Today in history was not kind to some major Pop Culture icons. Today we lost the Master of Muppets, Jim Henson (in 1990), Andy Kaufman (1984) and lead "Untouchable" Eliot Ness (1957). On the musical tip, we lost masterful, hugely influential Hot Jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt (1953), Rat Pack singer/performer/actor Sammy Davis, Jr. (1990) and, just two years ago, Metal superstar Ronnie James Dio.
Fun fact: Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, which featured Dio on the mic after Ozzy left, was hugely inspired by Django; both had finger injuries that forced them to adapt — and redefine — their playing styles. Things didn't turn out too badly for either.
Rest in peace, all!
Today is the 46th anniversary of one of the most memorable "heckles" in entertainment history. And the response was pretty classic, too.
In July of 1965, Bob Dylan shocked the audience at the Newport Folk Festival (where he was virtually a god after performing the previous two years) by performing "electric" and with his full band. Those who wanted to hear solo, acoustic Dylan booed as the group launched into "Maggie's Farm," though some in the audience cheered the bold move. He finished the set with a solo, acoustic encore. Lore has it that the boos were from those upset Dylan was playing electric, though his organist Al Kooper said it was because the sound sucked.
Still, Dylan would deal with such polarized reactions for the next year or so as he continued to rock electrically (the sound couldn't have been bad everywhere, right?) for part of his sets. On May 17, 1966, Dylan played the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England. As documented on bootlegs, film and the official release, The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert, which came out in 1998 (the "Royal Albert Hall" referring to the common misconception that the notorious show was in London), one disapproving fan shouted "Judas!" Dylan responded to the reference to the New Testament tale of Jesus betrayer Judas Iscariot by saying, "I don't believe you, you're a liar." The strange yet perfect response may have been a come-back to the "Judas" yelp, but some believe he was responding to another less audible heckle: "I'm never listening to you again, ever!" Which makes more sense. Sorta.
The young man who shouted the heckle broke his silence after three decades and did a few interviews, calling the moment "embarrassing" for himself. The man, Keith Butler, was also interviewed right after the concert, footage of which popped up in the Eat the Document documentary. The then 21-year-old told an interviewer, "Any pop group could produce better rubbish than that! It was a bloody disgrace! He's a traitor!"
Video of the "Judas" moment was discovered and featured in the biographical documentary film, No Direction Home. Go to the 56-second mark of the clip to hear it.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 17 birthday include original bass singer for The Spinners, Pervis Jackson (1938); eclectic Blues legend Taj Mahal (1942); drummer for Prog heroes King Crimson and Yes, Bill Bruford (1949); Irish New Age goddess Enya (1961); keyboardist/songwriter for Phish, Page McConnell (1963); hunky New Kids of the Block star Jordan Knight (1970); former Stoner Rock pioneer with Kyuss turned Hard Rock star with Queens of the Stone Age, Josh Homme (1973); original vocalist for Florida Metalcore band Underoath and current frontman for "Southern Metal" crew Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, Dallas Taylor (1980); and Nine Inch Nails founder Trent Reznor (1965).
Reznor — an Ohio native — was awarded the ASCAP Golden Note Award last month for his work in music over the past 25 years. Presumably not including his time with the early ’80s Cleveland Synth Pop acts Exotic Birds (which opened for Culture Club!) and Slam Bamboo, which sounds nearly identical to Howard Jones.
Pretty fun stuff, actually. The haircuts … not so much.
On this date in 1942 — months away from Christmas 1941 and Christmas 1942 — classic crooner Bing Crosby recorded what remains the best-selling single of all time, "White Christmas." Crosby first performed Irving Berlin's classic for radio on Christmas Day, 1941. On May 29, 1942, Crosby reportedly recorded the song — with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and Ken Darby Singers — in 18 minutes. It was released on July 30 that year as part of a collection of platters from the film Holiday Inn. The song caught on and hit the top of the charts in October of ’42, where it stayed through Christmas. The single was re-released and hit the chart-tops again in ’45 and ’46.
The single has sold over 50 million copies worldwide. The
closest runner-up in the all-time biggest selling singles race is Elton
John's tribute to Princess Diana, the re-recording of his "Candle in
the Wind" from 1997, which has sold around 33 million.
That original version is not the one we hear endlessly to this day around the holiday season. After the original master recording was damaged, Crosby and the same crew of musicians re-recorded "White Christmas." That's the version you know/love today. Here's the original version of "White Christmas." Happy holidays!
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 29 birthday include keyboardist and founder of progressive German "Kraut Rock" kings Can, Irmin Schmidt (1937); Jackson sibling and singer Rebbie Jackson (1950); former New Wave pioneer-turned-legendary-film composer Danny Elfman (1953); Jackson sibling and Playboy model (and singer?) La Toya Jackson (1956); singer for British Metal band Wolfsbane and temporary Iron Maiden vocalist Blaze Bayley (1963); former Oasis guitarist/songwriter/occasional singer Noel Gallagher (1967); bassist for modern British Rock legends The Verve, Simon Jones (1972); singer/dancer with Pop group Spice Girls, Melanie "Mel B" Brown (1975); co-founder of Hard Rock hitmakers Papa Roach, David Buckner (1976); and frontman for Swedish Garage Rock superstars The Hives, Howlin' Pelle Almqvist (1978).
With his ceaseless energy and hilarious, sometimes nonsensical between-song bantering, Almqvist is the reason Spin magazine once called The Hives "the best live band in the world." (The mag also called him one of the "50 Greatest Frontmen of All Time.")
The Swedes have a new album due out a week from today (June 5) called Lex Hives. According to a press release, the title comes from "the ancient Roman practice of enacting a system or body of laws and accepting them as a standard. Thus, the 12 songs on Lex Hives make up the holy laws after which all life from now on must be lived." Obey!
Here's a video clip of the band performing the new album's first single, "Go Right Ahead." Click here for a preview stream of the full album courtesy of The Guardian.
On this day in 2005, two young musicians died well before their time.
After reportedly battling a bipolar disorder and drug addiction, SoCal Punk drummer Derrick Plourde — who had played with bands like The Ataris, Lagwagon (the band that gave him his start), The Mad Caddies and others — killed himself with a gun. He was 33.
Lagwagon's seventh studio album, Resolve, released later in 2005, was inspired by and dedicated to Plourde. The album became Lagwagon's first to break the Billboard 200, notching a peak position of 172. Here's the single (used on a Tony Hawk video game soundtrack … as Plourde would have wanted?), "Heartbreaking Music."
Also today in 2005, Hideaki Sekiguchi of the Japanese Garage Punk trio Guitar Wolf (known simply as Billy or Bass Wolf) had a fatal heart attack in Tokyo, just after completing a successful tour of America. Sekiguchi was 38 and left behind a wife and two kids. Guitar Wolf — which has put out albums on indie labels like Matador and Narnack in the States — carried on with a new bassist and has released three albums since Sekiguchi's death.
Here's Guitar Wolf's "UFO Romantics" from the band's album of the same name (Sekiguchi's last with the group):
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a March 30 birthday include legendary Blues singer/harmonica player Sonny Boy Williamson (1914); drummer/poet/songwriter with The Moody Blues, Graeme Edge (1941); drummer for The Surfaris and Love, Ken Forssi (1943); revered Rock/Blues guitarist Eric Clapton (1945); singer/songwriter ("Fast Car") Tracy Chapman (1964); schmaltzy Canadian chanteuse Celine Dion (1968); singer/songwriter Norah Jones (1979) and onetime Rap star MC Hammer (1962).
While Hammer (born Stanley Burrell) did much to popularize Hip Hop, becoming one of its first superstars, he remains one of Pop music's greatest punching bags. Some might say it was his money issues; many had a hard time feeling sympathy as they saw or read about some of the gaudy "luxury items" Hammer had to give up. But, mostly, Hammer was a victim of his music (and videos) just not standing the test of time even slightly.
Spin magazine recently ran its list of The 30 Biggest Punching Bags in History and somehow, despite his running partner Vanilla Ice coming in at No. 6, Hammer was nowhere to be found (nor was, miraculously, fellow birthday celebrator Celine Dion). Click here to read Spin's rundown, here to read it without having to click to the next page 400 times or just look below for the straight-up list. I say take Duran Duran or Lawrence Welk (?!) off and put Hammer in. Justice for Hammer!
1 Milli Vanilli
2 Limp Bizkit
3 Kenny G
5 Insane Clown Posse
6 Vanilla Ice
7 Emerson, Lake & Palmer
8 Matchbox 20
9 Pat Boone
10 Yoko Ono
12 Michael Bolton
14 Billy Ray Cyrus
15 Puff Daddy
17 Barry Manilow
18 KC and the Sunshine Band
19 Lawrence Welk
20 The Osmonds
21 Duran Duran
22 Christopher Cross
23 Smash Mouth
24 Black Eyed Peas
25 Lana Del Rey
27 John Mayer
28 New Kids on the Block
29 Phil Collins
30 The Monkees
And here's the "full version" of one of Hammer's greatest hits (he had to drag down James Brown with him?). Happy 50th, Stanley! No gasface for you this year, you loveable ol' pants wrangler.
On this day in 2004, Bob Pollard announced that his Dayton, Ohio-based Indie Rock group Guided By Voices would be calling it quits. The band would cease to be after the touring duties for the Half Smiles of the Decomposed were finished.
But he must have had his fingers-crossed behind his back when he announced it.
Pollard wrote online, ""I've always said that when I make a record that I'm totally satisfied with as befitting a final album, then that will be it. And this is it. I love the guys in the band, but I'm getting too old to be a gang leader."
Fans figured Pollard was Guided By Voices, anyway (or at least the songwriting engine and the only member to be a part of every GBV lineup), so, while their was some sadness that the name was being retired, GBV-esque material would no doubt continue to flood the market in the form of Pollard's prolific output.
In 2010, Pollard must have gotten his second wind. He became a gang leader again when it was announced that the "classic" GBV lineup (with the members who played on seminal ’90s albums like Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand) would reunite. Sixteen shows turned into more shows, which turned into more shows and, early last year, a new album.
In 2007, Pollard told Magnet magazine, "If you're gonna get the band back together, it should be to support a new record, not just to play the hits. That's like doing the county-fair circuit. I don't see Guided by Voices reforming." GBV fans were mostly thrilled he changed his mind. But Lou Barlow of fellow Indie stalwarts Sebadoh was less enthused. In October of last year, Barlow told CityBeat he found it a bit tacky for GBV to reunite, but only because they had already embarked on a "farewell tour." (He's a stickler for semantics, apparently.)
The Guided By Voices post-farewell tour reunion slowed down a bit this year. Upon the release of the new album, Let's Go Eat the Factory, in January, several more tour dates were expected, but the group pulled back and cancelled most of them. GBV has only two shows on their schedule for 2012 — July 15 at Cincinnati's first Bunbury Music Festival along the riverfront (details here) and Sept. 21 at a fest in Florida. Maybe Lou's comments really hit home? Or maybe Pollard is just trying to pay tribute to his idols, The Who?
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 26 birthday include the "Mother of the Blues," Gertrude Pridgett, better known as Ma Rainey (1886); twangy guitar legend ("Peter Gunn," "Rebel Rouser") Duane Eddy (1938); Italian songwriter/producer/film composer ("Love to Love You Baby," "Take My Breath Away") Giorgio Moroder (1940); Rock & Roll teen idol ("Wild One," "Volare") Bobby Rydell (1942); Soft Rock hitmaker ("Dream Weaver") Gary Wright (1943); the drumming Taylor of Duran Duran, Roger Taylor (1960); original drummer for Minneapolis rockers The Replacements, Chris Mars (1961); soap actor turned one hit wonder ("Rock On") Michael Damian (1962); singer for Pop trio TLC, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins (1970); drummer for masked Metal marauders Slipknot, Joey Jordison (1975); Hip Hop/R&B singer/rapper Ms. Dynamite (1981); and Japanese film producer and the creator of legendary movie monster Godzilla, Tomoyuki Tanaka (1910).
Tanaka — along with writer Shigeru Kayama, director Ishirō Honda and special-effects creator Eiji Tsuburaya — created Godzilla for the movies as something of a metaphor for the fear still looming over Japan after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The series of films based on the monster would go on to become huge cult classics in the U.S. and spawn not only the crappy 1998 blockbuster starring Matthew Broderick, but also a bunch of songs.
Without Tanaka, the world might not have tunes like Motorhead's "Godzilla Akimbo," Mr. Magic and Master P's "Ghetto Godzilla," The Flaming Lips' "Godzilla Flick," Siouxsie Sioux and The Creatures' "Godzilla!," jazzer Ben Allison's "Kramer Vs. Kramer Vs. Godzilla," Hardcore/Thrash band M.O.D.'s "Godzula," Metal ensemble Zebrahead's "Godzilla Vs. Tokyo," K Pop all-girl group Big Mama's "Godzilla Dub," P Diddy and Jimmy Page's "Come With Me" (the awful lead single from the ’98 Godzilla soundtrack) and, of course, Blue Oyster Cult's epic "Godzilla."
Here's the playlist:
Australian Pop/Rock band Men At Work hit me — and many other music fans around the world — at just the right time. I was 12 when the single “Who Can It Be Now?” exploded onto the charts. I was intrigued by the group’s quirkiness, but it was singer/guitarist Colin Hay’s voice that initially drew me in. As a huge fan of The Police, I found Hay’s effortlessly high-pitched vocals highly appealing.
In the summer of 1983, Men at Work’s Cargo came out and instantly became my favorite album. I got to see the band perform live on that tour — at Kings Island’s Timberwolf Amphitheater with a new, unknown Australian band called INXS opening — and I spent that summer in France as an exchange student with Cargo (and The Police’s Synchronicity) at my side.
Though I didn’t fully yet understand the emotions being expressed on Cargo’s first single, “Overkill,” they still hit me like a ton of bricks and the song was played on my Walkman (for younger readers, that was akin to a wooden MP3 player with various levers and pulleys) more than any other that summer. Just the sound of it (as well as the visuals in the accompanying video) matched up perfectly with my bouts of homesickness.
To this day, when I hear “Overkill” — no matter if it’s the original, a great cover version (the band that did the theme song to the TV show Scrubs, Lazlo Bane, did a fantastic version with Hay and Dashboard Confessional’s version was also pretty strong) or Hay singing it solo acoustic — it sends shivers, particularly when it hits the intense release of the last verse. I remember that ancient sense of loneliness and isolation, but also various heartbreaks I’ve suffered — as a young adult, I finally got the “ghosts appear and fade away” bit and it made the song resonate within me even more.
“Down Under” might be Men At Work’s most known song, but “Overkill” is the tune that will stand the test of time for eternity.
Hay is far removed from his Men at Work days now. The band broke up in 1986 (though they reunited for concerts in the late ’90s) and Hay has managed to have a modestly successful solo career, still touring the world and releasing strong solo efforts, including his most recent (and 11th overall), Gathering Mercury, perhaps Hay’s finest solo moment yet.
Hay's songwriting still has emotional weight and substance (as well as great hooks) and if you catch his local show tonight at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley, he’ll definitely play some old favorites, will surely says some words about his recently deceased fellow Man At Work, Greg Ham, and undoubtedly charm the pants off the whole crowd with his legendary sharp wit.
Here's my video playlist tribute to Hay and one of his greatest songwriting achievements.
On this day in 1939, Adolf Hitler's 50th birthday was a national holiday in Germany. It was also the day Billie Holiday recorded her version of the stirring "Strange Fruit," which some consider the first Civil Rights protest song/anthem. Originally a poem written by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish high school teacher in New York (who later adopted the children of convicted spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg), about the lynching of black people. Some believe he was inspired to action after seeing a photo of a 1930 lynching in Marion, Ind. The poem was published in a teacher's union magazine in 1936 and Meeropol later set it to music (despite claims that it was actually Holiday and some other musicians who made it a song).
Holiday recorded the tune, despite fears of being targeted by racists, and it became the dramatic finale in her set during which Holiday performed the song with the room totally dark, save a single spotlight on her face. Holiday's label, Columbia, wouldn't release the song due to its "controversial" nature, so the company allowed Holiday to record it for the Commodore label. Time magazine dubbed in the "Song of the Century" in 1999.
"Strange Fruit" has been covered by Nina Simone, Sting, Diana Ross, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Lou Rawls, Jeff Buckley, Cocteau Twins, Tori Amos and UB40, to name a few. It has also been recorded by a pair of bands with local ties — The Twilight Singers (the post Afghan Whigs band of Hamilton native Greg Dulli) and The Sundresses.
At 7, the young prodigy was given her first guitar by her uncle, Bill Owens, and by the time she was 11, she was a regular on a pair of Tennessee radio programs. Dolly's other uncle, Henry Owens, was acquainted with the owner of Goldband, leading to her first single being released.
It was an early example of Parton's underrated talents as a songwriter (she co-wrote the tune with her uncle Bill), though she would mature lyrically from such lines as, "Pullin' my pig tails makes me mad/When you kiss me, makes me glad/You turn to leave and make me sad/Still you're the sweetest sweetheart I've ever had." (Note: A more popular song called "Puppy Love," was a hit a year later for its writer, Paul Anka, and over a decade later again for a version by Donny Osmond. Dolly's version was included on the Dolly boxset in 2009.)
Here's Ms. Parton's adorable debut (where she's already showing off her impressive pipes):
On this day in 2000, Scottish Indie Pop giants Belle and Sebastian made their first appearance on the British show Top of the Pops. With a gorilla (see video below).
Some of the band members also almost made their first appearance in jail after reportedly breaking onto the set of hugely popular BBC soap opera Eastenders following a few too many drinks at the "BBC bar," according to the NME.
According to reports, a security guard saw them and called police. Luckily for the musicians, the show's host and producer happened by as they were being busted and convinced the guard they were guests of the BBC.
A B&S spokesperson told NME.com, "I think they were quite lucky. It's not the sort of thing they'd usually do and they almost got into real trouble over it. They'd just been celebrating a bit too much as they'd had such a wonderful time on the show."
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a June 1 birthday include legendary Big Band leader Nelson Riddle (1921); Gospel singer Marie Knight (1925); white-bread Pop singer Pat Boone (1934); Bluegrass great Hazel Dickens (1935); Faces/Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood (1947); half of Country duo Brooks & Dunn, Ronnie Dunn (1953); Depeche Mode's Alan Wilder (1959); The Cure bassist Simon Gallup (1960); drummer for The Smiths, Mike Joyce (1963); Pop singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile (1981); and Canadian singer/songwriter Alanis Morissette (1974).
Though Morissette never recaptured the superstardom of her ’90s, Jagged Little Pill days, she has remained consistently active professionally. Overall, she's managed one of the more interesting careers in contemporary music, going from child actress (as a cast member of Nickelodeon's You Can't Do That On Television) and young Pop star (she toured with Vanilla Ice in 1991!) to angst-ridden Grunge-era idol, occasional actress and fascinating dater (she was linked to Full House actor Dave Coulier and hunky future ScarJo beau Ryan Reynolds and is currently married to an obscure rapper named MC Souleye).
Yesterday, Morissette (unwittingly or not) became a spokesperson for the "attachment parenting" movement, which came to wider public attention recently when Time magazine ran its infamous "grown woman with apparent pre-teen attached to her boob via his mouth" cover. On The Billy Bush Show and Good Morning America, she spoke about her dedication to breastfeeding until her 16-month-old son says "When."
"I'll stop (breastfeeding) whenever he wants. I know some children who have weaned naturally at two, some kids wean naturally a couple of years later. I mean, it's up to every child," she said on Good Morning America.
She also said, "I think it affords the child, when he grows up, to have a lot less therapy to go to."
Because breastfeeding your second grader isn't going to cause any emotional issues, right?
Alanis is clearly not worried about the damage a 7-year-old could inflict on her humps, her humps, her lovely lady lumps.
I was a few months shy of 16
when I first heard the lucidly stark voice of Lou Reed stream over the
airwaves. I was just another suburban weirdo, looking for a justified rebellion
to call his own. I had spent those “formative years” sleeping around with any
album loud enough to drown out my inner white noise, moving through a steady
stream of Hardcore, Punk, Metal — if
they were screaming it, I was buying it. As it turns out, though, what I was
really looking for was a quieter sort of revolution, and at the helm was Mr.
Lou Reed, telling me with a frank honesty that there was freedom in the
composition. It was, like any great lesson, one I’d come to learn in time.
To say I enjoyed those first striking chords of “Heroin” would be an
understatement. It was on a snowy night in 2007, crammed in the back of a
friend's Yaris Liftback, when I first heard it. I can’t remember exactly where
we were previous to that moment, when that raw melody first came in. All I can
remember is how I suddenly became more aware of myself than ever before.
Everything I knew about music, about artistry, about writing — all of it would
change with that first overlap of beautiful melody. I was mesmerized, shaken
from a stupor of conditioned knowledge and thrown into a concoction of John
Cale’s haunting strings with Lou Reed’s candid crooning. By the time Maureen
Tucker’s drumming kicked in, sparse in its reverberation, my resolve would be
just as stripped, replaced by a wily knot that would take years to untie.
Though, right then, the song was just “fucking awesome.”
It would only be years later, waking up to a chilled October morning in 2013,
that this memory would even begin to matter. As the headlines would come to
read, “Lou Reed Dead at 71,” so, too, would the horizon appear most clearly.
I’ve always been a firm believer in the crossover of influences, the
collaboration of mediums in shaping any sort of artistry. As a writer, I can
proudly say that the recorded sound has had just as much influence on me as the
written word. And when I heard the Velvet Underground for the first time, it
became clear that they believed in a similar marriage, affirmed on the morning
of Oct. 27. With the news of the passing of a legend came an onslaught of
anecdotes from around the arts world, plastered against my computer screen. Amidst
the mass of legends, one story stood out in particular.
As according to
Rolling Stone, it was
1965, and the first few months of the Velvet Underground playing under their
iconic moniker. They had began a residency playing in New York’s Café Bizarre
and in the beginning stages of developing their distorted and chaotically
composed sound. Management was set on having performers play more contemporary
numbers, and warned the band not to play their original composition “Black
Angel Death Song.” They went on to perform the number anyway, fit with all the
chilling accidentals in its string arrangements, and were fired immediately.
Though they would emerge from that loss victorious (it led to their
introduction to Andy Warhol, the man who would come to produce their record and
put them on the map of the underground art scene of ‘60s New York), there was
something bigger about that moment, something more pressing in my association
Incidentally, “Black Angel Death Song” was the first thing I clicked on Sunday
morning when I heard the news of its writer’s passing. The strings were
suddenly more haunting, and the story seemed all the more important. It was yet
another quintessential moment in the life of Lou Reed, a man who sang with
unbridled frankness, who played with unencumbered passion, and who inspired me
with the tirelessness of his dedication to honest expression. It transported me
back, seven years and a lifetime ago, to that night in December 2007, when I
first pricked my ears with another of his songs, that found, all at once, both
comfort and chaos within itself. Though I’d spend the lapsed time between 2007
and 2013 finding appreciation for the 40-plus years of Reed’s prolific career —
from “Black Angel Death Song” and “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” through “Satellite
of Love” and “Pale Blue Eyes” and even up until his
Hudson River Wind Meditations — it would always be that
compositions that would stay, forever imprinted in my mind.
“Heroin” became, for me, a love song to the in between — it was everything I’d
been listening to up until that point and nothing I’d ever heard before; it was
the sentimentality of Indie Rock, the calm before the double bass in hardcore,
the simplistic, chord interplay of Punk and its cleaner cut cousin Pop. And, at
the same time, it was also the recklessness of avant-garde, the soundtrack to
the colors of an underground New York I’d only experience in preserved murals
and snapshots. It was everything I’d known, and everything I would come to know
about music, about art, about sound and about writing.
There are moments that comprise your past, songs that take you to a memory you
thought you’d left. And then there are moments that define your future, songs
that propel you forward into infinity.
Lou Reed, and what he accomplished before, with and after the Velvet
Underground, stood as a symbol for finding freedom in ones composition, and
pushing the statements made to work in a fashion of success.
It was a lesson I would learn time and time again in my own work, as I moved
through the progression of my writing and my own performance techniques. I
would come to face my own obstacles, fight my own battles against normative
expectations. And it would be in those times I fell the deepest, my resolve
threatening to falter, that this education would come back to me, mysterious in
its origins, all the while growing, like a backbone that stood rigid for honest
experimentation and freedom in the composition.
Even now, as this mystery’s been unearthed, its inductor put to rest, ahead of
me remains miles and miles of still shrouded possibility. But against that wall
of lessons I’ll stand, riveted, staring towards the looming unknown. And I’ll
try for a different kind of kingdom, if I can.
New York City Ska legends The Toasters were the bridge from the late ’70s 2 Tone Records-fueled Ska revival in the U.K. to the one that brought Ska into the American mainstream in the ’90s. Easily one of the most influential Ska acts of all time, The Toasters were formed in 1981 by Robert “Bucket” Hingley, a U.K. native (and the group’s lone constant member) who had just moved to The States, taking inspiration from the 2 Tone Ska being created in his homeland (The Beat, The Specials, The Selecter, etc.).
The Toasters, in turn, helped inspire multitudes of Ska bands to form, something that ultimately led to the development of so-called Ska Punk. Having a hard time finding a label, Hingley formed his own, Moon Ska Records, which grew to become the major American Ska indie imprint, releasing music (via albums or the label’s popular compilations) by The Slackers, Dance Hall Crashers, Mustard Plug, Less Than Jake and No Doubt, among many others. The Moon label was a road-map to quality American Ska when the music was more underground; the imprint, which was artist- and consumer-friendly (like Punk label Dischord, Moon always kept prices low), experienced its greatest success during the ’90s Ska boom, but when the music fell out of mainstream favor, the label faded away. Hingley moved to Spain, where he formed another label, Megalith, to continue releasing Toasters albums.
The Toasters were the cool elder statesmen of the Ska scene and they’ve survived the fickleness of musical trends and an ever-changing music industry for over 30 years now by doing things on their own terms and keeping true to their vision.