Monday, July 29, 2013
For those of us who came of age in the late 70's and early 80's, ska and reggae was the sound du jour. Like Hip-Hop in current American music culture, ska was the now sound and many non-ska bands and musicians flirted with it to varying degrees of success. Blondie had a hit with their cover of the rock steady classic 'The Tide Is High'? Who can forget Todd Rundgren's flirtation with ska on the song 'Bang On The Drum All Day'? Even Madonna tried the ska sound on for size when she was the drummer and singer for The Breakfast Club.
Add to that list Nine Inch Nail's front man Trent Reznor. While attending college in Western Pennsylvania in the early 1980's, Reznor started playing keyboards and singing in a new wave band called Option 30. Although he wasn't part of the songwriting team within the band, a number of videos have surfaced of the group playing live in 1983. The footage mostly involves performances of 80's new wave cover songs (Falco, Billy Idol. Joe Jackson, Thompson Twins). However, one original ska/reggae song "Time & Chance" from Option 30's repertoire stands out. Taking its cues from The Police (Reznor does sound a bit like Sting on the track), the song features reggae rhythm guitar and syncopated drums along with Reznor's Caribbean-themed keyboards. Check out the song from the band's one and only demo recording.
Here is Reznor taking the lead on a live version of Joe Jackson's vaguely ska classic "Look Sharp," including the song's memorable drum and piano break.
Many thanks to Tone And Wave for download of the song and the heads up on this piece of ska music history.
Sunday, July 21, 2013
In a week in which The Specials played a series of triumphant shows around the northeastern U.S., a very lucky group of people who came out to the Electric Avenue show at Characters NYC in New York City this past Friday night July 19th, witnessed something incredible.
Roddy "Radiation" Byers, the iconic guitarist of The Specials, who was booked to perform a solo show of his bluesy, ska rockabilly material from his other band The Skabilly Rebels on an off night during the band's U.S. tour, was joined by his equally iconic band mate Lynval Golding. The two of them played a completely impromptu and stripped down set of some of the band's best songs in a small intimate setting which took on the feel of a secret show for winners of a radio contest.
Byers joined The Specials when the band was called The Coventry Automatics and wrote several popular songs for the band. The most successful was "Rat Race," which peaked at number five in the UK Singles Chart in May 1980. Byers also wrote "Hey Little Rich Girl,"which appeared on The Specials second album, More Specials and was later covered by Amy Winehouse on her successful album "Back To Black." Byers also wrote and sang the lead vocal on "Concrete Jungle" and the track "Bragging and Trying Not to Lie" which was released as a free single with initial copies of "More Specials."
According to Lynval, this was the very first time that he and Roddy had ever performed together like this, and while Roddy joked that it should be the last time! "Hey Little Rich Girl," and "Rat Race" which were penned by Byers, and particularly "Doesn't Make It Alright" (which Lynval sent out to George Zimmerman) took on a haunting and emotional quality. The fact that the band's current U.S. tour is very likely it's last and that the overall future of the band who have been playing together since reuniting nearly 4 years ago is uncertain, added to the poignancy and power of these versions of the songs.
Luckily, my Electric Avenue partner, Steve Shafer (Duff Guide To Ska) and our friend Bryan Kremkau (SkaPunkPhotos.com) were both ready to capture the one of a kind performance on video and in photographs.
Doesn't Make It Alright
Hey, Little Rich Girl
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
The Specials are now fully into their run of shows along the East Coast of the U.S. Tonight they play the Ives Concert Park, which is an outdoor venue in Danbury, Connecticut before a big show here in New York City tomorrow night at Pier 26 and then shows in Long Island, New York and Asbury Park, New Jersey later this week. Separately, band guitarist Roddy "Radiation" Byers is playing a solo show in New York City on Friday night 7/19 at Characters NYC while the band have an off night.
I thought you all might enjoy some behind the scenes pictures that members of the band have shared. The top photo was taken by drummer John Bradbury from behind his kit at the show in Danbury tonight. He tweeted "Tonight I'm playing outdoors, actually hotter than indoors but more wildlife about:-)"
Below is a candid of bassist Horace Panter and guitarist Lynval Golding sound checking at the same venue. They both seemed dressed for the hot weather that has descended on much of the New York area.
Hope to see a lot of you at the show in New York City tomorrow night. It should be a big NYC ska family reunion!
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Ranking Roger has announced plans to release a new album titled “Retrospective – Looking Back 2010 -1988" which will feature a variety of songs from his entire solo career. (Read a MOTB post about Roger's 1988 solo album "Radical Departure" here).
The album will be available through Pledge Music, which is an online direct-to-fan/fan-funded music platform similar to Kickstarter. Pledge Music helps musicians like Ranking Roger reach out directly to their fan-base to financially support upcoming recordings or musical projects. In addition to the 14 track album, Roger is also offering a wide range of other items and experiences including t-shirts, lyric sheets, a Skype chat, dinner or a concert in your home!
Roger discussed the limited edition reissue of The Beat's 1981 album "Whappen" on vinyl and his new Pledge Music album on a recent UK radio interview:
By pre-ordering Roger's album, you’ll also gain access to a special part of his PledgeMusic page where he’ll post exclusive audio interviews, detailing each track on the Retrospective album which will be released both digitally and on CD. The track listing is below:
1. Breeze And River – Ranking Roger with Jeep
2. Chi Widdley Bup – Ranking Roger with Mr Anonymous (aka Jeep MacNichol)
3. The Bed’s Too Big Without You – DubXanne feat. Ranking Roger
4. Wingmakers Dub part 3
5. Muscle Ska
6. More & More
8. Twist & Crawl (Full Mix) – Death In Vegas feat. Ranking Roger
9. Bubbling Hot (Beatmasters Remix) – Pato Banton feat. Ranking Roger
10. Civilization – Ranking Roger with Sly & Robbie
11. Music Running Around My Brain – Ranking Roger with Sly & Robbie
12. Your Problems
13. Time To Mek A Dime
14. So Excited
Sadly, the album won't include any of the tracks Roger recorded with The Clash for the never released double LP, "Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg" which later was released as the single LP "Combat Rock." Check out "Red Angle Dragnet" below:
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Electric Avenue is proud to present Roddy "Radiation" Byers, the iconic guitarist of The Specials performing a blazing solo set of his own ska meets rockabilly songs at Characters NYC (243 West 54th Street between Broadway & 8th Avenue) in Manhattan on Friday July 19th. Support will be provided by Long Island ska punk upstarts The Pandemics. Doors are at 9 pm and the cover is just $10!
Byers, better known as "Roddy Radiation," is The Specials lead guitarist and lead singer of his own band the Skabilly Rebels. He is well known for his guitar playing on classics by the band such as "Concrete Jungle" and "Hey Little Rich Girl" and penning "Rat Race," which helped to create the groundbreaking 2 Tone sound.
Check out Radiation performing a solo version of The Specials "Do Nothing" from last year:
Electric Avenue is a partnership between myself and my fellow New York City ska blogging pal Steve Shafer (Duff Guide To Ska). We have teamed up to present monthly ska and reggae shows at Characters NYC, a midtown Manhattan Irish pub with a big back room ideally suited for live music.
Since last fall, we've been undertaking this labor of love to support ska bands and their fans, and have some fun in the process. Electric Avenue shows already have featured some of the best acts on the Northeastern U.S. ska scene, including King Django (NJ), The Snails (Philadelphia), The Frightnrs (Brooklyn), Destroy Babylon (Massachusetts), Bigger Thomas (NY/NJ), Beat Brigade (NY), Doomsday! (NY), Los Skarronerros (Brooklyn), The Pandemics (Long Island), The Scofflaws (Long Island), The Bullbuckers (Wilmington, DE), The Reggay Lords (Brooklyn), The Copacetics (Providence, RI), The Rudie Crew (NYC), The Royal Swindle (CT) and Rude Boy George (NYC).
The Facebook Electric Avenue event page can be found here. And take a moment to "like" the Electric Avenue FB page, so you keep up on our shows.
Movie and comedy superstar Eddie Murphy has teamed up with Snoop Lion (still busy promoting his reinvention from Hip Hop star to reggae singer) to record a a very catchy and timely song about racial profiling in the age of stop and frisk and the Trayvon Martin murder trial.
The reggae track, titled 'Redlight', is credited to "Eddie Murphy ft Snoop Lion aka Snoop Dogg." It was uploaded to YouTube on June 27th backed by a video featuring footage of Snoop and Murphy in the recording studio.
“Redlight, stop right there where you are,” Murphy sings. “Emancipation [gone], race relations [gone], all our rebels are gone.” He later name-checks the loss of leaders like Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King.
Best known as a comedian and the star of the Beverly Hills Cop movies, Murphy kept up a sporadic recording career in the '80s and '90s, releasing three albums and scoring a U.S. Number Two hit single with 1985's 'Party All The Time', which was produced by Rick James.