If you are a fan of ska music or pop culture, you have undoubtedly seen the video for or heard the song "Jesus Is A Friend Of Mine" by the Brooklyn, NY-based Catholic band Sonseed featuring Sal Polichetti on bass. Sonseed built a following playing shows at Churches around Brooklyn in the late 70s and early 80s. Hearing "Too Much Pressure" by The Selecter on the radio inspired Sal to write the song. More than 25 years after the song was recorded, a video of the band performing it on WNBC-TV in 1981 surfaced online and things have never been the same! The song has appeared on popular TV shows "Community" and "Glee." Since then, Sal has performed the song at the Specialized ska festival in the UK which is how I met him when my band Rude Boy George backed him.
I’m writing an oral history about the birth of American ska and reggae called Ska Boom that will be published by DiWulf Publishing later this year or in early 2020. I've created this podcast to document the book writing process and in this podcast I’m telling the story of the 1993 Skavoovie tour of the U.S. featuring the Skatalites, Special Beat, the Selecter and the Toasters which had much to do with expanding the popularity of ska across the U.S. The podcast includes interviews with vocalist Coolie Ranx of the Toasters/Pilfers, Randy "Now" Ellis of City Gardens fame, who was the Skavoovie tour manager and Special Beat keyboardist Sean Flowerdew.
Ska Boom! An Oral History About The Birth Of American Ska & Reggae: The Hooters Bring Ska To Philadelphia
This week's behind the scenes dispatch from "Ska Boom! An Oral History About The Birth Of American Ska & Reggae" is a bit about the story of The Hooters. For those in the know, the band - which was founded by Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian - burst onto the Philadelphia club scene in 1980 and very quickly became a huge success along their native East Coast. Their unique blend of ska, reggae and rock n roll was a fresh and powerful sound and in 1983 The Hooters released their first independent album "Amore", which sold over 100,000 copies. "Amore" introduced the original ska and reggae versions of songs like "All You Zombies", "Hanging On A Heartbeat", "Fightin' On The Same Side" and "Blood From A Stone." It was also during this time that Rob and Eric, along with producer Rick Chertoff, wrote and played on Cyndi Lauper's debut album "She's So Unusual". In this podcast, Rob shares about how he was first introduced to ska while on a family vacation in Jamaica in the mid-60s, the process of starting the band and their ska and reggae sound and what it was like to work and record with Cyndi Lauper and how they brought a ska and reggae influence to songs on her debut album.
37 years! That's how long its been since The Specials have recorded new music with Terry Hall! The band release their new album "Encore" on Friday February 1st and I can't wait to hear it. If the two songs the band have released so far, "Vote For Me," and "Ten Commandments" are any indication, then we all have a lot to look forward to! To that end, I'm sharing a new podcast episode that's based on soundbites from interviews I've done for the book that focus on The Specials and the impact their first self-titled album released in 1979 had on young Americans who were later inspired to start or join American ska bands. In this episode I share clips of interviews with Howard Paar, a young Englishman who found himself in LA in 1979 and upon hearing the band's first single "Gangsters" decided to open what became the ON Klub that kicked-off a ska revolution in LA. Next focus of clips from musicians from the New York City ska scene - - Constant Bernard of Second Step, Jeff "King Django" Baker of The Boilers and later Skinnerbox and Brendan Tween of Mephiskapheles, who share the very diverse and yet similar ways that The Specials impacted them. Have a listen!
I'm busy working on "Ska Boom! An Oral History About The Birth Of American Ska & Reggae" and I'm about halfway through the book writing process. One year in, I've finished drafting the first 10 chapters and have 10 more to research and write. While I've posted updates to Facebook, I decided it would be more interesting to create a podcast that includes interview snippets and songs from some of the musicians and bands I've written about.
In the very first episode I've included anecdotes and stories from book chapters on The Shakers from Berkeley, CA who were the very first American reggae band that were signed to Elektra/Asylum Records by David Geffen; The Untouchables who helped popularize ska in Los Angeles and were later signed to Stiff Records in the U.K. and The Boxboys who can be called one of the very first American ska bands, forming at UCLA and building a ska at the renowned O.N. Klub in the late 70s and early 80s.
This is the first of what will be periodic podcasts as I continue to work on the boo.