Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all MOTB readers! To ring in 2013, I look back to a memorable musical New Year for me when I tuned in to see both UB40 and General Public perform during the 4th annual MTV New Years Rock 'N Roll Ball broadcast on December 31, 1984.  

I was in a complete state of shock the entire broadcast as I patiently waited through performances by Joan Jett, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and John Cafferty before watching both bands perform live on American TV.  It really was a defining moment for those here in the U.S. who had followed UB40 and The Beat (before they had broken up the year before) from afar to finally see them live.

I remember staying up late to see UB40, who played songs from the "Geoffrey Morgan" LP and General Public who had just released "All The Rage" in the U.S. and were having chart success with their first single "Tenderness."

So without further ado, I present General Public performing their eponymous song before an enthusiastic crowd in Los Angeles.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Story Behind Paul Simonon & His Famous Smashed Bass Guitar

It's September 21st, 1979, at a Clash show at New York's Palladium, and Paul Simonon's bass has only seconds to live. "The show had gone quite well," says Simonon, "but for me inside, it just wasn't working well, so I suppose I took it out on the bass. If I was smart, I would have got the spare bass and used that one, because it wasn't as good as the one I smashed up."
Paul Simonon of The Clash is the reason I initially stuck with the bass guitar despite initially knowing nothing about notes, scales or bass lines. As I fell more deeply in love with ska, reggae and punk music as a young and angry teenager, it was the knowledge that Simonon was a reggae fan, a rude boy and self taught musician that continued to inspire me. That and the iconic image of him smashing his beloved Fender Precision bass guitar sealed the deal.  I wanted to be like him and I had to have the same guitar!

And so because of Simonon, I went out and bought my first cheap bass guitar at a nearby Sears with money I had saved from a dish washing job. It was Cherry red and white and weighed a ton. I remember taking it out of the flimsy cardboard case it came in and looking at it with a mix of desire and despair. I finally had the object of my affection but I had absolutely no idea what to do with it! I remember standing in front of a mirror with the guitar strapped low across my body like Simonon and plucking the strings. The sound was sharp and metallic and nothing like the fluid bass lines I heard on the 2-Tone, Clash and reggae records I played non-stop in my bedroom. My love affair with the bass flickered and threatened to go out permanently. But, I have Simonon to thank for not giving up and for eventually getting a black and white Fender Precision bass.
"Paul Simonon–well, he’d have to be the driveshaft, because it was his aesthetic sense, his knowledge of painting, his use of sculpture (especially the slabs of Carreran marble that characterized his bass playing) and pliocene sensuality–that visualized the band’s look and touch.”

– Lenny Kaye, Americlash, Fall 1991
Though known for his many inventive and innovative bass lines with The Clash, Simonon was self taught and did not read music but he brought so many intangibles to the band and to his bass playing. This was always an added inspiration to me, as I struggled to play. It took a while for Simonon to learn the four-string (at one point, he marked the notes off on his instrument's neck to know where to place his fingers), and after 9 months of intense practice he was ready to play on the band's first record. Although it was Strummer and Jones who penned the lion's share of the Clash's songs, Simonon's fluid, almost reggae-ish bass lines often provided the glue that held the band's best known breakneck compositions together.

Fender recently conducted an interview with The Only Band That Matters' bassist. In the interview Simonon talks about learning to play bass, his technique, how he got turned on to the Precision Bass, and the iconic "London Calling" album cover and what led to that historic moment when he "sort of smashed up" his beloved Precision Bass.

According to Fender Bass Player:
"Simonon started out playing a Rickenbacker but found it's sound too thin. He then quickly switched to a mid 70's Fender Precision Bass, which offered more bottom end and a stronger tone. He preferred using heavier model Precisions that he believed sounded better and could take all the abuse he dished out on them night after night. His P-Basses were usually white and he often adorned them with stickers, abstract paint jobs and roughed them up a bit to give them some individuality. He also reasoned that no one would want to steal his basses if they were bashed up and hand painted."
"He frequently swung the instrument around onstage, and after a two hour show would often have serious problems with his shoulder. Strung low by his knees, he normally played with a pick, sometimes using his fingers for reggae style tunes. His style evolved from simple root-fifth punk lines to a more complex and intricate style, incorporating rock, reggae, ska, pop, funk and other elements that set him apart from most other punk bassists of the day."
The Fender Precision bass immortalized on the cover of The Clash's "London Calling" album was a white early 70's model with a maple neck. Simonon had placed a skull and crossbones sticker on the body, done some drip painting on the pick guard and had handwritten the word "PRESSURE" on the top body horn. Although the body and neck of the bass were damaged beyond repair, the smashed remnants were deemed important enough to be displayed in the permanent collection of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

While there is no film or video of Simonon in the act of smashing his bass during the show at the Palladium here in New York City on September 21, 1979, an intrepid fan of the band has matched short film clips of the band performing "I'm So Bored With the U.S.A.", "I Fought the Law", "Jail Guitar Doors", and "English Civil War" with audio from the show that night. They demonstrate the power and energy of the band at the height of their powers and the important role that Simonon played in their live show.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Win tickets to see The Specials 2013 UK Tour courtesy of Fred Perry!

To mark The Specials May 2013 UK tour, Fred Perry Subculture are giving away one pair of tickets to a gig of the winner's choice (see below for available dates and venues).

The full list of UK dates announced for May 2013 is as follows:

May 10 Glasgow Barrowland
May 13 Newcastle 02 Academy
May 15 Manchester 02 Apollo
May 18 Liverpool Olympia
May 19 Leicester De Montfort Hall
May 21 Birmingham 02 Academy
May 23 Newport Centre
May 25 Margate Winter Gardens
May 26 Portsmouth Guildhall
May 28 London 02 Academy Brixton

Following the success of The Specials' 2010 and 2011 tours, and their 2012 Olympic Hyde Park concert, the 2013 dates are very likely to sell out quickly.

Click this link to enter the competition, which runs through April, 5, 2013

Monday, December 24, 2012

MOTB & Bryan Adams Wish You A Reggae Christmas!

I strive to celebrate and venerate the best of ska and reggae music on this blog. The many artists who made the music a cultural phenomena are all heroes to me and many others. However, as ska and reggae music made its way into the charts of the U.K. (and the U.S, to a lesser extent) and its influence and popularity spread, many mainstream singers, bands and musical artists began including the rhythms and sound in their own songs. Some of these efforts were magnificent and some less so. Others were just plain terrible. I've previously trained the spotlight on some of the more dreadful attempts of what the Brits call 'Cod Reggae' (which is a term I have always loved).

So in the spirit of Christmas, I offer you "Reggae Christmas" a 1984 b-side by Bryan Adams which may be the best (or worst depending on your view) Christmas cod reggae song ever recorded. The video, which gives you a real sense of the early, anything goes days of 80's music, was recorded at the MTV studios in New York City.

What is there to love/hate about this song and video?  Let me count the ways. First, in case anybody was wondering what MTV was like in 1984, “Reggae Christmas” serves as a pretty good time capsule: All 5 original VJ's make caneos as does Pee-Wee Herman (in a Santa hat with dreadlocks).  Why Pee-Wee Herman you ask?  Lest we forget (or if you aren't a child of the 80's). Herman was on hot streak at the time due to his smash hit "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" TV show and "Pee- Wee's Big Adventure" movie.

Musically, you have to hand it to Adams for giving reggae a go. While the song is a rote version of reggae, his band seems to get it musically.  The bass and drums are locked in and the guitars are playing upstrokes in the right place. It was the early 80's after all and from what I have learned, the song gets an airing every year around this time, which I suppose is the goal of every artist who records a Christmas song -- to be remembered, even if for a few minutes. Plus how can you resist these insipid lyrics which read like they were written five minutes before the band recorded the song:
Christmas is nice in Germany
if you like being up to your knees in snow
it's just as cold up in Canada
we gotta find another place to go we're having a reggae Christmas - down in Jamaica
To those who argue that Bryan Adams is French-Canadian and in no way qualified or capable of attempting reggae, I would point out that his birth certificate does say that he was born in Kingston, albeit the one in Ontario.

A big hat tip to Chuck Wren of Jump Up Records  for alerting me to this fantastically terrible piece of reggae music.

Happy Holidays to all MOTB readers!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Stream: ‘Made In Birmingham: Reggae Punk Bhangra’ — Full 1-hour documentary Highlights City's Musical Heritage

Director Deborah Aston’s documentary "Made In Birmingham: Reggae Punk Bhangra" tells the story and development of reggae, punk and bhangra in Birmingham from the mid 70s to the mid 90s through rare and uncovered archive footage and interviews from those who were actually there.

The doc includes rare footage from the city's earliest reggae bands including UB40, Steel Pulse, Musical Youth and Beshara  interspersed with interviews from UB40's Brian Travers, Musical Youth's Dennis Seaton, Steel Pulse's Amlak Tafari and dozens of others who highlight the social and political issues of the day and how the music of that time reflected the diverse communities of Birmingham, Britain's second biggest city. This is a great insight into Birmingham and some of its rich musical heritage.

Check it out right here. Perfect holiday viewing.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

In Memory Of Joe Strummer

It is hard to believe that the world has been without Joe Strummer for a decade. The co-founder and lead singer of The Clash died Dec. 22, 2002, of an undiagnosed heart defect at just 50 years old. Yet even his most topical songs continue to resonate.  According to an excellent piece done about Strummer's passing on NPR this week:
The band's biggest single, "Rock the Casbah," released in 1982, could as easily have been about last week's news from Syria. A Middle Eastern sherif, or king, orders his air force to bomb his own subjects, who are rebelling. Like the best Clash songs, it manages to be a pop tune and a protest song at the same time.

Strummer remains a musical hero and an ongoing inspiration to me -- listen to his diatribe before kicking into a raucous version of "Rock The Casbah" at the US Festival in 1982.  It was 2-Tone, The Clash and reggae music that offered me a lifeline during a difficult time in my life in the early 1980's. Instead of alcohol and drugs, I found refuge in music that changed my life in incalculable ways.  I am the man I am today because of people like Joe Strummer who offered me a vision that the world could be different and that I could play a part in changing it. The Clash's albums were like a classroom for me and their admonitions to question authority, support social justice and know my rights, helped shape the political and world view that I still hold to dearly nearly 30 years later.

More importantly, The Clash and other punk bands inspired me to pick up a guitar and find other like minded souls to make music with. I had no idea how to play the bass when I started, but I was encouraged by Strummer and others who said that it didn't matter as long as kept at it and was passionate about it.
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. There is nothing more common then unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world if full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
― Joe Strummer
Even better, Strummer imbued me with the punk rock ethos that everyone had a story a tell and that those stories were important and interesting.  For that I am deeply indebted.

In memory of the tenth anniversary of Joe Strummer's passing check out this mind-blowing live video of their cover of Willie William's "Armagideon Time" (which segues into the dub "Justice Tonight") at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1979.  This version still gives me musical chills each time I hear it.

RIP Joe Strummer.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Put Some Bigger Thomas Under Your Xmas Tree & Support Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts

Are you still searching for a unique, one-of-a-kind, ska related holiday gift for that special Rude Boy or Rude Girl in your life?  Do you also want to support the ongoing Hurricane Sandy relief efforts here in New York City and surrounding areas?  Do you like my band Bigger Thomas? Well if you answered yes to any of the questions above, I have an excellent gift idea for you -- a personally autographed live photo of the band in action.  It may be one of the best photos of the band ever taken, and it can be yours if you act quickly!

Though the 12-12-12 concert here in New York City last week featuring The Rolling Stones, The Who and Bruce Springsteen was an important fund raiser to help support the ongoing Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, smaller, more localized and creative efforts are ongoing and pack a more emotional and personal touch.

Bryan Kremkau is a talented New York City area photographer who also happens to love ska and punk music.  He came to photograph a show that my band played this past September and  he took an amazing photo that captures the essence of our band -- specifically the love and passion we have for playing ska music. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Kremaku decided to auction off  autographed photos of bands he photographed during 2012 including The Descendents, Flogging Molly, NOFX, The Pilfers and Saw Doctors and others. Kremkau recently wrote about the impetus behind the project:
After Hurricane Sandy hit the area, I wanted to help out in some way. I thought it would be great if I could get prints signed from bands & artists I’ve photographed over the years, auctioned off those prints, and then donate 100 percent of the proceeds to American Red Cross or another charity for the hurricane relief. Well that’s exactly what I’m going to do! After seeing all the destruction that happened on Staten Island, Rockaway, and NJ Shore, I just wanted to do something to help. Personally, it was certainly sad to see Long Beach Island get hit hard by the “superstorm.” It felt like my childhood washing away in a way.
If you are a fan of ska music or Bigger Thomas and looking for a special gift that will also support a cause close to our hearts, I hope you will please consider bidding on the photo. It would mean a lot to us and all the people here in New York and New Jersey who are still struggling to get back on their feet.

Here is a link to bid on the Bigger Thomas eBay auction. If you are interested in bidding on photos on any of the other bands, please visit Kremkau's site SkaPunkPhotos for more information.

Happy Holidays & Happy New Year!

Neville Staple Announces He Will Not Tour With The Specials In 2013

Neville Staple, co-vocalist of The Specials has announced via his Facebook page that he will not be joining the rest of the band during their May 2013 U.K. tour dates.  Fans noticed and commented on Staple's absence during The Specials recent live performance on BB6, and the news comes after tickets for the bands shows across the U.K. had already gone on sale.   Whether or not the decision is permanent remains unclear, though UK media have reported that Staple's has quit the band. Here is Staple's statement.
To all the fans who have sent messages and posted stuff on facebook and on the Specials forum pages, I'm sorry to hear that some of you are upset that you bought tickets, before knowing I had decided to not perform with the Specials for BBC and the forthcoming tour.

I made my mind up some weeks ago to take a back seat and was under the impression that tickets wouldn't go on sale until after the BBC performance, when my decision would be made public. However, the ticket link went out earlier and this was out of my control.

I can't jump around like I used to but will be performing now and throughout 2013, with my band as before and hope to see many of you along the way. Please join my facebook page for all ticket updates.

I wish the rest of The Specials all the best in 2013.

The announcement adds to the drama that has stirred up fans of The Specials since the first reunion shows were announced in 2009 without the participation of band founder Jerry Dammers.  More recently guitarist Roddy Byers flirted with the idea of quiting, but quickly changed his mind.  Staple has suffered from poor health in recent years which lends credence to his decision, however the fact that he intends to continue performing with his solo band suggests there may be more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye.

While fans have debated whether the decision to sell tickets before Staple's announcement was deliberate, the band's management have offered a refund to anyone wanting to cancel their 2013 U.K. tour tickets.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Specials Perform "Classic Album Of The Day" Show Live On BBC 6

After announcing plans to play a 10 date UK tour this coming May, The Specials celebrated the news by taking over the iconic Maida Vale studios of the BBC yesterday for a blistering live, "Classic Album of the Day" show hosted by BBC 6 DJ Steve Lamacq. The band performed a nearly hour long set featuring cuts from both of their albums, "The Specials" and "More Specials" in front of a raucous live audience. Have a listen and play it loud!

Singer Neville Staple was notably missing from the performance.  It has been reported that he was feeling sick and stayed at home to recover.  He is expected to re-join the band during their UK tour.

Suggs of Madness Announces One Man 2013 UK Tour

Madness singer Suggs is ditching his baggy trousers to embark on a solo theatrical one-man show, "Suggs: My Life Story", across the U.K. during the Spring 2013, in which he will relate his life story with anecdotes, jokes and music.

Suggs was an only child, raised by his mother, a jazz singer and barmaid, who took him around the Soho and East End clubs where she worked. His father, William McPherson, left before he was born, and was never seen by the family again. Suggs later learnt that his father was a heroin addict, who died in 1975, just when Madness was being formed.

According to an interview Suggs did about topics that he touches on during his one man show, Madness have always served as a surrogate family for the boy who never knew his father and had an unconvetional upbringing.
“The story of Madness, of course, is that most of the band were from dysfunctional families. We were a sort of group of loners. When I hear talk of kids from one-parent families ending up in gangs, because the gang is a family, I understand. Obviously the great thing was we all had something to do in our gang, as well as hanging about on street corners nicking bicycles. ’Cause we formed a band.”
If you live in the U.K., click here for a chance to win free tickets to the show of your choice. Sadly, there is little chance that Suggs will bring his show Stateside, though hopefully some of these shows will be recorded for future release on video or DVD.

Monday, December 10, 2012

MOTB Reviews The Year In Ska 2012

I always enjoy year end wrap-ups and 2012 was another banner year for ska music . There was an unbelievable cornucopia of local shows, national tours and festivals, books, new albums and music to enjoy. In fact, the amount of ska related developments came so fast and furious at times, it was hard to keep up because there was so much to digest and write about.

My good friend Steve Shafer, the man behind the always excellent Duff Guide To Ska blog and my co-conspirator in booking and promoting our monthly Electric Avenue ska/reggae nights at Characters NYC is currently posting a great series titled "2012: The Year In Ska". He has reached out to a vast and diverse group of ska loving people to get their thoughts on the year that is about to end. He was also kind enough to ask me about my opinions on the state of ska this past year which he has posted on his blog. I am also re-posting the year in ska thoughts I shared with him here on my blog along with video of some of my favorite albums and live shows. Please be sure to visit the Duff Guide To Ska to check out all the other great year end wraps.

Without further ado, here is what made 2012 for me...

My top 5 favorite ska releases in 2012

1.The Ultrainfidels EPChris Dowd appears to be a man possessed with the musical spirit again. Nearly a decade out of the musical limelight, the ex-Fishbone singer, keyboardist and trombonist is back with a new ska band -- The Ultrainfidels. The band's new six song EP is dynamic, diverse (he has dubbed the band's sound as The Specials meets Yes and Metalica), thoughtful, intelligent and incredibly danceable. Even better, Dowd isn't shying away from embracing his Fishbone roots or his love of ska. One song in particular, "Cubicle" could have come from Fishbone's frenetic first EP originally released in 1985. It chronicles Dowd's time when he had a straight, 9 to 5 job. It moves from hyper ska to a Beatles-like psychedelic bridge that reveals Dowd's self awareness. The emotionally soulful "Time Ain't Long" (like many of the best tracks from Fishbone's classic "Truth & Soul") celebrates life while noting its impermanence and the difficult but essential lessons it offers us as we travel from youth to middle age.

2. The Skints - Part & Parcel: The mean streets of London have proved to be a fertile breeding ground for gritty ska and reggae songs for many years. The Clash, Madness, The King Blues and now The Skints have emerged from the city armed with bittersweet tales about surviving in the rough and tough neighborhoods across the English capital. While reminiscing about his roots in one of these neighborhoods on "Rise Up", vocalist Joshua Walters Rudge warns of the dangers of growing up there on "Live East Die Young". His lightning-quick cockney chat is complemented by the sublime vocals of Marcia Richards, particularly on the excellent "Ratatat". This is a modern day dub, ska, reggae and hip hop-inspired classic and The Skints could be the 21st century version of The Specials we have all been waiting for.

3. The Frightnrs EP: I found myself listening to this brilliant six song EP of authentic rub-a-dub reggae from the Brooklyn-based band a lot this year. The songs have a timeless quality and the band have done a fantastic job of recreating the rockers phase of early 70's reggae to a tee drawing influences and inspiration from Alton Ellis, Horace Andy and Sugar Minott. Its clear that the band members live, breathe and love early dancehall, 70's reggae and rocksteady. This devotion shines through, making this an absolute must listen for all fans of reggae and ska.

4. Tim Timebomb & Friends: Tim Armstrong from Rancid remains a musical force to be reckoned with. I also love that he is a music fan at heart. His latest project is to record and post some of his favorite cover songs including an incredibly diverse mix of ska, country, rockabilly and rock songs that have particular meaning for him. He took a crack at a number of 2-Tone era covers, but his best may be his acoustic cover of The Beat's "Save It For Later" which gets to core of the song's bittersweet center and his emotional and moving rocksteady take on The Faces "Ohh La La" may be one of his best songs ever.

5. Phoenix City All-Stars - Two Tone Gone Ska: This inspired and unbeatable collection of mostly instrumental versions of classic 2 Tone tracks that you know and love so well have been taken back to the future from whence they came -- namely 1960's Jamaica. Each song sounds like it was recorded in a small, 4-track circa 60's Kingston studio. The inclusion of legendary guest vocalists Dave Barker (the voice of Dave & Ansell Collins) on Elvis Costello's "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down" and AJ Franklin (The Federals and The Chosen Few) on Smokey Robinson & The Miracles/The Beat's "Tears Of A Clown" complete the musical circle.

Top 5 favorite live ska shows in 2012

1. The Ultrainfidels - December 1st, Bordentown, NJ (Video from a show in NYC a few nights earlier)

2. Madness at Coachella - April 14th, Indio, CA (Live Coachella stream on YouTube)

3. Jimmy Cliff at Coachella - April 14th, Indio, CA (Live Coachella stream on YouTube)

4. Destroy Babylon/The Frightnrs - October 13th, New York, NY

5. The Beat Brigade - September 15th, New York, NY

My favorite ska-related merchandise/items purchased in 2012 (shirts, badges, stickers, books, used vinyl, etc.)

I'm a t-shirt freak! So I always try and pick up shirts for the many bands I see or my band Bigger Thomas plays with. Its also a great way to get some cash into the hands of bands who are getting paid a lot less than you think! I was finally able to grab a classic Beat Girl t-shirt at a show we played with The English Beat this summer which replaced the shredded original I had from 1983. I also got a classic Clash t-shirt (showing my age and roots here!)

My top 5 ska regrets—things I wished I could have seen/picked up or done in 2012

1. Missing the London International Ska Festival 2012 was a huge regret. My band Bigger Thomas was in the running for a fan vote to pick one band to perform at the festival. We finished in the top 3, but we were disappointed to miss playing. I plan to attend the 2013 version as a fan!

2. For a lot of very personal reasons, I was very sad to miss the Rocks Off Halloween Boat Party with Mephiskapheles, Inspecter 7 and Step2Far at the end of October.

3. Hurricane Sandy ruined my debut as a DJ alongside DJ Duff (Steve Shafer) at the The Toasters show at the Knitting Factory in early November. The good news was the show went on and Chuck Zilla (The Frightners) and Maddie Ruthless (The Forthrights) ably filled in for us.

4. Missing the Lee Perry's show at the Gramercy Theatre here in NYC which is a short bus ride from my apartment. I'm kicking myself for not going to see a reggae legend. Still have to see him live at some point.

5. Letting a little rain dissuade me from going to see Jimmy Cliff kick off his U.S. tour in Prospect Park in Brooklyn this past summer.

My Top 5 ska wishes for 2013

1. I have very high hopes for the Electric Avenue ska and reggae shows I co-book and co-promote with Steve Shafer of Duff Guide To Ska. I think we are making progress on establishing a monthly destination in Manhattan/NYC for ska fans to come and check out the very best bands from all over the east coast of the U.S. and beyond.

2. My band Bigger Thomas is celebrating our 25th anniversary in 2013 and we are planning to release an EP of new music. I hope we can play out a lot more in 2013 to mark our quarter century of playing ska and that we can finally record more of the songs we have written.

3. To be part of the backing band for King Hammond on his U.S. tour in November 2013. It would be a real honor and thrill to learn his songs and to play live with him.

4. That The Specials come back to do a proper tour of the U.S. in 2013!

5. Go see more shows. Listen to more music. Play more music. Write more songs.  Write more blog posts on MOTB. Meet more ska-loving people!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Story Behind The Special AKA's "What I LIke Most About You Is Your Girlfriend"

After Terry Hall, Neville Staple and Lynval Golding left The Specials it should have been game over for the band, but Jerry Dammers decided to soldier on as The Special AKA to make the "In The Studio" album, which according to many involved was a very difficult record to make. With Dammers perfectionism in overdrive and band members coming and going, its amazing that the record sounds as intact as it does.  Despite the difficult circumstances surrounding its birth, the album features the life-affirming joy that is "Free Nelson Mandela".

Perhaps one of the most unusual and intriguing tracks on the album is "What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend". Technically this was The Special AKA’s last single and the swan song for 2-Tone Records when it was released in September 1984.  I remember purchasing the single with fantastic art work by Nick Davies (read my interview with him here) at Bleeker Bob's here in New York City.

Upon opening the shrink wrap, I was surprised to find a large poster of Jerry Dammer's inside the record sleeve.  He was dressed up like some 1930's approximation of a space man (the poster quickly went up on my college dorm room wall).  It was only many years later, after seeing the extraordinary video for the single (with Jerry as an alien turning up in a bar, talking to a sailor while eyeing his girl, as The Jazz Defektors spiral and pirouette on the club's dance floor) that I put the connection together. It remains a classic.

With rare falsetto lead vocals by Dammers (sounding eerily like Rhoda Dakar who took the lead on other songs from the album), the song was a minor hit in the UK with it’s tongue in cheek lyrics ("Your girlfriend is what I like most about you"). It’s been stated by several fans of The Specials that the video for the song may be one of the best the band ever made (alongside the video for Ghost Town). The song with its unique jazz and reggae sound is a belter, showing Dammers' sense of humor was still intact, and it features some amazing horn playing by Rico Rodrigues and Dick Cuthell.

I connected with Rhoda Dakar, who was a member of The Special AKA at the time to find out more about the song and why it is the one and only song to feature Dammers on lead vocals rather than lead singer Stan Campbell or Dakar herself.
"He used to spend days doing guide vocals, as we were allowed no interpretation of our own. As the backing tracks were already recorded, there was no possibility of changing anything to appropriate keys for our voices. Jerry could not be made to understand the human voice is not a tuneable instrument. He wrote it about his girlfriend, so I imagine couldn't bear anyone to add anything of their own to the vocal. I can only imagine Stan (Campbell) didn't follow instructions to the letter."
Despite the turmoil and dysfunction that accompanied the recording of the album, the song quickly became of a favorite of fans and musicians alike. Have a listen to wildly disparate versions by Elvis Costello and The Punk Monks.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Unveils 2-Tone Exhibit

In a sign that the rock powers that be are more hip than we thought, The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame announced that it has unveiled a new spotlight exhibit focused on the history of 2-Tone featuring handwritten lyrics, photographs, singles, instruments, apparel items and more from numerous bands on the legendary label.

Read a post from Rock Hall curator Meredith Rutledge-Borger, who traveled to the UK to collect and research for the exhibit including quotes from interviews conducted with Jerry Dammers and Roddy Byers.

Highlights from the 2-Tone exhibit curated by Rutledge-Borger include:

Dave Wakeling of The Beat's 1980 Jay Dee Six Custom Guitar
Singer, songwriter and guitarist Dave Wakeling played this guitar onstage and in the studio between 1980 and 2006 with the Beat, his follow-up group, General Public, and as a solo artist.

Madness "One Step Beyond" Master Tape Box, 1979
One Step Beyond was Madness’ first album. It reached Number Two and stayed in the U.K. charts for more than a year.

Five 2-Tone Badges, c. 1979
Badges and lapel pins, especially those depicting “Walt Jabsco,” the iconic 2-Tone record label logo figure, were important signifiers of the 2-Tone scene.

The Beat's “Tears of a Clown” 45 single, 1979
The English Beat’s version of this Smokey Robinson and the Miracles 1970 hit reached Number Six on the U.K. chart.

The Specials “Ghost Town” 45 single, 1981
“Ghost Town” is the Specials’ final recording. It’s an eerie, world-weary document of the final days of the band, the disintegration of the 2-Tone scene and encapsulated the mood of the U.K. in the summer of 1981.

For more information on this exhibit, visit

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Specials Announce 2013 UK Tour Dates

The Specials have just announced dates for 10 city UK tour during the month of May  2013. This new tour will see The Specials perform at venues in Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool, Leicester, Birmingham, Newport, Margate, Portsmouth and London.

More details as they become available!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

MOTB Review: The UltraInfidels Featuring Chris Dowd (ex-Fishbone) Live!

Chris Dowd left Fishbone in 1994, walking off of a tour bus with a broken trombone, a guitar, his keyboard and a suitcase he found on the street in Barcelona. As a founding member of the band hailed by the Trouser Press Record Guide as "one of America's greatest and most overlooked bands," Dowd and his band mates broke out from the early 1980s club scene in Los Angeles with a raucous, high-energy mix of punk, ska, funk and straight rock. However, the growing tension and his departure from Fishbone led Dowd on an intense personal journey. Dowd explained his years away from music and his now timely return.
“I left the band in ’94 and I put out my own record with the band Seedy Arkestra (The Puzzle which featured songwriter David Ryan Harris and the dearly departed Jeff Buckley). I was writing and producing and I was able to get Morley Cain signed to Sony. I toured opening shows for Jerry Cantrell. After that I went back to London and I just focused on songwriting. I came back to LA and honestly, from 2000-2004 I drank myself blind! I was miserable. My marriage was falling apart, Jeff Buckley passed away, Lane Stayley had passed away. I just really needed to find myself during that period. 
One of the ways Dowd was able to find himself, was to dive head first into one of his all time loves; cooking! “Kendall and I would have cook offs! We would get everyone together while on tour, send someone to the grocery store with a list, and we would cook for everyone. People could see that I took that shit seriously! I ended up enrolling in Le Cordon Bleu. On the second day of the class my instructor walked in with a Fishbone T-shirt on! HA! I started catering different events…cooking gave me back my confidence. It gave me back my focus and sense of self. With all the touring we did I just lost a sense of who I was and I needed time to get that back. I needed time to be honest with myself."
What I have always admired about Fishbone is the absolute joy they have in playing music and entertaining their fans in ways that reveal their love of music. It is that love of music that keeps the current version of the band featuring Angelo Moore and Norwood Fisher together and it has clearly inspired Dowd to return to playing music again with his new band The Ultrainfidels.

My band Bigger Thomas was very lucky to play support for The Ultrainfidels stop at a show in New Jersey that was part of a short east coast tour they had embarked on with New York punk/funk legends Funkface, to road test the band (that's me and my Bigger Thomas bandmates with Luqman Brown of Funkface and Dowd in the picture below). The show at a Firehouse in Bordentown, New Jersey was more like an underground party for a very large group of friends. Though the attendance was smaller than it should have been, those who were there saw something very special.

Luckily, I remembered to bring my trusty Flip Video camera to record the proceedings. Based on the front row seat I had, Dowd appears to be a man possessed with the musical spirit again.  The new songs he unveiled were dynamic, diverse (he has dubbed the band's sound as The Specials meets Yes and Metalica), thoughtful, intelligent and incredibly danceable. Even better, Dowd isn't shying away from embracing his Fishbone roots or his love of ska.  One song in particular, "Cubicle" could have come from Fishbone's frenetic first EP originally released in 1985.  It chronicles Dowd's time when he had a straight, 9 to 5 job.  It moves from hyper ska to a Beatles-like psychedelic bridge that reveals Dowd's self awareness. The emotionally soulful "Time Ain't Long" (like many of the best tracks from "Truth & Soul") celebrates life while noting its impermanence and the difficult but essential lessons it offers us as we travel from youth to middle age. Plus Dowd rips off an amazingly bluesy harmonica solo.

My Bigger Thomas band mates and I were joined by Dowd for a raucous version of The Specials cover version of Toots & The Maytals classic "Monkey Man." Dowd then invited our singer Roger Apollon to join him for a joyful and faithful take on The Pioneers skinhead reggae classic "Longshot Kick The Bucket."

Dowd is coming back with open eyes about the music landscape and his place in it. He understands that they way music is marketed has changed and he smartly sold cards for fans to redeem his new 6 song EP digitally stating, "When we put this new music out if it reaches five million people that would be great! But if it only reaches five people, that’s OK too. If it goes double platinum, great but I will be OK if it only goes double plywood!"

Dowd clearly understands that The Ultrainfidels are his chance to reclaim his Fishbone legacy and that he has an opportunity to reach fans of the band who have missed him and his important contributions to the band and their history.  Based on the live show I saw, it will only be a matter of time before The Ultrainfidels are no longer playing small clubs and Firehouses.  And while that is a good thing for them, try and catch the band in an intimate setting while you can so you relive the spirit and love for music that we all love about Fishbone.

Credit and thanks to the iconic punk rock photographer Ken Salerno for the amazing show photos.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Tim Armstrong of Rancid Previews Solo Record Of Diverse Covers

2012 has been a very busy year for Tim Armstrong of Rancid.  He produced Jimmy Cliff's comeback EP "Sacred Fire" and album "Rebirth" and then toured with Cliff playing critically acclaimed shows at Coachellla. If that wasn't enough, Armstrong noted that new material from Rancid and the Transplants would be on the way.  Before those records drop, fans can look forward to Armstrong’s latest solo project, Tim Timebomb and Friends, who are releasing a debut album on December 11th on iTunes.

Armstrong has been posting a song a day on his official YouTube channel, often posting them as they are recorded. The songs offer an incredibly diverse mix of originals and covers with several guest musicians, including Pink and Travis Barker. Each video comes with a short note from Armstrong about its personal significance to him. Many are quite detailed and offer wonderful anecdotes about the song, its writers and details about its original recording. Armstrong is clearly a music fan first and foremost and explained the project on his website.
“Tim Timebomb and Friends is a place for me to share with you some of my favorite songs that I’ve recorded with friends of mine.  I’ve always enjoyed sharing music, whether I’m just sitting around playing acoustic guitar with my friends or breaking out old 45’s. 
“I guess you could call me a music nerd. I like everything from Bob Dylan to the Ramones, to Jimmy Cliff to Cock Sparrer. I plan to bring together a great group of players to record covers as well as some originals. I hope you dig it and encourage you to pass them on.”
Armstrong loves ska and 2-Tone and he has recorded faithful versions of a few of his favorites including The Specials "Concrete Jungle," The Bodysnatchers cover of Dandy Livingstone's "Let's Do Rocksteady," Bad Manners "Lip Up Fatty" and The English Beat's "Save It For Later." Have a listen below.

This track is HOT OFF THE GRIDDLE!! It's Friday night, and we just recorded it!! 'Concrete Jungle' was originally on The Specials self titled album, that was produced by Elvis Costello, and was written by Roddy Byers, aka Roddy Radiation. Roddy recorded with Rancid on the 'Life Won't Wait' record -- he played the guitar solo on 'Hooligans'. The Interrupters are my backing band on this one. Check out the the amazing rhythm section of Jesse and Justin, they play like identical twins...oh wait, never mind -- they ARE identical twins.

Tim Timebomb - Guitar, Vocals
Dan Boer - Organ
Kevin Bivona - Guitar
Jesse Bivona -Drums
Justin Bivona- Bass
Aimee Interrupter - Backing Vocals
Mike Bolger - Trumpet, Trombone
Pablo Calogero - Saxes

This is the second 2 Tone song that we’ve done. This one’s originally by the Bodysnatchers–a seven piece all female band who formed in London in ’79. You can check them out in a documentary film called “Dance Craze” which features a bunch of British 2 Tone bands. They toured with the Selector starting in ’79, and singer Rhoda Dakar joined The Special A.K.A. later on.

Tim Timebomb – Lead Vocals, Lead Guitar
Aimee Interrupter – Vocals
Kevin Bivona – Guitar, Farfisa Organ
Justin Bivona – Bass
Jesse Bivona – Drums
Dan Boer – B3 Organ
Pablo Calagero – Saxophone

Lip Up Fatty-This is the third 2 Tone era song that we’ve done so far. I first saw Bad Manners while I was in high school-when they played the Berkeley Keystone in 1983. A lot of the punk rock kids went to that show, and it was so cool to see punks, mods, and skaters all under one roof getting along and loving ska music.

Tim Timebomb- Guitar, Vocals
Kevin Bivona – Guitar, Melodica
Justin Bivona – Bass
Jesse Bivona – Drums
Dan Boer – B3 Organ

Dave Wakeling has a unique guitar tuning on this one. Dave Wakeling said he got it from the Velvet Underground. For those of you who may be keeping score-- this is the fifth "2-Tone" era tune that we've dropped... this time we broke it down acoustic.

Tim Timebomb-Guitar,Vocals
Jason Myers-Guitar
Kevin Bivona-Buitar, BG Vocals

Armstrong has also recorded and released a video for a moving and emotional version of The Faces "Ooh La La" which should be the centerpiece for the new album.

Originally released in 1973, this song was written by Ronnie Lane and Ron Wood for the Faces' third album, also called 'Ooh La La.' As soon as Travis Barker heard my demo for this song, he wanted to play on it, we recorded at his studio the next day and made the video the day after. I have a long working relationship with both Travis and J Bonner. J is my favorite reggae bass player that I've played with and worked with me on Poet's Life and the Jimmy Cliff album. Travis is in the Transplants with me. I'm so fortunate to get to play with these guys. In the video, there's a shot of me standing on a garbage can on the corner of Durant and Telegraph, in the distance you can see the church where my parents were married in 1958. This song is dedicated to my dad Don Armstrong 1931-2012

Tim Timebomb -- Guitars and Vocals
Travis Barker -- Drums
J Bonner -- Bass
Kevin Bivona -- Keys

Friday, November 30, 2012

Chris Dowd (ex-Fishbone) Unveils His New Ska Band The UltraInfidels!

Attention all Fishbone fans! Chris Dowd's (Ex-Fishbone) new ska band The UltraInfidels is playing an all ages show in New Jersey tomorrow night along with New York's 2-Tone heroes Bigger Thomas and the Afro punk/funk sounds of Funkface. Word is that Dowd (trombone, keyboards and harmonica) and his band Dana Stevens on tenor sax, Daniel Seef on bass, Erin Davis on guitar and Eric Radloff on drums (pictured below) will play all new material as well as a few Fishbone songs. The band has embarked on a short east coast tour that has visited New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC and that will wind up in Brooklyn on Monday night.

Dowd who left Fishbone in 1994 and moved to New York where he was living with Jeff Buckley admits that he hasn’t really played much since 1999. According to an interview he did with The Trentonian, Dowd says fans should expect a diverse sound. “In Fishbone we never wanted to be genre driven,” Dowd said. “We hated when people thought we were the square peg and the square hole. I’d say (The Ultra Infidels) we sound like, uh, we’re Prog-Ska (laughing). We are like Yes mixed with The Specials and then throw in a little Metalica.” Below are two of the band's new songs, "Cubicle" and  "The Walking Dead" which offer a sense of the diverse sounds Dowd and his bandmates are exploring.

I plan to videotape much of The Ultrainfidels show in New Jersey and will preview it here in the next few days.

Philippine Ska Festival To Feature Best of Filipino and Korean Ska

The growth and popularity of ska music around the world continues to astound and amaze. It really is a testament to the original Jamaican musicians who gave birth to the sound 50 years ago in small recording studios around Kingston, that ska has grown into a truly global music and phenomenon.

Witness the growth and popularity of ska across Asia culminating in the Philippine Ska Festival, which will be held over two weekends this December in cities across the island nation. Dubbed the “first gathering of Philippine and Korea ska,” the festival will be headlined by Korea's top ska band Kingston Rudieska (who remind me of Japanese ska band Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra). Listen for yourself:

Ska music has always enjoyed a healthy following among Filipinos since Put3Ska broke into the Filipino musical mainstream with their first hit album in 1994. Since the release of their groundbreaking album, three generations of Filipino ska musicians and artists have taken up the torch and there are now a widely diverse group of bands around the country -- some singing in English and others in Tagalog.  The effect is a local, homegrown sound that still has ska rhythms at its core but is still uniquely Filipino.  Check out a video of Put3ska below:

The first event of the festival, called the 3rd Manila Ska Festival, will be held at the Makati Square Arena on December 8th. It will feature Kingston Rudieska along with the best in Filipino ska including Shuffle Union, Coffeebreak Island, Neighbors, Jeepney Joyride, Baguio Ska Paradise, Stolenshots, Steadymovinbeat, Dandimites, Monsoons and Fingertrapp.

The festival then goes to Cebu on December 15th and 16th for the Southside Skarnival,
featuring Kingston Rudieska together with Skalibre 32, Laidback Allstars, Oneman Down, Seaweed Pasta, Sheperd’s Plaid, Blessed The King, Shuffle Union and Coffeebreak Island.

Check out videos for a few of the Filipino bands performing:


Jeepney Joyride

For details and ticket reservations you can visit You can also get in touch with Piliskapinas through Facebook and twitter. Enjoy the festival!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Interview With Travis Nelson On The End Of Hub City Stompers & The Re-Birth Of Inspecter 7

Don't call it a comeback!  The big ska news here on the east coast of the U.S. over the Thanksgiving weekend was that New Jersey-based Hub City Stompers (HCS) have called it quits.  While that news will upset quite a few of the band's die hard fans around the world, the exciting part of the announcement made by HCS lead singer Travis Nelson (Reverend Sinister) was that the death of HCS has given rise to the re-birth of New Jersey ska legends Inspecter 7 (I7)!  That's right, beginning in February 2013, the band from whose ashes HCS was spawned way back in 2002, will be back full time and full force. The other good news -- the majority of the HCS line up and HCS music catalogue will be coming right along to the new I7.

I7 were formed a few years after my band Bigger Thomas staked a flag in the ground for New Jersey-styled ska way back in 1988.  While we looked to 2-Tone for inspiration, I7 took the genre in a whole new direction.  Like us, they embraced the 2-Tone philosophy in look and attitude, but they mixed their ska with a heady dose of punk, hardcore and skinhead sounds and politics.  They quickly developed a rabid following in our shared hometown of New Brunswick, New Jersey and soon through regular touring and explosive live shows became one of the premiere American ska bands of the 1990's.

When Inspecter 7 ended in 2001, Nelson wasn't ready to throw in the towel.  Instead, he took the best of his original band and honed it in his new band Hub City Stompers.  The power and the energy from I7 remained, but now there was humor and witty social commentary that came along with excellent song craft. And so, I fully expect that lessons, song writing experience and showmanship that Nelson and his HCS band mates have gathered along the way the last 10 years will inform the updated I7.  I can't wait to see what they have in store for us in 2013.  Here are a few of my very favorite HCS songs.

 I connected with Nelson right before Thanksgiving to get all the inside information on the decision to end HCS and re-boot I7, who had still played shows sporadically the last few years, but were not a full time band.  Here is what he had to say.

What prompted the decision to reform I7 full time and to bring Hub City Stompers to an end?
It's not so much a reformation of Inspecter 7 as it is a resurgence and a return to full time, regular activity as a band after years of limited, local playing out. After some talks between myself and Giuseppe, Inspecter 7's cessation as a regularly active band, which is essentially what prompted me to form Hub City Stompers, has come to an end.  I7 is back in full force. It's been an amazing 10 year run for HCS, but Giuseppe and I are ready to join forces on an all out basis again and keep Inspecter 7's 20 year history running strong. Things have come full circle.

Who is the new line-up for the reformed I7?
Myself (Rev Sinister) and Giuseppe Mancini on lead vocals, Jenny Whiskey (of HCS and Professor Plum) of tenor sax and backing vocals, Reggae Bob (of HCS and Predator Dub Assassins) on bass, Rob George (of HCS and Bigger Thomas) on guitar, Pip (of The Heavy Beat and HCS) on drums. We're still sorting out the trombone position, though Adam X will still be involved in a limited capacity, and we are still searching for a keyboard player (if anyone's interested?). We're also talking to King Django (Jeff Baker) about possibly being involved in the line up on either of those instruments.

Are there plans to record a new I7 album? I know you debuted a new song "They Say" at your last show.
There's actually been a new Inspecter 7 album in the works for a few years now, entitled "Escapes & Illusions", which should be out by year's end on Little Dickman Records. And yes, "They Say" is one of the tracks from the new album. We'll also be immediately working on writing a new CD as soon as we're up and running again in early 2013.

HCS explored a very diverse palette of music with ska at its core. Do you plan to keep exploring with I7?
Absolutely. We'd already started doing that in Inspecter 7 on "Banished To Bogeyland" I'd say. And the Hub City Stompers songs and music is what I would have been doing with Inspecter 7 anyway had things not come to a halt with i7 back in 2001. So I always have had the view, and still do, that while it's a good thing to have a base in our sound, we shouldn't pigeon hole ourselves to very few specific formulas or influences.

Are there plans for I7 to tour? When will you debut the new I7?
Absolutely. We're all about getting back on the road. No specifics yet as things are still starting to get booked, but we'll be out and about as much as possible. It's still all i7 old, new, or whatever you want to call it. After our benefit show for Predator in Long Branch on 12/15/12, we'll be back with the new line up full time in February 2013. Still ironing out details for the debut show of the "resurgence" but be on the lookout for an early February show somewhere in the NJ/NYC area.

Will I7 play any HCS songs live ?
Yes, absolutely. It's not just the HCS line up that's being incorporated into i7, but a large part of the HCS music catalogue as well. I of course wouldn't just toss 10 years of music in the garbage, and there is a new HCS CD ("Hater's Dozen") coming out on Stubborn Records soon. So while you're rockin' out to the i7 set you never know when a few HCS favorites will be thrown in there. Even a few Steel Toe Solution songs may pop up from time to time as well. You're essentially looking at a 20 year history of music from the i7 family (i7/hcs/sts) spanning 9 albums (come 2013) all under the Inspecter 7 banner. The show is going to be as nuts as ever.

What do you say to HCS fans who may be disappointed about the end of the band?
I'd suggest they look at the new beginning that this end is ushering in. And I'd say that neither the HCS spirit nor the music is truly dying, as so much of HCS is going to be involved in i7 now, and that the HCS spirit was a continuation of the i7 spirit in the first place. Playing, touring, and traveling with HCS over the last decade, people all over would constantly refer to the relation of the the 3 bands, particularly i7 and HCS, whether I myself was conscious of that relation and connection or not. The circle is closing, and everything will now be encompassed in it.

You've been playing music for 20 years now! What keeps you motivated?
The love of the music, first and foremost. That's what's had me join Inspecter 7 and had me form HCS, while both were respectively formed in periods where ska was in the doldrums. It's never been about the popularity of style or genre, but more so for the love of what we create and play, and for those that do appreciate it. What better way to let it all out and express than by the means of the music you love.

For anyone wanting to catch the last few Hub City Stompers shows:
Friday 11/30 @ IOTA in Arlington, VA
Saturday 12/1 @ Popeye's in Peekskill, NY
Sunday 12/16 @ Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park, NJ

To keep up with i7 news, tour schedule, and music, visit the band's Facebook page.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Live Footage Of Special Beat Show In Japan Circa 1992

The Special Beat can be credited with helping to nudge the U.S. into its own full-blown ska delirium in the mid-1990's. Rising from the ashes of The Specials and The Beat, The Special Beat was headed by Beat toaster, Ranking Roger and the core of The Specials including Neville Staple, Lynval Golding, John Bradbury and Horace Panter as well as Finny from The Loafers. The band was built as a touring machine (rather than a band that recorded original material) and the original version of the band toured the U.S. extensively throughout 1990 and 1991 releasing two live albums. Indeed, Special Beat can be credited with helping to nudge the U.S. into its own full-blown 2-Tone delirium in the early 1990's.

While all the 2-Tone bands toured the U.S. during the height of their popularity in the late 70's and early 80's, most had split up or called it quits just as they were beginning to make inroads (read Horace Panter's book "Ska'd For Life" for some great stories of The Special's U.S. tours). But those early tours had an effect and impact by spawning legions of young musicians around the U.S. to start their own bands and scenes. Though it took the U.S. a bit longer to have its own love affair with 2-Tone and ska, by the mid to late 80's, there were ska bands and thriving ska scenes in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Chicago and Los Angeles. Ironically, members of Special Beat, who had helped to set the stage for a revival of ska in the U.S., returned as conquering heroes playing sold out shows across the country. For most, the Special Beat tour of 1990-91 was the first time many of them had heard songs by The Beat and The Specials performed live.

Below is a rare video of one of the band's show from Japan circa 1992 which was televised across the country. Its a rare treat to see the band in explosive form as they gallop through a greatest hits set list of The Specials and The Beat best. Enjoy!

1]Concrete Jungle
2]Monkey Man
3]Tears of a Clown
4]Rough Rider
5]Too Much Too Young
6]Get a Job
7]Rat Race
8]Too Nice to Talk To
9]Too Hot
10]Do Nothing
11]Nite Klub
12]Noise in This World
14]Ranking Full Stop
15]Mirror in the Bathroom
16]Enjoy Yourself
18]Save It for Later
19]You're Wondering Now

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sounds Of Reggae Show Featuring Ali Campbell Comes To Brooklyn

In celebration of Jamaica's 50 years of independence, veteran reggae crooner Beres Hammond, award-winning artist Shaggy, Ali Campbell and his version of UB40 and British reggae star Maxi Priest will all perform together as part of the Sounds of Reggae concert at Brooklyn's Barclays Center on Wednesday, December 12.

As part of the promotional lead up to the show, Hammond is scheduled to make his U.S. late night television debut on NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon show on Tuesday, December 11th, 2012. The Grammy-nominated reggae icon will be greeted by Jimmy Fallon and sit in with The Roots to perform his hits in and out of commercial breaks. Hammond's appearance at the show is timed to coincide with the release of his brand new album "One Life, One Love" the following day.

The show also gives fans of UB40 living in the New York area a chance to finally hear Ali Campbell and his band perform.  For a sense of what to expect from Campbell and his band, check out a show they performed in Sweden earlier this year that includes their versions of the band's classics (One In Ten, Cherry Oh Baby, Kingston Town), a handful of Campbell's solo songs and a catchy cover version of Prince's "Purple Rain."

Tickets for the Sounds of Reggae show are available by visiting or, or by calling 800-745-3000.

Hurricane Sandy Leaves New Jersey Reggae Artist/Producer Homeless

Hurricane Sandy has impacted many thousands of people across New Jersey and New York. Many lost power for days on end and many others remain without power across the region.   Others, like Tim "P-Dub" Boyce, lead vocalist and band leader of New Jersey reggae band Predator Dub Assassins have had their entire lives turned upside down.

P-Dub lost his entire house and home recording studio in Bradley Beach at the New Jersey shore during the storm on October 30th. His recording studio was flooded by the storm destroying all his equipment and gear and then a tree fell on top of the roof, completely destroying the house. His wife, 14 year old daughter and infant baby (2 weeks old) had to seek refuge with family.

According to a post that he shared on Facebook:
Many folks have been asking how they can help the Dub family in the wake of this epic disaster and I have been too busy to really answer everyone as we are a bit overwhelmed to say the least. We lost everything from both chest high floodwaters running through our house, as well as a giant tree that smashed through our roof. We are homeless and without equipment.
One of the issues we are having to deal with is the remaining stock of PDA CDs. Many of them got wet. We still need top move em out though, and so have created a PayPal link where you can either get 2 CDs for $5 or 4 CDs for $10. (Inserts may be slightly damp, lol, but CDs will play just fine.)
In addition, we have made all albums $5 via CDBaby. These, of course, are dry as a bone. Also, if you just wanna make a contribution of any other amount of even some kind words of encouragement, there is a link for that as well. This is the time when each purchase truly counts. Thanks again everyone and stay positive.
P-Dub, together with his band Predator Dub Assassins, has developed a unique brand of contemporary music fusing Hip Hop and RnB with Pop and Reggae elements. Since 2005, they have released 5 full length albums: “Predator Dub Assassins” (2005), “The Hardest” (2007), “East Coast Dub Cartel Volume One” (2008), ”Fully Qualified” (2009), and P-Dub’s solo debut “Frontline” (2010). The group made an appearance on the hit TV series “American Chopper” in 2009, and supplied music for other popular TV programs on the Food and Fuel TV networks.

As a singer/songwriter and producer, P-Dub has worked with a diverse range of artists including: Akon, Britney Spears, Twista, Trina, Sean Kingston, FloRida, Collie Buddz, Dipset/The Diplomats, Pharoahe Monch, French Montana, Jadakiss, Three 6 Mafia, Paul Wall, Buju Banton, Maxi Priest, Wayne Wonder, Billy Blue (Def Jam), Ace Hood and others.

He has also appeared on some of the same albums as pop luminaries like Lady Gaga, P-Diddy, Trey Songs, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, and Lil’ Wayne, seeing a #1 Independent (Billboard), #2 Rap (Billboard), #4 Hip Hop/RnB (Billboard), and two top 10 albums on iTunes (reggae) in the process.

There will be a benefit concert for P-Dub on Saturday, January 5, 2013 at The Court Tavern in New Brunswick, NJ with various supporting acts. If you’d like to help P-Dub in his recovery please buy a CD or consider donating funds via PayPal to

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Talks Collaborate with Neville Staple Of The Specials On New Single "Can Stand The Rain"

While fans of The Specials await news of their future plans, an up and coming ska band that the 2-Tone legends tapped to open for them during their triumphant 30th anniversary tour in 2009 is starting to make waves of their own across the U.K. and Europe.

The Talks began life in the summer of 2006 in Hull, in the Yorkshire region of the UK. Their very first demo received the attention of Hull's very own songmeister Paul Heaton (The Housemartins, The Beautiful South) who placed it in the top 10 list for his radio show at the time. The band very quickly got themselves out on the road, travelling the length and breadth of the UK. Over that time, The Talks have played a whole range of venues and festivals across Europe, including; Leeds/Reading and Glastonbury festivals, tours in Germany, Czech Republic and Slovakia, as well as tours with many established ska bands including Rancid, King Hammond, The Toasters, The Beat and many others. This hard work caught the attention of members of The Specials.

The Talks new single "Can Stand The Rain" featuring Neville Staple, is an infectious piece of old school 60's Jamaican ska infused with a dark dash of 2-Tone political sensibility about the gloomy state of life in the U.K. Neville's guest spot on the song and his friendship with the band goes back to 2009, when The Talks scored the dream gig of supporting The Specials on their much anticipated reunion tour. The single follows the release of the band's LP “Live Now Pay Later” in 2011.

I had a chance to connect with The Talks drummer Titch who shared more about his love of blues and samba, the burgeoning music scene in Hull and what it was like to watch The Specials on their first few reunion shows.

Where did you grow up and what bands or music influenced you the most? What was the first record or single that you ever bought?
I grew up in Hull, East Yorkshire. Specifically on Spring Bank, now the cultural hub of the city! Through my early career I was heavily influenced by blues and samba. My first performances and tours were with blues and samba bands in the early 2000's. The first tape I bought was "Somewhere In Time" by Iron Maiden! That album still does it for me!

When did you decide you wanted to be a drummer?
My earliest memory (early 90's) of playing was after seeing a South American quartet busking in Hull city centre.  I convinced my parents to buy their cassette. Later that day at home, I arranged a selection of pots and pans across the kitchen floor, stuck the cassette on and bashed away like Tito Puente! From then on, I always had a place in my heart for drums. It wasn't until 2005 that I realised I could make this my every day job/career and haven't looked back since!

What is the Hull music scene like?
Hull has always had a thriving music scene! With the likes of Mick Ronson, Roland Gift of Fine Young Cannibals, The Housemartins and the Beautiful South hailing from Hull, to more current bands such as Counting Coins, The Paddingtons, Last Winter Dance Party and Hekima and the Bongo Flava, there is some ripping talent in the city, backed by some great venues such as The Sesh, The Adelphi, and Pave. Doing great things for the city!

Were you a fan of ska an reggae before you joined The Talks?
Like a lot of my friends, when i was in my teens I had the obligatory 3rd wave ska/punk cover phase, and later on from that, the token 'Best of Bob Marley' album phase. Playing with The Talks has opened my ears a lot to ska and reggae, showing me the delights of trad ska and dark evil heavy dub!

For those who may not be familiar with the band can you tell us a bit about how the band was formed and who the members are?
The band was formed back in 2005-6 when Patrick Pretorius (vox/gtr/sax) and Jody 'Kep' Moore (vox/gtr/keys/synth) got together and wrote/recorded the earliest Talks tunes. They then enlisted me and bassist Iain 'easy E' Allen to take the sound to the masses and start touring!

How would you describe the sound of the band live?
Stomping, pulsing, bouncing, bass heavy, sweaty ska from where I'm sat!

Can you share any stories about any live shows that are particularly memorable?
For me, opening up for The Specials on the first few dates of their reunion tour will always stick with me! Witnessing the suspense as they waited to start their set on the first night was immense!

Tell me about recording "Can Stand The Rain' with Neville from The Specials.
When Pat and Jody went to Coventry to record Neville's parts, they were joined by Neville's family for a barbecue (15-20 people).  Lots of eating and drinking went on, with spurts of recording in-between.

Any plans to tour the U.S.?
We're always looking for new adventures, so no doubt we'll be over that pond pretty soon!

"Can Stand the Rain" featuring Neville Staple will be released on the November 26, 2012 as a digital download on the band's own All Our Own Records. It will be followed by an EP due for release in January 2013. You can catch up with The Talks on Facebook, Twitter or at their official website.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Next Electric Avenue Ska/Reggae Night This Saturday 11/10 with The Pandemics and Los Skarroneros!

The next Electric Avenue show coming up this Saturday, November 10, 2012 at Characters NYC in the heart of New York City is "A Night of Ska Punk" featuring two purveyors of the genre from Brooklyn -- The Pandemics (led by Bigger Thomas trombonist Chris Malone) and Los Skarroneros -- for the incredibly low price of $6.00!

The ska punk genre remains unique in its ability to fuse with a variety of other sounds while maintaining some semblance of ska roots at its base. The Pandemics hew to the type of ska punk perfected by their biggest influences -- The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Less Than Jake -- featuring  lots and lots of horns and crunching guitars that is balanced by their love of ska and reggae. Los Skarroneros (who take their name from the Spanish word carroñero (a scavenging bird), but also the colloquial Spanish word ñero, which means a person from a poor working class neighborhood) play a rough and ready mix of ska and punk music which reflects their shared Mexican heritage and their working class/immigrant view of the world.

This show is also an opportunity to bring together the diverse Anglo and Latino ska scenes in New York City -- something which would have seemed to be a no brainer, but which in fact has happened less than you would think. It has occurred to me that the dawning of anti-immigrant political reality during the election on the right can be a clarion call for the beginnings of a new American-styled 2-Tone, (or 3-Tone - black, white and brown!) musical and political response, that is bi-lingual, but built on bringing together the rich musical variety of ska in all its forms. One of the amazing qualities of ska is its mutability. It has easily incorporated a variety of musical styles over time. As someone once said to me, "Ska is ska. It really doesn't matter what language the singer is singing". How true.

Electric Avenue is brought to you by my fellow New York City-based ska blogger Duff Guide To Ska (Steve Shafer) and I to support the ska and reggae scene and most importantly, bring ska and reggae music back to Manhattan, where it was born with The Toasters, Beat Brigade and N.Y. Citizens in the early 80's. Electric Avenue is a non-profit venture--all of the cover charge at the door will be split equally between the bands. We don't plan to take a cut, nor does the venue, so you can be assured that if you come out to see a show, the money you pay will directly support the band's playing that night.

Hope to see you at the show!

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Toasters To The Rescue! New York's First Ska Band Play Brooklyn Tonight

Greetings to all MOTB readers from New York City! I am alive and well post Hurricane Sandy. Luckily I live in a neighborhood in Manhattan that did not flood or lose power. For that I am very grateful. Sadly, many of my family, friends and fellow New Yorkers are not so lucky. Many are still without power. Others have suffered significant damage to their homes. Our iconic subway system is still getting back on line after flood surges inundated key tunnels linking Manhattan and Brooklyn. On top of that, there are now gasoline shortages everywhere making it even more difficult to get around. While pockets of New York may seem normal, we are far from back to normal. That will take some time.

As a long time denizen of New York I know the city will bounce back. It has a spirit and energy that are hard to keep down for very long. As such, its only appropriate that The Toasters -- who were born in New York City thirty years ago and who helped found the American ska scene -- are playing tonight in Brooklyn at the Knitting Factory. Its almost poetic that the band that keeps the ska flame burning wherever it travels around the world is here in New York after a terrible natural disaster. Nothing keeps The Toasters down and nothing will keep New York City down either.  Joining the band tonight are New York ska/reggae band The Rudie Crew and Phildadelphia's The Snails.  My fellow ska blogger Steve Shafer (Duff Guide To Ska) and I are DJing the show together.

If you are able to travel to the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn tonight I urge you to come out and celebrate with the New York ska community to toast our collective good fortune and good luck with a night of soul stirring and inspiring ska brought to you by Rob "Bucket" Hingley. If you can't make it, then know we are with you in spirit and crank the band's anthem "East Side Beat," a musical paean to the lower east side of Manhattan (which has suffered mightily from the storm) and sing along at the top of your lungs.  God bless The Toasters and God bless New York City!