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Must-see footage from Samla Mammas Manna, Sweden’s prog-rock fusion jazz rascals
02:58 pm


Samla Mammas Manna

Samla Mammas Manna was a prog rock band that was active during the 1970s and later that seems to have been Sweden’s closest approximation to Frank Zappa. Samla Mammas Manna was musically accomplished and willing to wander all over the map into outright experimentation, and they were also quite funny, a bit like how Zappa was funny. Samla Mammas Manna maybe brought a little less edge to its humor than Zappa did. They were highly adventurous musicians of an exacting and exuberant nature.

The phrase “Samla Mammas Manna” is Swedish for “Collect Mama’s manna” and undoubtedly was chosen for its mellifluous ring, it’s something akin to a tongue-twister. According to François Couture, SMM’s second album Måltid (“Mealtime”) combined “free improvisation, Scandinavian folklore, progressive rock motifs, and Amon Düül II-like short songs.” Doesn’t that sound tasty?

In the late 1970s Samla Mammas Manna was one of the founding partcipants in the Rock in Opposition (RIO) movement, which was very influential throughout Europe. In 1979 SMM signed up to be Fred Frith’s backing band on his first solo album following the breakup of Henry Cow, 1980’s Gravity.

Klossa Knapitatet
In this clip, the year is 1974. The members of the band amiably answer a few questions from the noted guitarist Stefan Grossman before breaking into a phenomenal rendition of material off of SMM’s third album Klossa Knapitatet, which was a new album that year. Judging from the comments on the YouTube thread, Swedes are very familiar with this band.

If nothing else, Samla Mammas Manna had one of the most entertaining drummers it’s ever been my pleasure to watch. The creativity and joy on display here are positively infectious.

Should this clip appeal to you, I promise you there is much more of the same on the studio albums.


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
That time Ian McCulloch dressed up as Dorothy from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ for a photo shoot
11:38 am


Judy Garland
The Wizard Of Oz
Ian McCulloch

To greet the 1990s, NME commissioned a photo shoot for its last issue of 1989 (December 23-30 issue) featuring Ian McCulloch, the presiding genius of Echo and the Bunnymen, in which he dressed up as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.

Here’s the original spread, which appeared under the banner “Screen-Age Kicks”:

The pictures are an undisputed success, due in no small part to McCulloch’s utter lack of distancing camp affectation or irony. It’s almost as if McCulloch knows damn well that he’s gorgeous, so why not go with it? (Actually, about that. See McCulloch’s remarks on the shoot below.)

Two years ago Buzzfeed did a list explaining why McCulloch was the 1980s version of Kanye West. The list is essentially a collection of astonishingly confident, self-admiring quotations from McCulloch, as in “The Bunnymen are the most important band to ever put an album out. And the Beatles, maybe the Stones. I think we’re up there in the top ten greatest bands of all time.”

Maybe something of that attitude is caught in the photo?

For a “Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes” feature in the pages of Uncut twenty years later, McCulloch reminisced about the photo shoot—his comments are frankly hilarious and a little bit baffling (calling Judy Garland “a bit iffy” and a “weirdo”):

The NME were doing this thing—who do you wanna be? Obviously Bono would’ve plumped for the hunchback of Notre Dame. But I thought Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, ‘cos she looked a bit iffy. I thought, to get my own back at the girls on the bus who thought I had lippy on—and I knew at the time, I’m a better-looking girl than you are—let’s jazz this Dorothy up, give her some beauty, not the weirdo Judy looked. Mark E. Smith—whooh! Frank Black—I’d hate to see him doing a picture from Last Tango in Paris. It was down to me. And I did it well.


In 2011 the well-known someecards company concocted an ecard that poked fun at McCulloch:

“It was down to me. And I did it well.” As a reminder of what could have given Ian such a massive ego to begin with, here’s a hefty chunk of footage of Echo and the Bunnymen playing the Royal Albert Hall in 1983:

via Fuck Yeah Bunnymen

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Cooking with the Butthole Surfers: Gibby Haynes’ dessert and drink recipes
10:35 am


Butthole Surfers
Gibby Haynes

If you were going to ask musicians for recipes, the Butthole Surfers might seem like unlikely candidates. There isn’t a Martha Stewart type among them; indeed, their dancer, Kathleen, once mixed her own urine in with the macaroni and cheese. But reading through the band’s old interviews has more in common with taking a Home Ec class than you might expect.

“I can cook a bad-ass peach cobbler,” Gibby Haynes bragged in the June ‘86 issue of SPIN. The interview concluded with the recipe for Gibby’s Spillane Peach Cobbler, named for Haynes’ old college basketball teammate Jeff Spillane, whom Gibby named alongside Ed Asner as one of the band’s heroes:

He’s this weird kind of straight guy with heavy beard growth and a hairy chest. He’s a nice guy, but he’s kind of geeky. He used to wear this lime-green polyester leisure suit. He’s the first person I ever saw light a fart. We usually sing songs that have Jeff Spillane in them, like “Back on Spillane’s Gang.” I think he’s now an accountant somewhere.


SPIN doesn’t say if Gibby read these very precise instructions off the back of a foxed, four-by-six recipe card inked with a grandmotherly scrawl, or (as I prefer to imagine) reeled them off from memory.


Stir together ½ t. salt and 2 c. flour. Cut in ½ c. shortening until crumbly. Add ⅓ c. milk and stir with a fork until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl. On a lightly floured board, roll the dough into a rectangle a little less than ¼ in. thick. Put it on a baking sheet and bake it at 425° until it’s lightly browned. Then put mixed-up water, brown sugar, egg white, and cinnamon [5 egg whites, ¾ c. water, ½ c. brown sugar, ¼ t. cinnamon] on top of the crust and bake it until it foams up like a custard. When it starts to look cooked, take it out and put sliced fresh peaches on it. It’s amazing. It’s a killer dessert.

Gibby also gave a cocktail recipe to Fiz, a short-lived, strongly pro-alcohol punk magazine from Los Angeles. In the 23 years since that issue of Fiz hit the newsstand, I’ve never mustered the courage to fix a Bloody Leroy for myself, but I imagine it would complement the peach cobbler very nicely when dining al fresco on a summer evening. The interview it accompanied outlined the band’s plans for a Joy Division game show in which contestants guess what Ian Curtis is singing (“You get points for correct answers and more points for better answers which are incorrect”), and is worth reading, though the transcription omits the drink recipe. From my personal tear-stained copy of the March/April ‘93 issue of Fiz, here’s the “BADASS BUTTHOLE BEVERAGE” you didn’t know you craved:


The best drink is barbecue sauce and vodka with a twist of lemon. The barbecue sauce has gotta be real thin. Stir it with a rip up. It’s badass. It’s cold. A Bloody Leroy!

Below, whet your appetite with the savory Buttholes rarity “Beat the Press.”

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight: Watch Sha Na Na totally kill it live on German TV in 1973
10:17 am


Sha Na Na

The Kings of New York, Sha Na Na
Those of you that are of (ahem) a certain age will certainly remember faux-50’s band Sha Na Na not only for their music but also for their syndicated television show that ran from 1977 to 1981. I was absolutely obsessed with that show, and adored the band’s goofy antics and faithful fashion homages to the 1950s from the top of their greased back hair, to the seams on the famous gold lamé pants worn by Frederick “Dennis” Greene, Johnny “Kid” Contardo, and Scott “Tony Santini” on the show—one of the most popular in TV syndication at the time.

In addition to appearances in the film 1978 Grease (where the band was depicted as a fictional 1950s band called Johnny Casino and the Gamblers), Sha Na Na was also featured on the films wildly popular soundtrack, and the tearjerker “Sandy” (sung by John Travolta) was co-written by Sha Na Na’s Screamin’ Scott Simon, who got his start with the band playing piano back in 1970, and still performs with them to this day. In this footage (which I’m pretty sure is gonna blow your mind), the band performs nineteen songs for the enthusiastic studio audience in attendance for a taping of German music television show Musikladen in 1973.

From the minute they hit the stage, it’s clear that we are all in for some high-octane doo-wop, class-act choreography, and the visual treat that is the gangly, rock-and-roll Frankenstein known as “Bowzer” (Jon Bauman)—he’s probably the most recognizable member of the group, too. Since departing Sha Na Na, Bauman continues to tour as his alter-ego “Bowzer” with his group The Stingrays and was also instrumental in helping the passage of the Truth in Music Act—a law that protects musicians and bands from identity theft. Now that’s fucking rock and roll.

The gold lamé suits worn by Sha Na Na that drove my young libido into overdrive back in the late 70s
And what about those skin-tight gold lamé suits (pictured above)? While conducting my very important “research” for this post, I discovered that all three of them are currently up for sale (along with the matching gold lamé boots and belts, thank you very much) for the tidy sum of $2,500. A small price to pay for a piece of rock and roll history that I’d do almost anything to squeeze myself into (those boys were tight back in the day, to say the least). I’ve probably watched this footage at least five times since stumbling on it and every time I do, it gets better. As one commenter on the Youtube page said, “this deserves a million likes.” To which I say AMEN, brother. If you dig it as much as I do, you can get your very own DVD of the show, here. Enjoy!

Sha Na Na on German music television show, Musikladen in 1973.

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Henry Rollins and Lydia Lunch in the erotic, violent ‘The Right Side of My Brain’ (NSFW)

Richard Kern was a big part of the underground cinema of the East Village in the 1980s. Among other things, he directed videos for Sonic Youth’s “Death Valley ‘69” (which featured Lydia Lunch, of course) and King Missile’s ”Detachable Penis.” Kern was very much a part of the same scene that was more or less defined by Nick Zedd. He made many experimental and sexual movies on Super-8.

According to Richard Kostelanetz in A Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes,

This fascination with the dark side of looking—with the dynamics and aesthetics of voyeurism—is Richard Kern’s theme and it runs through his films and photography. In many ways, Kern’s work is a culmination of self-referential approaches to depicting the artist’s relationship to his “subject.” And his subject is a kind of seeing. ... In many ways his movies are responses to popular film and commercial culture as a whole.

One of Kern’s early movies was The Right Side of My Brain, a 23-minute black-and-white experimental movie that is unabashedly about sex, violence, and control. This movie is about as NSFW as anything we’ve ever presented on the site.

The whole movie is told from the point of view of the character played by Lydia Lunch in a dreamy and sexualized and insular mode that was well-nigh invented by Maya Deren in 1943’s “Meshes of the Afternoon.” Lunch’s character goes through a series of assignations that involve varying degrees of violence. Around the 10th minute an actor credited as Clint Ruin (actually the musician J.G. Thirlwell) shows up and he proceeds to dominate Lunch’s character somewhat, after which she gives him a blow job. Yes, you read that right, most of that highly X-rated act is captured in the movie.

The bulk of the movie was shot in some claustrophobic NYC tenement, but in the sole outdoor sequence—possibly shot in Central Park?—Henry Rollins appears and follows the Lunch character. They too start making out and then the Rollins character has a kind of tantrum.

By the bye, when this was shot Rollins had the “SEARCH AND DESTROY” part of his back tattoo in place but not the rest. At one point Lunch is shown wearing a T-shirt with the Einstürzende Neubauten homunculus on it.

The images of sexual violence are, of course, disturbing; many ladies in the audience will enjoy the three smoking hot dudes in various states of undress.

The Right Side of My Brain is available on Blu-Ray in Hardcore Collection: Director’s Cut.


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Ralf Hütter reviews Kraftwerk’s albums, 2009
10:20 am


Ralf Hütter

In 2009 Uncut magazine managed to get Ralf Hütter of Kraftwerk to go through the entire Kraftwerk discography and comment on the albums one by one. Because of his role in creating these albums it’s a bit silly to call his comments “reviews” but you know, it’s close enough.

When this piece was executed, the split between Hütter and Florian Schneider was quite fresh—Florian had played his last gig with Kraftwerk three years earlier, on November 11, 2006, at Feria de Muestras in Zaragoza, Spain, and the news of Florian’s exit from the band was only a few months old. Uncut addressed the situation in the introduction:

The acrimonious departure last year of Hütter’s fellow Kraftwerk founder, Florian Schneider, is still a sensitive subject. “We haven’t seen him for a long time,” Hütter shrugs. “I cannot speak for my former partner, friend and co-composer, but he always hated touring and concerts.”

Perhaps it was to assuage any doubts people might have about a touring four-piece Kraftwerk with just one member from the classic 1970s/‘80s lineup in it that Hütter chose to discourse so expansively on the legendary band’s illustrious catalog. Uncut skipped a couple of releases, notably Kraftwerk 2, Electric Café, and The Mix, but covered covered the entirety of what they surely saw as the meat of Kraftwerk’s golden period in the late 1970s.

For every album, ranging from 1970’s debut Kraftwerk up to 2003’s Tour De France Soundtracks, I’ve excerpted a paragraph or so from Hütter’s full comments. For the full scoop, by all means check out Uncut’s page or the large-format images of the pages we’ve provided below.

We were finding Kraftwerk, setting up the Kling Klang studio, finding musicians to work with, discovering composition, discovering the German language, human voice, synthetic voice. Me and Florian had our Kling Klang studio since 1970, and before that we had a free-form music group. We used to play at universities or parties or art galleries. And one day we said: OK, there must be a mothership, a laboratory, a studio HQ where we put things together.

We listened to quite a lot of electronic stuff at that time. On the art scene, and on the radio. We were brought up within the kind of classical Beethoven school of music, but we were aware there was a contemporary music scene, and of course a pop and rock scene. But where was our music? Finding our voice, I think that was the use of the tape recorder. So that’s what happened, we tried to forget all the things we knew before. I think our contact to the tape recorder made us use synthetic voices, artificial personalities, all those robotic ideas.

It’s not about cars, it’s about the Autobahn. People forget that. It’s a road where we were travelling all the time: hundreds of thousands of kilometres from university to art galleries, from club to home. We didn’t even have money to stay in hotels so at night we’d be travelling home after playing somewhere. That’s very important, it’s not about cars, it’s about the Autobahn. It’s also a road movie, with a humorous twist.

It’s a science fiction kind of album. Horror and beauty. The concept was infiltration by radio station – which is maybe more dangerous than radioactivity. We worked with tapes, editing pieces, glue. All electronics. And more singing and speaking, like speech symphonies.

It was written in two languages, English and German. Autobahn was just one. It was not a statement, just these lyrics came to our mind—“Radioactivity, is in the air for you and me…” Just ideas coming together, and then anticipating the next album, which was all in two languages, like in films. There were always talks about Kraftwerk working with films, but they didn’t happen – apart from [German director Rainer Werner] Fassbinder, but he used finished pieces of our music in different interpretations in his films. Radio-Activity was a favourite of Fassbinder, he used it in Russian Roulette and in Berlin Alexanderplatz.

Much, much more after the jump….....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Please Respect Our Decadence: The arch minimalism of Algebra Suicide
10:13 am


Algebra Suicide

In turn-of-the’80s Chicago, Trouble Boys guitarist Don Hedeker and the accomplished poet Lydia Tomkiw forged a romantic and creative partnership when they married and formed the band Algebra Suicide. They announced their existence to the world in 1982 with the 4-song 7” E.P. True Romance at the World’s Fair, and the title song earned the honor of inclusion on Trouser Press’ Best of the American Underground compilation the following year. The E.P. set the formula for the band’s entire 12-year career: Hedeker would play dreamy, unchanging guitar lines (I wonder if Lungfish were fans) over a simple drum machine pattern while the admirably advanced wordsmith Tomkiw cooly and astutely riffed on romance, culture, alienation, and death, delivering her recitations in tones that could have approached the snideness of the Waitresses’ Patty Donahue were Tomkiw’s delivery not so immaculately dry.

The band’s live performances were minimal but memorable. Taking a cue from the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, they dressed all in white and played side-by-side in front of a screen, immersed in projected art. The time I saw them, Hedeker was even playing a clear lucite guitar, allowing just that much more of the projected material to engulf him. Frustratingly, I’m unable to locate any motion footage of the band performing in that manner. Can you just trust me that it was freakin’ cool?


The band released several EPs and cassettes between 1982 and 1987, when RRR Records released the LP/CD The Secret Like Crazy. It was a best-of, but new fans could be forgiven for thinking it was their debut album, and it serves as a singular and definitive statement of the band’s most vital period. But though it’s essential, it’s out of print. Fortunately, Dark Entries came to the rescue of the fans and the curious in 2013 by releasing Feminine Squared, a compilation whose content overlaps Secret’s by enough to forego the crate-dig, and it’s bundled with a live DVD of excellent quality.

A 1992 European tour for the album Swoon produced tensions that ended Tomkiw and Hedeker’s marriage, but the band continued until the 1994 release of Tongue Wrestling. Tomkiw released a solo album, Incorporated in 1995, enlisting musical assists from smartass Midwestern art punks Sosumi, Pigface’s Martin Bowes, and Legendary Pink Dot Edward Ka-Spell, but that was her last musical release. She continued to publish poetry until her death in 2007.






Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Waxwork Records, the leader in beautifully packaged soundtracks on vinyl (plus a DM premiere)
01:40 pm


Waxwork Records

Waxwork Records
I love movie soundtracks. The best films usually have awesome scores (which is part of what makes them extraordinary), so whenever I really dig a particular flick I almost always NEED the soundtrack. I used to scour the used LP bins, searching for soundtracks that I wasn’t even sure existed—keep in mind this was pre-web, before you could easily look up such information. I’m not a “vinyl only” guy, but the size of LP packaging (especially if it’s a gatefold sleeve) seems to go hand in hand with the larger-than-life images projected on a movie screen. I’m especially drawn to horror scores from the ‘70s and ‘80s, when greats like John Carpenter and Goblin were creating amazingly frightening works that stand on their own as incredible pieces of music.

These days, there are a number of independent record labels that specialize in putting out vintage soundtracks on vinyl, but one label clearly stands out from the pack, and that is Waxwork Records. The label issues stellar, creative packages, complete with new liner notes, high-quality jackets, and thick pressings on colored vinyl that often reference the movie itself. New album artwork is also commissioned for every release, with Dave Rapoza of Marvel Comics creating the images for Waxwork’s latest: an expanded edition of the soundtrack for the cult classic The Warriors (1979). Barry De Vorzon’s spooky, pulsating synth rock score—complete and on vinyl for the first time—sounds fantastic. Like many Waxwork releases, it’s going fast, with the colored vinyl editions, including a deluxe package, already out of print.
The Warriors
The Warriors

In just a few short years, Waxwork has put together an impressive discography of 21 titles, many of which surely required a ton of legwork to secure the rights for. Perhaps their biggest coup was landing the original soundtrack and the complete score for the monumental Taxi Driver (1976). Penned by the legendary Bernard Herrmann—arguably the greatest film composer ever—the dreamy jazz pieces by now are synonymous with the film. As Martin Scorsese writes in his liner notes: “You can’t pull the images and the music apart. There’s no point in trying.”
Taxi Driver
Taxi Driver

Earlier this year, Dangerous Minds told you about Lalo Schifrin’s unnerving, rejected score for The Exorcist—and guess what? Waxwork is readying that one for release as well. They’ve also got a 2016 subscription service, in which subscribers are the first to get their hands on five different titles—plus loads of other of goodies—including the previously unavailable soundtrack for the ‘80s slasher, My Bloody Valentine.
My Bloody Valentine
My Bloody Valentine package
First looks at Waxwork’s ‘My Bloody Valentine’ package

More on the MBV release in a bit. First, I had a bunch of questions for the co-founder and CEO of the label, Kevin Bergeron, which were asked via email.

When did you start Waxwork Records? What was the impetus?

Kevin Bergeron: Waxwork Records launched in January 2013. The label was started out of necessity, really. I had played and toured in punk bands for many years, and I truly enjoy being in a recording studio and then pressing vinyl. Playing in punk bands for years is good conditioning for running your own business. You learn a lot on your own. There’s lots of discovery and character building skills you acquire that you just can’t learn anywhere else. I live in New Orleans, and it’s a very poor city where not very many people are motivated to do much of anything. I knew that when my last band split I wanted to continue working, putting out music. I was seriously broke, but I really went for it and started Waxwork with a lot of intensity and attitude. I knew that I didn’t have a lot to fall back on. Before Waxwork, I was a cremator at a mausoleum and after that a student majoring in biology. Just depressing stuff. I needed to make music in some form and put it out. I walked away from everything else, and started Waxwork with my partner, Suzy Soto. We pushed very hard, and still do now, over three years later.
Rosemary's Baby
Rosemary’s Baby

How do you think that Waxwork stands out from the pack of other labels that specialize in vinyl-only pressings of vintage movie soundtracks? And why exclusively vinyl?

Kevin Bergeron: Waxwork’s releases are the most deluxe, definitive, and true to the way the audio was originally intended to be heard. We seek out the original master tapes. We work from those tapes because they’re the very first recorded source of the soundtracks that we release. Like, those tapes were in the studio with the performers, recording everything in real time.

I use this example often, but it’s very true: If you hold up a Waxwork release in one hand and a record from a different label in another hand, you’re going to realize quickly that a Waxwork release is of better quality. That a lot of thought, time, effort, and man hours went into creating it. That it’s worth your time. Worth owning. That’s how we stand out, at least, amongst the other record labels specializing in soundtracks. Waxwork isn’t a hobby for us, or something that we divide up our time with something else. We exclusively run Waxwork. So, we put a lot of effort into everything.

Why vinyl? Because it’s the sexiest way to listen to music. With a decent stereo set up, it sounds the best to me. It’s a really fun, interactive way to experience recorded music, as well.
C.H.U.D.: “Toxic Waste Puddle” vinyl

Much more after the jump, including an exclusive listen to two side-long tracks from the My Bloody Valentine set…..

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
Admit it, you want to hear what stoner metal masters Fu Manchu did with DEVO’s ‘Freedom of Choice’
01:30 pm


Fu Manchu

Orange County isn’t known for exporting cultural phenomena that DM readers love—or should love—but damned if stoner rock band Fu Manchu doesn’t belong on at the top of that short list.

Fu Manchu has been plugging away since the early 1990s, having churned out 11 memorable albums from 1994 onward. Their best album is probably 1997’s The Action Is Go—it clocked in at #26 on Metal Storm’s list of the “Top 100 Stoner Metal Albums”—but it’s the band’s 2000 release King of the Road that catches our interest today.

As Ned Raggett pointed out in his complimentary Allmusic review of the album, King of the Road may have seemed like just another stoner rock effort, but the album does cohere as an homage to van culture and the devil-may-care freedoms that are (by this time) practically synonymous with the advent of the automobile:

In as much as there’s a theme to King of the Road beyond the basics of driving, drugs, and that demon rock & roll, it’s driving—there’s a reason why the cover and internal art features a slew of great ‘70s-era photos from a massive van rally. The one shot of the fully leather-covered interior of one mobile love nest, complete with black curtains, about says it all. Then there’s the megachugging title track (“King of the road says you move too slow!”), “Hell on Wheels,” “Boogie Van,” and so forth—call it a concept album that doesn’t waste time with elves and yogis.

As the capper to the album, Fu Manchu reached back two decades for a particularly infectious anthem celebrating—if indeed it does—liberty American-style, to wit DEVO’s hit “Freedom of Choice,” which came off the Akron band’s terrific 1980 album of the same name.

The selection is all the more fitting when you realize that DEVO’s video for that song was every bit as much a tribute to skateboard culture as the cover of Fu Manchu’s The Action Is Go......


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘An experiment waiting to happen’: A brief history of ‘Two Tone Britain’

Jerry Dammers: the father of Two Tone records
Two Tone was a specifically British, or more accurately English, musical genre that came out of punk and ska in the late 1970s. The roots of Two Tone can be traced back to the arrival of West Indians to England—the so-called “Windrush Generation”—under the British Nationality Act of 1948. This act gave British citizenship to all people living in Commonwealth countries and full rights of entry and settlement in the UK. With the arrival of these Commonwealth citizens came ska and reggae music, which was slowly adopted by the white working class.

Most youth music is exclusive—it’s old versus young; hip versus square; mod versus rocker; slacker versus yuppie; black versus white. Few musical genres are totally or even try to be totally inclusive—there is a built-in snobbishness that comes with the package. The osmosis of ska and Afro-Carribean culture into the white British culture pointed a way towards a truly inclusive musical genre—Two Tone. It was, as Two Tone singer Pauline Black once said, “an experiment waiting to happen.”

During the 1960s, Skinheads took ska as their own—but the growing racism of the skinhead movement led to their ostracization. Reggae replaced ska—but the skins hated reggae’s laid-back, spliffed-up vibe. Skinheads became suedeheads. Popular music moved onto glam rock, heavy metal, and prog rock. Then punk arrived in 1976. A new generation of youngsters saw that the means of music production could be theirs.
Two Tone pioneers The Specials.
Jerry Dammers was a young musician in Coventry. He had been a fellow traveler in various youth movements—a hippie, a skinhead, a punk—but his first love was ska. Dammers took the energy of punk with the rhythms of ska and created a new genre of music known as Two Tone—an inclusive, socially aware, “danceable earfest.” Dammers formed the Specials AKA with like-minded youngsters and the best of local talent. The Specials pioneered Two Tone music. They got a record deal that allowed Dammers to set up his Two Tone record label. Its first release was The Specials with “Gangsters” on the A-side and Pauline Black and the Selecter—a band made up in the studio—on the B-side. Dammers quickly signed up the Beat (a.k.a. the English Beat), London band Madness, Bad Manners, the Bodysnatchers and even Elvis Costello and the Attractions.

Two Tone’s iconic black and white label design (an image created by Dammers that was loosely based on a photograph of Pete Tosh from the Wailing Wailers) was a standard for the fans’ style—a mix of Rude Boy and Mod—baggy suit, white shirt, black tie, and porkpie hat. Two Tone brought black and white together and although The Specials could sometimes be didactic—they sent out a political message that united the young.

The whole story is well told by those at its heart and from those who were most influenced by it in Two Tone Britain—a thoroughly enjoyable documentary that makes you realize what at its best music can achieve. (The video embedded below looks suspiciously unavailable, but we assure you, as of the time of posting, you can click on it and watch it!)


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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