Albino Brown always "...speakin' his mind and speakin' his language in the land of opportunity" rattles off another love poem. Then with a short pause, A. B. Brown changes the thought train and pulls Tazy Phillipz aside. "You know, bro," Albino replies in his characteristic scratchy, jive voice, "Them mofos out there been itchin' and bitchin', and I ain't gonna say it again, dude. What the fuck? 3rd Wave Ska. You speak the piece."
Tazy looks up though his horned-rimmed glasses and straightens his bow tie. "Well, then," Tazy replies, "It looks like it's up to me. And you know 3rd Wave Ska is my bag." He ponders, collects his thoughts and reflections on the topic, then begins to rehearse an answer for the prospecting and inquiring "mofos."
"It's like this. 3rd Wave Ska, for the most part, is a hodge-podge of musical styles that incorporates the ska as an element. Basically, you take the traditional Jamaican Club Ska and/or '2 Tone' kick and riddim' and influx it with a taste of metal punk, folk, rock, and/ or country." Albino interrupts with a fist to the air," Ska revolution now. More power to the you. Shrapnel, man." Tazy disoriented by A.B.'s input, dwells a bit in his confusion, and then decides to change his approach to the question. "Angelo Moore of Fishbone once pulled me aside and put it this way, 'The ska that's here today, man...you got to use it as an advantage, man, as an element and expand on it....You've got to use it...as a part of your soup. Hence it is in definition that one forms the basis of understanding. The base of 3rd Wave Ska, of course, having been largely defined by three bands: L.A.'s Fishbone, N.Y.C.'s The Toasters, and Hollywood's The Untouchables.
Fishbone, the junkyard ska, punk, funk, metal outfit from South Central, got its start at Chinatown's Madame Wong's in the summer of '79. As Angelo explains, "I lived in the Valley and bussed to L.A. after school. It was on the bus that [Dirty] Walt let me listen to The Selecter. I said what are they playing? He said they're playin' the ska. I said fuck, yeah. I've been gettin' down and gettin' funky with it ever since."
Like Fishbone, The Toasters were bred amongst the "2 Tone" faithful and began playing their combo of pop, rock, worldbeat, and ska at the lower East Side's A7 Club in the summer of '83. Their record label, Moon Records, has given ska its mainstay in America throughout the '80's and early '90's. As Toasters' mastermind and lead singer Rob "Bucket" Hingley reminisces, "I moved to Kenya at an early age, and thus 1 always felt close to the African and worldbeat rhythms. After my family moved back to England, I remember being takin' in by Millie Small's smash ska hit 'My Boy Lollipop.' It was the ska that moved me. I still have my original 7", you know."
The Untouchables, also, brandished the 2 Tone influence along with a pop, rock, ska sound at their first gigs at Hollywood's ON Club in '82. The Untouchables significantly have opened the doors to major music biz and have helped many other ska bands such as No Doubt and The Skeletones reach a wider audience and market. Untouchables lead guitar man Clyde Grimes relays his ska roots, "I was into Zeppelin and old soul. Then, I started getting into the '70's fusion jazz stuff, which didn't last long. Finally, 1 decided I didn't want to be the ripping guitar player. 1 wanted to have a good time playing guitar. My friends Jerry and Chucky and the guys took me to a club and introduced me to ska. I said my God, what is this? - bands playin' fresh, original music. I was totally taken."
The grounds of 3rd Wave ska. Calls it a three way tug-of-war between a "hodge-podge ska," the "traditionalists, "and the "2 Tone faithful." For starters, the hodge-podge grounds of ska seem to have followed the likes of Fishbone. As one ska outfit once remarked about the wide range of styles in 3rd Wave Ska,"If anything, we all have Fishbone in common." - Fishbone, of course, having revived the fatigued 2 Tone sound of the early '80's by influxing funPier bass and keys and jazzier horns, as can be heard on the early Fishbone track, "UGLY." It is in this 3rd Wave hodge-podge bowl of porridge that the ska functions as a crutch and as an element rather than as the main focus and force behind the band. To pull an example from the 2 Tone Craze, The English Beat of course incorporated the ska into their music, yet one hardly recognizes its presence independent of the rest of the music since the ska is so well blended into The Beat style.
On the West Coast, this hodge-podge definitive sound ranges from the harder, punk-driven ska of Operation Ivy, the nutty, "loony-tune" ska rhythms of Skankin' Pickle, the bubble-gum pop ska of the Dance Hall Crashers, and the pop and rock-oriented ska of The Skeletones and No Doubt. Other bands in this realm include Long Beach's Sublime, Suburban Rhythm, and Reel Big Fish; Orange County's One Eye Open, Offspring, and Nonsense; Santa Barbara's Sparker; Riverside's Voodoo Glow Skulls; Los Angeles' Out of Order; Sacramento's Lawsuit; the Bay Area's C.F.B., Rudiments, The Brownies, and Hoodlum Empire; Honolulu, HI's Tantra Monsters; Portland, OR's Crazy 8's; Reno, NV's The Mudsharks; and Provo, UT's Stretch Armstrong.
Though it should be mentioned that a band such as No Doubt, which has greatly moved the ska scene and inspired such bands as Meal Ticket and The Goodwin Club, will not be "pigeon-holed" as a "ska band." The band's guitarist Tom Dumont puts it this way,"For the past year and a half since we got off our last tour, we have been writing music. We have this huge wash of songs that run the gambit. So far, the defining song that peopie have heard is 'Trapped In A Box,' which definitely has a ska vibe to it. But this doesn't mean that we are a ska band. If we [the band] claim to be a ska band then nobody will openly hear the other fifty plus songs that we have written. They will be too busy and too 'limited' waiting for the ska thing to happen rather than just hearing the music. We have the possibility to make any type of album right now. We're not about sitting on the eggs of ska and waiting for them to hatch. We much rather be out and about with our baskets in hand, hunting up the new eggs of sound." In response to this point, Albino Brown of course interrupts and reminds all to remember the words of Louis Jordan,"But...There Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens."
A counterpart to today's hodge-podge ska sound is a return to the traditional, a flashback to the root of the ska - in the style of the 1960's Jamaican ska grandmasters, The Skatalites' "Man in the Street," Sir Lord Comic's "The Great Wuga Wuga," and The Wailing Wailers' "Simmer Down." It is a tribute to the Jamaican Club Ska, Jamaica's first signature music (rocksteady and reggae having been Jamaica's second and third signature rhythms, respectively), which captured heavy jazz soloing and the improvisational elements of bebop upon a bed of skank rhythms - the hallmark of the ska being the offbeat. You want to talk about respect, the bands in this realm include Hollywood's Jump With Joey; Los Angeles' Hepcat, Ocean 11, Ye Olde English, Yeska, See Spot, King Willy, Soul Fools, and The Shantees; Fresno's Let's Go Bowling, and Los Hooligans; Concord's Bluebeat Stompers; and Seattle, WA's Tiny Hat Orchestra. You want to talk about kickass - alright - L.A.'s Ocean 11 features three female vocalists in three part harmony backed by the former rhythm section for Ye Olde English and swaying and playing the old Jamaican classics "Pefidia," "Rub Up, Push Up," and "Rocksteady," along with their own numbers.
Persephone Laird, vocalist for Ocean 11, preaches the appeal of the traditional ska. "When I listen to the original Club Ska song I often want to cry, yet at the same time, I very much want to laugh...It's a music of mixed emotion, of joy, of happiness, and of sadness...When The Ethiopians hit those awesome vocal harmonies or when the Skatalites
Chief musician Joey Altruda, sassy front and bassman for Jump With Joey, explains his role in developing the 3rd Wave sound. "I am the person that helped to rekindle the interest in the authentic ska. In particular, my role has been to get the scene beyond the regurgitation, to get the younger people hooked on the jazz and Latin styles which have served as influence to the original Jamaican ska."
Significantly, the traditional ska has prompted the international music scene. When Millie Small captured the world's attention with her 1964 smash hit, "My Boy Lollipop," much of music world huddled towards the ska. No longer was it a Jamaican thing. It became an international thang...
In the early 60's, the mods (and early baldies/skinheads) began frequenting the West Indian Clubs, the "shebeen" clubs, and Sound System dances and takin' in the ska, which had been brought over by Jamaican immigrants. These subculture populations, embracing the ska as the symbol of their exclusivity, encouraged Melodisc Records to set up Bluebeat Records in 1960 and motivated white Jamaican Chris Blackweell to relocate his Blue Mountain/Island Jamaican label (a.k.a Black Swan; Jump Up; Sue) to England in 1962. By 1963-63 the Bluebeat Craze hit Mother England (and then the States)...And, but of course, commercialism jumped on board and ate the ska snatch. Commercial record labels such as Diplomat Records pronounced ska to be the "...newest sound and dance craze," and claimed it to be bigger and more popular than "The Twist" and "The Bossanova." Epic Records arranged for soul, funk legend Curtis Mayfield to fly to Jamaica to produce the album, "The Real Jamaica Ska," featuring Jimmy Cliff; and psuedo-Dick Clark, Lloyd Thaxton(backed by Decca Records), frequently pushed the ska on his popular music variety T.V. show. You know things are getting larger than life when the Beatles even tried their hand with the ska in their 1968 hit, "Obladi, Oblada;" and by 1969, the counter-culture skinhead movement adopted the ska thang as their own - whether contemporaries realize it or not, it was the 60's which gave traditional ska its first mainstay and welcoming as a musical force and stronghold in the world.
The "traditionalists" today believe quite strongly in the authenticity and purity of their music. When Ocean 11's Persephone writes a song, she often reflects, "Would Bob Marley mind, would he appreciate it?" - the ska almost holds a spiritual, religious fervor, an honest love. To many traditionalists, there is no such thing as a "hodge-podge" ska. And many won't fall in for the popularity of "2-Tone," either. They do not accept it as ska music. They simply regard it as ska "bastardization." Yet at the same time, the traditionalists, in all their "ska education," surely must recognize that the very musical identity of the ska has resulted from the "hodge-podging," the merging, of many different styles and rhythms: Latin horn instrumentals, doo-wop vocals, easy shuffling New Orleans rhythms, down home boogie woogie, Chicago blues, calypso, and Jamaican mento.
Dan Vitale, lead vocals for the worldbeat ska band, Bim Skala Bim, recalls meeting the great producer of Studio One Records after finishing a session with Skatalite saxman Roland Alphonso. "One my greatest moments was when the famed Coxsone Dodd approached the band and thanked us for pushing the Jamaican music, for keeping it going. He said, 'You guys are the next generation.' It was as if he was passing the torch. This was an incredible honor for me, yet at the same time, I remember feeling a bit awkward since I sometimes felt as if we might have even 'raped' the Jamaican sound by expanding on it, by putting too much rock or whatever. But the originators of the ska, of the rocksteady, and of the reggae have told me time and time again that they love the idea of progressing the music, of reaching new horizons, and of reaching new audiences. The originators don't want us to fossilize their music. They want us to grow with it." This insight is reflected on the back of the Studio One release, "Strictly For You: Sir Coxsone Selects While Roland Alphonso Plays," in which the following message is inscribed, "Ska has great potentialities and is capable of further improvements until it becomes an international sound among music lovers." - this is the way of the ska, and furthermore....
The "2 Tone Faithful and New Spirit" are the final isle in the ska hot tub. They, by far, are the diehards, styled after the West Indian rude boy and the British skin and suedehead: pork pie hats, tonic and mohair suits, cardigans, Ben Sherman and Fred Perry polo necks, white T-shirts, braces, Sta-prest trousers, pegged and bleached Levi's, loafers, brogues, 10 hole DM boots, and of course, crombie overcoats, Harrington jackets, and nylon flight jackets ornamented with black and white pins and patches depicting popular ska bands, ska logos, and scooter clubs. These kids (and adults) breathe the 2 Tone thing with a passion, often collecting every color variation of a Specials paper sleeve single or every spelling (and misspelling) variation of a Selecter badge. More commonly, they are the 90's "Quadropheniacs," with a Vespa or a Lambretta parked outside every ska venue and a handful of scooter club membership cards in each pocket. Many abide emphatically to 2 Tone's glorious past. To them, ska is 2 Tone, nothing more, nothing less. The bands included in this vast sea of 2 Tone style and devotion include San Francisco's Undercover S.K.A.; Petaluma's The Conspiracy; Santa Cruz's Square Roots; Fresno's Checkmate; Santa Barbara's Upbeat; Orange County's The Schmedleys, and the Nuckle Brothers; Riverside's The Specs; Los Angeles' Catch 22; and Downey's Mobtown.
Many of the major players in the other ska camps, also, have received their bearings from the 2 Tone highrise...Angelo Moore of Fishbone, Joey "Tupelo" Altruda of Jump With Joey, David Weins of Let's Go Bowling, Elyse Rogers of Dance Hall Crashers, Dicky Barrett of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - all have been inspired by the 2 Tone stronghold. As one member of the Nashville, Tennessee based ska band, Freedom of Expression, explains, "In the early 80's, I came out of a mod band without any real sense of musical direction or commitment. Then one day someone brings in this album, 'I Just Can't Stop It,' by the English Beat. I went crazy over that album. Never took it off the turntable. That did it for me....I was going to play ska in the country capital of the world."
In addition to the blatant musical influence, the 2 Tone legend holds many other traditions as well. The '60s pop art, black and white checkered motif, which 2 Tone and Specials founder Jerry Dammers used to symbolize the multi-racial nature of 2 Tone, is frequently used as a backdrop for 3rd Wave Ska band logos and promotional photos, though The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones have attempted to make a slow dissolve to plaid.
The use of cartooning in ska, which captures the nutty, silly, upbeat style of the music, originally came from The Specials' famous, cartooned rude boy, "Walt Jabsco," and The Beats' renowned, cartooned rude beat girl, "Margaret." In the 3rd Wave, especially, the cartooned band logo has become a keeper. The following artists have contributed immensely to the"c artoony" portrayal of the 3rd Wave Ska scene: Evan Dorkin, cartoonist for the "Mashin Up the Nation" ska compilation and for the ska-oriented "Pirate
The mad antic, circus stage presence of today's ska bands may directly be accredited to the 2 Tone era bands. When one sees Let's Go Bowling scurry into a frenzy, Mike of Skankin' Pickle ride a unicycle across the stage, Angelo of Fishbone "swim" across the stage, or Jonas of The Skeletones place a surfboard upon the crowd, these were the wild stage antics of 2 Tone (though executed at a more simplistic level). In the late 70's/early 80's, it was quite common to see Neville Staples and Lynval Golding of the Specials race the stage in pandemonium; Ranking Roger of The Beat skank wildly; Pauline Black of The Selecter, the great face of 2 Tone, interrupt her "Pauline Shuffle" and stage a fight with the rest of the band; Madness head danceman, Chas Smash, perform his outrageous, head clanking "robotic" skank; and Buster Bloodvessal of Bad Manners (who appeared on the 2 Tone live soundtrack, "Dance Craze") rally the crowd with his "bigman" skank, his 6" tongue, and an occasional flash of his bum. You want to know why ska bands in the 3rd Wave seem to win "battle of the bands" competitions time and time again. It's because they've been bred in the tradition o the upbeat ska dance party train - the sound of ska has always been live.
Additionally, 2 Tone, along with the 3rd Wave, has adopted many traditional ska conventions. The Jamaican tradition for top players and Sound System DJ's to assume character, comic book, and noble names (e.g. Judge Dread, Sir Lord Comic, Stranger Cole, Lord Creator, Prince Buster, Sir Coxsone, Duke Reid, Count Ossie, Admiral Deans, King Tubby) found new life in the 2 Tone era (e.g. Sir Horace of The Specials, Buster Bloodvessel of Bad Manners, Prince Nutty of Madness, and Ranking Roger of The Beat) and again in the 3rd Wave (e.g. "Monkey Man" Jonas Cabrera of The Skeletones, Rob "Bucket" Hingley of The Toasters, and "2 Tone" Ted and "Rude" Drew of KSPC's "The Rude Review").
The themes of the traditional ska songs, ranging between silly, nursery rhyme-sounding tunes, religious psalms, political songs, and rude boy, hooligan, gangster tributary numbers, have been imitated immensely by subsequent ska generations. Prince Buster's 1964 ska classic "Al Capone," for example, was translated into The Special A.K.A.'s 1979 debut single "Gangsters," and then interpreted into a whole genre of hoodlum, detective, secret agent, and spy melodies by the 3rd Wave.
The dance and the dress of ska, too, have complexed into "obscurity" in the 3rd Wave. In the "traditional" '60's, the dance was the "skank" (or as ska authority Annette Funicello proudly announces, "The Jamaica Ska"), a basic jog strut to the beat; and the "traditional" outfit was based on that of the Jamaican rude boy (ghetto hooligan), basically short cropped hair, a pork pie hat, and a sharp suit. In the 2 Tone era, the skank prevailed, although sometimes intermitted with punk's pogue, and the fashion, as previously discussed, was styled after the West Indian rude boy and the British skin and suedehead.
In the 3rd Wave, both the dance and the dress went "...every which way but loose." Although the skank is still the ritual, today's diverse ska audience seems to dance "however the fuck they feel like" - mosh, skank, stage dive, whatever. Angelo of Fishbone, for example, would much rather dance around like a maggot than pretend he is enjoying the ritual skank. The dress sense, too, no longer holds the homogeneity of the traditional and 2 Tone eras. Although many still sport the rude boy and rude girl garb, there is a whole new look to this 3rd Wave Ska scene. As David Weins of Let's Go Bowling explains, "The audience has become such a mix of traditional/skinheads, skate kids, mods, and older people that the fashion in the 3rd Wave seems to have been sidelined. No longer is there just one specific style that dominates. I actually like this ska audience better than years past. Each person seems to be more secure in their individuality. They are not as caught up in what they're wearing or what the other person's wearing. They are strictly there for the music. In years past, if you didn't wear the right clothes or fit the right image, then it was more than likely that you would get a dirty look or be confronted. I don't feel it should be that way. People should come to a show to dance and to have a good time. It doesn't matter what you wear. You can dance naked for all I care." - though, as important as naked is to our '90s mentality, hallmark 3rd Wave fashion accessories do exist (aside from those fashion of past ska generations and current flannel grunge, baggy-pants skater, and vintage trends.) Many people at today's ska shows can be seen garbed in striped shirts, overalls, the "little-kid look" backwards caps, clip-on bow ties, and 60's style horn-rimmed glasses.
Another tradition passed on from the ska originators includes paying direct tribute to musical influence and inspiration. Traditional Jamaican Club Ska bands often celebrated their favorite jazz, R & B, and Cuban standards by "ska-ing" them up, as exemplified by The Skatalites "ska-ing" of such Cuban standards as Beny More's "Pachito Eche" in the tune "Latin Go Ska," and Belisario Lopez y Su Charanga's "Sucu, Sucu" in the song of the same name. Similarly, 2 Tone "era" bands paid special tribute at their concerts and on their records to the previous generation of ska masters and originators. The Specials were famous for reworking The Skatalites' "Guns of Navarone," Dandy Livingstone's "Rudy A Message To You," Prince Buster's "Too Hot," Toots and the Maytals' "Monkey Man," Harry J. All Stars' "Liquidator," Lloyd Terrell's "Birth Control," and Symarip's "Skinhead Moonstomp;" The Beat were loved for reworking Prince Buster's "Rough Rider;" The Selecter made well with their soulful versions of Justin Hinds & The Dominoes' "Carry Go Bring Come," The Ethiopians' "Train to Skaville," and The Pioneers' "Long Shot Kick De Bucket;" Madness took it to the moon with Prince Buster's "Madness;" UB40 scored big with Tony Tribe's "Red Red Wine;" Bad Manners excited many a crowd with The Skatalites' "El Pussy Cat;" and the Bodysnatchers, too, had a blast with Desmond Dekker's "007(Shanty Town)."
Whereas the 2 Tone era bands mostly modernized the traditional "standards" with their high energy, raw punk ska, many of the 3rd Wave Ska bands have been more interested in recapturing the original live sound of the traditional and 2 Tone bands. Let's Go Bowling do faithful renditions of The Skatalites' "Confucius," Don Drummond's "Big Trombone," Peter Tosh and The Wailers' "Shame and Scandal," and The Specials' "Rude Boys Outa Jail;" The Donkey Show were known for their covers of The Skatalites' "Phoenix City," Laurel Aitken's "Sally Brown" and The Equators' "Age of Five;" The Skeletones pay special tribute in Toots and The Maytals' "54-46, That's My Number;" Hepcat plays like a champion with The Ethiopians' "Everything Crash," and The Wailing Wailers' "Hooligans;" Undercover S.K.A. gets it on with The Beat's "Ranking Full Stop;" The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones do a doozy on The Wailing Wailers' "Simmer Down;" and Bim Skala Bim captures the authenticity of Stranger Cole's "Run Joe." Furthermore, the 3rd Wave of Ska has been around long enough to have cycled upon itself. Many bands today do covers of their contemporaries (e.g. Fishbone's "Skankin' to the Beat;" The Untouchables' "The General," and "Mandingo;" Bim Skala Bim's "Hung Up;" and Operation Ivy's "Freeze Up," and "Sound System"). Toasting, a choo choo chugging verbal percussion and rapping over the songs, has remained a constant throughout all generations.
Ska has flourished under the sun because ska generations unite. Frequently, masters of ska past will share their musical and business expertise, guiding, developing, and producing the new generation of ska talent (e.g. Specials' Jerry Dammers produced earl), Untouchables' tracks, Specials' John Bradbury produced ex-OPIV/Rancid numbers, General Public's Stoker produced Philadelphia's Public Service, Fishbone's Chris Dowd produced Milwaukee's The Pacers, Studio One's Sir Coxsone Dodd co-produced Jump With Joey's "Strictly for You, Volume II") Ska past also draws media attention and new audiences to the new talent via the "coattail" effect, by granting these bands support slots on their tours (e.g. Hepcat has gained much recognition by touring with The Skatalites, and Let's Go Bowling has gained new support by touring with The Selecter). Moreover, the ska masters even record and tour with the newer ska bands. In the 2 Tone days, Jamaican horn legends Rico Rodriguez and Papa Saxa recorded and toured with The Specials and The Beat, respectively, and famed Jamaican singer Desmond Dekker worked with The Specials, The Beat, and Madness. In the 3rd Wave, Prince Buster, Laurel Aitken, members of the Skatalites, and many others have recorded and performed with today's ska bands. Most recently, Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling of The Beat (along with Albino Brown and Tazy Phillipz) did cameo appearances in The Skeletones' MTV video "She Just Wants Too."
Likewise, the newer ska generations have provided great service to their ska heroes of the past. Of upmost importance, the new ska bands have kept the ska scene alive. As Pauline Black of The Selecter admits, "I must say, I really am grateful to bands like Let's Go Bowling and Bad Manners. They kept touring and playing the music. They kept their faith in the ska...It's funny, a band like The Selecter, who hasn't touring in over a decade, can come back and already fell welcome." Additionally, the newer ska bands, in their quest to redefine the Jamaican sound, have broadened the audiences and buying markets of ska music. Many of the originators, who might have long been forgotten with time, have gained new respect, new fans, and significantly new demand for their music and products. No paper plate, Dixie cup Rude Boy Courtney of Long Beach's Kulcha Beat Records speaks, "Demand today fer aut'entic, 'riginal roots Studio One, and Trojan Records is very, very, very big." 3rd Wave Ska bands also serve as essential recruiting camps for make-shift back up bands of returning ska giants (e.g. members of Bad Manners backed up Desmond Dekker and played in The Selecter, and similarly, members of Let's Go Bowling, Skankin' Pickle, Undercover S.K.A., and The Donkey Show have toured in Bad Manners).
The unification of ska generations has been a major goal of "The Ska Parade" crew. For example, Albino Brown and Tazy Phyllipz (along with Gerald Lokstadt of Spot Productions) arranged for Skatalite saxman Roland Alphonso to make his first solo trip to California in 1989 to perform with The Donkey Show. In 1990, these same cats arranged for Roland to perform with Let's Go Bowling at Berkeley's Earth Day International Ska Fest. Additionally, the hour long "The Ska Parade" film documentary on 3rd Wave Ska spans the generations and captures raw footage of Roland jamming with Jump With Joey for the first time (along with Angelo of Fishbone) at the now defunct King King Club in Hollywood. As Jumpin' Joey closes, "I originally heard the skathrough The Specials and the 2 Tone thing because it was popular. It wasn't until 1982 that my friend, Jason Mayall (brother of Gaz Mayall of The Trojans), introduced me to the traditional ska. When I first heard the music, it sounded very haunting to me. I felt very much a part of it. Who would have known that years later I would be working with the very originators of the ska, rocksteady, and reggae, Studio One's Sir Coxsone Dodd, and The Skatalites' Roland Alphonso, Lloyd Knibbs, and Lester Sterling, along with the famed Jamaican trombonist Rico Rodriguez." - generation gap my ass, ska generations unite.
The longevity of ska also partially stems from the audiences' strong identification with ska's historic past. Suprisingly, many kids at the shows today will not only bark that ska is not reggae, but additionally, they can tell you ska history's most obscure tidbit, and sometimes even "Dixie Cup oatmeal packet" trivial information. Try this on for size...when Skatalites' trombonist and band leader Don Drummond unexpectedly missed his band's 1964 New Year's Eve gig, it wasn't until the next day that the band learned that he had been committed to Bellevue Asylum for murdering his girlfriend...Selecter's Pauline Black changed her last name from Vickers in early 1980 for fear that her employers would read the music press and discover that she had been sneakin' away from her job as a radiographer to do gigs...Jumpin' Joey's cat, they calls it BunnyBoy - shit, the kids know everything.
This love and devotion to ska history seems somewhat ironic in an era which is supposed to be the lost generation of latch-key, broken home kids, who neither know their own past nor their future, let alone their own families. Ocean 11's Persephone Laird stands firm, "Maybe, we are tired of being the lost generation. Maybe, we want something that we can hold on to, something that we can call our own. Ska is so different from anything else, from the dealings of our everyday lives. Perhaps by calling it our own, we feel different from anyone else. Many of us don't want to be just another kid from a broken home. We want to feel grounded, to have direction. We want to be different."
The Ska Parade, in particular, has served as base for a lot of kids, establishing a whole network of camaraderie based on Jamaican ridim' and folklore. Though its role is ever so changing, the radio show and the various related projects, mean a great deal to a great number of folks. Ocean 11's well spoken Persephone voices, "When I think of all the different peoples trying to promote the ska, I would have to only give respect to you guys at The Ska Parade. Some of the other 'promoters,' I don't think they have a real love for the music. They might think they are doin' the music a great service by sittin' behind a desk all day, wheelin' deals, makin' phone calls, and havin' brunch with record execs, but with The Ska Parade, it's different. They're at the shows, dancin' to the music, talkin' with the fans,. and hangin' with the bands. It's a basic love, plain and simple, and it shows."
Radio listener Greg Raelson interjects, "The Ska Parade radio show is the only thing on the radio that I dig. Nothing else compares. I mean, how many other radio programs out there allow you to hear your favorite bands week after week after week, playin' live. And nothin' sounds better than the live sound. Records, CD's, they just can't cut that live edge, capture that raw energy and personality."
Let's Go Bowling's David Weins adds, "Tazy, in particular, has done more for the ska scene than anyone I have ever met. Single handedly, he has been able to accelerate its growth and get the ska out to the people. The Ska Parade radio show, there's nothing else like it. I've toured the nation several times, been on plenty of radio shows. Nothin' else compares. The most important aspect of the show is that they give all bands, basically any band that they can get a hold of, a chance to be
And what be the future of ska? Looks like ska won't have to be dumped and lost in music stores' reggae, international, and alternative bins much longer. Positive signs on the horizon - feature ska articles have appeared recently in a variety of sources such as the January, 1994 Billboard music magazine which claimed ska to be the "next big thing," the January 31, 1994 edition of The O.C. Register, the February 1994 Alternative Press, the April 21, 1994 edition of The L.A. Times, and the July 16, 1994 edition of Billboard; ska bands have been found to have "commercial" appeal - L.A. ska band Out of Order appeared in a Kit Kat commercial, The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones grabbed a spot in a Converse commercial (and then subsequently landed a multi-million dollar deal with a major label), and Taco Bell recently appropriated a ska music bed in one of their "Cross the Border" commercials; T.V. and films have strongly taken an interest - The Toasters and The Scofflaws both played live on the USA Network's televised 1992 New Year's Eve "Up All Night Ska Dance Party," The Skatalites performed on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," General Public (with the Unity Horns) appeared on "The Arsenio Hall Show," and Trojans' Gaz Mayall was hired to compile a traditional ska soundtrack for the 1989 film, "Scandal;" the big labels are beginning to catch the true potentialities of ska - EMI released "The 2-Tone Collection: A Checkered Past;" and the clubbing circuit and major venues are cashing in as ska shows around the globe have consistently sold out - the world's top ska bands performed for over 12,000 people at Berkeley's Earth Day 1990 International Ska Fest, Dance Hall Crashers' Elyse Rogers and John Pantie began booking ska acts at Dan Aykroyd's new Hollywood club, House of Blues, and the Skavoovee '93 tour, which featured The Skatalites, The Special Beat, The Selecter, and The Toasters, successfully rolled into your town.
Movers and shakers in ska responded - DJ 2 Tone Ted inputs, "I personally feel that ska has been underground for too long....I think that whether a genre of music is gonna break big is not up to the music. It's up to the people who sit behind the desks at the major labels and make up the flavor of the month - grunge, rap, reggae, whatever. Put it this way, if they can make The New Kids on the Block into million-selling pop stars, they could very well make ska the next big thing." Skankin' Pickle's Mike Parks adds, "All it takes for ska to make it big is one band, one song....You know it, if Operation Ivy stuck with it, they would have been bigger than Nirvana or The Clash." Let's Go Bowling's David Weins intermits, "The bands to watch in the 3rd Wave, the 'leaders of the ska parade,' are Let's Go Bowling, Hepcat, and Jump With Joey. Jump With Joey, in particular, has a great possibility of making it in the jazz market. They are such high caliber, top notch players, the old school of today." And but of course, Albino Brown grabs the spotlight and does indeed get the last word, "Mother fuckin' eh, MTV and its 31 flavors, it ain't gonna cut it no more. People get tired of same ol', same ol'. What they play on the radio...sounds like no bodies been cleanin' the dooky to me. I believe they call it Top 40,'me duelie el estomacho.' Somebody bring on the night, the Brentford Rd., Orange St., and Jamaica Way. Ska revolution now!"
It should be emphasized that although the history of the ska is great, its historic record exists in only a few select sources. Traditional ska's history, for example, is found in but a scatter of 'articles, music encyclopedias, and liner notes; and the history of the 2 Tone era is mostly found in George Marshall's brilliant The Two Tone Story. But the history of the 3rd Wave Ska, it has eluded music authorities for years.
Herein this text is the quintessential, definitive article on 3rd Wave Ska. It exists no where else. It is the cumulation of blood, sweat, and tears. Overridingly, it is a basic love of the music - Albino Brown and Tazy Phyllipz (along with Ocular Intrusion film editor "Jimbo" Jim Malloy, III) have sought to capture and to share this important genre of music. Radio, film, press, recording, or just plain spoken word, The Ska Parade brings it to you - live, loud, and clear...the HereNow of Ska.
(From Mean Street, August 1994)