September 15, 2019
This is Marc Wasserman. I’m writing an oral history about the birth of American ska and reggae called Ska Boom that will be published by DiWulf Publishing in 2020. I've created this podcast to document the book writing process and share some of the amazing stories I’m capturing in the interviews I’m conducting
I’m back hard at work on the book. I’ve completed 14 chapters and now have just five more chapters to go. I can finally see light at the end of the tunnel. The next few weeks will be spent working on a chapter about Boston’s Bim Skala Bim.
I recently conducted an interview with the band’s original trombonist John Ferry. John co-founded the band with lead singer Dan Vitale in Boston in 1983 after meeting him while working for Green Peace. The two shared a love of reggae and talked about starting a band and soon after meeting the band’s bassist Mark Ferranti were joined by a group of local high school students who formed the first iteration of the band.
I wanted to share some excerpts from my interview with John. I asked him about the writing process for the songs that were recorded for their first album and he shared the origins of the band’s signature song “Jah Laundromat.” The original line-up was hired to play the one year anniversary of the Laundromat where John was working. John pick’s up the story…
September 2, 2019
Hi. This is Marc Wasserman. I’m writing an oral history about the birth of American ska and reggae called Ska Boom that will be published by DiWulf Publishing in 2020. I've created this podcast to document the book writing process and share some of the amazing stories I’m capturing in the interviews I’m conducting
After taking the summer off from so I could tour with Rude Boy George and write and record music for the Heavensbee project that I’m a part of, I’m back hard at work on the book. I’ve completed 14 chapters and now have just five more chapters to go. I can finally see light at the end of the tunnel. The next few weeks will be spent working on a chapter about Boston’s Bim Skala Bim. I recently conducted a 3 hour interview with the band’s lead singer and co-founder Dan Vitale.
It’s hard to explain how influential Dan and Bim Skala Bim were to me and my Bigger Thomas band mates when we were just starting out. In fact one of the earliest shows we ever played was opening for them at City Gardens in Trenton 30 years ago in the spring of 1989. They were kind to us and encouraging and Dan and Jackie Star actually took time after the show to share feedback with us on what were doing well and what we could do better. That was really special to us as a young band just starting out.
Beyond that, their music was everything I aspired to in being in a ska band. Influenced by 2-Tone, they played a unique mix of ska, reggae and Caribbean sounds and they wrote memorable songs about the ups and downs of life with amazing hooks. In many ways, their story is the story of American ska.
I wanted to share some excerpts from my interview with Dan. I asked him about the band’s look, or lack of one. Back then, most bands were taking cues from The Specials and other 2-Tone bands Rude Boy look of suits, pork pie hats and black and white clothing. What I learned is that Bim’s lack of a look was driven by the fact that band were literally starving musicians and the money they earned touring nearly full time was spent on recording their music in professional studios. For them, the music always came first.
July 11, 2019
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.
February 23, 2019
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.
February 9, 2019
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.
January 31, 2019
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!
January 19, 2019
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.