I came back to KC and said, 'We really ought to try to play some reggae music,'" McLane explains. "It was big-time dance music, and we all love dance music, so we started experimenting. By '74, we had something that was workable, a band called Rhythm Funkshun. That band, basically a rhythm section version of what became PBR, broke up because it was a little bit ahead of its time.

"About a year and a half later, we started PBR," McLane continues. "We were playing 10 percent ska, 10 percent calypso, maybe 25 percent straight-up R&B, and the rest of it would be reggae. People were just everywhere, on top of each other, dancing."

During the early '80s, PBR toured nonstop, burning through two vans and 42 of 50 states. "We just had our nose to the grindstone and never stopped," McLane says. "We really should have taken more time out to record, but it was 'dollar a day, give us what you can' and keep moving. When it got to the point where we could actually play it good, we made a record [1981's Restless Spirit]."

PBR made several trips to Jamaica, where it learned from the genre's best practitioners. "Jamaican musicians are really approachable, and we'd hang out with them -- a cultural exchange," McLane explains. Equally accessible were Jamaican DJs. "When I flew down there in late '81, I brought a box of 25 records, and I thought, What the hell. I'll drive them up to [Kingston radio stations] RJR and JBC. While I was driving to JBC, I heard the song come over RJR -- and I just about drove off the road. I thought, I'm driving around Jamaica, and I'm hearing my own music on the radio!"

Six months later, Blue Riddim became the first American band to play Sunsplash in Jamaica. "We were voted co-'Best Band' of the entire festival," McLane says. "It blew me away that we blew them away. I was expecting pineapples and cantaloupes thrown at us. We're playing these old songs, and we're also from America, and we're also white. It's five o'clock in the morning, and they're going, 'What in the ... ?'

"The lyrics from the very first song, "Smile," are It's best to arrive with a smile on your face, and just at that moment, the sun was creaking up over the mountain and shining down onto the field," McLane recalls. "People are getting the sun in their eyes right as they hear these lyrics, and they started screaming and bawling and jumping up and down. All of a sudden you had 20,000 people jumping up and down." That performance, released in 1984 as Alive in Jamaica, earned the band a Grammy nomination.

Twenty years later, the Blue Riddim Band returns home for an encore. Longstanding veterans, including Scott Korchak (vocals, brass), Jack Lightfoot (trumpet), Jeff Porter (vocals, guitar), Jack Blackett (tenor sax), Joe Miquelon (keyboards) and Todd "Bebop" Byrd (bass) will be joined by folks such as Stephanie Cox (trombonist for the Loose Cannon Brass Band -- still another of PBR's permutations). Says McLane, "It's like any band that's been around for this long -- whoever's left standing who wants to show up can play.

"We lost Bob Zohn, a great singer and songwriter from Florida who died several years back, but basically the core of the band exists here in good ol' Kansas City," McLane explains. "It's great, because a lot of SDI [Strategic Dance Initiative] alums have come into the Blue Riddim fold, and we all play together. For this particular show, we'll have a taste of SDI, a taste of New Riddim [a more recent dancehall version of the band], older Blue Riddim, newer Blue Riddim -- whatever we're serving up at that particular time." For old fans -- and new -- it's a chance to get reacquainted with a band that made the Caribbean feel as if it were just next door.

The bands LPs and CDs are all out of print and hard to find. Here are You Tube versions of live performances:

Nancy Reagan Live at Reggae Sunsplash 1982

Live in San Francisco in 1982

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Specials Reunion Appears To Be Back On - Terry Hall

Will they or won't they. According to this story that appeared in Billboard yesterday, The Specials plan to play a few Theatre-sized shows in the UK this fall. This seems to contradict a story I posted a few weeks ago where Jerry Dammers said he wasn't sure this was a go.

Despite what Terry says in this interview I firmly believe they will end up playing larger arenas because of demand for tickets and because they will be offered loads of cash.

Here is the story:

The Specials Eyeing Fall Reunion Shows

May 20, 2008, 3:40 PM ET

Richard Smirke

Manchester, England

Specials leader Terry Hall says he had "five years of reservations" about reforming the famed U.K. band, but that long-held tensions between various members have been resolved and that the group is now getting along well.As such, the original lineup is planning its first shows in more than 25 years for this fall, possibly as early as October."We've been trying to do it for five years, but we solved those problems and hopefully got over them," Hall tells "Seven 50-year-old men together in a room is not very pleasant, no matter who you are. But we're getting on great and that's all you can hope for, really."The Specials had a succession of top 10 U.K. hits from 1979 to 1981 on the seminal 2-Tone label, including No. 1s with "Too Much Too Young" and "Ghost Town." They spilt in 1981 when original members Hall, Neville Staples and Lynval Golding left to form Fun Boy Three."It's weird because we're all living all over the place, so it's difficult arranging to be in the same place at the same time," Hall admits. "We're doing a block of rehearsals in June and then once we've done that, we'll see when we're ready.""We're going to play just the first and second album," he continues. "The first album probably in full and half of the second one. That's all we want to do -- just get together and play the songs once more."At present, the band only intends to play a series of theatre-sized venues in the U.K. "That's the kind of venue where we started," explains Hall. "I don't like arena dates, at all. They're just soulless. The very nature of this band, we shouldn't go and play sit-down theatres. It would just be weird. I think we should carry on where we left off."Hall expressed his delight with how the rehearsals were going, although he did admit that he was sometimes having trouble remembering lyrics."It's feeling surprisingly fresh," he says. "Purely because we haven't really played them for 25 years. I've played a few of those songs live since that point, but there was like an album-and-a-half that I haven't even thought about since 1981. I'm using lots of lyric sheets because I keep on getting words mixed up, although that's also down to old age."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Mikey Dread: A True Reggae Ambassador

Just found these and was so excited I wanted to post them. The first is The Clash with Mikey Dread from a show at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, NJ in 1980 performing "Bankrobber" followed by a rocking version of "Tommy Gun." The second is a video of Mikey fronting UB40 on his track "Roots & Culture" that was recorded in the UK in January 1983 for a BBC Show called "Sight & Sound In Concert"

Mikey who was a star in his own right lent credibility to both The Clash and UB40 and for that he was a true innovator and visionary by helping to expand reggae music far and wide. He was never afraid to mix it up. I consider him a true ambassador of reggae and he deserves all the praise he gets. Its hard to imagine how cutting edge it was for The Clash to invite Mikey on tour and to produce songs on Sandinista.

The Clash w/Mikey Dread - Bankrobber

UB40 w/Mikey Dread - Roots & Culture

Pato Banton - A Video Compilation of his Collaborations

Pato Banton was the original "Pop Idol" (the UK equivalent of American Idol).
In order to satisfy the many requests for toasting challenges, the Beat sponsored a competition to find the best one of them around late 1981 to early 1982. With Ranking Roger as judge, these vocalists battled for the opportunity to record a single on the Go Feet label. Pato Banton rose to become the victor.

Pato Banton (born Patrick Murray) is, like the Beat, also from Birmingham where he had been engaged in the reggae scene for years. It was the single that he recorded for Go Feet that really launched his professional recording career though. Ago Talk brought the toasting of Pato and Roger together to form a very catchy, danceable reggae song backed by the Beat. It may not have charted (the Beat singles were no longer making the charts in the UK at this point), but Ago Talk quickly became a fan favorite. Pato had great success touring along with the Beat for a while. However even when Pato was not with them, the Beat would still receive requests from the audience to hear his song.

Roger and Pato had become good friends and would record together several more times throughout the years as Pato's success continued to grow. In 1985, Roger aided by producing Pato's single Hello Tosh, which went as far as reaching number 3 in the UK independent reggae charts. Two years later, they joined up again to record Pato And Roger Come Again. It would be another 5 years until the two recording together again. Bubbling Hot managed to break into the UK Top 20 in 1992.

Pato has also performed on the hit songs, “Hip-Hop Lyrical Robot” and “King Step” on UB40’s Baggariddim and Little Baggariddim albums, which also featured the chart topping, “I Got You Babe”. He's recorded his own albums and tours the US regularly (we opened for him last summer at The Canal Room in NYC).

Over the years, Pato's success has continued to grow and he has become a big figure in reggae. He has even received a grammy nomination. In 2002 he established the Music Technology School in Birmingham to spread his love for music. Pato Banton is still very much an active force.

Here is a video mix of some of Pato's musical collaborations.

Pato & Roger Ago Talk w/The English Beat

Bubbling Hot w/Ranking Roger

Baby Come Back w/UB40

Hip Hop Lyrical Robot w/UB40

The King Step w/UB40

The Buzz Feeling w/UB40

English Beat Live Via YouTube

One last English Beat post on this grey Sunday in New York. Below is a video set list I pulled together of live versions of songs that you don't get to hear very often and that the current version of the band that is touring don't play in their set. The first song "I Am Your Flag" is more timely than ever and is an album cut from Whappen. "Hit It" was a b-side that the band played live before releasing songs from the "Special Beat Service" LP and "All Out To Get You" is another album cut from Whappen.

I Am Your Flag

Hit It

All Out To Get You

Too Nice To Talk To

General Public Demos's

I have always been an unabashed fan of General Public. I guess alot of it had to do with all the love I had for the English Beat. I only got to see The English Beat once so I fully embraced Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger's breakaway project. I was lucky enough to see one of their first shows in New York at the Ritz before releasing their first record. They all came out in matching green jump suits and played every song on their soon to be released album and even played the song "General Public" twice to pad the set.

I remember haunting Music In A Different Kitchen which was a very cool alternative record shop in New Brunswick during the fall of 1984 waiting for the album. I would go in each week and ask Judy the owner of the store if she had gotten the new General Public album. Invariably she would sigh, roll her eyes at me and say that it had still not arrived. Finally sometime around October or November of that year my query was answered with a big smile as she pulled the album out from behind the counter. I ran back to my dorm with the album and played it non-stop for several days. The sounds of that album still evoke much of my second year at Rutgers University.

I was just excited to find all of the demos and alternated takes from the original songs on the album along with a few b-sides and unreleased tracks on McCrank's Juke which is one of the finest music blogs I have found on the Web. McCrank is one well connected fellow as he has all sorts of amazing finds on his site and he also has a soft spot for The English Beat and General Public. Definitely give it a visit.

As a songwriter I always like to have a peek into the songwriting process of others. With these songs we are given access into the progression of a song from early demo to finished product as well as some of the small experiments the band tried with alternate takes. Pure gold for music geeks.
Mick Jones is given credit for playing guitar on the first GP album though its hard to hear his playing in the mix. These versions give you a better shot at picking out his handiwork if you listen hard.

Here is General Public video performances from YouTube:

General Public - General Public

General Public - Demos & Unreleased

01. General Public (Demo)
02. Tenderness (Demo)
03. Where's The Line? (Demo)
04. Never You Done That (Demo)
05. Hot You're Cool (Demo)
06. Anxious (Demo)
07. Hot You're Cool (Alt. Take)
08. Burning Bright (Unreleased)
09. Where's The Line? (Alt. Take)
10. Day To Day (Demo)
11. Never You Done That (Alt. Take)
12. Where's The Line? (Original Demo)
13. Anxious (Alt. Take)
14. Are You Leading Me On? (Demo)
15. Tenderness (12" Mix)
16. Limited Balance (Unreleased)
17. General Public (Remix)
18. David Jensen (Reprise)
19. General Public (Alt. Take #2)

General Public - Demo's & Unreleased Tracks

English Beat 12" Remixes

We will be opening up for the English Beat at the Sellersville Theatre in Sellersville, PA next Sunday. In honor of this show I am posting a 12" remix collection of English Beat songs I found courtesy of The Beef, The Origial and The Cover.

Of particular interest is "Psychedelic Rockers" which is one of the best songs they recorded that was never played regularly live. The Beat released "Too Nice To Talk To" backed by "Psychedelic Rockers". though neither track appeared on an album but the A side was added to their second album, Wha'ppen, when re-released on CD. The single reached the #7 spot on the U.K. singles chart.

Here is the list of 12-Inch singles that are in the download:

Twist And Crawl
Too Nice To Talk To
Psychedelic Rockers
Rotating Head
Save It For Later
Doors Of Your Heart
I Confess
Tears Of A Clown
Ranking Full Stop

English Beat 12" Collection

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The English Beat & Madness Bring 2-Tone To The Fountain Casino, Aberdeen, NJ circa 1983

Once again I've hit pay dirt in searching for more music and photos from shows I went to see as a very young man. Shows that have defined my musical taste and much of my musical life. Shows that were evocative, powerful and transcendent.

Does anyone remember the Fountain Casino in Aberdeen, NJ? I have vague memories of where it was exactly and what it looked liked. From what I can tell it had its heyday from 1981-1984 when the cream of the crop of popular bands played there as it was an easy stop between New York and Philadelphia. Nevertheless it has served as a touch point for two of the best shows I have ever seen. Strangely they bookended the spring and end of summer of 1983 which was my senior year in high school. In the last 2 days I found pictures from the English Beat show I saw on April 24, 1983 and the live set performed by Madness on August 23, 1983. In between those two shows I spent the entire summer with 3 of my best friends hanging out, working summer jobs and going to concerts. If memory serves we also saw UB40, David Bowie, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, The Police and many others.

However it was the Fountain Casino shows that stand out the most. We even took the necessary precaution of visiting Playland in the heart of Times Square that spring to procure the fakest looking fake IDs ever. They came in handy as the four of us got them from the same fake college (Whitman College I believe). They got us in to the club both times as the drinking age in New Jersey was 19 and we were all 18 or younger.

What stands out about the English Beat show was the pure energy of the band and the almost out of body experience I had watching them. Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger in particular were just amazing as you can see from these pictures and more that are posted by Joe Streno at his website. He was also at the same show. Here are his recollections of the show and these are his photos from the show posted here:

"I almost forgot about this show. Shows what a little digging in my slide archives and a little Internet searching will do. The show was REM opening for The English Beat at Fountain Casino, Aberdeen, NJ in 1983. I saw the slides before me and I knew I was there, I also had some vague recollection that REM ‘might’ have played but all these years later it was a bit foggy.

As I was scanning the first batch of 12 slides, images of Dave Wakeling, check. Images of Ranking Roger, check. Even one of the keyboard player. All well and good. So while these are scanning I’m racking my brain to figure out where this show was at.
I Googled “English Beat shows 1983″ got hits but no real detail. Then I figured I’d try “REM English Beat 1983 NJ.” Bingo! Sometimes you just have to admire how some people out there record every detail of bands they love. The hit came from an REM fan page listing show dates for REM in 1983. REM opening for The English Beat at Fountain Casino, Aberdeen, NJ, April 24, 1983. Amazing!

As far as my memories of the show … I can’t say I have any at his point in time. I know the show was good. I knew of REM at the time I had their first album and liked it. It was cool to see them. But I was there for the English Beat … I must say.
What’s odd to me is after scannig the first 12 slides I put the remaining 8 slides in the holder. And wouldn’t you know it, the last two sldes were of a very young Michael Stipe, singing his heart out.

What I clearly remember is feeling like an adult, as my friends and I were able to get served beer and alcohol and the crowd was much older than the rest of us. It felt like my life was really finally starting. It didn't hurt that I knew every English Beat song by heart and sang and danced my ass off. I also paid very close attention to the band and it has stayed with me. Oh and REM opened the show. I remember they were loud and that Peter Buck leaped around the stage and that Michael Stipe stayed rooted to his mic stand as he flailed around singing and moaning. It was only later when I heard Radio Free Europe on the radio that I put 2 and 2 together and figured out who they were.

Pictures from The English Beat live at the Fountain Casino on April 24, 1983
The other show that really made a lasting impression on me was Madness at the Fountain Casino, NJ on August 23, 1983. Apparently the show was recorded for posterity for the King Biscuit Flower Hour Show and was aired on September 18, 1983. I was lucky enough to find the show posted by jp on his blog what i like (The House of Fun.

The King Biscuit Flower Hour was a syndicated radio show presented by the D.I.R. Radio Network that featured concert performances by various rock ‘n’ roll artists.

The program was broadcast weekly on Sunday nights from 1973 until 2007, although new programming ceased in 1993 and previous shows were repeated from that point. During its prime, the program was carried by more than 300 radio stations throughout the United States. The show’s name was derived from the influential blues radio show “King Biscuit Time”, which was sponsored by the King Biscuit Flour Co., and the hippie phrase “flower power”. The first show was broadcast on February 18, 1973 and featured Blood, Sweat & Tears, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Bruce Springsteen. The long-time host of the show until the mid ‘90s was Bill Minkin, whose velvet-smooth voice was the perfect blend of hipster enthusiasm and stoner casualness.

Some of the biggest names in rock music were featured over the years—Aerosmith, Boston, Chicago, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac, Foreigner, Genesis, Elton John, Journey, John Lennon, the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, James Taylor, U2 and the Who all appeared on the show. The concerts were usually recorded with a mobile recording truck, then mixed and edited for broadcast on the show within a few weeks. In the 1970s, the show was sent to participating radio stations on reel-to-reel tape. In 1980 D.I.R. began using the LP format, producing the show on a three-sided, two record set. The first show on compact disc was a live retrospective of the Rolling Stones broadcast on September 27, 1987. By the year 2000, King Biscuit was using CD-R media to distribute the show. These tapes, records or compact discs were accompanied by a cue sheet which gave the disc jockey a written guideline of the content and length of each segment of the program.

In 1982, a three-alarm fire damaged the Manhattan office tower that housed D.I.R. Broadcasting. Supposedly, many of the King Biscuit Flower Hour recordings were lost in the fire. Although closely associated with classic rock in its recent incarnation, the King Biscuit Flower Hour dedicated much air time to new and emerging artists, including a healthy dose of new wave and modern rock artists in the late ’70s and early ‘80s. Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, the Ramones, Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, Devo, U2, Men At Work, Psychedelic Furs and the Stray Cats were all featured on the program early in their careers.

This show was the funnest show I've ever seen. It had a little bit of everything including a stage invasion at the end that my friends and I participated in. The other memory is that a rock DJ named Pat St. John introduced the band and he was greeted with jeers and boos as he looked like a hippie to the crowd which was predominantly new wave and ska. A chant of "Get A Haircut" chased him off the stage as Madness finally came on. I also had a serious girlfriend at the time and I remember making out with her during My Girl which was our song.

Looking at the set list now its shocking how many songs Madness played (23!) and the length of the set (almost and hour and a half). If you were there let me know. Otherwise please enjoy the set. Its a great recording. Much better than most live shows.

House Of Fun
Close Escape
Bed And Breakfast Man
My Girl
The Sun And The Rain
Blue Skin Beast
Mrs. Hutchinson
Take It Or Leave It
Night Boat To Cairo
Tomorrow's Dream
Razor Blade Alley
Tomorrow's (Just Another Day)
Grey Day
Shut Up
Baggy Trousers
Our House
Madness Is All In The Mind
It Must Be Love
Primrose Hill
One Step Beyond

Madness Live At Fountain Casino, Aberdeen, NJ 8/23/83 Part 1
Madness Live At Fountain Casino, Aberdeen, NJ 8/23/83 Part 2

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Friday, May 9, 2008

The Madness - The post-break-up project

I remember when Madness broke up in 1985. Following on the heels of The Specials, The Beat and The Selecter break-ups it signified the end of an era. I also remember seeing this record in the old Cheap Thrills record store in New Brunswick, NJ when it came out and buying it. It was around the time we were starting Bigger Thomas and I listened to it hoping it would serve as a doorstop (or better yet an opener) back into the 2Tone sound I loved. I was a bit disappointed, but in retrospect this is an interesting piece of music in the long and winding road that is Madness. The post-break project that leads to a reconciliation a few years later. For that its worth a listen.

The Madness is a self-titled album by "The Madness". In 1988, after the breakup of the original Madness, four of the original members (Suggs, Lee Jay Thompson, Chris Foreman and Cathal Smyth) recreated the band, adding "The" to its name. Since the new band did not include a bassist or drummer, guest musicians (mostly Bruce Thomas from Elvis Costello's backing band The Attractions but also Earl Falconer from UB40) played bass, Jerry Dammers and Steve Nieve (also of The Attractions) player piano and keyboards, while a drum machine was used in place of a live drummer on most tracks.

They released only this one album and two singles ("I Pronounce You" and "What's That"), which were less successful than the original band releases, and The Madness disbanded by the end of the year. Madness reformed with its original members for the reunion tour in 1992.
"The Madness" reached # 66 in the UK, while the singles "I Pronounce You" reached # 44 and "What's That" # 92.

Nail Down the Days
What's That
I Pronounce You
In Wonder
Song in Red
Nightmare Nightmare
Thunder and Lightning
Beat The Bride
Gabriel's Horn
11th Hour
Be Good Boy
4 B.F.

The Madness - The Madness

Here is the video for I Pronounce You

Starvation - UB40, Madness, Specials, General Public

With what's going on in Darfur and now in Myanmar I thought it appropriate to post this video of "Starvation" by The Pioneers that features a cornucopia of members of 2Tone era bands including The Specials, Madness, UB40, General Public and The Pioneers along with others (check out the Trumpet solo by Dick Cuthell who toured with The Specials).

Starvation/Tam Tam Pour L'Ethiopie was a double A-sided charity single released in 1985, and recorded by two charity ensembles formed specially for the occasion, also known as Starvation and Tam Tam Pour L'Ethiopie respectively. The aim was to raise money for the starving people of Ethiopia.

The idea of gathering artists together to make a charity record was copied from Bob Geldof's Band Aid project, which was number one in the UK charts at the time Starvation/Tam Tam was recorded in December 1984. Band Aid was criticised by some for featuring very few black musicians, and none at all from Africa. The Starvation/Tam Tam record was meant to rectify this.

"Starvation", a cover version of a Pioneers song, featured a number of musicians associated with the 2 Tone era (the group were originally going to be called "The 2 Tone All Stars"), including members of The Specials, Madness, The Beat and UB40, as well as The Pioneers themselves. It was produced by Jerry Dammers.

"Tam Tam Pour L'Ethiopie" was recorded in Paris and featured an ensemble of African artists. Many of the musicians in question were from French-speaking countries, but lyrics in a number of African languages - including Douala, Lingala, Wolof, Malinke and Swahili - also featured on the record. It was produced by Manu Dibango.

The record was released on the Zarjazz label and reached #33 in the UK charts, marking the only time that a record to raise money for Africa actually featuring African artists has entered the UK Top 40.

Proceeds from the record were distributed to the charities Oxfam, War On Want and Médecins Sans Frontières.

Here is the line-up that recorded the song and appear in the video:

Vocals: Ali Campbell, Robin Campbell, Ray Falconer (UB40); Jackie Robinson, Sydney Crooks, George Agard (The Pioneers)
Keyboards: Jerry Dammers (The Specials)
Guitar: Lynval Golding (The Specials)
Bass: Mark Bedford (Madness)
Drums: Daniel Woodgate (Madness)
Percussion: John Bradbury (The Specials), Geraldo Darbilly
Talking Drums: Gasper Lawal
Cornet, Flugelhorn, Trumpet: Dick Cuthell (The Specials)
Trombone: Annie Whitehead
Additional vocals: Dave Wakeling (The Beat/General Public)
Toasting: Ranking Roger (The Beat/General Public)
Backing vocals: Lorenza Johnson, Claudia Fontaine, Caron Wheeler, Naomi Thomson (Afrodiziak)

Here is the video. A lot catchier than "We Are The World" wouldn't you say?

The Latest on The Specials Reunion: Jerry Dammers Says "Not So Fast"

You knew it was bound to happen at some point. Word out of the UK last week that Jerry Dammers isn't so sure the rumoured Specials reunion will come off. You have to wonder what it will take to make this happen (apparently it will take a lot more than gobs of cash). Old wounds heal slowly I suppose.

According to a story last week posted on GIGWISE Jerry has poured cold water on talk of a Specials reunion saying that it is too early to say if it will definitely happen.

Jerry still feels there are still a lot of things to sort out, including working out if the band will still be able to deliver on stage. "We've had one attempt at a trial rehearsal, which at no point was all seven people in the room at the same time. It's very early days you know we're talking but there's nothing definite at the moment at all." He added about the rehearsal: "Some elements were good, and some elements weren't so good. “There is a helluva lot of work to do. If people are willing to do the work then we can move forward, if they are not willing to do the work then we can't. So I don't know."

Ever the perfectionist Jerry is also concerned that some people may want the Specials to reform for the wrong reasons. "The music comes first to me. As soon as you lose sight of that, you lose sight of everything. People who put the money before music you are on a high road to nothing, a mad dash for cash I am not into at all. We will have to see if the music can come together properly."

Andy Partridge Interviews Jerry Dammers Circa 1984

Now this is something amazing! Again I have to thank the Blogosphere for providing more manna from heaven. If there are two musicians who have inspired me with their vision and their impact on modern music its Jerry Dammers from The Specials and Andy Partridge of XTC. Imagine my surprise then at finding this gem from 1984. Even more surprising is that both of them have always been somewhat reclusive (mad geniuses if you will) and yet here they are appearing on an MTV-style video show. Introvert interviewing introvert. You gotta love the cheesy set and the early 80's robot sidekick.

Enjoy this four part interview.

The first part includes the XTC video for "Wonderland"

The next clips include Andy introducing the Big Country video for "Wonderland" and them interviewing Jerry. It was during the time that Jerry had finished laboring over the The Special AKA "In The Studio" album and you get the sense that its a huge weight on his shoulders.

The final two clips include the interview with Jerry as well as the iconic video for "What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend" where Jerry plays an alien from outer space who enters a bar, meets a guy and steals his girlfriend.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Go Feet Records

Formed by the Beat in 1980, the Go Feet label would end up releasing eighteen 7-inch singles, eleven 12-inch singles, and 6 LPs in its three year lifespan. These releases would go on to become highly significant in the worlds of ska, reggae, and pop.

As a result of the break out success of the Beat's first single which was released on the Two Tone label, the band was courted by numerous major labels hoping to cash in on the ska craze in the UK. The Beat established their own label to shield themselves from the many negative aspects of dealing with corporate record labels. In this way, the band was given more creativity to record the music as they wanted as well as to expose bands that the major labels would not take a chance on. Dave Wakeling describes the band’s inspiration for forming the label: as coming from “the Specials’ notion of Two Tone. We were quite impressed that it appeared that they had signed with a record label that could get them on the radio and that they had control of them.”

However, the Beat soon discovered, the benefits of such agreements were short-lived. They still faced great pressure to deliver hits as well as creative interference from the record executives. Arista’s promotion men had quotas to meet when they ventured out to the radio stations with their stack of records. These men gave men priority to established names that were easier to persuade the stations to play. Boutique labels, like such as Go Feet, would be placed on the bottom of the stack with far less emphasis placed on securing air time for them.
Arista distributed the label in the UK and throughout Europe, Japan, and Australia. I.R.S. distributed it in the USA the band had tried an initial run with Sire.

Cartoonist Hunt Emerson, known best at the time for his Firkin the Cat comic, is responsible for the design of the label, which has become just as memorable as the music its self. A simple palette of red, black, and white makes the records stand out. Meanwhile, feet in the style of a dance instruction chart are spread across the top. The bottom left is occupied by one of the most recognizable ska icons: the Beat Girl. Like the Two Tone icon "Walt Jabsco" who she is often associated with, the Beat Girl was inspired by a Jamaican ska photograph. She is a sketch of a girl dancing in a photograph with Prince Buster. She as well as many other elements of the design were inspired by the Beat’s first promotional poster. The poster also is the origin of the Beat’s logo, which Dave had sketched from a photograph of the Beatle’s drum kit. As sales declined, Arista made the decision to stop pressing the 7-inch singles with the traditional Go Feet paper label in favor of the cheaper (and far less attractive) molded silver label.

For more detailed information about Go Feet visit the web site devoted to the label

Ranking Roger & Neville Staples Interview

I found a great interview of Roger and Neville from just a few days ago that was broadcast on ITN in the UK. The rumoured reunion of The Specials has generated a lot of media interest in the UK. What's striking about the interview is how down-to-earth both Neville and Roger are and what good friends they are. Their bands (Neville Staple's Specials and The New English Beat) tour the UK regularly.

I had the pleasure of meeting Roger when we opened a few shows for the Special Beat in 1991. The most memorable was when he came by our tiny, decrepit dressing room underneath the stage at The Fastlane in Asbury Park to say hello. He sat and chatted with us for about 10-15 minutes. That always made an impression on me.

Enjoy the interview. It takes a bit of time to open but be patient its worth the wait.

UB40's Twentyfourseven: The CD and the rehearsals

As a quick disclaimer, I am not being paid by UB40 to make all these posts about the band the last few days, and I will be moving on to other bands, songs and 2Tone heroes in upcoming posts.

However I never turn down a challenge. Seek and ye shall find. Without fail the blogosphere has delivered a copy of the new UB40 album that many die hard fans (i.e., Loonies as they call themselves) have been raving over as well as a recoding of the live rehearsals featuring the new version of the band (UB40 2.0 if you will).

As a big fan (diehard would too strong a word) I have always followed the band through the ups and downs of their career. I've found the last few months fascinating and though I've read about the new songs and watched You Tube videos I've really been jonesing to listen to them like the 2 million people in the UK who got free copies of the CD last weekend. This CD contains the songs as sung by Ali Campbell. Apparently the band plans to distribute a 17 song version with these 10 plus 7 new songs sung by new singers Duncan Campbell and Maxi Priest. The rehearsal features Duncan and Maxi. Compare and contrast.

Well without further ado here they are. Please download and share any thoughts/comments you have.

UB40 - Twentyfourseven

UB40 - The Rehearsal Sessions

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

UB40 Unveils New Singers

UB40 held a party in Birmingham yesterday for a few hundred lucky fans to unveil their two new singers. I have to say after watching the videos below that were recorded by a fan at the show that Duncan Campbell is the real deal. He looks like his brother Robin and sounds just like Ali. Its uncanny really. When they opened with my favorite UB40 song of all time (Food For Thought) and I heard the first lyrics he sang I have to admit it raised the hairs on the back of my neck. Where has he been hiding all these years? Maxi Preist also brings it and his song with the UB's may have Top 40 hit written all over it.

I'm still on a quest to hear the songs from the new album that was distributed this past weekend by The Mail On Sunday. Until I can find them and post them here, enjoy the videos below of the new UB40.

Food For Thought

Rainbow Nation

War Is Over

Dance Until The Morning Light

Sunday, May 4, 2008

UB40's new album distributed free by UK paper

So I took a walk around my NYC neighborhood this morning looking for a copy of the Mail On Sunday to see if I could score a copy of the new UB40 album Twentyfourseven but apparently they are only available in the UK. So until a copy makes itself available take a look at the artwork and track list and take a listen to some of the new songs that UB40 performed live at the end of last year

Track Listing:











End Of War

Rainbow Nation

I'll Be There

And in the spirit of giving Ali Campbell equal time I have posted his new CD Running Free. Take a listen and make up your own mind if he made the righ decision.

Running Free
01. Running Free (4:06) with Beverley Knight
02. Hold Me Tight (3:59)
03. I'll Be Standing By (3:29) with Lemar
04. Don't Go (3:05)
05. Would I Lie To You (3:05) with Bitty McLean
06. I Want One Of Those (3:14)
07. Hallelujah Time (3:50) with Smokey Robinson
08. Don't Try This At Home (4:05) with Katie Melua
09. Flex (3:52)
10. Being With You (3:59) with Mick Hucknall
11. Gotta Get Away (3:33)
12. Devoted To You (3:04) with Robin Campbell
13. Village Ghetto Land (4:48) with Aston 'Family Man' Barrett

Ali Campbell - Running Free

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

A 2Tone Universe

For a short time in 1979-80 a few popular recording stars we know under different names all took a shot at playing ska music. It's true. Really.

Anyone ever heard of Graduate? What about Akrylykz? How about The Executive. In fact there are a number of unsung bands of the 2Tone era that should be celebrated. I'll get to all of them in another post.

While Graduate was not a ska band they wrote and recorded this single in 1979 in response to Elvis Costello complaining about how everybody seemed to be hopping on the ska bandwagon and nobody cared much for his sound at that time. Both tracks appeared on their debut album, Acting My Age. The Bath, England new wave band lasted five singles and two albums before disbanding in 1981. Two of the members made a name for themselves later. Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith formed Tears For Fears.

Many thanks to Tone and Wave for the link to the 7" download

The Akrylykz were a band from the 2Tone era from Yorkshire. Their vocalist and tenor sax player Roland Gift who was chosen by Andy Cox and David Steele (of The English Beat) to be the lead singer of their new band Fine Young Cannibals. This vinyl from 1980 is inscribed with the words "Eat your heart out 2Tone"

Many thanks to Tone and Wave for the link to the 7" download

Finally there was The Executives. In 1979, Georgios Panayiotou (known to me and you as George Michael), Andrew Ridgely and a few friends under the spell of such dance artists as Chic and Sylvester, began writing songs together. Soon fascinated by the music of the U.K.'s ska revival, the pair formed their own ska group, The Executives; by 1982, the duo had signed a deal with the CBS-distributed Innervision label as Wham! Sorry but I have not been able to find any pictures of a young George Michael as a rude boy.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Equals - The First Real 2Tone Band

There is a lot more to Eddy Grant than "Romancing The Stone" and "Electric Avenue". In fact the man helped to change the face of music in the UK in the 60's with the multi-racial band The Equals. Known best for the original versions of "Baby Come Back" and "Police On My Back" the band mixed 60's pop-rock with hints of ska, soul and RnB. The riff for Baby Come Back is Hall of Fame worthy in my book.

The Equals were a pop/reggae/rock group that formed in North London in 1965. They are remembered mostly for the fact that Eddy Grant, then sporting dyed blonde hair, was in the group. Also in the original line-up were the twin brothers Derv and Lincoln Gordon, as well as John Hall and Pat Lloyd with supporting drummer Paul Pegler.

They first started rehearsing on a council estate at Hornsey Rise, North London in 1965. In 1966 the group released the "Hold Me Closer" / "Baby Come Back" single, which did not capture much attention in the United Kingdom. However, in Germany and The Netherlands it went to #1 - a position its re-issue would later reach in the UK. Thus, the racially mixed London group gave President Records their only number one hit. A gold disc was presented to the group in June 1968 for a combined one million sales of the record. The year 1968 saw the release of "I Get So Excited" which appeared in the Top 50 of the UK Singles Chart. It was reported in September 1969 that all five members of the group had been injured in Germany, when their car ran off an autobahn in a gale.

A string of single releases followed up to 1970, all of which charted in the UK. The group also attracted attention as one of the few racially integrated bands of the 1960s, which was reflected in the group's name: The Equals.

In 1971, Grant went home to Guyana, following a collapsed lung and heart infection which put him out of action at the beginning of that year. He promptly left The Equals to pursue his solo career. He would have eventually release several Top 40 singles in the late 1970s and early 1980s; among them, "Living On The Front Line", "Electric Avenue", and "Romancing the Stone". Grant also topped the UK Singles Chart in 1982 with "I Don't Wanna Dance". Although the band never charted again after Grant's departure, they remained a popular live act, performing into the late 1970s and beyond.

In the late 1970s, The Clash recorded a successful cover version of The Equals' song "Police On My Back". In 2006 Willie Nile released his cover of "Police on My Back" on his Streets of New York CD. Plus, The Hypertonics have covered "Police On My Back" in concert.

The Equals' song, "Green Light", was covered by The Detroit Cobras, on their 2007 album, Tied & True.

The song "Baby Come Back" refused to go away. The track returned in 1994, when Pato Banton scored an unexpected UK number one with his cover of the song.

The Equals - The Best of The Equals

Now here is some music history. Check out this amazing set of songs by The Equals from German TV in 1966 featuring Baby Come Back/Hold Me Closer/Hey Baby It's Time You Got Going.

Here is a great 2-part interview with Eddy where he discusses the early days of his career. The interviewer appears to be from Eastern Europe so the intro is not in English but the interview itself is in English. Enjoy.

The Equators - The best ska band from the early 80's you never heard

The Equators were way ahead of their time. I remember borrowing a copy of Hot their debut for Stiff Records from our original guitar player Steve Parker. He told me that he wished Bigger Thomas could sound like the songs on this record. I remember listening to the songs and wondering why I had never heard of the band or why they weren't more popular. They released their album during 2Tone mania and should have had the same level of success as The Specials, The Beat and The Selecter. In my mind they suffered from I call "Fishbone Syndrome". That is that they were an amazing band that was doing something way ahead of its time and that didn't fit preconceived notions of what black or white music should sound like. Instead it was a melting pot of different musical sounds and it seemed to throw a lot of people off.

Below is a piece written by Tazy Phillips who helped to organize a re-recording of the original songs by the band by a band that included some of the original members a few years ago. It really gives the best description of the band, their sound and the high praise their contemporaries had for them.

Formed in 1977 by the brothers Bailey (Donald, Leo & Rocky), the offspring of Jamaican immigrants to England, The Equators were discovered by Stiff Records’ President, David Robinson, performing with another Birmingham band, The Beat (which shared The Equators’ 20/21 Management team). Robinson, ecstatically impressed with the raw energy of their concert performance & the soulful innovation of their ska-pop-reggae sound, moved to sign the band to the famous Stiff Records label (home of Madness & Elvis Costello).
The Relationship with Stiff Records began with The Equators backing the Jamaican ska-reggae great, Desmond Dekker ("Israelites", "007 Shanty Town"), on his Black and Dekker album.
As Rocky recollects, "It was a wonderful time in our life. Stiff Records was always full of surprises . . . One day we’re recordin’ with Desmond Dekker & The Pioneers ("Long Shot Kick the Bucket"). The next time we’re recordin’ our first single, "Baby Come Back," with pop-reggae producer & musician Eddy Grant ("Electric Avenue"), which scored a top 10 hit in Europe in 1980."
Dave Wakeling remembers with enthusiasm, "The Equators were brilliant. In our earliest formulations of The Beat sound we discovered that if one played an all punk set, the audience would get burnt out; & if one played an all reggae set, the audience would fall asleep. Therefore our music would encompass the energy & intensity of punk & the hypnotic, laid-back groove of reggae, a punky-reggae hybrid."
But just when we thought we discovered something new, we discovered The Equators, right in our home town of Birmingham, who had already come up with a similar formulation . . . Whereas we were a bunch of kids searching out, learning, & adopting this music, The Equators were first generation Jamaicans in England." Prince Buster was part of their own heritage. It was from The Equators that The Beat learned to stylize this blend in a soulful, delicate manner. It was from The Equators that we learned lightness & depth of touch in playing’ this music."
With The Beat in mind, it makes one wonder why The Equators did not sign with the famous 2 Tone label which significantly defined the second wave of ska. Donald responds, "In the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, everybody wanted to be on 2 Tone. Everyone wanted to jump on the bandwagon when really 2 Tone was just a springboard for bands to get onto the majors (e.g. both Madness & The Beat jumped ship after one 2 Tone single)." We thought, hey, we were playin’ this music before the 2 Tone thing came out. Why give it up to 2 Tone? Our music, our sound, has always been about originality. That’s what Stiff Records saw in us, & the deal was right so we went with Stiff which also happened to be where Madness ended up."
But after two world tours, loads of singles & an al-bum under their belt, The Equators disbanded because in the words of The Equators, "Stiff didn’t know how to market us." As Neville Staples of The Specials explains, "The Specials were one of the first to break down the race barriers in England by having both white & black musicians play side by side (followed by The Selecter, The Beat, etc.). The 2 Tone label, Stiff Records & others appealed to this new-enlightened intrigue over multiracial musicians & music among the white middle class." That’s why it was so easy for Stiff Records to move Madness . . . Stiff didn’t know what to do with The Equators, an all black band, & unfortunately, that is why they did not reach the magnitude that such bands as The Specials & The Beat have been graced. They are a band that rightfully deserves to reach such heights. Like The Specials, it is fantastic that they are comin’ back after all these years."
The Untouchables lead vocalist, Jerry Miller, remembers, "Man, it was because of bands like The Equators that we formed The Untouchables. We were very big fans of 2 Tone, but with The Equators, that’s where it was at with us because it was so groovin’ & soulful." Their recordings were sacred to us. We used to listen to ‘em in the dark & take in their influence... I remember when The Equators toured the U.S. in 1981. My friends & I went to see ‘em at the Reseda Country Club dressed in our best mod & rudeboy get-ups & attitudes. Then The Equators took the stage, a bunch of black guys dressed in sweat pants & such. At first our mod-fashion heads were taken back. ‘Where’s the style in this?’ we thought. Then they started to play . . . & by the end of the show we were questionin’ our own mod & rubeboy identities. Who were we to judge when The Equators’ music, style & performance was so real, so smooth & so authentic."


Rescue Me (2:40)
Age Of 5 (4:02)
If You Need Me (3:40)
More Than A Person (3:56)
Rankin' Discipline (3:11)
Mr. Copper (3:43)
Nightmare (2:36)
Where Did Johnny Go (3:46)
There Is Someone (3:10)
Learn My Lesson (2:46)
Feelin' High (3:41)