Friday, August 27, 2010

The Specials perform 'Nite Klub' on Late Show With David Letterman

The Specials performed 'Nite Klub' on Late Show with David Letterman last night. The band was promoting the U.S. release of their 30th anniversary tour DVD.

The band arrived in New York last weekend and taped the show on Monday night. It was aired last night. I caught up with the band's saxophone player Drew Stansall and keyboardist Nik Torp after the taping and they shared a bit about the behind the scenes at the show. First, the band's crew had a 6 am call on Monday morning to set up all the gear. The band also ended up spending several hours cooped up in the show's green room which made them all stir crazy. According to Stansall and Torp, this had a lot to do with the added energy the band added to their performance. I look forward to reading band bassist Horace Panter's blog post about the whole experience.

As expected, Neville Staple did not join the band for the performance because of ongoing visa issues with the U.S. Government. The good news for Canadian fans of the band is that Staple is expected to join the band in Toronto for their two shows this weekend .

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fishbone To Play New York City Metro Area In September

Fishbone will grace the New York City metropolitan area with 2 shows during early September. The shows at Webster Hall on September 8th in New York City and Mexicali Live Cafe in Teaneck, New Jersey on September 9th are particularly notable for the band. Webster Hall was once The Ritz, where the band played their very first show in New York City in the early 80's.
Mexicali Blues on the other hand, is an interesting choice for a national act like Fishbone. Its a very small club with a capacity of no more than 300 people. The intimate nature of the club will ensure 1) a very quick sell out and 2) the kind of heaving, packed to the gills, crowd surfing environment that Fishbone has made a hallmark of their live show over the last 30 years.

I had the good luck to see the band perform live at The Ritz on Halloween in 1985. The bill included 24-7 Spyz and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, but it was Fishbone who stole the show with their turbocharged ska. The Ritz was the epicenter of live music in New York City in the 1980s. An expansive, high ceilinged, two-tiered theatre, it was relatively perfect in every way and I saw many shows there including Bad Manners, the first General Public show in the US and this Fishbone show. It remains one of the best live shows I have ever seen in my life. I recently had the good luck to discover two rare pictures of the band taken during the Halloween performance at The Ritz in 1985:

Below is a very rare live video of the band performing the never released song 'Why'd You Make Me Mad' along with 'A Selection' and others from 1986:

While there is no live recording of that Halloween show from 1985, as a special added bonus, below is a live stream and a download of a show the band performed December 27, 1985 at The Keystone in Palo Alto, California. This is one of the very first known live recordings of Fishbone. It includes a great selection of early tracks (many of which surfaced on later albums) and is a great historical document as this show featured many of the bands most well known songs taken from their first EP 'Fishbone' as well as their first full length album 'In Your Face'. The set list is below:

1. I Got a Fish
2. Skankin' to the Beat
3. Ugly
4. Another Generation
5. Knock It
6. ?(Modern Industry)
7. A Selection
8. Deep Inside
9. When Problems Arise
10. What Have I Done
11. They All Have Abandoned Their Hopes
12. Game of Destruction
13. V.T.T.L.O.T.F.D.G.F
14. "Simon Says" The Kingpin Alcoholic
15. Party At Ground Zero
16. Lyin' Ass Bitch
17. Bonin' in the Boneyard
18. Fishbone is Red Hot

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Beat to Perform Seminal Debut Album 'I Just Can't Stop It' Live In London

For anyone who loves 2-Tone era ska and reggae, 2010 has been an amazing year to celebrate the music's legacy and longevity. With 1980 as the high point of many iconic releases, 2010 has been a bonanza of 30th anniversaries. With The Specials now actively touring, Madness announcing plans for a new album of material and UB40 touring later this year to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 'Signing Off' album, its now time to turn our attention to the 30th anniversary of one of 2-Tone era ska's all time great albums, namely 'I Just Can't Stop It' by The Beat. To celebrate this milestone in the U.K., Ranking Roger's version of the band (featuring Roger, his son and Everett Morton on drums) will perform the album, in its entirety, exclusively at the Bloomsbury Ballroom in London on Saturday October 9th. The performance comes a few weeks ahead of a similar performance by Pauline Black's version of The Selecter at the same venue on November 13th to mark the 30th anniversary of their debut album 'Too Much Pressure'. Here in the U.S., Dave Wakeling's version of The English Beat have marked the 30th anniversary by continuing their road warrior ways with a coast-to-coast tour featuring Bad Manners! Its like we've entered a 2-Tone era time machine!

I have to say I love the idea of a band performing an album in its entirety and I think its a clever way for a band to market a show or a tour. The Beat's first album (like UB40's 'Signing Off' and The Selecter's 'Too Much Pressure') is certainly a worthy collection for this type of showcase. While the band had a long and varied recording career, the band's first album remains a classic of the genre. The Beat debuted with a cover of Smokey Robinson's `Tears of a Clown' b/w `Ranking Full Stop' on 2-Tone. During the flurry of A&R interest than ensued, The Beat secured a deal with Arista (on their own 2-Tone inspired imprint Go-Feet) and released, `Hand's Off... She's Mine' b/w `Twist and Crawl'. The band capitalized on this with third single `Mirror in the Bathroom' b/w Prince Buster classic `Jackpot' followed by their debut LP `I Just Can't Stop It' which featured both Go-Feet singles, further Prince Buster songs `Rough Rider' and `Whine & Grine' (augmented by political toast `Stand Down Margaret') and a fantastic cover of Andy William's `Can't Get Used to Losing You' (which became a single on the release of their later best of compilation) and five more originals.

Here are video's of Ranking Roger's version of The Beat performing songs from 'I Just Can't Stop It' including 'Ranking Full Stop' and 'Rough Rider':

Tickets for the The Beat performing 'I Just Can't Stop It' on Saturday October 9th at the Bloomsbury Ballroom in London are available through the promoter AGMP's Web site.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Specials Confirm New Material Being Written

While members of The Specials have previously hinted at plans to record an album of new material, The Daily Star in the UK has a story today that would seem to confirm the band is writing new songs. Guitarist Lynval Golding is quoted as saying that the new material is inspired by the war in Afghanistan.

While various members of the band have released albums during the 1990's and early 2000's, the six current and original members last recorded together on 'More Specials' which was released in October 1980.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The 'Ska Boot Series' Continues with release of songs by Madonna's 80's ska band Emmy & The Emmy's

The fine people at Banquet Records in the U.K. have struck again. They have released a 7" ska bootleg of Madonna's early 80's flirtation with ska music as part of their ever expanding ska boot series. I wrote about Madonna's ska past earlier in the year, and while I'm not the only person who was aware of her rude girl persona, I would like to think that I might have played a small part in providing the inspiration to whoever is behind this release. Other ska bootlegs in the vinyl-only series include: Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen and No Doubt as well as Jools Holland and Joe Strummer with Long Beach Dub All-Stars covering 'The Harder They Come' by Jimmy Cliff.

While I can't speak to the legality of these bootlegs, which focus on out-of-print tracks and live cuts, I have always appreciated the creativity behind them (design wise they are fantastic: each sleeve is modeled after a 2-Tone single) as well as the consistency with which they have released them. Though most of the songs can be procured one way or another on-line, the notion of having them on colored 7" inch vinyl is very intriguing.

The Madonna 7' features two songs. The first is called 'Love On The Run'. Its a simple demo with skank guitar and syncopated ska drums and Madonna's unmistakable voice which is a bit rough around the edges but has a chirpy and upbeat quality. The song almost sounds a bit like very early No Doubt take on ska. The other is called 'Simon Says' and has a distinctly upbeat ska/ reggae vibe. Have a listen to both songs below.

If you like what you hear and live in the U.S., you can purchase the vinyl from Jump Up Records based in Chicago.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Horace Panter's Excellent Blog - An Inside View of Life Inside The Specials Reunion & 2010 Summer Tour

If you've read Horace Panter's memoir 'Ska'd For Life', then you know he is a great writer with a wonderful knack for conveying the truth about life as a musician. The book charts the rise and fall of The Specials from their founding to their disintegration. I loved the book, particularly for the way in which Panter explains what can happen when seven very different individuals with unique personalities and distinct backgrounds can harness their creative energy and passion. If you haven't read the book, then I highly recommend you pick up a copy. Both Amazon.US and Amazon.UK have copies available.

If you have read the book, and were sorry when you finished, then I have very good news for you. Panter has been regularly posting updates on a blog called 'Grapevine' and sub-titled 'Summer Fun with The Specials' on The Specials Web site. The posts are detailed updates -- part travelogue and part tour diary -- of The Specials experiences on their 2010 European summer tour. Its great reading and a perfect epilogue to his book. Panter provides a vivid look at how much chaos -- travel (planes, trains and automobiles), searing summer heat, boredom, traffic delays, and bad air-conditioning can impact a traveling band of 10 plus support (roadies, sound, family, etc) attempting to get from Point A to Point B on time. Oh and then there is the small detail of having to perform with energy and enthusiasm. Then you get to do it all in reverse. Its not always pretty, particularly when most of the band are in the their mid-50's and don't recover from the wear and tear of touring the way they used to. That said, the show must go on and I'm hoping Panter will keep on posting up through the band's upcoming North American trip later this month.

Below is video taken from Panter's blog of an interview drummer John Bradbury and guitarist Roddy Byers did while backstage at the Ruisrock Festival in Finland this past July:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Specials on Late Show With David Letterman on Monday August 23rd

It turns out that The Specials will be playing a show in New York City after all! But instead of buying tickets, you will need to set your DVR to record. The band are booked to perform live on Late Show With David Letterman on Monday August 23rd. Though I'm sure the TV appearance was originally booked to help promote U.S. tour dates which have since been cancelled due to visa issues, its still a small consolation for fans who had been excited about a free show scheduled for Central Park the day before. The band are still scheduled to perform two shows in Toronto at the Sound Academy on Friday August 27 and Saturday August 28th. These shows are make-up shows for ones that were cancelled back in April.

It will be interesting to see what line-up the band brings to perform on Letterman. Back in April Neville Staple missed performing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and was replaced by Trevor Evans (who is a childhood friend of Staple's and was one of the band's early roadies). Evans now tours with the band as a DJ with Terry Hall's son Felix and they spin reggae sets before the band performs. There has been speculation that Staple has had trouble with obtaining a visa to enter the U.S.

Monday, August 9, 2010

House Of Fun: The Story Of Madness To Be Published On October 31st

Just as Madness fans were celebrating the news about a rumored new album that is due out in 2011 comes fantastic news of the pending publication of the definitive book about the band. Called 'House Of Fun - The Story of Madness', the 500+ page tome written by John Reed is destined to be the new bible for all fans of the Nutty Boys. The book is due to be published by Omnibus Press (the self-proclaimed 'World's Largest Publisher of Musical Related Books') on October 31st. The more compulsive among you (myself included) who don't want to fight the masses lining up for copies at the local book store, can pre-order copies at a significant discount (25-35%) off the listed hard copy price from on-line book retailers and WH Smith. Reed is a noted music writer having previously authored books about The Jam and Paul Weller.

Not content to buy the book without a description? Here you go: Madness are a British institution. Formed at the height of Punk London in 1976, the Nutty Boys mixed old Ska and Reggae rhythms, astute social comment and music hall humour to make them the most successful UK singles band of the Eighties - as popular with the grannies as with post-punk teenagers hungry for an alternative to the glossy pop of the age.

In Thatcher's Britain, Madness seemed like an anachronism: resolutely working class, down-to-earth and facing adversity with a glint in the eye. And yet, in terms of pop music, they helped define the age via hits like "My Girl", "One Step Beyond", "House of Fun" and "Baggy Trousers". From their roots in North London through their emergence as part of 2-Tone and onto their fall in the late 80s and subsequent rise via the Madstock festivals, "House of Fun" celebrates this very English musical phenomenon.

John Reed offers an affectionate yet insightful version of events, helped by candid interviews with those who've worked with Madness over the years.

From the trials and tribulations of inter-band disputes, accusations of racism and their eventful split to the highs of their purple patch from 1979 to 1986 when they justified their nickname of The Magnificent Seven via an unmatched succession of classic hit singles, "House of Fun" - for the first time - tells the story of Madness.

Reed spent countless hours interviewing all the members of the band as well as all the important players in their 30 year career. Needless to say he is a fountain of Madness information, trivia and facts. You can test your Madness knowledge against his at a quiz he developed over at the Madness Central Web site. I tried to take the quiz and failed miserably (only scoring two correct answers). You can have a go here.

The book is available for sale from

Friday, August 6, 2010

Boston Globe Profiles Bim Skala Bim Summer Reunion Shows

Bim Skala Bim's run of reunion shows this weekend across New England merited a long feature story in today's Boston Globe. Its a great read for anyone who is a fan of the band that released nine albums from 1986 to 2000 and are directly responsible for the growth and popularity of American ska. They remain a personal favorite of mine as they were one of the first big name band's that my band Bigger Thomas opened for during our early years. We played a number of shows with them at the legendary City Gardens in Trenton, New Jersey.

Amazingly, despite growing popularity and successful tours, the band remained independent, negotiating distribution deals but never signing with a label. They were offered their share of contracts, but the terms — which always included handing over song publishing rights — never struck the band as fair. The online edition of the newspaper also features a great history of the band through pictures.

The best part of the online story was the inclusion of a video of three members of the band -- singer Dan Vitale (who now lives in Panama), bassist Mark Ferranti and guitarist Jim Jones rehearsing the song 'Set Me Up' for the reunion shows. You can watch it below.

If you happen to see the band this weekend, please let me know. Any video or pictures would be much appreciated.

Monday, August 2, 2010

UB40 Announce U.S. Tour Dates For Fall 2010

UB40 is back in the U.S. for the first time in over two years and will be celebrating by playing intimate concert venues (2,000 +) to celebrate their 30 years. Not surprisingly, six of the twelve announced dates are in California, which has always provided the band with some of its most passionate American fans.

The band has recently released 'Labour Of Love IV' (its first with new band vocalist Duncan Campbell on all the tracks) and are also gearing up for a fall UK tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of 'Signing Off' where they will play the album in its entirety. Its unclear if the band will be promoting the latest Labour Of Love release or might mix in some songs from their first LP released in 1980 during the U.S tour dates.

Below are videos of tow of the tracks from 'Labour Of Love IV' including 'Cream Puff' and 'Man Next Door'.

Below is a list of U.S tour dates confirmed so far. There is one show in Canada confirmed. A few more may be added. I plan to go to the BB King's show in New York! I may try and pull together a meet-up for fans before or after the show. Stay tuned!

San Francisco, CA
The Fillmore

Las Vegas, NV
Mandalay Bay Casino

Santa Barbara, CA
West Beach

San Diego, CA

Los Angeles, CA
House of Blues

Anaheim, CA
House of Blues

Riverside, CA

Salt Lake City, UT
The Depot

Windsor, ON
Caesars Windsor

Chicago, IL
House of Blues

Philadelphia, PA
Electric Factory

New York, NY

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Neol Davies Unveils His Version of The Selecter in London

The saga of the competing versions of The Selecter kicked-off this past weekend with a performance by Neol Davies who unveiled his new version of the band at the Hoxton Bar & Grill in London. During a recent interview I conducted with Davies, he hinted at the make-up of the new band as well as a set that would feature new songs. The full nine piece band line-up includes:

Neol Davies - Guitar/Vocals
John Gibbons- Vocals
Dean Ross- Hammond Organ
Daniel Crosby- Drums:
Dray Bayuni- Bass:
Tim Cansfield- Guitar
Faye Treacy, Ellie Smith, Hannah Taylor - Brass

The set featured a mix of band classics like 'Missing Words' and 'Celebrate The Bullet' as well as a number of new songs including 'The Return Of The Selecter', 'Haunted' and 'One Mother' which all sounded great and highlighted Davies searing guitar playing which harkened back to the best of the 'Celebrate The Bullet' LP. Though the choice of John Gibbons as lead vocalist is inspired based purely on his talent and his range, it also takes some getting used to given how much Pauline Black's vocals and energy is associated with them. According to a post on his blog following the show, Davies indicated that more shows are planned for the future. You can watch a good deal of the set below:

The Return Of The Selecter

Celebrate The Bullet


Missing Words

James Bond

One Mother

Though the reality of two version of The Selecter is intriguing, its a shame that the members remain divided. Nevertheless, fans of The Selecter now have the choice to see competing musical visions for the band as laid out by Davies on one side and Pauline Black and Gaps Hendrickson on the other. Black and Hendrickson will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the 'Too Much Pressure' album with a concert on Saturday, November 13, 2010 at the Bloomsbury Ballroom in London.