Friday, December 31, 2010

The Velvetones: The Story Behind "Skinhead Girl"

You may remember this video:

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...
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"

Download the unreleased Velvetones "album" as well as House of Fun, Skinhead Girl karaoke version, and this full interview.

The Gargoyles album "Mrs. Two Dinners" can be found here:

Urban Heroes - Saturday Nights in Peking 7" (1980)

A - Saturday Nights in Peking
B - Headlines

Girlsmen - live in '94

This was submitted by Rikard. I don't know Girlsmen well enough to figure out a tracklisting.

Download includes the live set and the video.

Bouncing Flowers - Fire 7'' (1980)

A - Fire
B - Expanding Gases

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Effects - Neurotic Love (1984)

Rare ska from Phoenix, Arizona mixed with a bit of good ol' rock and roll, reggae, and lots of soul.

All of these guys handle lead vocals at different points and they all have great voices.

1 Don't Say It
2 Neurotic Love
3 That's Whatcha Get for Trying'
4 Give it to Ya Straight
5 When the Eagle Flies
6 Lonely Tonite
7 Windows of Your Soul

"Give it to Ya Straight"

"Lonely Tonite"

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Hoovers - live on KSAN (1980)

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

"To Your Mother"

Paul McCartney - Rudolph the Red Nose Reggae (1979)

A - Wonderful Christmastime
B - Rudolph the Red-Nose Reggae

Big Jerks - Car Back 7" (1981)

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.

A - Car Back

B - Movies

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Smash Hits' "Happy Christmas from the Stars"

Season's greetings to you from Bruce. He submitted this 2-sided flexi that I mentioned last year.

It's basically a commercial for black Levi's jeans that was given away in Smash Hits in 1982.

The highlights for me are from Fun Boy Three, the dismal greeting from "Boring" Bob Grover from the Piranhas, and the ending song by Musical Youth.

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:

Listen or download HERE

The Pinch - Meeting You 12" (1982)

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

"Meeting You"

Fragment - Come Dancing 7" (1980)

This has been posted elsewhere online but this is my own rip.

The A side is just fine but the B side...well, if you can't say something nice don't say anything at all.

A - Come Dancing
B - Growing Out

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bad Manners - Christmas Time Again 7" (1989)

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.

Not a great song but I totally forgot about the Smash Hits Happy Christmas from the Stars flexi that I was supposed to get this past year. Maybe next year.

...a word from our sponsor...

(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.

Here's her blog - it's called JEWEL CASE HEAVEN

You already know you know her...(she's done a lot for Tone and Wave as far as cover art and finding records on my wishlist)so now we're all one big happy family.

I have one more mini-LP, the podcast, and a 7" to post in the next week or so then I'll be off until February.

Whatever holiday you celebrate between now and then I wish you all a good one!

The Resistors - EP for Jeanie (1980)

Here's a nice little 7" from 1980. They were from Ireland and I could tell you everything that's on THIS PAGE but you can just go there yourself.

I don't think they're really Tone and Wave material but you can hear that the influence is certainly there. And I like them.

A - Jeanie
B1 - Takeaway Love
B2 - End of the Line

The Impossibles - Back 4 the Attack! EP (1998)

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


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Outfit - El Salvador 7" (1982)

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.

more on them HERE

A - El Salvador
B - Radiation

House of Assembly - Confusion (1987)

I used to know more about these guys but I can't remember anything. They were from the east coast... or D.C.? Maybe Philly?

Very 80s sounding pop reggae.

1 Confusion
2 One Heart, One Love
3 Time Without Reason
4 Sweet Sweet Rockers
5 Hot Rock
6 Living in Love
7 Princess Out in the Darkness
8 Let's Dance

"Let's Dance"

Beurk's Band LP (1989)

...submitted by Rikard.

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.

You can find Kompil' Ska Paris '88' here:
(thanks to the original poster - whoever you are).

Tempo was later released as a single with the b-side Z'y Va but I can't tell you what version.

A1 - Rub a Dub
A2 - Assez de Victimes
A3 - Tcherno Bal
A4 - Why
A5 - Anger
B1 - Com'on Everybody
B2 - Police Menotte Prison
B3 - Tempo
B4 - Z'y Va