Just over a year ago I was able to exchange emails with Mike Montez of the Velvetones. I then edited them down to one continuous interview. Then I lost it.
Today I found it.
His real name is Mike O'Brien and he is still involved in music on occasion as you see by his version of House of Fun which was performed under the name LEGENDS OF POP
In his own words:
In the mid 1980s, whilst I was in the Velvetones, I worked in a place called "The Warren" in Hull. It was then labeled as "a drop-in centre for the young unemployed". It still exists and now boasts loads of facilities including its own recording studio (see Warren Records).
In those days I ran an art area with a darkroom and stuff. Often the room would just get full of lads just wanting to compare tattoos and play loud music. One afternoon this lad came in with close cropped hair, an armful of ink and an album by a band called the Oppressed. On that album was a track called Skinhead Girl. This lad was really into the song. He played it to me four or five times that afternoon.
As a result, the chorus got stuck in my head, and that night at a Velvetones rehearsal, I sang it to the rest of the lads. I was all for getting a tape of it and getting the band to learn it, but they were not keen on doing a straight cover of an Oi! song. Dave Rotheray (of Beautiful South fame) said something along the lines of "you could write something much better anyway", so I took up the challenge and wrote my own lyrics, some of it was from bits I could remember of the original lyrics and tune, and I made the rest up. I never heard the Oppressed version again until I looked it up on the net a couple of years ago.
Keith (of the saxophone) wrote the sax tag, and Dave and the band put the backing sound together around my song.
It quickly became a favourite at gigs, we would save it until the end, or do it as an encore. The audience used to dance and sing along.
Mike was married last year and he performed Skinhead Girl at his wedding.
The new version was done by someone at this website...http://www.mycustomtracks.com It took him a bit longer than he said it would, but when I pleaded a wedding party to him, he responded with a big effort, and got it to me with a week to learn... But once I got into it. It was surprising how soon I got the hang... it all came flooding back.
Not got any video or audio of me singing it as yet.. but you never know. If you want to post the backing track on your site, feel free. It would be fun to think of other people having a go, and there's no copyright problems. I bought it from that website with all rights.
"Skinhead Girl (karaoke version)"
There she goes, just walking down the High Street Marten boots and short cropped hair How I wish she was walking down my street How my heart would bleed to see her there Then she'd be my skinhead girl... She smokes Marlboro fags from a battered tattered packet Once she pressed one into my grimy fist How I wish she'd write my name on the back of her jacket And wear my cheap tin bracelet on her wrist Then she'd be my skinhead girl...
Then I saw her one Saturday night at the pictures in the cheap stalls She was kissing with a biker and it made my toes all curl And I felt the tears well up in my big tough eyeballs As I realised she would never be my girl...
(hold on... who's this coming up the Old Kent Road?)
There goes another one, just walking down the high street Same old Marten boots and short cropped hair How I wish upon wish upon wish that she was walking down my street How my heart would bleed to see her there Then she'd be my Skinhead girl...
I did the lyrics for all the Velvetones stuff. Believe it or not I was (and still am) a big fan of the group Sparks. I loved the way Ron Mael turned out his lyrics, and tried to emulate him for original subject material and quirky humour. I reckon my stuff was often a bit more romantic leaning than his (I was young) and as far as I know sparks never covered any Oi! (but there is a rare track called "We are the Clash" that was released on a magazine cover a few years back). My personal favourite velvetones lyric was "Tweedledum" because I felt it got closest to Ron Mael quality.
The idea for much of the lyrics and tune of "How can I lose the Velvetones" and a fair bit of "Montez is Dying" (and indeed the idea for much of the Montez/Velvetones personality) came through listening to a 1930s band called Nat Gonella and the Georgians, in particular a track called "Old Man Mose". Just looked it up... found the lyrics but no track... Its been a while since I heard it. Meanwhile: Here's a version by Betty Hutton.
(It was apparently banned in the 30s because of the risk of listeners mishearing the word "Bucket" - or maybe that was this version by Eddy Duchin
Talking about original lyrics. My mate Eddie of that other Crap Hull band (ironic self abasement is an endearing quality of the best people in East Yorkshire - big heads can bugger off to London!) the Gargoyles, wrote some marvelous stuff in addition to "Ferry Across the Humber". None of it was Tone and Wave type material, but I will make some available to you for your listening pleasure. They had two albums out. I have transferred one to mp3s and have a few tracks from the other, but will get the rest done at some time in the near future. Hoping that I will be joining them in some capacity later this month. Will see what happens, there will probably be a live recording I imagine.
At the wedding there was some talk of forming a "Crap Hull bands of the 1980s supergroup" - It would be just like Cream... only crap and from Hull! To do stuff by the Gargoyles, Pink noise and the Velvetones as well as some choice selections from other bands, some of which would be only half remembered and may need my ability to re-imagine the lyrics. Unfortunately I live some distance from Hull and am a bit of a lazy sod, but i really fancy that idea and would love to give it a go.
The Velvetones original lineup will never happen. Too many milions were made in the Beautiful South to make it a worthwhile proposition for Rotheray, who has lost touch with all his old buddies. Hemingway who still trades under the name of "the New Beautiful South" - I could imagine him having ago for a lark, but I only see him about once every four years. The other lads... I have lost touch with, I suppose they might have a go for a one off if the opportunity (might see them at a CHULLBOT1980s gig). If I could get other musicians to play the songs... I would love it! but I can't see it happening.
The Velvetones must have been together for around three or four years. around 1984 to 1988. By '88 Dave Hemmingway had already left to replace Hugh in the Housemartins, and when they split, Dave Rotheray joined him and Paul Heaton in the fledgling Beautiful South.
I could and probably should have put a bit more effort into the band, the two Daves were really keen on success and earned it. I really just wanted a laugh and a hobby. Now I am envious of all my friends who have continued with music and managed to survive by being musicians. There are a few of them, most of whom survive quite well with gigs, the occasional recording and having a good time without being famous. Hugh Whittaker himself is a real role model. He played drums occasionally for the Velvetones and more regularly for the Gargoyles, before achieving fame with the Housemartins and promptly retiring when the band were at their peak, but still gets by playing the drums in all manner of bands including, hopefully, the Gargoyles in their latest reunion gig.
If I had been more serious, and worked a bit harder, we may feasably have made some real releases. Our earliest demo tape was "Red Roger/Ice cold Joe, "not what our record company is looking for at the moment but best wishes for the future..." Skinhead girl was always very popular and might have made a good single. If not for the Beautiful South bursting onto the scene, then we may have put more effort into promoting "Beautiful mams" and "Tweedledum" They were probably the last two songs we wrote together and I felt that we were moving in a good direction. But then maybe we had overstayed our welcome in the places that we played. We didn't really write too many songs and didn't change the set enough over those 3-4 years. But what the Hell. We had some good times, and it has been nice to remember them as I have composed this e-mail. (probably my longest email ever!)
I asked some more questions in the next email:
How is it that a band with no actual releases gets around to making a video? What was the story behind the opening and closing scenes? What is the Church of the Divine Magnet?
Back to the art room at the Warren and a guy whose name escapes me (to my shame) He used to come in and help me with my then obsession of taking apart old radios and cassette players and tarting them up with paint and mad wiring and stuff. (I knew nothing about the electronics but thought they looked better with the circut boards on the outside and a touch of spraypaint. He knew all about electronics and stuff like that. He even offered to wire my parents house for cable free of charge, but my dad wouldn't allow it! Anyway, he got really interested in the fairly new art of video, and went to do a media course at college. He needed to make a video for some assignment and offered to do one featuring the Velvetones and the Gargoyles.
We did "Skinhead Girl" as you know, and the Gargoyles did one called "The Magnificent Church" which was a single off their second album "Steamflapper". The song was based on the idea of the Hippie Convoy, which me and Eddie had joined briefly as it organised a rock festival down south somewhere. The Chorus went "A Church so big and daft and mighty - Do what you wanna - to be a mamber of this church boys - is indeed an honour" The whole video was called "The Magnificent Church", The Church of the Divine magnet being the church in question. As to the storyline. I haven't got a clue. We made it up as we went along. We found an abandoned housing estate and had that in at the beginning. The police bit filled some obligation to involve some official organization for the lad's video assignment. I can't remember a thing about the cinema. I think that it may have been a mock up in one of his lecture theatres.
Who was on the other side of the doors during the pamphlet scene? That would have been Ted. Then, as now, a shameless self-publicist.
Who was the skinhead girl? I can't remeber who the main skinhead girl was. but the one at the end was Sharon. Now Sharon Clay, wife of Nick "Crap Hull bands of the 1980's" Clay.
Any anecdotes about the filming of the video? (At the end there some of the passers-by seemed like they knew something was going on and they didn't want to be bothered while others seemed unaware that anything was going on at all) Really, honestly, I can hardly remember a thing about any of it. Like most of my youth, it is all a collection of vague memories. Eddie made me laugh in the police station when a woman copper introduced herself "Hello I'm WPC Yvonne Smart" or something. Eddie said "Oh really? I thought that you were WPC Pepper Anderson". (who was from a 1970s TV series called "Police Woman"). No -one lauged at the time (Embarrassment and scared of what Pepper might do - she did nothing) ) but I recently told Eddie about it and he said that he thought that no-one had found it funny and wondered if anyone had actually heard.
Did you ever do any acting outside of this? You seemed to have taken to it like a natural. Looking absolutely crushed while curling your toes. Pure comedy. Wish I could say I had, but no. One of these days.. I Was talking to someone the other day about my long held ambition to work in a museum, playing a historical character for kids (I had a mate who was once Robert Stevenson - of rocket fame in a museum in London) Apparently the term is "Costumed Interpreter"
This ultra-rarity was submitted by Draftervoi who says: The show is undated, but most likely is from the late summer/early fall of 1980. The radio station (KSAN-FM, San Francisco) changed formats to Country & Western on 11/15/80, so the show has to pre-date that.
All of these songs are from the album "Skin and Blisters".
1 She Want It 2 World Gone Mad 3 To Your Mother 4 Captain Scarlett 5 Pretty Little Blossom Song
Obscure California band. This is the only thing they did that sounds like this. I think. They are still performing with a sound more along the lines of Primus,Cardiacs, or Stump but I think they are strictly an instrumental band now.
I am having no luck with my search for anything else they've ever released. It took me forever to find this record so, even if you don't care for it, you may want to hold on to it just in case you run in to somebody in the future who's looking for it. It really is quite rare.
This is actually my second attempt at this episode. I messed the first one up and when I tried it again I learned a new "trick". See, it's very easy to lose track of how much talking is being done. I am not very self limiting in that arena and I just won't shut up when I should, so I edit out a good percentage of my drunken rambling. It's hard to do that when the conversation is fluid so I decided to speak very stop-and-go to make the editing easier. Bad idea. I can't listen to this episode. I annoy myself too much. But it's not about me it's about the music. I'll get it right someday.
Regular T&W contributor Rikard picked about half of the songs that you'll hear in this episode.
You'll also hear D-Day, The Ammonites, the original version of Land Down Under, and I end the show with:
This post was respectfully stolen from a heavy metal based blog called The Devil's Music.
Based out of Toms River, NJ, the Pinch was one of the area's most popular new wave bands of the 80's. Initially, the Pinch built a following with powerful covers version of songs by such bands as The Talking Heads, The Clash, The Ramones, Joe Jackson, The Records, The Jags and others.
Before long, the band headed into the studio. Their first original record, "Meeting You," was met with success and received plenty of airplay both locally and internationally. The band followed up that record with their popular single "Summer Girl." Other popular originals included "Up In Stitches," "Fun City," "Look Again" and a cover of the timeless Flintstone's classic, "The Bedrock Twitch."
A1 - Meeting You A2 - Up in Stitches B1 - Look Again B2 - Fun City
I don't know the story behind this one but it's Bad Manners on the A side doing Skinhead Love Affair with some yuletide lyrics that aren't so jolly. Our friend Buster has an accident and winds up in the hospital where he wakes up Christmas morning to find all his friends have gone and there are no presents for him. It has a happy ending though. Sort of. The lyrics come off as really forced.
According to the sleeve it was supposed to be on Return of the Ugly but it wasn't. The single was pressed before the album was but was excluded for some reason.
The B-side is Skinhead Love Affair by Buster's All Stars.
(I have no idea who this suave son-of-a-bitch is...I found this picture on line)
...okay...a few things...
First off, Myspace has fallen into the hands of some people who have no idea how the human mind works and they have made some amazing changes to Myspace that are in the completely opposite direction that anyone wanted them to go in. Instead of trying to adjust to the flavor of their NEW COKE I have decided to join the "In" crowd and have gotten myself a Facebook account. I will be posting when I find a new record and what I plan on doing next on Tone and Wave so, If you want the inside scoop, and even, maybe, an influence in what I do next...(that's a lot of commas for one sentence)...please, be my "friend" on Facebook.
Secondly, I will be taking the whole month of January off. I have a lot of things that I need to be doing that gets pushed aside so I can work on this blog. None of these things are as important, but still they are things that have to be done. I have a few more things to post before New Years Day (why is that capitalized?)including episode 4 of the Tone and Wave podcast. I had episode 4 all put together but then I finished it while I was VERY drunk. It was embarassingly bad. I scrapped the whole thing and am now in the process of doing it over again. I am not quitting the blog. In fact, I have enough to keep this going for another year or two. To be honest I don't physically own all of these things yet, but I know where they are and I intend to have them before too long. I'll just be taking a break and I'll be back in early February.
Thirdly, my wife, whom I've introduced you to several days back is also a collector of rare music. Her interests are quite abstracted from my own. She collects 80s and early 90s dance music. She doesn't post downloads like I do because her music is a little more commercial and she doesn't want to get in trouble. However, although she is posting artists that are a little more well-known, the music itself is quite hard to come by. In fact I have spent a lot of my own money that could have went toward more rare ska records on her music. I have convinced her that since this stuff is so rare (and since I have spent so much on it)that she should share it. I know we all listen to other things besides ska so if this is up your alley, or maybe something that somebody you know will like let either of us know and we will be happy to share it with you.
More 3rd wave from Texas. Very typical sounding stuff. You know how it goes...emo-ish vocals over a ska rhythm until the chorus erupts into some distorted guitars and pop punk harmonies until one of the vocalists start screaming like somebody's taking his knee cap out with a screw driver. It was a sound too many bands attempted. Most of it was crap but these guys did it right.
As with a lot of the Texas bands I've posted this is also courtesy of April. ¡Muchas Gracias!
1 Plan B 2 Face First 3 Back for the Attack! 4 Widowmaker 5 Frances
The Outfit was from Limerick, Ireland (Not Dublin as I had previously posted). They put out this single in 1982 and another in 1983 "Toytown / A Sharp". Both were on the Scoff label. I don't have the 2nd one.
Beurk's Band were from Aubervilliers, France. They recorded two songs for Kompil' Ska Paris '88': Why and Tempo. Why is the same version as on this album but Tempo was re-recorded for this - their only full-length. The one on this record is a terrible attempt at early 80s New York style rap. The one on the compilation was a ska version that has a rap part in it.
Less big names on this one and a lot less talking.
Better music though.
I've mentioned before that I met my wife in England so her grasp of the English language is in the classic sense - not the 'new and improved' American version that I speak so she made me aware that the letter Z is pronounced zed, not zee as I pronounce it in this episode. The Missus.
Here's a promotional compilation that was inspired by an Australian fanzine called Shake and Shout. It's a good mix of ska and blue-eyed soul. All of the ska songs on here have been previously posted on Tone and Wave with the exception of the Cockroaches. I do have two of the Cockroaches three albums but I haven't posted them because...well, they're crap. Members of the cockroaches later formed the childrens' band/show The Wiggles who, a couple years back, did a ridiculous rendition of Monkey Man with Kylie Minogue. People found it amusing without realizing that the Wiggles had roots in ska. (Okay, not really ska, but a sort of calpso-ish "island" music sound).
After all that you have to wonder why I'm posting this at all... mostly because it's rare, and also because the non-ska stuff is what makes the record. The Dynamic Hypnotics (who released an EP in 1983 called Strange Land)are presented here with two live songs that aren't on the EP, the Powerpoppy The Singles, and a great raw laidback version of the Drifters' Under the Boardwalk.
Dynamic Hepnotics "The Hip Shake"
Johnny Kannis "Under the Boardwalk"
1 Allniters - Solomon Gundi 2 Stupidity - Bend Don't Break 3 Non Stop Dancers - Only One 4 Naughty Rhythms - Look Like Me 5 Cockroaches - Come Out Tonight 6 Johnny Kannis - Under the Boardwalk 7 Dynamic Hepnotics - The Hip Shake 8 Dynamic Hepnotics - The Hurt is On 9 Mustard Club - Love Is 10 Cockroaches - I'm Ready for Love 11 Living Daylights - It's a Daydream 12 The Singles - The Day
As far as cover songs go this one is pretty odd. Not the way it sounds, but how fast it was done. Both songs are covers of songs from Lionel Richie's "Can't Slow Down" album that came out in October 1983. This was also released in '83. "Stuck on You" was the fourth single from the album. It was Lionel Richie's attempt at country and it also reached #24 in Billboard's top Country songs. "Penny Lover" became a hit for Richie in December of '84 so Trevor Walters covered two hit songs before they were hits.
He must be psychic.
Except for the fact that 5 out of the eight songs on Can't Slow Down were huge hits.
I just can't get a good image of this cover so I tried to see if I could find it online somewhere. In doing so I come to find that it was already posted at The Lost and Found Music Blog so, even though I nicked the cover from there I promise that the rip is my own.
These guys were from D.C. and this is their only recording. They were mostly a surf / powerpop band but they occasionally incorporated the ska sound.
1 Hearts Like That 2 Painting Myself into a Corner 3 Solar Eclipse 4 Rudie 5 Money 6 Milo's 7 Surfin' Pharaohs 8 I Still Got Friends 9 Dance 10 The Saint 11 Hangin' Around 12 Skydive
If you want to hear some great ska music from the seventies and eighties - well then, you have come to the wrong place.
I am still sick but I managed to eek out my first episode of the Tone and Wave podcast. I sound like I'm dying and the good songs are few and far between but it's still worth listening to for the freak show fascination of it all. Every single song is by a super star of the seventies or eighties - you know these musicians - but you probably don't know these songs.
I am working on episode two already which will be in the same tradition as the first. More super stars. More surprises. More horrible crap.
Nick Toczek of The Burial was involved in other projects including anarcho-punk poetry readings and at least two other bands Britanarchists and The Spectre which, like The Burial, were punk based with cowpunk and ska influences.
This download includes two tracks from The Oi! of Sex comp The Burial - Old Man's Poison The Burial - Friday Night
...Britanarchist's Stiff with a Quiff (also from the Oi! of Sex comp) ...and a spoken word version of Stiff with a Quiff from The Intolerance Tape*
and the split 7" from 1986 featuring 2 tracks each from The Burial and The Spectre
A1 Nick Toczek and the Burial - Hitler's Birthday Party A2 Nick Toczek and the Burial - Things to do on a Saturday Night B1 Nick Toczek and the Spectre - Sheer Funk B2 Nick Toczek and the Spectre - Living on the Breadline
(Excessive thanks to Rikard for the Britanarchists 7"!!)
* The Intolerance Tape was a collection of spoken-word anarcho-rantings from 1987 with Nick Toczek, Seething Wells, Kevin Seisay, and Ginger John (the Doomsday Commando). Not exactly my cup o' tea but if you'd like - it's HERE.
I have lots of good stuff coming up. I had the last couple days off work and I intended to do a lot of posts but then I was stricken down with the flu. I didn't get around to doing a podcast yet because I totally lost my voice. I have never totally lost my voice before. Are the gods trying to tell me something? Just like that lightning a couple years ago that killed my computer - I didn't stop then and I ain't stopping now. I should have the podcast up this weekend. I promise it will be full of horrible novelty crap but there will be a couple of surprisingly good songs in the mix.
You remember him as the Lord of Darkness from the movie "Legend" with Tom Cruise, or as the creepy clown in that Steven King movie, or the creepy desk clerk in Home Alone 2, or as the creepy transvestite in what I consider one of the worst movies ever made.
Amidst all of that we was a singer. He released 3 albums: "Read My Lips" 1978 "Fearless" 1979 "Simplicity" 1981
This single is from "Simplicity" and is not his only attempt at reggae. There were two others. This was the lesser of the creepy.
I know that the world isn't exactly in need of another podcast.
I have considered doing one for quite a while but I was given conflicting advice by just about everyone I told. The consensus was that in order to hold peoples' attention I would have to play the Specials and Bad Manners etc. I think that might be true and that's why I never got around to doing it yet. I have decided to go against that advice and stick to what I do best and do a podcast that focuses on ska and reggae songs recorded by musicians who aren't traditionally ska or reggae artists and, of course, lots of obscure one-offs.
Keep in mind though that just because those songs are obscure and rare it doesn't always mean that they're good.
I hope to have the first episode done by the end of the week. I will post it for download here and on Podomatic.
I have cut my teeth yesterday doing a guest spot on my friend's internet radio show Hepkat Jose's Ska and Punk HourHERE
There were some technical difficulties and I wasn't able to hear it at all in its initial broadcast so it's good my segment was pre-recorded.
I played a third wave song, a song from the band Saga, a 70s ska song and two punk songs. I have never posted that Saga 7" yet so it might be worth checking out just for that song - and that's just what I played. Hepkat Jose mixes in some traditional and 3rd wave ska in with the punk.
April submitted this Texas 3rd wave from the mid-nineties.
1 Milk 2 Rude Girl 3 Mice on the Run 4 What's a Boy to Do? 5 Handsome Guy 6 I Won't Forget About You 7 Little Girl From Outer Space 8 Hawaiian Spy 9 This Thing Called SKA 10 Skanktuary 11 Martinis and Bikinis 12 Who's Got the Time? 13 Spies Like Us
Donkey Show was a good band but they were nowhere near being California's first ska band - let alone San Diego's first ska band.
I pretend to know everything but I don't really. As far as I know there were many bands in California since the mid seventies playing a ska/reggae sound on a song or two but I'm pretty sure that the first band to incorporate that sound into a full-time act was San Diego's Trowsers.
They started as early as 1979 under the name Ballistics. They even recorded their first song in Kingston, Jamaica.
I'm not going to lie to you and say that they were a great band. I have to admit that band-leader and vocalist Y Lee's voice is hard to get used to. (Imagine if Dicky Barrett was the main vocalist for the Donkey Show) - but their music will grow on you.
Their only "real" album was Drop 'Em from 1983
1 Come Dance 2 Teaser 3 Kraken Up 4 Inna Boy-O Style 5 Kraken Dub 6 Mondo Bondo 7 Burnin' 8 Housewife Terrorist 9 Grab It 10 Liberation 11 Rev Steppin'
But they did release a second album in 1984 that was a collection of unreleased songs including their 8-track recordings from 1982 and 1983 as well as their first recording "Rolling with the Feeling" from 1979. It was called Solitary Confinement
1 Solitary Confinement 2 Air Conditioning 3 Laff in My Face 4 Midnight Carouser 5 Rip Me Off 6 Authority 7 Isolation 8 Wrong Area Code 9 Rolling With the Feeling 10 Colonial Mentality 11 Bad Food 12 ISO Dub
There are a lot of bands out there in the world who say they're "traditional" but, realistically, they are trying too hard to emulate traditional bands with their modern sentimentality and it doesn't really work the way they think it does. It is a rare occasion when a band fully understands what traditional ska is and uses that as a basis to play their own music knowing that they are not traditional themselves...but that they are a modern band with true traditional inspiration. Even here in California a couple decades ago people were using the word "traditional" when it really didn't apply. I lost respect for the term.
There are some good "traditional" bands out there but they're being overshadowed by gimmick bands. Bands with the money of pop stars behind them.