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"Out of many, one..." 80s Ska revival

Yesterday's post was about reggae's influence on punk rock. Post-punk genres in the late '70s/'80s still drew influences from Jamaican genres. I'll just take a bit of time out to post some examples.


The Police were another English rock band to successfully blend Jamaican elements with traditional rock music; be it a drum sequence, bassline and/or guitar stab with a lead guitar/keys and conventional rock arrangements. Lead vocalist and bassist Sting is quoted saying: "Bob Marley's singing had a great effect on me and I would cite Bob Marley as a major influence on The Police." [source] The white reggae band (or new wave) made explicit attempts like "So Lonely" [#6 in UK], "Can't Stand Losing You" [#2 in UK] or their first #1 "Walking on the Moon".

Ever wondered or thought Mary J. Blige ft. Common - "Dance For Me" sounds like reggae? Well, it's because it samples "The Bed's Too Big Without You" lifted from debut album Regatta de Blanc - French translation of "white reggae" (along with their first two number 1's "Walking On The Moon" and "Message In A Bottle").

"Message in a Bottle" is slightly more disguised; drums and bass in the verses are reggae, lead guitar throughout and arrangement in the chorus more conventional rock. This formula contributed to an undisputed great anthem I will feature later in the post.


Rudeboy (rudies) and skinhead movements were sub-culture's following punk in the late-70s to mid-'80s amongst predominantly white British youths. The soundtrack to their culture was Jamaican music that hadn't been produced or popular in Jamaica for two decades. Poster boys of the movement were Madness, the choice of the skin heads [note: not all skin heads are racists, racists adopted skinheads] - while The Specials were for the rude boys.

Camden Town, north London band Madness formed in late-'70s, before releasing their tribute to the great ska producer and their idol ska pioneer Prince Buster entitled "The Prince" peaking at #16. Together with reggae group UB40, Suggs and his mates spent the most amount of weeks in the UK chart by a band during the 80s. UK top ten chart hits include "One Step Beyond" (originally written and recorded by Prince Buster), "My Girl", "Baggy Trousers" and slowing it down to reggae with "It Must Be Love" recently performed on top of Buckingham Palace for Diamond Jubilee celebration.



Rudie's The Specials represent midlands area Coventry. Much like Madness, The Specials paid homage to their fore-bearers, sampling "Al Capone" by Prince Buster on "Gangsters" and covering Dandy Livingstone - "Rudy, A Message To You" and Toots & The Maytals classics "Monkey Man" and "Pressure Drop".  These covers introduced songs from the 60s to a new generation they wouldn't reach otherwise. To this day, Toots & The Maytals perform at festivals mainly due to this period of 2 Tone (2 tone was the name of their label and the suits rudie's wore). 

The band topped the charts with "Too Much Too Young" telling the story of a woman who had a child young instead of "being out with me!" 


My all-time favourite The Specials song is "Ghost Town". By this time, the music had slowed into a more reggae groove, and like "Too Much Too Young", they deal with everyday issues and social-observations. "Ghost Town" reflected the times of Britain as Tory government had taken over, mines were sold off and unemployment increased. Songs like these separated The Specials from Madness, however, playing the same shows did a lot for mixing the two groups fan bases.


The unforgettable Amy Winehouse paid tribute to the band by covering  a few of their covers - "You're Wondering Now" whilst touring. After a plea for the band to re-unite during her Glastonbury performance, they re-grouped at V festival, bringing out Wino as their special guest.


Another member of the ska admirers is mouthy west London bird Lily Allen. Much of her early success relied heavily on ska. Songs such as "LDN" and "Friday Night" were essentially ska instrumentals. We'll get onto that in another post though. Check her out below with The Specials frontman Terry Hall and guitarist Lynval Golding.


The Selector and Bad Manners were two other popular bands around the similar period. Check 'em out

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