(post-) punk gems, v. 54 — Bad Manners’ “Do Nothing”

Oh, man, we had such a good time at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archive–which has such a great staff, and I know it’s not their fault, but wouldn’t it be cool if the moniker were a bit more slangy, say “Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame Library’n’Archive”?

rdAnyway: if you tried to tune in, let me offer my apologies. There were technical difficulties, of course, and I’ll post here and on twitter if in fact there is a full recording, and it’s made available. I was hoping to show off my two-tone outfit, complete with silver shark-skin jacket, but I guess the pix that night (more forthcoming) will have to do for now.

On my ska/Specials station on Pandora, I made the acquaintance this week of this unbelievable track: Bad Manners’ version of The Specials’ “Do Nothing” in triple time.

Maybe I might have put the horns up front in the mix (and blended in the guitars a bit lower) on that first section, but otherwise, you can just feel the hot breath of the horn section and Buster Bloodvessel pouring through the speakers. I really adore the punk and post-punk revival of the cover tune, as longtime readers may recall (check out this post).

I hope to be back tomorrow with a section from Thursday’s talk–or something else entirely. Thanks for checking in!

post punk gems, v. 41 — The Specials’ “Ghost Town”

Happy weekend, people. It’s turned bitter-ish up north, and I expect that the bustling sidewalks of the past few months will thin considerably as the days get shorter, colder, and icier. How fortuitous, then, that 33 1/3 years ago, The Specials released “Ghost Town,” which was still all the rage on the radio when I had a home stay in Coventry (home base of The Specials) in July 1982.

A trip to Jamaica inspired the narrative and, of course, the de-industrialization of English metropoles was also on their minds. As Lynal Golding told the NME, “Kingston is a real ghost town. The place is a complete wreck … It was the first time I’d been to Jamaica in 20 years and it was frightening … people begging for a dollar, people begging you for the shoes on your feet.”

The 12″ single, I figure, was backed with “Why” and the sweet adagio swing of “Friday Night / Saturday Morning.” (You can find more recent live performances of this track, but I’m fond of the low-fi herein.)

The book’s available at most big online stores, but if you’re interested in the book (and its politics), please consider buying from somewhere other than amazon, including your local bookshop, whose hip cashiers may even be inspired by your fine tastes to order a couple of extra copies for the shop. I’m sure amazon is full of lovely people and all, but if half of what Hightower writes here is 25% true, it’s a bit of a mess.

(post-) punk gems v. 12 — The Belle Stars

With baseball season underway, it only makes sense that it’s snowing, and that my close comrades and I have been felled by cursed virus. Ah, climate change: you’re an iron-tough mistress.

After seeing some of the most remarkable cathedrals in the UK, and some of most amazing urban centers of Europe, one keepsake above all left a lasting impression on my 13-year-old self: the mix tape my Coventry host made for me, back in 1982. As I described in the opening chapter of *Stealing,* that tape included The Clash, of course, The Selecter, The Specials, Captain Sensible and a host of other bands I had never heard of prior to my visit. Among those songs was “The Clapping Song,” by The Belle Stars, who emerged from the ashes of The Bodysnatchers, whose track “Let’s Do Rock Steady” is part of The Two Tone Story collection. The Bodysnatchers’ origins are a fun tale: first opened for Shane McGowan’s The Nips, then played Debbie Harry’s birthday party, toured with Madness, The Selecter, et. al., and never released an LP.

The Belle Stars, who formed in 1980, saw little success west of the Atlantic, but–like so many great bands of that era–had their moments in the limelight in the UK.

“The Clapping Song” has its own fun history, too. It was first released in 1965, playing off the riff of a 1930s tune, and was  covered or sampled (if you will) by Gary Glitter, Tom Waits, UB4o (see the toasting in “Red Red Wine”), and on and on and on. The Belle Stars’ version came out in 1982, and was in heavy rotation that summer in London and Coventry, especially.

Thanks again for checking in on hump day, and I hope you tune in again on Sunday. The anniversary of The Clash’s debut LP is upon us next week, so I hope to cook up something fun for that occasion.

underheralded gems from the (post-) punk era, v. 7

Secret Affair’s “Time for Action”

In my weekly archaeology of pop in the years that truly mattered, I’ve found some real gems, but nothing quite like Secret Affair, who were kept a secret all too well, as far as we Yanks were concerned. These guys charted five tracks in the UK from 1979 through 1982, and this track, their self-produced debut single, apparently sold over 200,000 copies and reached number 13 in the UK chart. On this side of the Atlantic, not a peep, not even the slightest ripple of press or airtime as far as I can tell. They appeared on the covers of the major music rags, rode the mod revival through mid-1980, and then Seb Shelton bailed to bang-on-the-drums-all-day for Dexys Midnight Runners.  They’ve reunited, too, as of 2002, and still gig here and there.

The mod revival, as you may know, was largely displaced by the Two-Tone movement and–speaking of tones–apparently  The Specials are tone-deaf to Cleveland’s yearning for some skinhead moonstomp, so their first midwest gig on this year’s North American tour is Chicago–oh, the humanity!