Sunday, October 14, 2012

When The British Revived Ska

For obvious reasons, '70s British punk musicians were all passionate fans of ... reggae.

Look, I don't understand it either, but just take my word for it. Maybe it was reggae's frequently political lyrics, or its minimalist production values. Maybe British white kids saw reggae as a more authentic kind of black music than the relatively corporate disco of the era. Whatever the reason, they loved it. Not only did they love it, but they wanted to play it.

The first British reggae-tinged punk act I gave my serious attention to was the Clash. Hell, I liked the Clash's reggae more than actual reggae! When I started to read about the so-called British Ska Revival, I imagined that I would really like it, and that it would sound a lot like the Clash.

It didn't. In fact, after my initial exposure to the British Ska Revival, I was not terribly impressed. I dismissed it and ignored it for years. But upon revisiting the entirety of New Wave, I can admit that my initial diagnosis was premature. The things is, I didn't actually manage to hear the best British Ska Revival songs, most of which were singles, not album tracks. So I am changing my tune, mon.

Almost every British New Wave act, from Elvis Costello to Nick Lowe to Joe Jackson to XTC, tried a little bit of reggae, or ska, or rocksteady, or whatever they liked to call it (to be honest, I'm not sure I know the difference). The Police titled their second album Regatta De Blanc ("White Reggae"). But the official British Ska Revival was a specific "scene" that revolved around the 2-Tone record label, and three bands in particular. In this series, I am going to tell you about those three bands.

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