When it comes to putting a band together, it is normal practice to get together people who can sing and play a bit, and who want to take things a bit seriously. By doing the opposite it would seem impossible ever to succeed... that is unless you come from north London and go up the North Bank at Arsenal.
This is the route that Bad Manners, or the origination thereof, took to fame and fortune. Knowing each other at school, a few of them decided to go on a trip to Stonehenge. Intent on a good laugh and causing the odd riot, they set off with no inkling of what the future might hold.
When they heard the brilliant vocals that were spewing forth from the van, a group called the Back Stage Boogies invited them to gig with them. The fact that the boys couldn't play instruments or read music was certainly not going to put the dampers on any possible future stardom.
They had, as luck would have it, spent several minutes together at school. rehearsing various tunes, so a gig at short notice would never present any problems. If they had been able to find rehearsal rooms, the band would have formed much earlier, but for some reason people didn't want them practising within earshot.
Not to be deterred, they found a shop basement in Stamford Hill and with the help of bits and pieces left on their doorsteps they turned the place into a reasonable rehearsal room.
These events took place some eighteen months ago, and since then Bad Manners have gone from strength to strength... with three hit singles to their credit, including the current “Special Brew.” The band have also released their debut album Ska ‘n’ B, which amazingly enough shot immediately into the Top 10.
Which all goes to prove that, to the nation's youth, Bad Manners are an immediate passport to success.
Vocals: Buster Bloodvessel
Drums: Brian Chew-It
Saxophone: Andy Marson
Saxophone: Chris Kane
Harmonica, vocals: Winston Bazoomies
Keyboards: Martin Stewart
Bass: David Farren
Guitar: Louis Alphonso
Trombone: Gus ‘Hotlips’ Herman
The Beat are a dance band. It's true - if you're looking for definitions, that's the only one that fits. The result of six people gelling all their respective musical influences - punk, reggae, soul and pop - into one.
The Beat hail from Birmingham. Their ages range from 19 to 50 and the line-up reads David Wakeling, vocals and guitar; David Steele, bass; Andy Cox, guitar; Everett Martin, drums; Saxa, sax; and Ranking Roger, vocals.
The Beat first came together as a four-piece in the winter of 1978 (David, David, Everett and Andy) and played their first gig in March the following year. The set comprised a mixture of originals and reggae covers (like “My Boy Lollipop”) and it was at that gig they first encountered Roger - he was ‘toasting’ the headlining punk band.
The bookings started rolling in and Roger started toasting with them regularly, so much so it came as no surprise when all decided he should join the band full time. A support tour with The Selecter was the next step, and through this they met The Specials.
The Specials had just begun the 2 Tone label and, impressed with what they heard, offered The Beat the chance to make a single.
A saxophone player was needed for the session and 50-year-old Saxa, who'd been spotted playing pubs in Handsworth, got the job. He liked it so much, he stayed.
In Autumn 1979, The Beat released their first single on the 2 Tone label. The old Smokey Robinson number one, “Tears of a Clown,” was given the full Beat treatment and clocked them up a Top 10 hit. A double A-side, it was backed with “Ranking Full Stop,” a Beat original. In early 1980 they formed their own Go Feet label and licensed it to Arista, and on 14 February released their very own Go Feet single, another double A-side, “Hands Off... She's Mine”/“Twist and Crawl.” “Hands Off” clocked up another Top 10 hit, while the follow-up, “Mirror in the Bathroom”/“Jackpot,” released in April, provided the hat-trick.
May 1980 saw The Beat release their debut Top 10 album, I Just Can't Stop It, produced by Bob Sargeant, and another single taken from it, “Stand Down Margaret”/“Best Friend,” which hit the Top 10.
Guitar, vocals: David Wakeling
Vocals: Ranking Roger
Bass: David Steele
Guitar: Andy Cox
Drums: Everett Martin
The Bodysnatchers are an all-girl seven-piece band formed in September 1979 by Nicola Summers, who placed ads in the music papers to recruit the other musicians. Their first gig was on 24 November 1979 at the Windsor Castle in Harrow Road, London. Following the interest generated by their early performances, they were invited to join The Selecter on a lengthy tour of the UK in February and March of this year. They followed this up with a tour with The Specials in June of this year, when their debut single “Let's Do Rock Steady” hit the Top 10.
Vocals: Rhoda Dakar
Bass: Nicola Summers
Alto saxophone: Miranda Joyce
Keyboards: Pennie Leyton
Drums: Jane Summers
Lead guitar: Sarah Jane Owen
Rhythm guitar: Stella Barker
For a band that sounds like it's been together for years, it seems strange that the origins of The Selecter should be the B-side of a Top 10 single recorded only a year ago.
The song “The Selecter,” written by Neol Davies, was recorded to back The Specials single “Gangsters” and features Neol on guitar and John ‘Prince Rimshot’ Bradbury of The Specials on drums.
If that song was the beginning of The Selecter, the seeds of the band had been sown in a roots reggae outfit who had been gigging around Coventry since the beginning of 1978. That band had featured Selecters Charlie Anderson, Charles ‘H’ Bainbridge on drums, singer Gappa Hendricks and Crommie Amanor on guitar.
Their hearts weren't really in heavy reggae, however. It was really the rhythm and the fun that appealed to them and when talking to Neol Davies, an old friend of the band, they decided their ideas ran along the same lines. The line-up was completed by vocalist Pauline Black and Desmond Brown on keyboards. Desmond had, in fact, played in various bands with Charlie Anderson, and also Lynval Golding from The Specials, while Pauline had been in a rock/reggae band with Desmond immediately prior to the formation of The Selecter.
The Selecter had fast been gaining a considerable reputation on the club circuit with their totally infectious blend of blue beat and rock/reggae - visually, they are pretty startling too. They gave The Specials a good run for their money when they appeared on the same bill at a benefit for one-parent families at London's Hammersmith Palais.
The band's first release on 2 Tone in their own right, “On My Radio,” was an immediate Top 10 hit and the album that followed it, Too Much Pressure, was a huge success both critically and commercially. Two more singles taken from it hit the Top 30.
The band have done successful tours of the UK, Europe and the US during 1980.
Vocals: Pauline Black
Vocals: Gappa Hendricks
Guitar: Neol Davies
Guitar: Crommie Amanor
Bass: Charlie Anderson
Drums: Charles ‘H’ Bainbridge
Keyboards: Desmond Brown
Madness are seven chaps who have leapt from the calm of The Dublin Castle, Camden Town, to the frantic world of Top 10 singles and albums in less than a year. Once forced from playing blue beat numbers in their set due to lack of interest, they are now known across the planet for their distinctive blend of humour and ska, generally called the Nutty Sound.
In 1976, Mike Barson, Chris Foreman and Lee Thompson were to be found rehearsing around Mike's piano at home. Chas Smith later appeared on drums, changing to bass and has now emerged, four years later, as the band's MC, Nutty Dance expert and co-vocalist. Graham McPherson joined the band in late 1977 as singer. He was soon given the sack for missing a rehearsal to go to a football match but his distinctive cockney vocals were missed and he was reinstated. He's now better known as Suggs. Last to join were Woods and Bedders, the throbbing rhythm section: kernel of the Nutty Sound.
Having once called themselves The Invaders, they now changed their name to Madness, the title of a Prince Buster song they featured in their set. However, gigs weren't easy to find and 1978 was very quiet for the band.
In early 1979, The Specials, from Coventry, were starting to make the headlines and were able to start their own label, 2 Tone Records. With a hit single behind them, The Specials were able to offer Madness the chance to put out their own single on 2 Tone. The single, a tribute to Prince Buster called “The Prince,” was an instant Top 20 hit.
Suddenly, Madness were the hottest band in town and their first album on Stiff Records, One Step Beyond, jumped into the Top 10 and has subsequently spent six consecutive months in the Top 30 album chart.
Not content with success in Britain and Europe, and with a tour with The Specials recently completed, Madness immediately flew to America to convert Yankees and Confederates alike to the Nutty Sound. Though confused by what they were convinced were seven sailors (“It was the haircuts that got 'em”), the Americans went ape. Not pausing for breath, Madness returned to Britain for more dates - by now both “One Step Beyond” and “My Girl” had been Top 10 singles - then dashed to America again. Returning to Europe, Madness found themselves number one in both singles and album charts in France.
In the midst of this frantic activity, the chaps had played a kids matinee to 3,500 under-16s at the Hammersmith Odeon and written three new songs which, included with “Night Boat to Cairo,” were issued as the Work, Rest and Play Madness EP, their third Top 10 single in a row.
Autumn 1980 has seen the new single “Baggy Trousers” and the album it is taken from, Absolutely, leap straight into the Top 3 of their respective charts within a couple of weeks of release.
Vocals: Chas Smash
Keyboards: Mike Barson
Guitar: Chris Foreman
Saxophone: Lee Thompson
The fact that The Specials start the second major phase of their career with the release of the most musically controversial album of the year will surprise no one aware of the band's firm individuality.
The songs that brought them regular chart success in 1979 and launched the equally consistent hit-bound label 2 Tone had been in The Specials' set for nearly three years when the preparation for More Specials started.
The band opted for a major overhaul and progression under the creative eye and ear of Jerry Dammers, and the keyboard player/founder moved on with a powerfully individual purpose from the ska/blue beat/new wave equation that had become a stereotype.
With an impressive new Yamaha home organ at his disposal, he developed the lounge music that marks More Specials, a mix of ska, pop and rock blended into an orchestrated muzak for the 1980s, carefully conceived songs that agilely fuse traditionally MOR sounds with a sparkling, ska-based rhythm section and lyrics that wryly mate humour and humanity.
“The first album was the result of the material we had been playing for two years, and it was a matter of just bashing them down using Elvis Costello as producer to try and get a live sound in the studio,” explained bassist Horace ‘Sir Horace Gentlemen’ Panter. “With the second album we wanted to produce ourselves, with Jerry doing it, and we obviously needed a new slant and a new direction. What we came up with is the songs side and the muzak side. The aim was to make it more international.”
Tracks like “Stereotype,” “Pearl's Cafe” and classic songs like “I Just Can't Stand It,” “Hey, Little Rich Girl” and “International Jet Set” prove the point.
Since their formation in mid-1977 in and around Coventry - still their home base - the band of Jerry Dammers (keyboards), Horace Gentleman (bass), John Bradbury (drums), Terry Hall and Neville Staples (vocals), and Roddy Radiation and Lynval Golding (guitars), augmented by Rico (trombone) and Dick Cuthell (flugelhorn and cornet), has dominated the development of multi-ethnic music, and done much to keep up the chart presence of independent labels.
The strain of national and world touring for the past two years has put heavy internal pressure on the band members, and although frayed edges were evident on the band's most recent British tour, coinciding with the development of the music on More Specials, the collective unity of The Specials is still sound.
As Horace explained it: “There was a lot of disagreement about the new album while we were recording it, but all that has worked out now and we are happy with it.”
The last year has seen the band's records achieve massive international success and tours of Japan - “I think they liked us because we looked silly and wore silly clothes,” - America - “We were the new hip band from England” - and most of Europe, during the preparation of More Specials. The past few weeks has seen the band on tour in the UK, where the footage for Dance Craze was shot and the Top 10 status of More Specials and the single “Stereotype” have confirmed the band as the leaders and the idiosyncratic innovators of the nation's latest Dance Craze.
Keyboards: Jerry Dammers
Vocals: Terry Hall
Vocals: Neville Staples
Bass: Horace Gentleman
Drums: John Bradbury
Guitar: Roddy Radiation
Guitar: Lynval Golding
Flugelhorn, cornet: Dick Cuthell