Ska Oddity: The Notables

Posted on March 21st, 2008 by JJ Loy

I had noticed the disc, Quite Notable, in the Ska section of Vintage Vinyl since ’97. Despite the fun ska sticker on the cover and crazy named band members, I never ponied up the $13 that Vintage was charging for this mystery album. It wasn’t until last year that my buddy, Doug Morgan, from KDHX’s The Underworld, gave me a copy of this Skatalites influenced wonderfulness.

I was immediately disappointed in myself for letting such a great instrumental band slip through the cracks of my attention. Further research revealed that this “band” is actually a fantasy front for the two fellas behind the sound, and those crazy names are merely fiction. It’s an impressive feat to emulate an entire Ska-Jazz combo with only two musicians- and one that deserves comparisons to both Chris Murray and NYSJE.

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Comments (0) Mar 21 2008

Ska Oddity: The Terrorists (NYC)

Posted on February 19th, 2008 by JJ Loy

Here’s another of those “bands that time forgot”. When we tell the story of Ska we tell how the Two Tone movement revolved around the UK in the late 70′s- we say that the US had very little interest in the sound until years later, when the likes of The Toasters and Fishbone hit the scene- we tell a story that isn’t inaccurate, just incomplete.

What would you say if you learned that a New York band was playing Traddy Ska and Roots Reggae before anyone had even heard of The Specials? They were called The Terrorists and you can still hear their original material compiled by ROIR records.


The number one band playing reggae, ska, dub and punk on the East Coast, particularly New York City, were Terrorists. They were regularly gigging in N.Y.C. at Max’s Kansas City, CBGBs, Irving Plaza, Mudd Club, Hurrah, Tramps, the 80′s. Their unique punky, reggae, dub, ska were in great demand….

Because of the involvement of Lee “Scratch” Perry, who traveled with and fronted the Terrorists over 20 years ago, and the many tracks with Roland Alphonso of the Skatalites, also from 20 years ago, this is an important slice of reggae, ska, punk, dub from Manhattan in the late ’70′s. This is an historic document with material that is absolutely marvelous and unique. It puts a totally new perspective on reggae in Manhattan evenings during that period just before Marley was breaking through internationally with “Exodus” and brought reggae to a new tidal wave.

You can get the CD at Amazon, CD Baby and eMusic.

Comments (0) Feb 19 2008

Ska Oddity: Early Tears for Fears Ska Demo

Posted on January 26th, 2008 by JJ Loy

I’m not a big Tears for Fears fan, but I’m familiar with their sound. Naturally, I was a little surprised when I found this post at Tone and Wave, which is sharing a single from TFF’s early incarnation, Graduate.

This single was in response to Elvis Costello complaining about how everybody seemed to be hopping on the ska bandwagon and nobody cared much for his sound at that time. Link

Check out the other posts at Tone and Wave, while you’re over there. It’s essentially a file sharing site, but I like it’s focus on rarities and Two Tone inspired randomness. I also like the well informed commentary on each post.

Comments (0) Jan 26 2008

Ska Oddity: Tales From an Old Ska Kid

Posted on October 24th, 2007 by JJ Loy

I ran across a fun blog post while looking around the SkaSpot social network, specifically at the page of one, Dan Cowan. I was immediately drawn to his page because of his profile picture which showed him to be a few years older than your average Ska Kid. I’ve found, in my several years of chatting people up at shows, that the older fans have the real scoop on the scene’s history.

And Dan Cowan didn’t disappoint. In his post, Whot? U never ‘eard of the Villains? Cowan describes his involvement with the early ’80′s Canadian band, The Villains. The early ’80′s was a strange time, to be a Ska band, and here you get a sense of the Ska climate of that period:

At the time there were only 1 or 2 other ska bands playing in Canada. The Specials opened for the Police on a Canadian Tour and there was a very good local Vancouver ska band called the B-Sides and that was about it for Ska and Canadian Music Scene until the Villains arrived………

I love it when I hear about stuff like this. Much like NYC’s, The Terrorists, of the 70′s, The Villains were a band without a scene. Cowan describes The Villains as Ska troubadours, blazing their own path and cultivating a following through heavy touring and wild live shows…

Picture a skinhead band in full ska gear marching thru the local paper’s newsroom looking to introduce themselves to the local music critic… The Villains were a high energy, non stop action on stage dance band known for their wacky, unpredictable stage shows… At one point in the middle of a sold out show at the Commodore Ballroom, we gaffer taped our sax player to a highchair and shaved his head for an encore. Another time we put the 6 ft 6in tall guitarist on stilts making him well over 8 1/2 ft tall.

I’ve had The Villains Ep in my collection, for some time, and their cover of Wooly Bully has been included in many of my friends mixtapes. However, I’ve never quite gotten the scoop on who these guys were. They’ve always remind me a lot of the NY Citizens in sound, which makes sense. Think: post-Two Tone circus Ska.

Cowan metions a few places to find The Villains, nowadays:
-He sites ebay as the best place to find The Villains 4 song Ep. Link

-I’ve found new and used copies of their one and only full length, Go Crazy (re-issued import) at Amazon. Link

-And you can check out SkaBoom, Villain’s songwriter, Dave Neal’s new outfit. Link

Thanks to Dan Cowan for shedding some light on a band I knew nearly nothing about. I encourage you readers to check out his original post. Link

Comments (0) Oct 24 2007

Cut the Chit Chat – 05 -Ska Demos

Posted on October 23rd, 2007 by JJ Loy

This Episode of Cut the Chit Chat isn’t the pretteiest or the most accessible; I’ve made- but it’s one that I’ve been dying to make for a long time. The reason being that I’m an amateur tape trader, and I get very few excuses to show off some of my rare stuff.

If you put up with the raw mixes and the loud hisses, you’ll be rewarded with alternate takes and a backwards engineered reflection of the recording process.

The introduction to the show features what can’t be aptly described as a demo, but is just as scratchy and hard to find, as anything else in the show- Bob Marley’s Rudie Cut. I started the first set off with three rare Slackers tracks that embody their early Two-Tone style, including the earliest version of You Don’t Know I, that I’ve ever heard. I keep the sound in NY for the next couple of demos by Mephiskapheles: Doomsday and My Three Favorite Americans. The first set ends with tracks from Fishbone and The Toasters, respectively. These tracks aren’t exactly rare, but might serve as a curiosity to those who haven’t heard them before.

The next set kicks off with the Violent Femmes’ Reggae-licious demo of Please Don’t Go (compare this to the original studio version to note the progress of this amazing bass solo). A pair of Hepcat demos follows, early cuts of Nigel and Take Dat. Although, these versions have never been released, you’ll find a lot of Hepcat fans already have these tracks on their ipods. The 7 Song Demo that Hepcat made for Moon Records is standard fare for Ska bootleggers. Following right behind comes some early Specials, or rather, The Coventry Automatics. This (hornless) version of Dawning of a New Era has been released dozens of times, but is very much a rough outline of the track we all know and love. And much the same could be said of the next demo track by The Clash, Rudie Can’t Fail from the Vanilla Tapes- not hard to find, but not quite ready for the big leagues.

The final tracks are what I believe will be of most interest to my listeners- but first, a bit of history: I’m sure many of you remember when the first Give ‘em the Boot compilation dropped. Nearly every track on that $5 cd was steller, but one song stood out over all the others, in my opinion. The Silencers’ Policeman was that song- ghostly and urban, the sound was very Two-Tone, faster than The Slackers but not as Punky as Rancid. The liner notes confirmed that this was a team up between Vic Ruggiero and Tim Armstrong, and promised a forthcoming album. Years go by and still no sign of a Silencers record. Ruggiero mentions in an interview, that an albums worth of songs were, in fact, recorded an are just waiting for some attention, but also, to not hold our breath. Then, about two years ago, I found (through a P2P service) a folder labeled, Life Won’t Wait Demos. Sure enough, many of the files were early demos of songs that would end up on Life Won’t wait, but the last few in the folder were unique. They would never become Rancid songs, and they featured Ruggiero more prominently. I believe this session, the Life Won’t Wait demos, to be all there is to The Silencers rumor. But please correct me if I’m wrong. This also reconfirmed a theory of mine, that Ruggiero had a great deal of influence on Rancid’s Life Won’t Wait. To finish the show, I picked two tracks from these bootlegs, the demo for Policeman and a much lower-fi version of the Rancid B-side, Brad Logan.

Also, check out the previous episode, Ska Rap, to hear another Silencer Sessions cut, Express Yourself (an NWA cover).

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Comments (2) Oct 23 2007