Wednesday, October 31, 2018

"Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records" To Be Shown at DOC NYC Festival!

Ska fans in the NYC area should take note that there will be a single screening of the new Trojan Records documentary "Rudeboy" on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at 9:15 pm at the SVA Theater in Chelsea. The film is being shown as part of the DOC NYC film festival. (I've bought my tickets already and if you're interested, you should purchase them in advance now.)

"Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records" includes interviews with Roy Ellis, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Derrick Morgan, Pauline Black, Don Letts, Ken Boothe, members of The Pioneers, Marcia Griffiths, Bunny Lee, King Edwards, Dandy Livingstone, Lloyd Coxsone, Neville Staple, and Dave Barker.

Trojan Records is releasing a soundtrack to the film on both CD and LP; the CD is available now, while the LP will be issued on 11/9/18 (both can be ordered now through Amazon in the USA). Long-time fans will have the majority of these (classic) tracks, but new converts to the cause will have an incredible collection of reggae music to feast on.

Lastly, make sure to watch this preview of the movie that was broadcast on BBC News recently. If this doesn't convince you to go see "Rudeboy," I don't know what will!

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Monday, October 29, 2018

Everything We Know About The Specials' New Album "Encore"

Word's been seeping out for a bit now about The Specials new record Encore, which is being released on February 1, 2019 (it's already available to pre-order through, but not in the US yet). So, we're going to sum up what's publicly known and then some. The 10-track album will be available on vinyl and CD (the latter includes a bonus disc, titled The Best of The Specials Live). Of note, Encore is being issued on a major label by UMC (Universal Music Catalogue), which is part of the Universal Music Group. This particular imprint released Madness' most recent album Can't Touch Us Now and its current batch of new records includes The Beatles' deluxe reissue of The White Album, The Rolling Stones' 50th anniversary edition of Beggar's Banquet, and remastered back catalogue/comps from Massive Attack, Brian Eno, The Cure, The Beach Boys, John Lennon, The Police, Soft Cell, REM, Metallica, Guns n' Roses, and more. So, it'll be interesting to see what sort of promotional push this receives (The Specials are announcing their 2019 tour dates on October 30).

Encore's track list is a mix of new material and covers:
  1. "Black Skinned Blue-Eyed Boys" [an Equals cover]
  2. "B.L.M." [Black Lives Matter]
  3. "Vote For Me"
  4. "The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum" [a Fun Boy 3 cover]
  5. "Breaking Point"
  6. "Blam Blam Fever" [a Valentines' cover AKA "Guns Fever"]
  7. "10 Commandments" [a Prince Buster cover, featuring Saffiyah Khan]
  8. "Embarrassed By You"
  9. "The Life And Times (Of a Man Called Depression)"
  10. "We Sell Hope"
While various--but never all--members of The Specials have recorded as The Specials (King of Kings with Desmond Dekker, Today’s Specials, Guilty ’til Proved Innocent!, Skinhead Girl, and Conquering Ruler) in the years since the original group split in 1981 (into The Special AKA and Fun Boy 3), Encore marks the first time singer Terry Hall has recorded/released new material under The Specials banner since the extraordinary/incendiary Ghost Town EP.

This iteration of The Specials consists of original members Hall, Lynval Golding, and Horace Panter--joined by more recent collaborators: keyboardist Nikolaj Torp Larsen (who also co-wrote some of these tunes with Hall, Golding, and Panter), Kenrick Rowe on drums, and Ocean Colour Scene guitarist Steve Craddock. Founder, primary songwriter, and keyboardist Jerry Dammers steadfastly has refused to participate in any Specials reunions; guitarist Roddy Radiation and singer Neville Staple were part of many reunion tours, but opted out within the past few years to pursue their own musical projects; and, sadly, drummer John "Brad" Bradbury passed away unexpectedly in 2015.

Specials biographer Paul "Willo" Williams has posted an exclusive, glowing preview of Encore, which he states picks up "where More Specials left off" (so there will be bits of rock, pop, and soul with your 2 Tone); and if "'Ghost Town' was the anthem of 1981, then Encore is the snapshot of the world today--and on a global scale." Expect sharp political and social commentary on racism, sexism, gun violence, mental illness, and more--all of which you can dance to.

Needless to say, expectations are running high for this release (fans have been clamoring for new material ever since the first few reunion tours, which started back in 2008!). Here's really hoping that the band delivers!

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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Madness' "Michael Caine" and The Troubles

The deceptively happy cover of
Madness' 1984 single "Michael Caine."
I've been reading Stuart Bailie's extraordinary "Trouble Songs: Music and Conflict in Northern Ireland" (bands like The Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers, The Clash, Dexy's, Rudi, and many more are covered) and was surprised to come across a passage about Madness' "Michael Caine"--a track I liked well enough when I'd first heard in 1984 on WLIR, but always though of as sort of lightweight pop single. From what I could discern from the chorus ("And all I wanted was a word/or photograph to keep at home"), I imagined that it was some sort of scenario of romantic cinematic regret/longing related to one of Michael Caine's movie roles, perhaps "Alfie"?  It turns out that the track actually refers to something much more weighty: The early 1980s UK state policy of using a "supergrass"--a paid informer or IRA member who was granted immunity from prosecution for identifying and testifying against other IRA members (who then has to go into witness protect and live under an assumed identity).

Bailie writes: "'Michael Caine' draws on this feature of the conflict. The character in the song is anxious and startled by the sound of a phone. He wishes he had a photograph or memento of his past life, but this is unsafe and not permitted by the programme. The name repetition is a technique to resist interrogation and by using Michael Caine (who obliged Madness with a voice sample) it references the dark espionage of films like "The Ipcress File." The song also draws on Cathal's [Smyth AKA Chas Smash's] memories of Coleraine and Porstewart in 1971:

'Woody [Dan Woodgate, Madness drummer] sent me a cassette of the music and the lyrics came to me immediately. I don't know why. I thought of my time in Northern Ireland, you know, Bernadette Devlin, the people banging the dustbin lids on the floor [to warn people that the British Army was in the area], that comedy tune, 'Belfast, Belfast.' I remembered going to the shops and being frisked. I remember thinking back to when rubber bullets were being used, thinking, 'Jesus...' It was a general mood of suspicion and fear.

'At the front end of the song I said, "we'll get the IRA and yah yah," which was like, we'll get the IRA and shit, but I was too scared to be obvious. And then the concept of Michael Caine put a veneer over it, which made it like a spy film, like "Get Carter." But it was totally inspired by Northern Ireland. I was scared to be overt. I wanted a song to have a sense of the fear and the underlying suspicion that was present. It was almost tangible in the air. You know, that thing of the right street, the right pub...the wrong street, the wrong pub.'"

Indeed, during the spoken opening of the official music video for "(My Name Is) Michael Caine," Madness saxophonist Lee Thompson drives up in car that stops in front of a bag of trash, gets out, and addresses the camera "If there's one thing worse than a murderer, it's a dirty, rotten, stinking 'grass'." Then he picks up the bag of garbage and tosses it off-screen, saying, "And that goes for litterbugs, as well."

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Read more of The Duff Guide to Ska's writings on Madness:

The Liberty of Norton Folgate

Can't Touch Us Now

Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da

Total Madness

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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Duff Guide to Ska NYC Fall/Winter 2018 Ska Calendar #10

Friday, October 26, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

Big D and the Kids Table, BIGWIG, The Creepshow, Sgt. Scag

Brooklyn Bazaar
150 Greenpoint Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
Tix: Advance - $15 / Day of show - $17

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Friday, October 26, 2018

Punky Reggae Party with Boomshot Riddim Collective, Escasos Recursos, Nufok Rebels, plus sound selectors Grace of Spades, Rata, Tenosh, Pdrito

Email revqc@eastrev for address.

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Saturday, October 27, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

Lee "Scratch" Perry and Subatomic Sound System: 45th Anniversary Performance of "Blackboard Jungle Dub," Top Shotta Band

599 Johnson Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

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Saturday, November 3, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

The Full Watts Band, Boomshot

C'mon Everybody
325 Franklin Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$10 in advance/$13 at door

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Tuesday, November 6, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

Fishbone, Living Color, Brass Against

Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

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Thursday, November 8, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

Stacked Like Pancakes, Beat Brigade

The Kingsland
269 Norman Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$10 in advance/$13 day of show

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Saturday, November 17, 2018 @ 9:30 pm

The Scofflaws, The Big Takeover

Diviera Drive
131 Berry Street
Brooklyn, NY

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Saturday, November 17, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

Mustard Plug, Sgt. Scag

Bowery Electric
327 Bowery
New York, NY
Tix: Advance - $14/Day of show - $16

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Saturday, December 1, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

Streetlight Manifesto, Mephiskapheles

Playstation Theater
1515 Broadway (at West 44th Street)
New York, NY

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Saturday, December 22, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

The Slackers

Irving Plaza
17 Irving Place
New York, NY
$22/All ages

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If you don't see a NYC ska show listed here, send us all of the details to!

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Monday, October 22, 2018

Boy George: "People Who Don't Like Reggae Music Are Quite Disturbing"

Culture Club have a new album coming out soon (called Life), so Boy George has been making the rounds with the music press to promote it. And that's how I came across this incredible exchange from the October 19/26, 2018 issue of Entertainment Weekly:

EW: "A few of the tracks, including the single "Let Somebody Love You," have a strong reggae vibe. Did you listen to a lot of that while making Life?"

Boy George: "I've always liked reggae music. I'm always surprised when people don't love it, but there are people out there who don't. Look, there are people out there who don't like Bowie! I've met them! I've met people that have said to me, 'Yeah, I didn't ever really get into Bowie.' I'm like, 'Well, which period did you not get into?' Because there's so many different parts of Bowie. And I think the same thing with reggae music. People who don't like reggae music, I think, are quite disturbing."

Boy George released a fantastic album called This Is What I Do back in 2014 (which we reviewed) that contains a good number of reggae tunes (roots and dancehall)--and is absolutely worth picking up, if you haven't already.

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Thursday, October 18, 2018

New UB40 Album "For the Many" To Be Released in Celebration of their 40th Anniversary (plus a Tour of the USA in 2019)!

If you've been a long-standing UB40 fan, you're painfully aware that the band has split into two factions--UB40 featuring Ali Campbell, Mickey Virtue, and Astro, and UB40 (with Robin Campbell, Jimmy Brown, Earl Falconer, Norman Hassan, Brian Travers, and Duncan Campbell). I've seen both permutations live and have to admit to preferring the version with Robin, Duncan, et al, as they performed a terrific mix of their own hit material (often sharply political and socialist in nature) in addition to some of their Labour of Love-type covers (read our review of their 2010 show at the now closed B.B. King's in Times Square), while UB40 with Ali et al pretty much stuck to the (admittedly very popular) covers (read our review of their 2015 show at the now closed Webster Hall).

In celebration of UB40's 40th anniversary, the Robin/Duncan iteration of the band has recorded an album of all new material titled For the Many (a nod to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party slogan), which will be accompanied by a dub version, and a third version featuring guest collaborators. The album proper and deluxe edition with the dub album can be pre-ordered via their Pledge campaign--with a release set for February 2019. (If you can believe it, the last time UB40 released a non-covers album was in 2008, with TwentyFourSeven, which included some truly great songs, including "Dance Until the Morning Light," "Middle of the Night," and "Oh America"). They also will be touring the UK and USA in 2019.

UB40 featuring Ali, Mickey, and Astro have recently released another album of covers, A Real Labour of Love.

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For more on UB40, check out The Duff Guide to Ska appreciation of Present Arms that we posted a few years ago.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Duff Review: "Joe Strummer 001"!

Ignition Records
3xLPs and 1x12" single /2xCD

(Review by Steve Shafer)

The story goes that after Joe Strummer's death (in 2002 at age 50 from a heart attack), a huge cache of his writings and recordings was discovered in a barn in his backyard, which ultimately yielded the 20,000 items that now comprise the Joe Strummer Archive (apparently he was quite the pack rat-documentarian). The new compilation Joe Strummer 001 is the first batch of freshly buffed material to emerge from the archive, much of it somewhat obscure/hard-to-find (see LP #1) or never released (LP #3 and the 12" single) and will be eagerly consumed by Clash and Strummer fans. But LP #2--containing readily available recordings of Strummer with The Mescaleros, Jimmy Cliff, and Johnny Cash (plus his contribution to Chef Aid: The South Park Album, the Buddy Holly pastiche "It's a Rockin' World")--is a bit at odds with rest of this set, as its seems to be more about re-shaping/re-claiming Strummer's post-Clash legacy than yielding unheard musical gems or rarities. (For instance, they could have swapped out LP #2 out for a cleaned up version of some/all of The Clash Mark II's Out of Control demos (AKA the 1983 Lucky 8 demos) or their legendary live benefit performance for striking coal miners at The Academy in Brixton on December 6, 1984, since that excellent, unheralded band was really more of Joe Strummer solo enterprise anyway. For proof of their greatness before manager Bernie Rhodes' machinations mucked it all up, read Mark Andersen and Ralph Heibutzki's "We Are The Clash" and listen to Crooked Beat Records' Recutting the Crap Volumes I and II. Also anyone looking for a fantastic comp of Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros' music should pick up their Live at Acton Town Hall, which we reviewed a few years ago).

Strummer's so-called "wilderness years"--between the disintegration of The Clash Mark II in 1986 and his finally regaining solid footing again with The Mescaleros in the late 1990s--were filled with a series of short-lived groups and one-off collaborations (and the not-so-great solo album Earthquake Weather); acting in and recordings cuts for art house and Hollywood film soundtracks; a drawn-out legal dispute with Sony; subbing for Shane McGowan in The Pogues; and DJing on the BBC World Service. (In Chris Salewicz's "Redemption Song: The Ballad Of Joe Strummer," he posits that during this period Strummer was clinically depressed--and episodes about the demise of The Clash Mark II in "We Are The Clash" support this assertion.)

The aforementioned unreleased/hard-to-find tracks on LPs #1, #2, and the 12" single have precious little reggae (disappointing, really--and the cover of The Tennors' "Ride Your Donkey" from Earthquake Weather is surprisingly meh) and there's a bit too much Americana for my taste, but the punk, rock, and worldbeat songs are pretty terrific. If you followed Strummer in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, you've likely encountered some of this lesser-known material (on LP #1), like "Love Kills" from the "Sid and Nancy" soundtrack, "Trash City" from the "Permanent Record" OST, and "Generations" from the A Punk Look at Human Rights comp (with punk supergroup Electric Dog House, made up of members of The Ruts DC and The Damned). But I've never heard the prime cuts "Afro-Cuban Be-Bop" with The Astro-Physicians (AKA The Pogues, which give this left-field Latin-y/Irish mash-up its Celtic flavor) from the "I Hired A Contract Killer" indie film soundtrack and the rabble-rousing cover of the anti-fascist Spanish Civil War song "15th Brigade" with The Latino Rockabilly War, the b-side to the "Island Hopping" Earthquake Weather single. Oddly, "Sandpaper Blues" with Radar is replicated almost note-for-note on The Mescalero' debut Rock Art and the X-Ray Style (is it the same recording?).

Of LP #2's previously unreleased songs, only "When Pigs Fly" (which nicks a bit of The Supremes' "You Can't Hurry Love") and "Rose of Erin" (both from the indie film soundtrack "When Pigs Fly"), the lounge-y "The Cool Impossible" (think "Broadway"), the Clash Mark II demo of "Pouring Rain" (ragged and impassioned!), and the absolutely stellar rocker "London's Burning" (which was released as a 7" vinyl single that we reviewed recently) are essential additions to the Strummer canon. It's definitely interesting to hear the reggae-ish "Czechoslovak Song/Where is England" demo, though the version from the Lucky 8 sessions--retitled as "This is England"--has much more kick to it (and it should be noted that the UK 12" of this last great Clash single includes two other legitimately good Clash Mark II tracks, "Do It Now" and "Sex Mad Roar"). And then there are other songs from the vault that take up space that could have been devoted to more vital material which was left on the shelves--like the cleaned-up, zydeco-y second take on "Pouring Rain" and the "Sid and Nancy" outtakes (with Mick Jones on guitar) "Crying on 23rd" (a straight-up blues track) and "Bullets" (a country-western cut with Pearl Harbor--AKA Pearl E. Gates--on vocals who, at one point, was spouse to Paul Simonon).

Lastly, the 12" (one-sided) single offers an unreleased Strummer/Jones Big Audio Dynamite composition "U.S. North" (for the indie film "Candy Mountain") that must have been recorded around the time of BAD's No. 10, Upping Street (which Strummer co-produced with Jones; they co-wrote "Ticket" on that album, too). It's a decent song (though far too long at 10+ minutes) and may be the only instance where Strummer sang and played guitar on a BAD recording.

If you're unfamiliar with Joe Strummer's post-Combat Rock years, this compilation does a pretty spectacular job of filling in the blanks. But it may leave the more zealous Strummer/Clash fans less satisfied and hoping that subsequent releases from Strummer's recorded archive will reveal even greater finds.

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

New Specials Album Update via Paul Willo

Specials biographer/insider Paul "Willo" Williams posted an intriguing update regarding The Specials' (Terry Hall, Lynval Golding, and Sir Horace Panter) new album on his FB page:
The new album is at the final mix mastering stage.
A fabulous collection of politics, life stories and personal tales.
Imagine where the band should have gone after More Specials.
This is The Specials with a lifetime of life experience behind them.
Album will be out Feb 1st 2019 as they celebrate their 40th Anniversary.
Are shows planned? YES.
Hold onto your hats...
More news end of month.
To be honest, I put a good amount of stock in Willo's opinion--I don't think this is mere hype.

We'll pass along any bits of news as we find them (nothing's on The Specials' website yet)!

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