Friday, December 28, 2018

Radio - Friday, December 28th, 2018

Basement Sessions
Two Tone review

THE SPECIALS – Enjoy yourself

Ska is party music. “Enjoy Yourself” is one of the most obvious party songs by the Specials. But I played the songs because it was the opening song in a set that I got to see as a 14 year old kid at the Police Picnic. I think that was in 1983 out in a farmer’s field in Oakville. And the Specials was my first exposure to a ska revival scene that was growing out of the post punk era. The played right before the Police and it was the song “Enjoy Yourself” that left an impression on me, but I was yet to learn about the first record which would have even better hits.

I thought we could start off this second tribute show to ska with a guy who recorded the first SPECIALS album. A musical encyclopedia unto himself and now a Canadian citizen. He hosted the music show Spectacle. I am talking about ELVIS COSTELLO and on his first record he had a reggae inspired number called Watching the Detectives.

Early Roots to Two Tone
ELVIS COSTELLO – Watching the Detectives – Recorded that first Specials album
COVENTRY AUTOMATICS – Blank Expression – for the snow reference
AKRYLYKZ – Ska’d for Life (Polydor)

That was the Akrylykz from Hull. They were mostly art students that formed a ska band and featured Roland Gift who would go on to sing in the Fine Young Cannibals.
We started off without Elvis Costello and that was followed up by a band that became the Specials called the Coventry Automatics. I played Blank Expression because of the snow reference.

Up next are a few sets about what the ska revival inspired. First off some bands that came from the skate scene and tried to take it mainstream starting off with Fun Boy Three featuring the singers from the Specials. They had a hit called the Lunatics are taking over the Asylum, but we are going to play a song that features a band called Banarama that also would go on from the seeds that ska sowed. This is “The Farmyard Connection”.

2 Tone spin offs
FUN BOY THREE - The Farmyard Connection
THE COLOURFIELD – Colourfield - More 60’s inspired band that would lead the way for bands like the Smiths to enter the fold
CULTURE CLUB - I’ll Tumble for You

That was Culture Club and I know it is a bit too commercial for my tastes but they were probably the most popular band to do something with that ska feel. They wrote Karma Chameleon that referenced the rastafarian colours and would get covered by dancehall artists. They were gender identity forward thinking with the sexual ambivalent front singer decades before issues of gender assignment would take to the mainstream. Not a two tone band but within the sphere of reference for sure. And has made recent cameos in the Housewives series.
Before that was the Colourfield also featuring Terry Hall from the Specials. They were 60’s inspired and would go on to pave the way for bands like the Smiths to come along.

Next up is the Clash a band noted for many reggae influences but this is off the “Black Market Clash” album written by Willi Williams. I would hear this song at a Stone Love set in Fletchers Land on an oldies Tuesday night while two groups of people rocked singing along over an open sewage gutter. I was probably the only person who knew the song from the Clash but I was hearing the Willi Williams song for the first time.

THE CLASH – Armagedeon Time

That last song is a cover of the Specials one of many over the years. Citizen Fish formed from some of the greatest punk bands in England which started with the SUBHUMANS and then became CULTURE SHOCK. They had an acid rack sound inspired by the band before which is a UK reggae band called Basement 5. I think Don Lets was part of the band. They were very influential on the Subhumans.
Up next is a set on British Reggae which was happening simultaneously with the punk and ska scene. Starting with a band from Handsworth that used to play with punk bands at Rock Against Racism shows. Steel Pulse and the song “Sound System”.

British Reggae scene
STEEL PULSE – Sound System
UB40 - Food for Thought
ASWAD - African Children

Aswad started as far back as 1975. They had so many great songs and “African Children” was a song I first heard on their “Live and Direct” album which was the first time I realized that other places had a Carribean carnival just like us.
We also heard early UB40 which is from the first record. The first two records were double albums which contained an album and a dub record and neither of them were repetitive. we heard “Food for thought”.

Ska had an impact here in Canada. Locally the Rock Against Racism scene was taking their cues from England though a band called the Young Lions. They had a practise space called the Garage. One of the bands that practised there was from Malton called the 20th Century Rebels. They released their own 12” called “Rebel Vibe”. I made my own 20th Century Rebels shirt and the family of the sax player lived on the same street that I grew up on. Here is the most ska version from that record “Unemployed Expert”.

Influence of 2 Tone across the pond
20TH CENTURY REBELS - Unemployed Expert

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