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Ska is dead, riiiiight
November 11, 2005 9:47 AM   Subscribe

I dont know about you but I dont think enough has been said about Ska. Sure, theres guys like Reel Big Fish and Sublime who try to claim the bragging rights for making Ska what it is today, however, many people dont know the real origins of this movement. More inside:
posted by wheelieman (71 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I don't know about you, but I don't think enough has seen said about apostrophes.
posted by squirrel at 9:51 AM on November 11, 2005


Or my own proofreading! ;^)
posted by squirrel at 9:52 AM on November 11, 2005


Wait, there's MORE??
posted by Floydd at 9:57 AM on November 11, 2005


Reel Big Fish and Sublime claim bragging rights? Really? Or do you mean their teenaged fans who don't (and probably shouldn't) know better?

And everyone knows Op Ivy invested ska.
posted by mullacc at 9:58 AM on November 11, 2005


And everyone knows Op Ivy invested ska.

I think it's telling that I can't for the life of me figure out whether this is supposed to be a joke.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:01 AM on November 11, 2005


Is it telling about me or about you?

Yes, it's a (bad) joke.
posted by mullacc at 10:02 AM on November 11, 2005


The second link is nice, although limited as these kinds of histories always are: where's The Upsetter? In King Tubby vs. The Upsetter, I always bet on Scratch.

(I can't wait for the [mi])
posted by OmieWise at 10:02 AM on November 11, 2005


It probably would've helped if I had written "inveNted" not "invested."
posted by mullacc at 10:03 AM on November 11, 2005


Ska, later to become dub/reggae/rocksteady, started in the late 1950s in Jamacia, where then it started a soical movement, Jamicans started trying to take back their counntry (as a aside, it was considerd bad to talk negitively about the government, so these activist people were labeled "rudeboys".) Today it's considerd a passing fad but it has sprung up on the web in a lot of ways: Search Engines , More historical background, Etc, But the inspiration for this post was a nifty site (via), Ska for the Skeptical. More stuff from that site later in this thread.
posted by wheelieman at 10:03 AM on November 11, 2005


What a wonderful, upbeat post.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:03 AM on November 11, 2005


Everytime I heard No Doubt call themselves a ska band, it made me fucking want to puke. Then again, my knowledge of Ska started in high school when a friend turned me onto the Specials. Based on the (excellent) wiki, I guess I would have been wrong (was wrong) back then claiming the Specials were the original ska band.

I was surprised to see no mention of dance hall however. I thought some of the vocal stylings of the 1940s/50s jamaican dance hall singers were hugely influential on these musical forms.
posted by psmealey at 10:04 AM on November 11, 2005


I don't know about you, but I don't think enough has seen said about apostrophes.

It's worse than you think, squirrel. Much worse.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:05 AM on November 11, 2005


only for you squirrel : ''''''


Happy?
:)

(Mullacc, I blame the record companies profiting for these white bands)
posted by wheelieman at 10:06 AM on November 11, 2005


wheelieman: Mullacc, I blame the record companies profiting for these white bands

Well, yeah. First-wave ska is fine. But, if you ask me, the really neglected stuff is the Brit ska. Everybody in the US seems to think Madness only made that one song about a house.
posted by koeselitz at 10:11 AM on November 11, 2005


Isn't this post, like, five or six years too late?
posted by cribcage at 10:15 AM on November 11, 2005


Oh, great! Thanks, koeselitz!

[Tucks them in with a small kiss
she's the one they're going to miss in lots of ways...
]

posted by squirrel at 10:16 AM on November 11, 2005


Why are ska and high school so intimately linked?
posted by rxrfrx at 10:19 AM on November 11, 2005


Koeselitz: Well, yeah. First-wave ska is fine. But, if you ask me, the really neglected stuff is the Brit ska. Everybody in the US seems to think Madness only made that one song about a house
In my opinon, the Clash sounds dull and unoriginal , however, If you take a good listen to Rudy Cant Fail, they nailed it totally. (This song is included in the last site I linked to on the MI part), That song blew me away, if only if they had stuck to that sound, and a horn section.
posted by wheelieman at 10:19 AM on November 11, 2005


In my opinon, the Clash sounds dull and unoriginal

Heresy!

[The Clash is very definitely NOT a ska band.]

Also, this is the best thing to come out of the new, "high school" ska

pps. Viva Eskanol!
posted by kosem at 10:35 AM on November 11, 2005


Your favourite genre of music sucks, and you are all wrong about which bands should be included in that genre.
posted by fire&wings at 10:37 AM on November 11, 2005


Let's take them bowling.

In Omaha, in the early and mid eighties, SKA was the best way to display your wealth, taste, and class above a sea of headbangers, new wavers, punks and mods. The white prep kids reappropriated the style not in the 2 tone sense of inclusion, but exclusion.
posted by tzelig at 10:51 AM on November 11, 2005


I've had that mix for a while, and I have to say that it made me like ska more than I had previously. The energy alone recommends it.
posted by OmieWise at 10:52 AM on November 11, 2005


Grab one of the many Trojan Ska Box Sets for a quick/quality crash course.
posted by afx114 at 10:54 AM on November 11, 2005


theres guys like Reel Big Fish and Sublime who try to claim the bragging rights for making Ska what it is today

Who are these bands/people? Links? I say that as someone with about 500 Jamaican 7"s, 10"s and LPs on the shelves behind him and a sad fanboy collection of books, too... fucking love Jamaican music.

I was surprised to see no mention of dance hall however. I thought some of the vocal stylings of the 1940s/50s jamaican dance hall singers were hugely influential on these musical forms.

God yeah - mento, buru, calypso and other Island musics gave birth to ska, though arguably it's the mingling of those forms with R&B by Prince Buster that kick-started ska, especially his use of Rasta nyabingi drummers on 'Oh Carolina' by the Folkes Bros., which basically gave Jamaica an indigenous pop music for the first time. Self-link: here's a little profile of Buster I wrote recently, which skims through the history of ska - for a Sunday paper, so a bit cheesy.

Mullacc, I blame the record companies profiting for these white band

WTF? That's just total nonsense. The Two Tone thing was a) multiracial, and very explicitly, politically so (er, look at the name of the label at the heart of it all!) and b) grassroots, certainly not some record company invention.

First-wave ska is fine. But, if you ask me, the really neglected stuff is the Brit ska.

Are either neglected? I've been to tons of big sold-out gigs in the past few years by both elderly Jamaicans and not-quite-so-elderly Two Tone types. And Jerry Dammers, whose DJ sets are utterly sublime, always packs them in - he mines this really weird seam of almost psychedelic Jamaican pop and ska from the 50s and 60s at the moment. Lovely chap, too, though difficult to understand due to the lack of front teeth!

Ska, later to become dub/reggae/rocksteady, started in the late 1950s in Jamacia, where then it started a soical movement, Jamicans started trying to take back their counntry (as a aside, it was considerd bad to talk negitively about the government, so these activist people were labeled "rudeboys".) Today it's considerd a passing fad

There's so much nonsense in there that I don't know where to start.

This thread is really confusing - is it a trans-Atlantic thing? All this talk of ska being dead, this post being six years out of date, ska and high school etc.? Doesn't make sense to British eyes.
posted by jack_mo at 10:55 AM on November 11, 2005


Don't know much about ska, but this all-ska soundtrack was one of my favorite albums about 10 years back.
posted by bashos_frog at 11:02 AM on November 11, 2005


Oh, sorry, I get it now after a quick Googling - I'd forgotten about those punky ska bands in America. (Although it pains me to call them ska.)

I interviewed Lee Perry a couple of years back and he has/had this weird thing about only wanting white people to listen to his music nowadays (or pretends to - he's not that nuts when you meet him and he's not 'on'), but said, roughly, 'My music is for the white children now, to save them from the reggae music they make for themselves in America'. Spot on, Perry. But then he also told me the Queen was conspiring with Rastas to have him killed.
posted by jack_mo at 11:03 AM on November 11, 2005


OK, 8 years.
posted by bashos_frog at 11:03 AM on November 11, 2005


tzelig: I'm surprised to hear the ska kids thought themselves above the mods. In DC during the early 90's, they were pretty much one and the same, with some interesting crossovers into Straight Edge culture, with a dollop of Fugazi/Dischord bands, esp. Nation of Ulysses (the ultimate genre-fuckers) thrown on top.

Just did a search for Moon Records NYC. Found this.

It was a great time in my life, and much of the music still holds up (Specials, Selecter) and even the stuff that doesn't (Toasters, Skunks, DC Cabs, Pie Tasters) brings back great memories. Awesome live shows all around, esp. the Toasters show where, apparently, the trumpeter had just gotten out of jail. Then they broke into the theme from Hawaii 5-0. F'in brilliant.
posted by bardic at 11:06 AM on November 11, 2005


Sure, theres guys like Reel Big Fish and Sublime who try to claim the bragging rights for making Ska what it is today

I'm fairly positive that neither of these bands (certainly not Sublime) ever made such a claim.
posted by kosem at 11:07 AM on November 11, 2005


whoops. mullacc said it for me already.
posted by kosem at 11:10 AM on November 11, 2005


I just need to throw my voice in for the Specials, the only ska I continue to listen to, really. Great stuff.
posted by adzm at 11:10 AM on November 11, 2005


The Mighty Mighty Bosstones will always have special place in my heart reserved for American ska.
posted by dr_dank at 11:18 AM on November 11, 2005


I loved the Bosstones before they went heavy metal. I actually played my cassette of More Noises until it melted.
posted by bardic at 11:32 AM on November 11, 2005


I love that Reel Big Fish's only hit song is called "Sellout". They are an appallingly bad band.

dr_dank, the Bosstones are and have been one of my favorite bands, not just punk-ska. They rock the frickin' house!
posted by fenriq at 11:33 AM on November 11, 2005


Bardic,

Just to give some of the 'highschool' perspective for the thread.

There just weren't that many mods, and the Jam, which by this time was calling itself the style council, wasn't their reference point, it was the who, and their imminent front had passed. The truth is more likely that the mods didn't give a shit about the preppies and their ska.

Even with all the ska and preppy posing, it was a great scene from '83 to '87 that needed to get shaken up. Unlike what I presume to be cosmopolitan DC, Omaha is a culturally landlocked city with dominate influences pouring in from all over, but none flowing out. (311 and the Cops aside)

There were three prep schools in the area, and the one that was largest and most popular had the greatest influence on the city scene. All the catholic school girls knew where the good parties were - and at that time SKA was just one of many sounds to be heard that weren't on the radio.
posted by tzelig at 11:34 AM on November 11, 2005


Right now Studio One Soul is probably number one on my records to buy list. While it's not ska by any stretch, the liner notes have some great information about the history and development of reggae. More info on Studio One Records.
posted by hue at 11:34 AM on November 11, 2005


NYC had a great scene too--Mephiskapheles (satanic ska) and NYCitizens were fun. "Fun" is sorely missing from a lot of music these days.
posted by bardic at 11:40 AM on November 11, 2005


Mexican Ska. oh yea.

There was this group jamming around Houston in '97, forgot their name, but what a show!

You're right about the fun factor.

The Mephiskapheles link didn't work for me.
posted by tzelig at 12:03 PM on November 11, 2005


As much as I'm loathe to defend them, No Doubt actually used to play some pretty good 2nd/3rd wave ska, back when they actually had a horn section and had a mildly hard time even getting booked at dive bars, and later, SoCal institutions like The Whisky A-Go Go.

I've had the absolute honor to see The Skatalites play live, at The Palace in Hollywood. Damn those guys are smooth and sweet. I'll never forget that show, no matter how much acid-techno I grind into my brain.

The show included Bad Manners and the rather meh and unremarkable Dave Wakling's Special Beat Service, as well as some locals and smaller 3rd wavers. Maybe the Toasters? I don't remember. Bad Manners was good, energetic and up.

I do remember Fatty Buster Bloodvessel attempting to do a stage dive, right over my head. That dude is huge. People just panicked when they saw him go airborne, and parted like a Red Sea of human flesh. He went splat, the poor, dumb bastard. It was like a sea elephant bomb, the ground quaked when he hit the floor.

But when The Skatalites took the stage, that was something else. Pure magic. Two beats into their first track everyone, and I mean everyone, was dancing. Punks, rudeboys, skaters, rastas, nerds, preppies, huge SoCal Samoan SHARP gangsters, two tones, avowed Nazi skins there just to kick Rudy ass, everyone. Everything just fell away and suddenly none of those inherently silly labels of so-called style mattered.

Only two things mattered, the beat, and moving to the beat. It was infectious, unavoidable, like something important would irreversibly break if you didn't move to the beat. And it wasn't any of that hyperkinetic skank-pogo-slam 2nd/3rd wave stuff, but just pure dancing and grooving, for every single soul in the house, all smiles and family.

Groove aside, I still haven't ever seen anything that matches the sheer unbridled insanity, controlled chaos and intensity of a good ska show. Heavy metal mosh pits? Fuckin' armor-wearing pansies. Hardcore skate-thrash punk? Lightweights. Sloppy drunks.

Evan Dorkin probably captured it best in his Pirate Corp$ comics. You know those scenes he would draw with all those people flying around, drinking and fighting here, grooving there, people screwing like rabbits in the corner in a pool of piss and beer over there, all that improbable activity going on all at once, all so over the top? Those aren't fictional instants. I've seen 'em.

A dozen times or more I've seen ska shows at small, crowded venues like The Whisky - especially The Whisky - where the inside of the place just explodes into some kind of out of control human popcorn machine, bodies flying, bouncers fleeing for their very lives, people somehow bouncing off the walls 15 feet off the ground, balcony dives and seemingly physically impossible moments where there were more people airborne than there were people with their feet on the ground.

God forbid you ever throw a good ska show on a raised floor, mezzanine or balcony. Those fucker's will shake the whole building down around them.

I remember the energy and sheer physical activity levels getting so frenetic the crowd would just suck all the oxygen out of a building. I passed out more than once, just dancing - totally sober, being only 15-16 and all - having to scramble blind and stumbling for the front door to get fresh air, sides aching like I was going to die.

You could just feel it. A good song would start up and people would just start moving, jostling shoulders and elbows, grins splitting and the temperatures in the place would kick up 20-30 degrees in seconds as the air quality plummeted towards dangerous levels of carbon dioxide saturation. Madness.

Admist it all of it some kind of funky, crazy strutting groove and jump up two-step dancing just going on, the whole place hopping and stomping like it was trying to raise a mighty quake, just going totally nuts like it was God's own religion, despite the mayhem.

Or because of it, I never could figure.
posted by loquacious at 12:05 PM on November 11, 2005 [1 favorite]


Isn't this post, like, five or six years too late?
posted by cribcage at 10:15 AM PST on November 11 [!]


Or 20, if you're a dyed-in-the-wool old fart like me. I liked the ska of the two-tone bands that came out in the late 70s early 80s (Specials, the Selecter, [English] Beat) but the third wave (Less than Jake, reel big fish, et al.) never did much for me, but still that was a conversation that was prominent in '95 not '05.

Bands like the Pioneers, Skatalites and producers like King Tubby or Scratch Perry, mmmmmm. But I have to admit, Gwen Stefani looks better than King Tubby.
posted by beelzbubba at 12:07 PM on November 11, 2005


Comments like that make my heart leap for joy Loquaclous, nice work
posted by wheelieman at 12:13 PM on November 11, 2005


Hepcat was keeping it real last I checked, but that was a few years ago.
posted by bardic at 12:20 PM on November 11, 2005


How is it that nobody's yet mentioned Fishbone? Mid-80s, out of the rougher parts of LA?

Over their careers they went a lot of strange places musically, launching side projects such as the all-star Trulio Disgracias. "Dirty" Walt Kibby's unique voice can be heard on Macy Gray's "Sexual Revolution" and other out of the way locations.

They more or less imploded in 1993 after fouding member and guitarist Kendal Jones went the cult route and bass player Norwood Fisher was arrested for kidnapping after trying to spring him. The band was never quite the same after that musically or spiritually.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:26 PM on November 11, 2005


Bardic -- that was a few years ago. Hepcat packed it up in 2000.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:26 PM on November 11, 2005


I think enough has been said about ska except: "Goldfinger is the Vanilla Ice of ska."
posted by Eideteker at 12:27 PM on November 11, 2005


Wait; Fishbone isn't ska. They're good.
posted by Eideteker at 12:28 PM on November 11, 2005


Do punk rock bands that play the occasional ska song de facto become ska bands? I don't think so. Not to split hairs on genres, but the Clash and Fishbone were not ska bands and more than the Police were a reggae band and Anthrax was a gangsta rap outfit.
posted by psmealey at 12:37 PM on November 11, 2005


While everybody's throwing their favorite ska (mostly 3rd wave, it seems) around here, I cast my vote for the Voodoo Glow Skulls song "Lanzar la Luna" off of the album Firme en espanol.
posted by kosem at 12:43 PM on November 11, 2005


I gotta represent the The Toasters, Hepcat, Laurel Aitken, New York Ska Jazz Ensemble, and pretty much anything my Buford O'Sullivan.
posted by ozomatli at 12:58 PM on November 11, 2005


I just finished typing out a huge post here all about the Toronto ska scene of the mid to late 80s, only to have it vanish. I am so bummed out now that all I can do is link to an article on 2002's Legends of Ska Festival. Colour me bluebeat.

*cries*
posted by stinkycheese at 12:58 PM on November 11, 2005


At least Nelson Mandela is free, that song could've gone on forever.
posted by tzelig at 1:02 PM on November 11, 2005


Since we're doing shout outs to our favourite groups, I'll have to mention The Furios from Vancouver, Canada. High energy, and a really positive, upbeat band. Their shows always have people skanking their butts off. Check out their Music link, and especially this song - 'Too High' (.mp3 file).
Good post - more people should talk about ska.

Oh, and ozomatli, The Furios are signed to Megalith Records, home to the New York Ska Jazz Ensemble. See what you think...
posted by Zack_Replica at 1:18 PM on November 11, 2005


I packed this comment in after reading loquacious' excellent take. I will leave a few shout outs for Roland Alphonso, Clancy Eccles, Madness, and third-wave fun-time supa-freaks, The Aquabats! however.

/me packs up the pork-pie and waits for the next wave
posted by Suck Poppet at 1:27 PM on November 11, 2005


"Boxer Shorts" NYCitizens
"Social Security" Toasters
"Police Woman" Hepcat
"YMCA" cover Skunks
"Girl Take it Easy" Pietasters
"Othello" Dance Hall Crashers

Something by King Chango

Gotta go unpack some CD's now.
posted by bardic at 1:36 PM on November 11, 2005


I'm hoping (and am reasonably sure) that wheelieman is part of a web in-joke that I've seen several other places that are making hilarious claims about ska music and it's supposed history. There has been a LOT said about ska, much of it not so long ago around the rise of the web in the 1990s. The endless bickering of what is or isn't ska, who has more credibility, and downward glances toward "appropriators" of the sound (oh, and which bands "aren't ska" now that they're popular) took over many a conversation among people in my high school. In the mid 1990s. Last I checked, the Christian rock kids figured out it was cool and were having their way with it as other people drifted off into whatever they did next. Wikipedia seems to have had some editing battles about a Christian "fourth wave" so that explains where that whole thing went.

I have the sneaking suspicion Sublime, which has been defunct since the death of their singer in 1996, have not been making any claims. Reel Big Fish, while not defunct, probably never made any claims either. Maybe wheelieman is thinking of fans of those bands.

In other breaking news, did you guys know that Green Day did not invent punk rock?
posted by mikeh at 1:38 PM on November 11, 2005


Well, shit. I didn't write all that to discourage other people from sharing. Come on, now. I like typing and all, but I like reading, too.

And Suck Poppet is easily near or at the top of my list of my favorite usernames, ever. Clever and pointed.
posted by loquacious at 1:42 PM on November 11, 2005


I credit that Wikipedia article for turning me on to the Two Tone (2nd wave) British ska bands which I find I like a lot better than most of the 3rd wave stuff. Somehow I missed it when it was first out but I'm making up for lost time.
posted by tommasz at 2:18 PM on November 11, 2005


More links as promised:
The Slackers: Knowing , The Speicals: Concrete Jungle, Older samples: Derrick Morgan:The Hop, and Laurel Aitkin: Hey Bartender, later used by the Blues Brothers as their debut song on SNL.
posted by wheelieman at 2:22 PM on November 11, 2005


I stand corrected at the notion that I know nothing about ska bands opinons about themselves. Carry on
posted by wheelieman at 2:24 PM on November 11, 2005


In my opinon, the Clash sounds dull and unoriginal , however, If you take a good listen to Rudy Cant Fail, they nailed it totally.

I challenge you to a knife fight, asshole. Not really. Anyway, I am a huge Clash fan and love "Rudy can't Fail" a whole lot. BUT, the song would be even better if it sounded more like the demo version from The Vanilla Tapes.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:55 PM on November 11, 2005


Just who the hell is this Rudy, anyway?
posted by xod at 4:19 PM on November 11, 2005


Conehead Buddha is my guilty pleasure.
posted by euphorb at 4:58 PM on November 11, 2005


loquacious, thank you. I was a second wave/rude boy era ska freak in high school and college (a bit behind the curve, since I lived in the middle of nowhere), and your post reminded me of so many things.

Ska always sounds like summertime to me--maybe because I got to escape my isolated little town to hang out in the "big cities" of L.A. and Seattle, where it was actually played on the *radio*. I never picked up on the preppy or mod connections, because we didn't really have those in my school.
posted by whatnot at 8:25 PM on November 11, 2005


People who believe that ska fuses effectively with other genres of music, especially those in which the guitars are distorted, are sorely mistaken.
posted by bendybendy at 9:36 PM on November 11, 2005


I have optioned against commenting in this thread.
posted by Jezztek at 11:49 PM on November 11, 2005


This is how you do an fpp about ska mate:

Y2karls ska/jamaican fpp , still the greatest metafilter fpp of all time.

(saw lee perry about three weeks ago in edinburgh , he was great , i'm soooo jealous you met him.)
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:52 PM on November 12, 2005


my gosh , there's hardly any mp3's on his site anymore ....we cleaned them out like locusts ....
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:07 PM on November 12, 2005


it was actually played on the *radio*

CIUT has a very good all-wave-encompasing show called SKA PARTY on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. Toronto time. Y'all can listen online.

(Disclosure of bias: I used to host the show right before it, and am fond of the Ska Party guys. But the show's still great.)
posted by Tomatillo at 3:26 PM on November 12, 2005


and what happened to terry hall ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:27 PM on November 12, 2005


CIUT has a very good all-wave-encompasing show called SKA PARTY on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. Toronto time. Y'all can listen online.

(Disclosure of bias: I used to host the show right before it, and am fond of the Ska Party guys. But the show's still great.)
posted by Tomatillo at 3:26 PM PST on November 12 [!]


WCBN-FM hosts "Train to Skaville" every tuesday from 7-8 pm. It's been on the air for a long time & the host mixes all sorts of Caribbean-basin sounds on the show.
posted by beelzbubba at 2:15 PM on November 16, 2005


'WCBN-FM hosts "Train to Skaville"'

I need to point out that the title is a reference to the Clash's "White Man in Hammersmith Palais".
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:16 PM on November 17, 2005


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