Reggae Perfection; Winds of Matterhorn

Again, we find ourselves in the most unsuspecting part of the world to find the perfect reggae sound, Switzerland. Fruits Records release Winds of Matterhorn at the end of this month, 30th April.

Rather than the unanimous Rastafarian camp, Jamacia’s hills of Wareika, Swiss-Italian trombonist Mattbrass and producer Jackayouth have taken inspiration from the eminent mountain in the Alps for this four-track instrumental EP. Unlike the progressive nature of the Jamaican music industry, Fruits Records, as ever, find their penchant in a more classic sound. The tried-and-tested formula of roots reggae may be deemed old hat on the island of reggae’s origin, but no one can refute the global influence of Bob Marley and the Wailers, and the consequential epoch which followed.

The mechanics of the profound effect reggae’s golden era has had on music as a whole is inconsequential here, because there is no fusion or experimental divergence. You will not hear rock or soul’s pastiches of the formula, there’s no preaching vocals, you will only hear a crisp and refined approach to the true sound. This is reggae at its finest, a driving riddim, occasional wail of an electric guitar, heavy bassline and saturated in sublime horns.

To emphasise these classic elements of reggae are evidently profound, each tune is singularly named after the four classic elements; earth, air, fire and water.  

Earth is marching one-drop reggae, the kind you’ll identify with the later works Bob Marley & The Wailers, such as the 1979 album Survival. But Air is no lighter, there’s a real deep, roots feel to it, a plodding bassline fills said air, but throughout there’s this continuation of a tight horn section, managed to perfection. Fire has more upbeat jollity about it, so much so it near-verges on the classic ska of the unrivalled Skatalites. Water brings it back around, with that proud one-drop march.

This is the traditions of reggae, elsewhere at its very best, the only thing it lacks is the vocal affirmation to Rastafari, or anything else uniquely indigenous to JA, rather a structured salute to the sound, as if it was performed by Mozart or Beethoven. There’s the nutshell, if Beethoven went to sister Mary Ignatius Davies’ class at Kingston’s Alpha Cottage School, with Don Drummond, Rico Rodriguez, Roland Alphonso et all, his symphonies might end up sounding something like this; it is that accomplished.

Top marks, as if they not done it before on Devizine, and I’ve still not gotten fully over how awesome Wonderland of Green was!


Trending…

Erin Bardwell Gets Organised

A new album released yesterday from Swindon’s premier reggae keyboardist and producer Erin Bardwell made me contemplate a section of Henri Charrière’s book Papillon. The autobiographical account of a fellow no prison or penal colony can seem to keep incarcerated. There’s a point where Papillon deliberately causes a disturbance in order to be put in solitary confinement. He claims he prefers it to the regular cells, because away from the other inmates, alone in pitch darkness he can reimagine, practically hallucinate and relive his better days.

For the concept of the album and accompanying film Get Organised is largely reminiscing and reflecting on his past. Possibly, I suspect, due to age becoming, the fact this marks a thirtieth anniversary of the formation of his heyday two-tone band, The Skanxters, but largely due to lockdown.

Myself, lockdown has been parttime. I’ve worked throughout, galivanting through the villages, meeting early morning risers, and it’s all been much the same as it ever was, just cannot nip t’ pub, or see family living out of the area. Which is frustrating at times, but I accept it’s not as bad as those shielding and self-isolating; that would’ve driven me insane my now. It’s common in isolation to consider one’s life and recollect, but Erin does it over a reggae beat; and I approve!

We’ve been here before; this is not Erin’s first reflection of lockdown. Pre-pandemic he directed a collective who were pushing new boundaries in rock steady. But April last year saw the solo release of Interval, a deeply personal reflection and mind-blowingly cavernous concept album, diving into the psyche and exploring past events; scarce formula for reggae.

Erin Bardwell

Yet Erin’s style is such; relished in unconformity, individualism and freethinking, factors which make it so utterly unique it’s hard to compare. It’s this standout signature which Erin stamps on all projects, be them solo, as the Collective, or side projects such as the experimental dub of Subject A with Dean Sartain, or The Man on the Bridge project with ex-Hotknives Dave Clifton, which defines the very sound of reggae in Swindon and puts it on the skanking map. If there was a skanking map, which I wish there was!

Whereas Interval’s morose mood merged styles through experimentation, some often out of the confines of reggae, be they jazz, ambient and space rock, Get Organised will wash better with the matured skinheads, scooterists and Two-Tone aficionados, for it sits with more golden era reggae, particularly of the sixties Trojan “boss” reggae epoch. They tend to know what they like, and favour tradition over risky and radical progressions.

In this notion too it’s sprightlier and more optimistic than Interval, a result of vaccinations and this “roadmap” out of lockdown, perhaps; The Erin Bardwell Trio booked for a gig at Swindon’s Victoria on 1st July. Though at times there’s still the thoughtful prose Erin is fashioned for, reflecting the effect of lockdown. The lyrics of Eight O’clock, for example, which notes despite the usually lively nightlife at this time, the town is quiet.

The Erin Bardwell Collective

They’re all sublimely crafted pieces, the title track’s mellow riff nods to Lee Scratch Perry’s middling Upsetters period with something akin to a tune like Dollar in the Teeth. And in that, we have to consider the great producers of rockers reggae for comparisons, rather than the artists. Aforementioned Perry, but of Niney the Observer, of Harry J too, and Get Organised subtly delves into dub, so I guess King Tubby also. Yet the opening tune reminded me of the earlier, legendary producer Duke Reid.

Erin has the proficiency to cherry-pick elements from reggae’s rich history, effectively merge them and retain this said signature style. The Savoy Ballroom has the expertise keys of Jackie Mittoo, with the vaudeville toytown sound of Madness. That said has opened another Pandora’s box, as Two-Tone also has a significant influence on Get Organised, naturally. The grand finale We Put on that Show is reflective of the era, along the lines of the steady plod of Do Nothing rather than the frenzied ska of Little Bitch, if we’re going to make a Specials contrast, which I think is apt.

Equally, you’re going to love this if, like me, you cite the debut album Signing Off, as UB40’s magnum opus rather than their following pop covers, or just if you’re looking for something different from the norm.

These recollections are visualised in a half-hour video, making it more poignant. It’s a scrapbook film, with homemade clips of The Skanxters setting up or driving to a gig, footage I’d expect to have been largely unseen until now. There’s also a montage of memoirs chronicling Erin’s career, as the camera pans across gig posters, bus tickets, vinyl and press cuttings. Though far from documentary, the sound plays out the album, the material an aid to the songs, and a fascinating art project to accompany it.

 “A second solo album wasn’t really part of the plan,” Erin explains, “but with the current climate as it is, I still found myself coming up with music and songs. These tunes started following a theme, that led to a film idea, and the sounds and visuals grew together influencing each other.”

The point in the early nineties, when the Skanxters were the pride of Swindon’s two-tone scene is captured well, and while those on the circuit, or even living locally then, will love recognising the many memoirs, anyone into the scene at the time will thoroughly enjoy this outing. Overall, though, Erin continues to break boundaries, and this album is a blessing and pleasure to listen to, alone from its narrative and meaning, as all good reggae should.


Trending……

Song of the Day 27: Emily Capell

We are the mods, we are the mods, we are, we are, okay, you get the gist. Imagine Kate Nash is Doctor Who’s assistant, and they tracked back to Carnaby Street in 1963. If she dressed and performed without raising suspicion that they’re time travellers, you’ve got a general picture of the fantastic Emily Capell.

On one hand, this is fab retrospective meddling, on the other it’s lively and fresh fun, with a beehive hairdo.

There’s nothing here not to like, unless you’re a ret-con rocker and if so, I’ll see you on Brighton beach, pal. All I ask is you aim for the face, so you don’t crease my suit.

And, that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on….. oh yeah, nearly forgot to mention, Emily has a live stream coming up Friday 12th March, here; groovy.


Song of the Day 26: The Maitree Express

Reggae and ska’s association with trains tracks back to its very roots, that beguiling chugging offbeat replicates engine noise, ergo subject matter and band names suit.

Here’s hoping if Devizes does ever get a station, more reggae bands will stop here and bring their sunshine music. Prime example; I’d sure make a beeline for this Bath-Bristol seven-piece locomotive, with their lively blend of dub, ska and soul.
Failing that, I’m trekking, have roots, will travel.

Offering an exciting live show, the Maitree Express has been in the recording studio and the effect projects onto wax; proof here, in the pudding.

Wait, did someone say pudding? My work here is done, that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on…..


Song of the Day 16: Blondie & Ska

If you came here looking for an original song by upcoming hopefuls, look away. Chippenham’s Blondie & Ska may not be groundbreaking or looking for a mainstream recording contract, a Blondie tribute act who fuse ska and Two-Tone classics into their repertoire, but what they do they do with a barrel load of lively fun. And, in a nutshell, lively carefree fun is the backbone of ska.

Heores of the live stream currently, booking Blondie & Ska for a party or pub gig in the future, and you can gurantee, if fussy music devotees tut, the majority will be up dancing. For this reason enough, I blinking love this duo, but that alone is plentiful. Like their Facebook page for details of future free streams, it’s an entertaining, unpretentious show.

And that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on….


Song of the Day 14: King Hammond Meets Death of Guitar Pop

Great things about ska are many fold, but a topper most one has to be collaboration. Rather than set groups, as with most mainstream music, musicians uniting for projects is common and has always been the ethos of ska and reggae since day dot. Perhaps being the very reason it’s so lively and communal.

Another great thing about our song of the day, where Islington’s ska legend Nick Welsh, aka King Hammond, teams up with that crazy Essex duo Death of Guitar Pop, is the ska style displayed, near enough mimics the jump blues “shuffle” on which ska is originally based.

But history aside, let’s just enjoy this new track for all it’s worth. DoGP are fast rising in rank on the UK ska scene, with a carefree “Nutty Boys” fashion, it’s easy to see why.

And that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on….


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Song of the Day 11: Dakka Skanks

No video to this one. Do we need visuals? Not when it’s this good; my favourite track of Brighton-based contemporary ska heads, Dakka Skanks.

They’re lively, diverse, lots of fun, and I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from them in the near future.

If the Duallers have reached a pivotal point akin to the Specials, and Death of Guitar Pop are providing the tongue-in-cheek Madness equivalent, I believe these guys could be The Beat of this era, as there was a band unafraid to experiment.

Dakka Skanks are majorly ska, but throw a lovable but carefree punk attitude, and a wide range of other influences, such as soul, into the melting pot, and concoct something uniquely entertaining.

Very good. Carry on….


Song of the Day 7: Mr Tea & the Minions

Sunday off, broke my promise to post a song of the day, everyday. Allow me to make up for it. Bristol’s Mr Tea & the Minions with a lockdown themed song. See how sublimely they fire a frenzy of folk and Balkan styled ska-punk into festival proportions. I think they’re the hottest bands around these parts, and fondly reviewed the album, Mutiny a while ago. Just a reminder today then, these kids have it.

I made enquiries, wanting to bring them to Devizes. It’s no cheap option and obviously currently off the cards.

The reservation is that just because I’m loving this style, it might too radical for a Devizes audience. So, I’d appreciate some feedback; would you have paid a purple one to see them play in our town?

Fingers crossed, we live for a better day. But I believe lobbying a large Devizes venue to bring contemporary music direct to us, just occasionally, is crucial to the culture diversity we should be delving into.

Have a lovely rest of your day. Very good. Carry on….


Song of the Day 6: The Simmertones

It’s getting late now and I’ve only just got around to posting our song of the day. Had a piece to write and the obligatory family Scrabble game. Nearly missed the deadline, meaning my promise to post a song each day didn’t quite last a week, but alas, I’m here last minute to seal the deal.

What better then, than the pride of Devon, The Simmertones. They’ve fast made it to a lead name in the UK ska scene, and with their lively shows and crazy ska cover of the Dr Who theme, a personal favourite, it’s easy to see why. A tad more tender, here they are…..

Have a lovely rest of your day. Very good. Carry on….


Song of the Day 4: Girls Go Ska

Hi, yeah s’me, keeping up the Song of the Day feature like dedication was as word I know the definition of!

No excuses not to, I mean I am of the generation when Roy Castle clasped his trumpet weekly, ready for the signing off of “Record Breakers.” No, it’s not a euthanasim, Google it whippersnappers.

Might also explain my fondness for brass. Brass is class, and a vital element of ska. Yep, four tunes in and I couldn’t resist sharing some ska with you.

It’s a commonly misguided notion that ska is a retrospective cult here in England. It tends to convey a bygone era of Two-Tone records, boots and braces.

Yet today, while said stereotype has a grounding, ska is an international phenomenon, particularly in South America. I did write a piece about this region’s love for ska, and how it’s roots out of Jamaica bare a different tale from our own.

To show you how fresh it can be elsewhere in the world, and it’s not a reminiscence for a
load of overweight balding pensioners as perceived in the UK, here’s all-female bar one Mexican band, Girls Go Ska, who I’m secretly in love with, (so secret they don’t even know themselves….until they use Google translate!) doing an instrumental jam.

Girls and ska; what’s not to like? Have a lovely rest of your day. Very good. Carry on….


  • Reggae Perfection; Winds of Matterhorn

    Again, we find ourselves in the most unsuspecting part of the world to find the perfect reggae sound, Switzerland. Fruits Records release Winds of Matterhorn at the end of this month, 30th April.

    Rather than the unanimous Rastafarian camp, Jamacia’s hills of Wareika, Swiss-Italian trombonist Mattbrass and producer Jackayouth have taken inspiration from the eminent mountain in the Alps for this four-track instrumental EP. Unlike the progressive nature of the Jamaican music industry, Fruits Records, as ever, find their penchant in a more classic sound. The tried-and-tested formula of roots reggae may be deemed old hat on the island of reggae’s origin, but no one can refute the global influence of Bob Marley and the Wailers, and the consequential epoch which followed.

    The mechanics of the profound effect reggae’s golden era has had on music as a whole is inconsequential here, because there is no fusion or experimental divergence. You will not hear rock or soul’s pastiches of the formula, there’s no preaching vocals, you will only hear a crisp and refined approach to the true sound. This is reggae at its finest, a driving riddim, occasional wail of an electric guitar, heavy bassline and saturated in sublime horns.

    To emphasise these classic elements of reggae are evidently profound, each tune is singularly named after the four classic elements; earth, air, fire and water.  

    Earth is marching one-drop reggae, the kind you’ll identify with the later works Bob Marley & The Wailers, such as the 1979 album Survival. But Air is no lighter, there’s a real deep, roots feel to it, a plodding bassline fills said air, but throughout there’s this continuation of a tight horn section, managed to perfection. Fire has more upbeat jollity about it, so much so it near-verges on the classic ska of the unrivalled Skatalites. Water brings it back around, with that proud one-drop march.

    This is the traditions of reggae, elsewhere at its very best, the only thing it lacks is the vocal affirmation to Rastafari, or anything else uniquely indigenous to JA, rather a structured salute to the sound, as if it was performed by Mozart or Beethoven. There’s the nutshell, if Beethoven went to sister Mary Ignatius Davies’ class at Kingston’s Alpha Cottage School, with Don Drummond, Rico Rodriguez, Roland Alphonso et all, his symphonies might end up sounding something like this; it is that accomplished.

    Top marks, as if they not done it before on Devizine, and I’ve still not gotten fully over how awesome Wonderland of Green was!


  • Chapter 4: The Adventures of Councillor Yellowhead

    The Case of the Pam-Dimensional Pothole

    Chapter Four: in which our heroes awake in unusual circumstances.

    Recap: Can you stop asking me for a recap, and just read the chapters before this one? I got to keep going over the same shit, just because you cannot be bothered to keep up with the story, is that it? Look, just read the previous chapters, or wait for Spielberg to notice the movie potential of this humble fable, won’t you? I’m done with recaps.

    There was something divinely erotic being one of thousands of workers in a foetus position, imbibing on one of the many lactating teats of a larvae queen with the head of Margaret Thatcher in a sado-masochistic pupae dungeon, at least to Councillor Yellowhead there was.

    Hymenoptera knew their place in the nest and never questioned authority; he liked it here. When the lactose ran dry, they’d head out for duties without question. Though to Yellowhead feeding was sexually stimulating, he never wished for it to end. He yearned the Gyne would churn her pulp royal jelly once more, but with bellowing, unquestionable authority her words echoed around the chamber, “to those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the U-churn, I have only one thing to say: You churn if you want to. The lady’s not for churning!”

    Yellowhead squirmed with excitement, near ejaculation, as she continued in a less conversant voice, “now, Mr Speaker, I suggest you wake up, wake up, WAKE UP!” Confusion to the alienness of the accent, saw off his climax, and he felt rejected despair. Yet, somewhere deep in an archive of Yellowhead’s mind, it had familiarity, as if from long lost past, another time, another realm.

    Yellowhead’s mouth overwhelmingly tasted of mud, water spurted from deep down his oesophagus and sprayed from his lips. The light hurt his eyes as their lids unlocked involuntarily. The Thatcher Gyne fizzled out of reality, ignoring his pleas to stay, and the equivocal outline of a human head came into his focus. “Wake up!” the voice came again, this time he recognised it.

    “Get off me this minute, Briggs,” Yellowhead commanded, “you necrophiliac homosexual!”

    “You lost breathing,” Briggs pointed out, highly tense, “and had no pulse…. I……”

    Yellowhead pulled his torso up and rested on his elbows, “did you perform CPR on me, Briggs, just answer me that?”

    “Sir,” Briggs implored, “there was nothing else I……”

    “You are a sexual predator, Briggs, a sexual predator of corpses, and I was your prey!”

    “It was necessary,” Briggs pleaded his cause, “there was nothing else I could have done to save you, and sir, I did it, I saved your life!”

    Yellowhead stood up as Briggs scrambled away from him. Remaining on the tarmac he looked up to his superior, feeling the wrath of his outraged expression. But Yellowhead took a moment to compose himself, and sighed. In a whisper he told Briggs, “young man, tell no one of this, for as long as we both shall live. Do I make myself perfectly clear?”

    “Yes, sir, oh yes,” Briggs whimpered, “I’m just glad you’re alive!”

    Yellowhead bit his bottom lip, it still tasted of sludge. “Quite; well, I must say, I mean, I find it difficult, erm, in a situation, I find, you know, at times I, and there are times, many, of which the erm, timing is not right, but let me say, if I can, that, I, damn, Briggs this is hard, so very hard for me, to, you know, find the right words, but yes, I erm, I thank you, Briggs, for, you know, saving my life!” He sunk in his own admission and self-loathing.

    Briggs beamed a smile from ear to ear.

    “Look, Briggs, I think that’s enough for one day,” he confessed while composing himself from his horrid ordeal; showing his gratitude was an unimaginable desolation of his principles and character and an unwarranted prevalence for Yellowhead, the near-death experience wasn’t particularly nice either. “Just paint that yellow circle around the pothole and we’ll be off, I think, Briggs. There’s a good fellow.”

    Herein is where Briggs showed signs of astonishment and confusion. “That’s the thing, Sir,” he announced, “there is no pothole!”

    “What are you dribbling about, Briggs?”

    “The pothole, all of the potholes, they’ve all disappeared!”

    “Don’t be so stu……” Yellowhead looked around him. Scanning the area which once looked like an asteroid impact site. The A342 appeared untainted, completely even, and not a pothole, rut or divot could be seen as far as the horizon. Yellowhead scratched his bald patch, looked to Briggs for his expression, which was the confused jollity of a maniac headless chicken. He mumbled, double-checked the road, double-checked Briggs’ grin, felt faint, and suggested, “well, I guess, erm, I guess our work here is done, erm, Briggs, me lad. Let’s head back to Davizes; I think a pint of best is the order of the day.”

    “But, sir, how did……”

    “Don’t ask, Briggs.”

    “But, sir, the road, it couldn’t……”

    “What did I just say Briggs?”

    “It couldn’t, like, repair itself, I mea……”

    “That’s an order, Briggs.”

     They got to the van, parked just as it was before the incident, but it looked somewhat different. Briggs noted the subtle changes, Yellowhead became outraged by its graphics. He slammed his palm on the side panel. “Briggs?! Why has this van still got our old motto printed on it?”

    “You mean the, Where Everybody Matters one?”

    Yellowhead quivered, “Don’t! Just don’t even say it! We rid ourselves of that slogan some time ago, and for good reason, Briggs!”

    “Because it’s untrue, everybody doesn’t matter, sir?”

    “NO! Because, Briggs, because, there’s too many letters, it costs too much to keep adding it the vans,” Yellowhead explained, “and that’s the truth behind that. What really gets my goat up and sends it galloping from its pen, is the stupidity of you to book out an old vehicle with the incorrect graphics, Briggs; these should’ve been put out of service years ago.”

    Briggs stood motionless, his face one of ghostly expression. “Sir, I didn’t, there’s the thing, it’s out there….”

    “Didn’t what, Briggs?” Yellowhead questioned, “think? You didn’t, Briggs, you didn’t think at all!”

    “No, sir, I didn’t take out an old van with the old slogan printed on it. It wasn’t like that when I took it out. In fact, it’s not an old van at all, but a new one. Look, it’s electric-powered!”

    “Ye gods!” cried Yellowhead, “a monstrosity! What low-level leftie scum replaced our vehicle with this, this environmentally-friendly milk float!”

    Briggs pointed out the horizon. “It’s, erm, not just that, Sir, look!”

    Yellowhead followed the angle of his pointing, to note across the land was situated tens of wind turbines, their propellers turning by the gentle breeze. “No!” he screeched, “get Christina Brownie on the phone, development project department, I want names, I want dates; who gave permission to wreak havoc on our beautiful landscape with these, these conservational eyesores?!”    

    “Sir,” Briggs hesitated, but it was the only explanation he could fathom. “I think we were out, you know, drowned in that pothole for longer than we think we were.”

    As Yellowhead wore an expression of total disbelief and confusion, a horse pulling a gypsy caravan passed by. A gaunt dreadlocked Caucasian youth with full beard and Romany attire called out, “hi there, y’ need any help?”

    Yellowhead looked up at him with distaste, “not from you, beatnik heathen! Solstice is not for another two months; get your hippy bandwagon out of our county, or I will be forced to have you removed by force, by our constabulary! For the love of Priti Patel, I thought you lot had been deported to the inferno of abyss you came from?!”

    The hipster shrugged as the caravan passed by, “suit yourself!”

    Yellowhead confessed to Briggs that he didn’t feel well. “I fear I’m going to puke, if I don’t pass out, Briggs. This overload of leftie growths is like a wart on the backside of Satan, and they’re making me nauseated.”

    “Maybe we should get in the van,” Briggs suggested, “and make our way to town. I think you need to see a doctor.”

    “I am not getting in that van! Not without petrol in it!” Yellowhead least tested the water, by peering in through the window, and outraged, “reformist bastards have replaced my Bollinger for soya milkshakes!”

    As a succession of eco-friendly traffic, hippy buses and horse drawn gypsy caravans gently passed them by, Briggs supposed, “maybe it’s always been this way, and we’ve been so wrapped up in our conservative ideology to notice!”

    “What conservative ideology, Briggs, you daft wazzock? It’s just the natural order of things. There’s no obsessive notion to any such right-wing agenda with me,” Yellowhead assured him. “No, I think this is still part of my dream, the nightmarish end section. I favoured the beginning part most, would you care to imbibe on Thatcher’s teat too, Briggs?”

    Briggs looked sincerely at Yellowhead. “I think I’ll give that a miss, sir, if it’s all the same to you?”

    “As will I to your requisition I board this eco-fiendly passion wagon!” asserted Yellowhead with arms folded.

    “Eco-fiendly?” Grant smiled, appealing to his better nature, or searching for it at least. “I see what you did there, clever stuff. You can sing your patriotic hymns all the way to Davizes.”

    Yellowhead gulped, held his nose and sat in the passenger seat. “You should note I’m getting in because there is nothing better to get into. Besides, I am reasonable, you may listen to some pop music, if you wish……”

    “That is considerate of you….”

    “……provided it’s Morrisey or the Who.”

    “The Who?” Briggs laughed, observing the small compact disc selection had mysteriously changed to the likes of the Bob Marely, the Clash, and Crosby, Stills and Nash.

    “Indeed!” Yellowhead announced proudly, “great bunch of Brexiteers. Boris listens to the Who, he was instructed to listen to the Who, even the lefties said he should. I trust I can let you know, Briggs, I was with him and a bunch of others at the Cheltenham Festival, just last year. We sat in his limo, drinking Chateau Le Pin, snorting a nosebag off the tits of some top brass prostitutes and listening to their greatest hits, when we suddenly realised, they meant The World Health Organisation. Oh, how we laughed!”

    Briggs sighed, and tried to hold in the notion it was a mistake which caused the spread of Covid19 and the deaths of thousands. Yellowhead was so engaged in his fond memory he had failed to notice the vast changes in Davizes, and how they increased the closer they got to the town centre.

    Hordes of youth walked at liberty, grouped they wandered the streets attired in crusty clothing, many with braids or dreadlocks. They were a wider racial demographic then before too, and they mingled with joviality. Houses hung speakers from their windows, and small crowds gathered to dance in the streets below, as DJs spun their tunes. Live acoustic music too was sporadically dispersed along the road, tents hosting wellbeing workshops, Buddhist meditation and Indian head massage. People held up signs for free hugs, others responded. Children ran free without care, playing together and making petty mischief for their own amusement.

    By the time they had arrived in the Market Place, gone was the void and the patch of grass. A multitude gathered around a huge stage in the centre, an afro-funk band played lively African rhythms on drums and guitars. Scattered around it were hundreds of stalls, selling a variety of street food and international cuisine, chai, clothes and charity fundraising tents. A comedy marquee sat at one end of the market place, a children’s area at the other, with traditional fairground rides rising behind them both. The whole place lit up with the colours of the rainbow, décor and dress, the smells of food, sweating people, unwashed dogs and cannabis melded and the sounds of joy, laughter and the bass of the music, blended; it resembled a festival. Grant Briggs gulped.

    “There was a time, Briggs, when….” Yellowhead continued, then looked up, “what in the good name of Mosely is going on here?!” He stuck his head out of the window. Briggs suggested he didn’t, but it was too late. “What in the name of Thatcher do you think you beatnik scum are doing?! This is not some Glastonbury love-in, this is a level-headed insular Miltshire market town, full of law-abiding conservatives, you have no right to invade it with your hippy bandwagons and freeloading festivities; now go, clear off before I am forced to inform the police. This is against lockdown restrictions, and even if we weren’t protected from a pandemic, I’d still enforce the limitations of showcasing what is clearly a leftie act of terrorism on England’s green and pleasant land!”  

    A slender earth mother dressed in a loose Kaftan pointed and giggled, “man, you are like, too funny!” She nudged a fellow next to her. He wore a tie-dye t-shirt, khaki sand shorts and sandals, and was currently engaged in sliding a cold, half-eaten burrito in his wiry beard for safekeeping. “Farquhar, look! There’s some street theatre. A delightful comedian, clearly too old to be from the council is shouting abusive satire and pretending to be all anti-alternative, from a mock council van; it’s hilarious!”       

    “I’ll give you too old!” Yellowhead screeched back her.

    “Is he for real?” Farquhar gasped, “like hey man, git outta there, there’s no one allowed to be on the county council aged over twenty-seven!”

    The earth mother elbowed him in the ribs, “silly man, it’s a joke, Farquhar, you fool!”

    The man went for the burrito, “well, it’s not funny.”

    Councillor Yellowhead burst from out of the van to parade the area, verbally assaulting everything he saw in such quickfire horror the puss of his global acne turned a fiery red and looked certain to blow at any given moment. Concerned, Briggs followed behind, trying to warn him yet keeping what he considered a safe distance. If the yellowhead was to detonate, Briggs was uncertain of the epicentre of its impact zone.

    “These, these, vehicles are parked here illegally!” Yellowhead ranted, while people formed a circle around him, still believing it was a comedy act of street theatre akin to that of Alf Garnett, though they never had heard of that character. “Even if they have paid the fees, which I highly doubt, and can and will be checking, they are not within the white lined parking spaces. And are these street stalls licenced?” He leaned into a noodle bar, the lady at the counter nodded her head to inquire of his order, but he lambasted her, “licenced, are you? Permission to be here?”

    Without waiting for an answer, he begun addressing the crowds once more, too many inconsistences and misconducts were happening at once for him to focus on a particular one. The earth mother and associate known as Farquhar sauntered behind them, still debating if this was a comedy routine or not. “You are all here illegally!” Yellowhead continued, “Miltshire Council has given no permission for any kind of, of, whatever this is, a hippy love-freak-out festival, you should stay in your homes, watch Netflix!”

    “Hey buddy!” someone called from the crowd, suspicious this was no act, “this isn’t a festival, this is just an average weekend in Davizes!”

    Yellowhead spat his words as his face reddened, “it is a Thursday!”

    “Ain’t no one work Fridays, man, not for centuries!” laughed another, imagining the absurdity.

    “You should come here when we do have our monthly market place festivals!” another giggled.

    “The guy is a sham!” the calls came quick and fast;

    “I think he’s funny!”

     “Do the one about the pandemic again; like, too funny man!”

    Yellowhead’s yellowhead was spinning. “the Covid19 pandemic is not a subject for comedy! I am not a comedian, it is very real, and you are contributing to the spread of the virus!”

    “Ha-ha!” the crowds laughed, “the virus was obliterated a year ago, government closed the country down!”

    “I remember,” one said, “how they stopped international airship travel, boats too. I remember how they vaccinated the key workers first, how they only invested in bona-fide companies making protective clothing and how that wonderful app worked so well because they funded the contract to a renowned and established internet organisation! They capped new laws until objections could be heard effectively, ensured immigration was protected, housed the homeless, secured care homes foremost, and yes, it was a hard six months, but with faith in our government and their ability to set a good example by complying to the regulations themselves, we got through it!”

    Yellowhead was lost for words, confused in mixed emotion. These people were not the extremist anti-governed anarchists he believed them to be. “Yes,” he stumbled, “I errm, well, I am glad to hear of your love and respect for the government, but still, this illegal gathering is unlicenced and no permission has been granted by the council to allow it to happen! So, I order to cease your festivities, return to your jobs, if you have one, return to the jobcentre if not!”

    The crowd laughed once more. “Where is this guy from?” many questioned, or similar responses.

    A nearby dreadlocked crusty leaned into Yellowhead, “you need to chill, my friend,” causally he offered Yellowhead a large hand-rolled smoking cigarette. It smelt rather exotic to Briggs, who tried to stop the crusty. Yellowhead took a look at the fellow, aghast.

    “Is that what I think it is?! Is, is that a cannabis cigar? Is that Tweed you are smoking?” He did not wait for an answer, but yelped to call it to the attention of a casually dressed passing police officer. “Arrest this man at once, officer!”

    The policeman strode towards the commotion. “Hand over that spliff!” he demanded.

     The man handed him the smoking implement. The officer took a puff, “where did you get this from?” The crusty pointed out a small stall, in front of Greggs. “Cheers, I knock off in an hour, might get me some, it’s good shit!”

    In absolute revulsion Yellowhead quivered, this was the final straw. Briggs warned the officer and the crusty to step back. The chief councillor looked up at the sign for the Greggs bakery, which now read: Greggs Bakery and Riff Raff Spliff Café.

    Now desperate from leftie surplus and in a state of horrified overload, he turned urgently towards Briggs for assistance. “Tell me this is a nightmare, Briggs,” he uttered insanely, “pinch me, punch me, clout my very chops with an iron if you must! Whatever it takes to wake me, I plead, I implore you!”

    It was at this injunction he noted his assistant had his mouth sealed tight enough to whiten his lips, his cheeks were bulging, and with an unintended giggle, a puff of smoke exited his lips. “Briggs!” he shouted with all his might, “are you……”

    Behind his back, Briggs quickly attempted to pass the joint back to the crusty unnoticed.

    “…. Are you?” Yellowhead gasped.

     Briggs turned his head downwards and pointed it away from Yellowhead, to exhale the smoke. It was a pathetic attempt to hide the truth.

    “….. Smoking…….”

    Briggs looked back at his superior with the fake expression of shame.

    “A…A….” Yellowhead enraged, his pimple-head boiled puss at critical mass, “…. A…. A…. A whacky-baccy cigar? For crying out loud to the good god Oswald Mosley, man! Are there no depths of depravity you are willing to descend to? Is there no act of villainy you will refute?!”

    With that, those who took cover were shielded as best as they could. Others, unaware of the explosive nature of Yellowhead were covered in yellow pus.  

      


    Will our hero councillor survive this weird influx of unlicenced carefree festivities? Just what is going on with the usually conservative town of Davizes, and has the whole world gone as mad as Diana Abbot on nitrous oxide, or is just the moonrakers? Find out in our amazingly liable continuing fable, next Sunday morning….

  • Summer Solstice Celebrations Looking Likely at Stonehenge

    With the green light given for the A303 tunnel at Stonehenge, the lockdown restrictions at winter solstice and EH’s solstice parking fee demands, it’s understandable we haven’t seen a positive message from the pagan high priest, Uther Pendragon for a while. But this week proved different. If Uther used emojis on his social media posts it would be near all smiley faces, but he’s not the type to, so there wasn’t!

    Nevertheless, the leader of the warrior and political arm of the modern druid movement, The Loyal Arthurian Warband, reported back from a virtual RT meeting with English Heritage, Police and other interested parties, save Wiltshire Council who Uther noted, “steadfastly refused to attend.”

    Assurances about this year’s summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge appear positive. Urther called for “assurances from EH and their partnering ‘authorities’ that there are no plans to restrict access by ticket and/or advance booking, or to take part in any Goverment pilot or other such ‘trial’ that restricts access to ‘all-comers’ due to perceived health issues or certification. And that no pilgrims will be denied entrance, save for those who’s anti social behavior dictates such.”

    EH are continuing to make plans and arrangments,” Urther reported, “for the managed open access to go ahead as scheduled for the night of 20th/dawn of the 21st June, subject to the lifting of Government restrictions, due to end by this point.”

    On the eve of lockdown last year, English Heritage said, “we know how appealing it is to come to Stonehenge for Winter Solstice, but we are asking everyone to stay safe and to watch the sunset and sunrise online instead. We look forward to welcoming people back for solstice next year.” And with that, and this positive development, we hope things will run smoothly for 2021.

    https://youtu.be/-bEEaA9Rzvs


  • Song of the Day 34: Jon Amor

    Here’s a thing, did you know the Michael and Janet Jackson duet “Scream,” is cited as the world’s most expensive music video, totaling a cost of $7 million? And Wacko dished the cash out of his own pocket?

    Despite critical acclaim at the time, reaching number 3 in the UK pop charts, and the retaliatory nature of the song against the tabloid assault on Michael after sexual abuse accusations, I thought, and always will think, it was a bit shit, to be perfectly frank!

    Look, I mean, okay, bit harsh were the allegations, so MJ thinks, I know, I’ll bag myself a B-movie spaceship, take my sister off the planet, buy us both matching knobbly jumpers, dance about in zero g, and cough up seven million dollars for someone to film it, that’ll convince the fans I’m not a complete fruitcake.

    They didn’t even save enough pennies to get it filmed in technicolor. Input sad face emoji.

    Compare and contrast to Devizes-own Jon Amor, who, with just the creativity of Lucianne Worthy, a big chunk of inspiration from Jim Henson and some snazzy blue loafers, pulls off this absolute beauty for the track Rider from the latest album Remote Control.

    https://youtu.be/hX3yX37q44g

    Smashed it, guys, and it’s in colour too. Proof you don’t gotta do a Wacko Jacko and push the boat out as far as Mars to accomplish something all together entertaining.

    And that’s my song of the day!! Very good, carry on….


  • Wiltshire Council Leader Advises Tory Candidates to Block Correspondence With Save Furlong Close Campaign

    It has been some time since we’ve covered the disgraceful fiasco at Rowde’s Furlong Close, where residents with learning disabilities face closure of the HFT site, their home, and undefined, separated relocation.

    The reason being, the situation had fallen into a political stalemate, as HFT ceased all dealings with Wiltshire Council. It seems HFT are no strangers to closing sites down, and equally Wiltshire Council’s reaction is lacklustre. I cannot decide who is really to blame in all this, but something certainly doesn’t add up; perhaps they’re both as bad as each other, and the clock is ticking for May 19th when closure is planned. You know me, I’ve been concerned my anger at this issue will lead me to publish speculation, and the last thing I want is put forth misleading information.

    Now, it seems, via a Tweet from The Save Furlong Close campaign group, in a memo released on Easter Sunday, Wiltshire Council Leader, Philip Whitehead advised councillors and future Conservative candidates to block all correspondence with Save Furlong Close Campaigners, in fear it’s being used as “an election matter.”

    This is very concerning, while both sides battle the politics out, the Save Furlong Close campaigners are merely worried for the future prospects for the residents there, and least deserve a voice. So, I’m pleased to be able to publish an article, by Mark Steele, a member of the campaign’s steering group, which outlines the history and current situation.

    I merely offer to endorse their rightful campaign and promote it as much as possible. If then, residents of Furlong Close are indeed moved out, it will be a terrible day for Wiltshire, and a shameful reflection on a county council, but if this happens and I stood there and did nothing, it’s a shame I would partly bear too, and I have no intentions of that happening. I hope our readers and supporters will agree, and I fully believe, with the permissions of the campaign group, we need to arrange a socially distanced peaceful protest, as soon as feasible. So, WHO IS WITH ME? Watch this space, but here’s Mark’s outline of the happenings in Rowde.


    SAVE FURLONG CLOSE

    “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”

    (Mahatma Ghandi)

    Save Furlong Close

    For the last 30 years, Furlong Close has been home to 36 vulnerable adults with learning disabilities, including Down syndrome, autism and epilepsy.  The residents live in 5 bungalows in a cul-de-sac at the edge of the village of Rowde, sharing a community hall, workshops and gardens (including a market garden and pens for sheep and rabbits).  It is a short walk to the centre of Rowde and a short bus ride to Devizes.  Many of the residents have lived at Furlong Close for more than 20 years.  They are happy and settled, have formed life-long friendships and are a close and caring community. 

    In October last year, however, it was announced that Hft (the charity which owns and operates the site) and Wiltshire Council (which funds the majority of the residents) had “jointly” decided that everyone was to be “moved on” by June 2021, the site shut down and the land sold off for development.  The shocked families were told that there would be no consultation or discussion; it was a “done deal”. 

    Already reeling from the emotional impact of the pandemic and cut off from the support of their families, the residents were fearful and anxious.  Their disabilities make change extremely stressful for them and being forcibly evicted from their home of 20+ years would cause them great trauma and distress.  For some, the trauma would be life-shortening.  My cousin, David, who has lived at Furlong Close for 18 years, was left in fear of the future and telephoned his 95-year-old mother, Audrey, many times a day, often in tears, to ask her where he would go and who would look after him.  Sadly, Audrey passed away in March, spending the last months of her life wracked with worry about what would happen to her beloved and vulnerable only child (https://twitter.com/savefurlongcl/status/1374671484187242507).

    So, why is Furlong Close facing closure?  At first, Hft and the Council said it was “not about money”, but was only about doing the best for the residents.  It was said that “moving them on” from their settled and happy homes would be an “exciting opportunity” for them, but no-one could quite explain how breaking up a happy community and scattering them to new and strange places would be either “exciting” or an “opportunity”.   Certainly, it was an “opportunity” which none of the residents or their families wanted.  Subsequently, it became clear that it was in fact “all about money” after all, with Hft accusing the Council of grossly underfunding the site over many years and refusing to pay the full costs of care.

    Faced with this cruel threat to the well-being of our vulnerable relatives, the families organised and the local community rallied to our cause.  People became angry.  43,000 people, from Wiltshire and beyond, signed a petition.  Legal proceedings were commenced by the family of one resident, to seek to have the decision set aside as a breach of her human rights.

    Faced with this local anger, Wiltshire Council promptly threw Hft under the bus.  It claimed that the “joint decision” was nothing to do with it, but solely a matter for Hft.  Hft responded angrily, accusing the Council of “lying” and trying to “hide behind” it, and gave notice that it was withdrawing services, not just from Furlong Close, but from Wiltshire as a whole.  With Hft and the Council each pointing the finger at the other, the situation deteriorated into what has recently been described by a judge in the pending legal proceedings as “a shambolic mess”.

    As the clock ticks down to the termination of Hft’s contract for the site on 19 May, the residents and their families fear that we are being hung out to dry.  Hft has offered the Council the chance to buy or lease the site and bring in another operator, but neither has taken decisive action to make this happen.  Many suspect that the Council is just playing for time, to try and kick the can down the road until after the Council election in May.  Meanwhile innocent and vulnerable people are suffering and the families are calling on Hft and Wiltshire Council to act now to save Furlong Close. 

    Please, if you want to help:

    Thank you


  • Chapter Three: The Adventures of Councillor Yellowhead: The Case of the Pam-Dimensional Pothole

    Chapter Three: in which our intrepid heroes arrive in Davizes, stop for refreshments and move onwards to face the mighty potholes of the A342.

    Recap: As our heroes head out into the big, wide world and have shaken off the seagull obsessed councillor at Matalan, Yellowhead has pointed out the standard procedure for repairing potholes in the county of Miltshire, and it’s fair to say, it’s quite longwinded. Out story continues, for what it’s worth….


    Councillor Yellowhead snarled at the lack of people parking in the Market Place, as he dismounted his lard from the van. Potential revenue was being lost here, Yellowhead made a mental note, tripling the parking fees would be the best solution, and he need add it to his notes for the next meeting.

    From the safety of the driver’s seat, Briggs peered out in wonderment at the goings on in Davizes Market Place, while Chief Councillor Yellowhead ventured outside to fetch some light refreshments. Briggs observed a bus leaving the stop, how pensioners on it seemed to wear their facemasks as chinstraps, and they sneezed on students on the seats in front while brandishing them for not social distancing.

    Other than the odd passer-by, and I mean odd, not much was happening. The only gathering appeared to be centred around a tacky layer of fake grass akin to what fruit and veg market stalls used. A few pub benches were busy with coffee drinkers, chatting happily away and breathing carbon monoxide from the few passing cars with affluent drivers able to afford the parking fees. Others circled the town endlessly looking for a free parking spot on-street. Some only popped in for a loaf of bread, the cost of which would be quadrupled if they had to pay the minimum hour parking fee. Others could not understand how to use a smart phone to pay for the parking, ergo no other option was available.

    Briggs recalled the memo, it was something the Council promised to fix, maybe, he figured with no clue of his impending fate, when he passes his training, and became a real councillor it was something he could raise at a meeting.

    Yellowhead returned laughing hysterically and pointing profusely at a small child who had tripped on the fake grass, which was curled up at the edges. A dog had just urinated on the exact same spot minutes before. He struggled back in the van launching a brown paper bag at Briggs and waving two bottles. “Here you go, partner!” he smiled, “a pheasant and truffle bake, and two bottles of Bollinger!”

    Briggs looked surprised. “Is that your definition of light refreshment?”

    “You’re not wrong, the foie gras and swan bakes were overpriced and my expenses form is already maxed. Just thank the good lord Enoch Powell no snowflake Corbyn legionnaire recognised me; they’ve still got their knickers in a twist over the traffic lights system on the London Road in this pathetic market town.”

    “It just needs a filter light for the traffic heading right,” Briggs observed.

    Yellowhead snatched the pheasant bake back. “Watch your step young trainee, we’ve not got that kind of cash lying around for filter lights,” he warned. “Now, head out towards the proposed new railway station site, there’s a good fellow. We need to prioritise the potholes closer to my house first.”          

    Briggs shrugged, he wanted to sit and admire the fake grass and white picket fence, which didn’t look at all out of place in a historic and idyllic town centre, not one bit. Yellowhead noted the direction of his gaze. “Ghastly, isn’t it?” he sniggered. “That’s the lively entertainment space those nonces at the town council were forced to put up to keep keyboard warriors from losing their shit over, and still, they lose their shit over it.”

    He belly-laughed, “And they call themselves Guardians! Ha, of all things; Guardian readers more like! Meanwhile we rake in parking fees,” with a huff he scanned the lack of parking in the Market Place, and the traffic building to find on-street free slots, “least that was the plan; bloody freeloaders.”

    “Why they ever accepted your ultimatum, I mean acquisition of duties, sir, is beyond me,” Briggs laughed. “I mean, you just gave them control of all the shit bits Miltshire Council couldn’t be arsed to take responsibly for!”

    Yellowhead popped the champagne and lugged at the bottle top, clearing quarter of the contents before coming up for air. With a burp he noted, “precisely Briggs, have your bake back. Because, young padwan, they’re do-gooding busy-bodies with the political awareness of a hedgehog, in command of an indoctrinated majority willing to blindly conform to Tory totalitarianism. Putty in our hands, Briggs, putty I say.”

    “They crave more power; we say they can have control of the swings in the playpark but you must raise two thousand K in parking fees annually; it’s a win-win, really is!” He took another gulp of Bollinger, “the land out in Rude, by example, Furry-long Close, worth a fucking a mint, but houses adults with so-called learning disabilities. Adults, for crying out loud into Nigel Farage’s blessed lap, if they’ve not adjusted to real life yet the losers never will. So, we close the facility, blame the charity, and send them out into the real world; it’s easy to convince the majority here it’s in their best interest.”

    Yellowhead projected his arm across the windscreen, encouraging Briggs to look at the view beyond.  “Look around you, Briggs, look at these imbeciles; the Furry-long Close residents will blend in just fine, and the land is ours for seven thousand luxury homes, and four affordable one bed flats. I’m on for a new stable if we pull this off, the old couple are looking a bit dated. You’re welcome to come visit once the pandemic is over, I’ll have some guttering jobs for you.”

    Briggs just shrugged, and drove on.

    Past the school, Yellowhead continued his rant. “Houses, houses, houses, Briggs my dear fellow, take heed, rich people need houses too. Look at the size of that sports field, and for what, I ask you? Most kids are obese anyway, what do they need a sports field for, dropping empty packets of Wotzits on? They can’t even vote! No, lower the school budget, I say, and the council are mostly unanimous, make them pay for their repairs by selling off that land. The Constabulary headquarters too. Protected wildlife they cry. Why? Tress and fields and country walks, so dog-walkers can hang doggie poo bags on trees?”

    Briggs just shrugged, and drove on.      

    “Look around you now,” Yellowhead demanded, “and tell me what you see?”

    “Farmland?” Briggs answered, though wondered why he bothered.

    “Are you drinking that plonk?” Yellowhead asked, snatching it from the driver and launching his empty bottle out of the window. “I see potential! A railway station, so our lustrous MP Danny Cougar can get to Westminster, a business park, alive with industry, a tunnel under every monument so tourists don’t get a sneak peek of it without paying, a velodrome, Briggs, think about it my boy, a velodrome, a monorail, glass tubes vacuuming people to work, a space shuttle launchpad, the possibilities are endless.”

    “Affordable homes too, sir? Homeless shelter?”

    “Don’t be a dreamer, Briggs,” Yellowhead snarled, “we don’t have a bottomless pit of funding.”

    As ordered Briggs pulled the van over. The potholes here resembled an asteroid impact zone. “This will save us some pennies,” Yellowhead observed, “something to do other than blasted Zoom meetings. Cut out the middleman, Highways Agency are a hinderance on our budget,” he stated as he gulped Briggs’ Bollinger. “If a job’s worth doing…. Now, get out and spray a yellow circle around that one!”

    Briggs got out to paint the circle, despite not be trained. Yellowhead followed suit, to fart. Briggs opened the van’s rear doors and climbed inside to fetch the spray paint canisters. Upon his return he looked rather flushed, but Yellowhead failed to notice it. A gull, of all things, had descended upon him and was frantically fluttering around his head. He shoed it off with his arm, when a random and unsolicited thought occurred to him: find love for your fellow man, and take heed of all god’s creatures, for they may hold a message for you.

    Yellowhead questioned his own thoughts as he scared the gull away, mumbled something about leftie snowflakes invading his psyche via telepathy being the final straw, and yelped, “Nora! Where are you when we need you the most?!”

    “It’s quite a deep one,” Briggs observed the pothole, despite it was filled with water, so hard to tell exactly how deep. “Maybe pop a cone in it?”

    “Yes, yes, whatever!” belched Yellowhead, the kerfuffle and also, the fresh air taking effect on his drunkenness.

    Briggs dropped the cone in the centre of the pothole. It floated for a matter of seconds and then sank out of sight into the muddy puddle. “Oh, it is deep,” he noted.

    “Get that cone out of there!” Yellowhead demanded as he retched up pheasant chunks. “We’ve not the cash lying around to lose a cone.”

    Briggs hesitated, then attempted to straddle the puddle, but it was too large. His right foot went partly in, and so he naturally extended his left foot outwards into the centre. Next thing Yellowhead noted was Briggs completely disappearing under the water. “For the love of Thatcher!” he moaned to himself, and pulled his phone from his pocket. “Yes, it’s me,” he reported, “yes, I will fill out the minutes to the last meeting as soon as I get back. Sorry? Yes, on a mission, yes. Look, this is an emergency, I need a new junior councillor sent out, one with some water wings.”

    There was a cold silence as Yellowhead listened aghast to his superior. He tutted at Briggs’ stupidity, but supposed he asked for it, his naivety cost him his life out here. It was untamed territory, life was hard. He wasn’t completely inhumane, and he mourned the boy’s death for the best part of ten seconds. “What do you mean, the one I’ve got? He’s an idiot, sir, with all due…….”

    Another cold silence as Yellowhead listened, even more aghast. He gulped, “erm, drowned sir, in a pothole……Have I what, sir? Well, no, I erm…. Now see here, you cannot seriously be propo…. Yes…… Yes, I know that, but……paperwork, sir, liable?…… Okay, okay, I will see what I can do!”

    With that Yellowhead sighed like he’s never sighed before, not even when Tony Blair outlawed fox hunting. He waddled reluctantly to the van, cursing under his breath that lefty altruists had infiltrated the top hierarchy of Miltshire Council and plagued it with a sickening level of compassion. Once there he thrust open the van door, examined the contents of the footwell, considered the quarter-full bottle of Bollinger, exhaled, and selected Nora’s machine-gun.

    Waddling over as close to edge the pothole as he could bear, still complaining, he pushed the barrel of the gun into the puddle. “Briggs!” he bellowed, “Grab hold of this!” That was when the gun accidently went off. It had a kick harder than Yellowhead’s hunting rifle, and stunned, it knocked him backwards.

    Unaware, perhaps due to his levels of intoxication, that a spray-can obstructed his path, and rolled under his left foot, Yellowhead then fell forwards with a cry out to Churchill to save him, and with a splash he entered headlong into the water.

    Tumbling and frantic he gurgled under the water, scrambling to find the edge, but failing. All he discovered was a sunken traffic cone, which promptly bobbed away. The surface seemed unattainable as he gasped for air and the scene fell into a ghostly dark black.


    How will our heroes survive the devastating predicament of sinking into a gigantic pothole on the A342, if they have, and would you really want them to, anyway? How much more would it have really cost to put some decking in the Market Place, rather than tacky fake grass? How can you have any faith the council will build these extravagant projects, like spaceship launchpads and train stations, when it cannot even fix a pothole? Find out, or not, next week, on The Adventures of Councillor Yellowhead: The Case of the Pam-Dimensional Pothole!


  • Horses of the Gods; We Wish You Health

    I once reviewed a cassette with a photocopied punk-paste zine style picture of Mr Blobby as the cover, where a distraught male voice screeched, “take an overdose, ginseng!” continuously over some white noise. Thank heavens that’s in a long-lost past!

    Fortunately, I’ve never had anything quite so bizarre to review since, not even this week when, Erin Bardwell messaged; “one of the drummers I do things with, Matty Bane, has a side duo project and wanted to let you know about their latest album.”

    Sure, I’ve heard of Matty, seen him listed as one of Erin’s collective, trekking with them to Jamaica in 2003 to record with Recoldo Fleming at Dynamic Sounds. Further research shows he’s drummed in Bad Manners for over ten years, and is now part of Neville Staple’s From the Specials setup, headhunted from days as part of the Special Beat tour with the original rude boy.

    Given this, I was naturally expecting said side-project to be reggae, stands to reason. What might’ve eased the surprise was to have pre-known of Matty’s own band The Transpersonals, a minimalistic, psych-rock outfit lounging somewhere between Pink Floyd and Spaceman 3. Still, nothing was going to prep me for what I got; We Wish you Health by Horses of the Gods.

    There’s only one reason for facetiously mentioning the eccentric Mr Blobby cassette, because this is unusual too. The likeness ends there, though. “Bizarre” can connote excruciating, as with the cassette, but, as with We Wish you Health, can also imply uniquely stimulating and inimitably disparate. So much so, it’s astonishingly good. For those seeking the peculiar, those at their happiest dancing barefoot in Avebury’s morning dew, or for whom reaching the summit of Glastonbury Tor before sunrise is priority, will adore this, with jester’s bells on.

    Matty teams up Mike Ballard, a media and games lecturer with a penchant for folk. And essentially this is what we ought to pigeonhole Horses of the Gods as; Somerset folk, is as near in modern terminology you’re going to get. But for comparisons I’m going to have to max my flux capacitor way beyond my usual backtracking.

    If I relish in music history without the technical knowledge, I understand one has to either accept four-time pop, or untrain their ear to acknowledge other musical metres, in order to appreciate folk, classical, even jazz, but particularly the kind of sounds We Wish you Health is embracing. There’s something medieval, least pagan mysticism about the influences here, of shawms and hand-cranked hurdy-gurdies, miracle plays, and Gallican chants of plainsong. And it’s swathed with chants and poetry as if in variant West Country Brittonic tongue.

    We have to trek beyond futurist Francesco Balilla Pratella’s Art of Noises theory, to an olden ambience of nature, of birdsong, storms and waterfalls. The opening track starts as a spoken-word toast and ends akin to medieval court jester entertainment, over a haunting chant. Equally passe but equally amicable is a sea shanty called Down in the Bay. Then a clocktower chime follows; left wondering if this was Dark Side of the Moon recorded in 1648. Sow In uses mellowed hurdy-gurdy to mimic what the untrained ear might deem an Eastern ambience. With a solstice theme, it’s so earthy it makes the Afro-Celt Sound System sound like Ace of Base! (Joke; I love the Afro-Celt Sound System!)

    In many ways the next tune Ostara follows suit, more eastern promise yet slightly more upbeat. Consider George Harrison’s collaborations with Ravi Shanker. As the album continues, experimentation with traditional abound, obscure instruments are thrown into the melting pot; the Victorian circus sound of The Thing and I, the rural west country ditty of Digger’s Songs, in which you can almost smell spilt scrumpy as folk rise from haystacks to jig.

    Throughout you’re chopping randomly at influences, this medieval court running theme, blended with an oompah band styled sound on The Whole World Goes Around, will make you want bells on your shins like a drunken Morris dancer at the village fete. Else you’re haunted by the chill of evocative soundscapes, unable to pinpoint an era this falls into. I’ll tell you now, it was aptly released at Samhain last year.

    We Wish you Health may be bespoke, and some wouldn’t give themselves adjustment time, yet Sgt Pepper and Pet Sounds were famed for pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable in contemporary pop. This is a fissure to the norm, a testimony of yore, for while there’s a demonstration of newfound passion within ancient realms, it is fundamentally timeless. Though I suspect there’s myth and history behind each track, which extends the album from a set of songs to a research project for the listener.

    The finale, for example, has a reference in Wikipedia; John Barleycorn, a personification of the importance of sowing barley and of the alcoholic beverages made from it, beer and whisky. Though in the House of Gods, cider gets a mention. John Barleycorn is represented as suffering indignities, attacks and death that correspond to the various stages of barley cultivation. It goes onto reprint a Robert Burns version from 1782, though stating countless variations exist; Matty and Mike use an earlier version:

    There was three men come out o’ the west their fortunes for to try, And these three men made a solemn vow, John Barleycorn must die, They ploughed, they sowed, they harrowed him in, throwed clods upon his head, Til these three men were satisfied John Barleycorn was dead.

    I’ve rushed out this review to make you aware of it, and because I’m so utterly astounded by its uniqueness, but fear I’m only teetering on the edge of its fascinating historical references myself. Thus, is the general nature of folk music, to dig out lost fables which once would’ve entertained young and old, and bring them to new audiences, and The Horses of the Gods does this in such a way, the negative confines and stereotypes commonly associated with folk music just melt away.

    Link Tree to album


  • McDonalds Coming to Devizes….

    Yes, you read it right, it’s been confirmed in a Devizes Town Council Zoom meeting this week, permission has been granted after decades of rejections, to build a McDonalds restaurant on the outskirts of town, and work could be starting as early as July.

    In an exclusive conversation with MP for the Devizes district, Danny Kruger said he is delighted at the news. “With the Devizes Gateway station proposal looking likely,” Mr Kruger explained, “this will be of great benefit to the town’s economy, will provide jobs for local chavs, thickos and acne-covered juvenile delinquents, and will also fill in all the potholes along the main road with discarded slices of pickles.”

    “Face it,” he continued as if someone cared, “no one is going to stop off to visit Devizes if they look out of the train window and see the Lydeway as it currently stands; all muddy fields and an elderly trailer trash park. No, people need to see the golden arches, they need to know they can get a Big Mac, or a Fillet o’ Fish. Heck, when I get back from Westminster, all I crave is a nice Twirl McFlurry, but no, not here, pal; whad up wid dat shit?” 

    Danny K is Lovin’ It; you will too!

    Despite the train station project not being complete until a predicted 2025, local franchiser and entrepreneur, Mr Michael Hunt of The Bottom, Urchfont has pushed for development of the land surrounding the site into a multi-purpose entertainment complex, with many other facilities, including chain restaurants Wagamama and Nandos, as well as a multiplex cinema, and an American style bowling arena, with a regular free bus service from the town centre and surrounding villages. But, for Mr Hunt, construction of the McDonalds is paramount and prioritised. “I’ve given the Town Council an ultimatum,” he claimed, “build a Maccy D’s now, or businesses will shift out of the area long before the first train stops here.”

    Asked if Mr Hunt is laying down a rather rigid and uncompromising petition to the Council, who have rejected many past proposals of having the fast-food giants in town, Mr Kruger replied, “No way, Mike Hunt is a softy. Anyone can enter [the debate] and slip their piece into it.”

    Therefore, local busy-body Liam Wallis, no stranger to a burger or three himself, has set up a steering group on Facebook, The Devizes McIssue, here, where tory partisans can air their views, but has warned members of the group he won’t stand for personal attacks on the businessman, who is known for making outlandish claims. “I love his proposal of having a McDonalds,” he cried, “but many locals see my Mike Hunt and laugh. I will not have Mike Hunt compromised, if people come to stick two fingers up,” he demanded, “they will be banned from the group.”

    Clerk for the Town Council has spoken negatively about the idea, but feels they have no choice. “We don’t think it’s time to change our traditionist ethos and move with the times. But Mike Hunt is big, and hairy, and everyone on the council is afraid. He’s not just some tittering schoolboy blogger’s running joke wearing very thin, and one which, I might add, will undoubtedly get him in a lot of trouble. He is a risk to everything we stand for, and Chick-o-Land. I went to a McDonalds once, when I was about twenty- eight, or was that The Michelin star Hand & Flowers in Marlow? Oh, whatever, they gave me this cheap plastic toy with my meal, and it broke within five minutes of playing with it and I cried all the way home, and my mum told me off. Is that the kind of fiasco we need for our children?”

    You can join the Facebook debate group, and give your views, by clicking here. Perhaps you think a McDonalds is well peng and you is lovin’ it, or is as unlikely as a train station, or maybe symbolic of an undesirable insignia of mass US commercialisation, an institute of Satan, or maybe you just prefer the gravy in KFC.

    Or perhaps, you’re bitter because I led you up a garden path and everything I’ve said, if you’ve bothered to read this far, is simply an April Fool’s joke, and now, right, you’ve got a craving for a thick shake. Well, friend, you’ve gotta, like, get out of your onesie to drive to the Sham, else chance an underpaid Deliveroo driver will enter our Tory haven with gun-toting rednecks waiting to pick them off in the hills of Bromham.

    Oh, and if you get to the Sham, be sure to adhere to the local tradition of jettisoning your mountain of waste packaging out of the passenger window onto the leafy lane of a quiet, unsuspecting village at three in the morning, you know, so your mum doesn’t see it and tell you off. Yeah, I like your cut G, you is Chuck Norris gangsta. Big up Danny K for gittin’ us a golden arches!


  • Cult Figures; Deritend, Yes Mate!

    It’s not just me, is it? Eighteen seconds into the Cult’s She Sells Sanctuary, you know, when it breaks, and you’re like, that’s it, right there. It matters not what youth culture you were into, at the time, or even now, it doesn’t give a hoot about your favoured genres, haircut, colour of anorak, age, gender or race, it just does it, and you, you’re like, as I said, that’s it, right there.

    Something similar happens with this Cult Figures album Deritend, out last week; heck, if they haven’t even got a comparable name. Perhaps not so nostalgia-filled, as these are all originals, though the sound harks back to an era or yore, when cookies were in a biscuit barrel rather than your web browser, Tories were governed a demoness made from iron rather than a clown made of teddy bear stuffing, and a wet wipe was when your mum spat into a handkerchief and wiped it over your Space-Dust covered chops.

    Mind, as happens when I’m sent files not numbered, it lists them alphabetically rather than in the running order, so the opening track is actually the penultimate Camping in the Rain, but it makes the perfect intro into the world of these London-based masters of retrospection. From its off, it’s, well, off, leaving me to reminisce about those classic post-punk new wave bands of the eighties. At times though, as it’s a mesh of this and reflective of the scooterist mod culture of same period, I’m thinking of the likes of the Jam and Merton Parkas too. Contemplate the musical differences are subtle, though worlds apart at the time, and this sits comfortably somewhere in-between.

    To add to their perfection of authenticity, one must note this is the second album from Cult Figures, and is comprised of tracks written in their earlier incarnation between 1977 and 1980, just recorded more recently.

    The real opening tune, Chicken Bones, has the same impact, something beguiling and anthemic, setting the way it’s going to go down. Donut Life, which follows, sounds like carefree pop, the Chords, for a comparison. In fact, as it progresses the guitar riffs of next tune, Lights Out, is sounding more pre-gothic, Joy Division, yet with a catchy whistle more akin to The Piranhas. Things get really poignant with Exile, almost dub Visage meets the Clash, and Omen extenuates the seriousness of a running theme.  

    “Deritend draws a line under the past,” they explain, “all eleven tracks composed and recorded since our 2016 comeback, simultaneously reflecting a maturity gained in 40 years of life experience, whilst still embracing the accessible three Ps of the early days; punk, pop and psychedelia.” The album’s title owes to a historic industrial area outside Birmingham’s centre, “a few miles from where Gary and I grew up.”

    The mysterious iconic name was a bus route terminus and has a strong emotional connection to the band, “evoking the nervous excitement of those long rides into town on our way to Barbarellas. But it conveys so much more: Deritend is an album that reflects on the past, speculates on the future, but for the most part is fairly and squarely a comment on the lives we are living now.” They convey this well, for through its retrospection, subject matter, growing up with the dilapidation of a working-class industrial chip, could equally apply to then, or now.

    A timeless piece of art within a captivating musical style which embraces the traditions of generation X, just curled up at an edge like an old poster on the congregated iron fence of a closed factory. I mean Silver Blades and White Noise crave you dive back into punk; there’s a definite Clash feel to the latter. As girl’s names for titles generally do, Julie-Anne is archetypical upbeat but themed of desire, and the sound of it is particularly challenging to pin down, there’s Weller there, but a drum roll you’d expect Annabella Lwin to surface from (of Bow Wow Wow if you need to, Google it, youngster!)

    Most bizarre and experimental is the brilliantly executed talky sound of Concrete and Glass. Cast your mind back to 86, if poss, remember Jim’s tune, yeah? Driving Away From Home by It’s Immaterial, and you’re not far from the mark.

    The aforementioned Camping in the Rain which could’ve been the opening track, is next, and it’s the epithet of all we’ve mentioned. This combination is not juxtaposed cumbersomely like a tribute act, rather the genuine article lost in time, and it, well, in a nutshell, absolutely rocks. The finale, Privilege is plentiful to summarise; Clash-styled punk rock, themed on the expectations of irritated propertyless youth, akin to Jimmy Cliff’s You Can Get It If You Really Want.

    But, unless all you want is a zig-a-zig-ah and to spice up your life with commercialised bubble-gum pop, nothing here is oven-ready for criticism, just relish yourself in a bygone era, and rock.


    The Lost Trades Live Stream their new album on Friday; tickets here
  • Song of the Day 33: Andy J Williams

    Having a great album reviewed fairly recently on Devizine doesn’t exclude you from being in the spotlight of our Song of the Day posts. And if it ever does, call me out on it. Just ask me who hell I think I am, Vlad the Impaler, or something similar.

    Check the review of Buy All That $tuff by Andy, here, or just enjoy today’s video, Night Terrors, exposing where the band practice, under the beds of children, obviously! Which kinda makes we wish I was a kid again, as there were no bands practicing under beds back then. Just once I’d like to have discovered, I dunno, the Bangles perhaps, practicing under my bed!

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cOjGTwr1XBk&feature=youtu.be

    And that’s my song of the day!! Very good, carry on….


Very Terry Edwards

The word “very,” rarely an adjective, as in “it happened in this very house,” or “this is very Terry Edwards,” but commonly worthlessly used as an adverb, as in “it’s very cold today,” or “this is the very best of Terry Edwards.” While the album simplifies it to the ambiguous “Very Terry Edwards,” it’s BandCamp page suggests, “The Very Best of Very Terry Edwards,” which though it’s exactly what it is, it’s also one adverb enough for the most lenient of proof-reader’s red line. Yet, if the usage of very is erm, very worthless, it is the only thing on this album which is.

The multi-instrumentalist, best known for trumpet, flugelhorn, saxophone, guitar and keys, marked his sixtieth birthday last September releasing this three-CD best-of box set, and while I should’ve mentioned it last month, between putting batteries in toys and stuffing myself with pigs in blankets things got tardy. Right now, though, I can think of no better outstanding project to kick off our music reviews for 2021. Reason only partly because it ticks all my personal favourite genre boxes, more so because of the range of said genres is far greater than run-of-the-mill best of compilations.

We need to assess Terry’s biography to understand the reason for this variety. Funky punk and second-gen ska most obvious, as from 1980 he was a founding member of Two-Tone signed band The Higsons, after graduating with a degree in music. But around that time Terry also produced and played on the Yeah Jazz’s debut album, of whom, despite the name, were particularly folk-rock.

Terry in 1984

From here the vastness of Terry’s repertoire blossoms, as session musician for a huge range of acts, from Madness to Nick Cave, PJ Harvey and The Jesus and Mary Chain to, particularly notable, The Blockheads. As well as his solo material, with his band The Scapegoats and a stint with dark punk-blues outfit Gallon Drunk, it’s understandable collating this in one reminiscent anthology is a mammoth task and a melting pot. Which is just what you’re getting for your money, a very, as the grammatical disorderly title suggests, worthy melting pot.

“When the earliest recording here was made the 18-year-old me couldn’t comprehend being 60,” Terry explained, “yet here I am presenting a triple album containing 60 titles recorded between 1979 and 2020, through thick and thin.” Therefore, it must be more tongue-in-cheek than I’d suspect Roger Daltrey’s notion now of My Generation’s lyrics that for the opening track he opted for The Higsons’ “We Will Never Grow Old.”

“You’d expect an overview of my career to have some odd bedfellows and more than its share of quirks and foibles,” he continued, “but it’s been compiled to flow musically rather than have a chronological narrative.”

That said, the first four tunes from his original band follow, with all their fervent rawness. Terry covered his tracks though, “I immediately break my own rules by starting with The Higsons’ earliest release and debut single, but redeem myself by following up with the most recent recordings; two ballads recorded with Paul Cuddeford (Ian Hunter, Holy Holy) in February 2020. There is more method than madness; groups of songs which follow a theme or genre are found together regardless of when they’re from.” Indeed, we’re then treated to three tunes in a matured, mellowing jazz and blues, the latter of which with the vocally perfected Erika Stucky.

Then we’re into rock with The Wolfhounds, and a guitar-twanging Christmas blues song with Robyn Hitchcock, plodding jazz with Knife & Fork, post-punk Big Joan, avant-garde jazz with Spleen and rockabilly styled New York New York. While mostly jazz-related, this first disc graduates through genres with finesse.

Terry is like Georgie Fame with a Mohican, but whatever avenue is explored, you can guarantee quality. The second CD starts with a bang, upbeat mod-jazz with The Scapegoats. There’re more known covers here, sublimely executed Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man, a superb solo rendition of The Cure’s Friday I’m in Love, as if Robert Smith wore a Fred Perry, and a hard-rock electronica version of Johnny Kidd’s Shakin all Over with the haunting vocals of Lisa Ronson. Even find an orchestral film score, and a piano solo of the knees-up capital’s favourite, May It’s Because I’m a Londoner.

Yet if both the quantity and quality on offer here is so vast to make me waffle, it doesn’t waiver for the final disc, rather it’s my favourite. A BBC session outtake of a jazzy Voodoo Chile, with altered title to “Child.” Dunno, can’t be a typo, the dedication to attributing to Hendrix’s masterpiece is no easy feat, lest it be known Terry manages it with awesomeness dexterity, with a saxophone!

If the last CD continues with on a jazz tip for two tunes, we’re transported to ska via John Holt’s Ali Baba by Lee Thompson’s Ska Orchestra and other sundry members of Madness, and Totally Wired by Terry’s “Ska All Stars,” and more ska-jazz with Rhoda Dakar. Post-punk follows, featuring The Nightingales with Vic Goddard, Snuff, Glen Matlock and Gallon Drunk. Perhaps my favourite parts being the shouty cover of The Human Leagues’ “Don’t you Want Me Baby,” by Serious Drinking, and the general dilapidation of seriousness with new wave tunes mirroring the unsubtlety of Ian Dury & The Blockheads.

Here’s a jam-packed box-set brimming with variety which flows suitably and makes a definitive portfolio of a particularly prolific and proficient musician. For many it’ll hold fond memories, for younger, who think Kate Nash created the cockney chat-rap, or jazz wasn’t the same until Jamie Cullum came along, it’s a history lesson they’ll never forget!

This 60th birthday, 60 track-strong celebration spans over four decades. A triple CD clamshell boxset with 24-page booklet, but more importantly they say, “Very Terry Edwards is a birthday present to himself as much as anything else,” giving it the impression you’re on a personal journey, like a child sitting on their grandpa’s lap while he recites memoirs, blinking exciting ones!

Buy from Rough Trade: £15.99 or BandCamp: £15 or £8 digital.


Erin Bardwell Gets Organised

A new album released yesterday from Swindon’s premier reggae keyboardist and producer Erin Bardwell made me contemplate a section of Henri Charrière’s book Papillon. The autobiographical account of a fellow no prison or penal colony can seem to keep incarcerated. There’s a point where Papillon deliberately causes a disturbance in order to be put in … Continue reading “Erin Bardwell Gets Organised”

Rocking Steady For Some Cosmic Shuffling?

Righty, a pop quiz question prior to today’s review, if you’re game? Look at the three people pictured below, which one of them influenced reggae music the most, A, B or C?

Answer: A. Did you guess right? Probably, because you know me well enough to know it was a trick question! C is Jamaican National team footballer, Allan “Skill” Cole, though as a close friend of Bob Marley he became the Wailers tour manager and was credited in co-writing some songs. And B is just Brad Pitt with a Bob Marley makeover for a biopic which has yet to see the light of day!

On the other hand, A is Sister of Mercy, Sister Mary Ignatius Davies, a teacher of Kingston’s vocational residential school, Alpha Cottage School, a school for “wayward boys.” A devotee of blues and jazz, she operated a sound system at the school and tutored many of Jamaica’s most influential musicians. As a musical mentor for graduates she dubbed “the old boys,” would later make up the backbone of The Skatalites, producer Coxsone Dodd’s inhouse band which shaped the very foundation of ska at Studio One.

The Skatalites in 1964

Here is the unrivalled benchmark of Jamaican music, as well as a plethora of instrumental ska classics, just like Booker T & the MGs were the inhouse band of Stax, The Skatalites backed more memorable singles from too many singers to sensibly name here, yes, including Bob Marley.

To suggest a ska band isn’t as good as Studio One’s Skatalites is not an insult, rather a compliment to even be mentioned in the same sentence. It’d be the rock equivalent of saying that guitarist isn’t as good as Jimi Hendrix. For all intents and purposes, Cosmic Shuffling are not a new Skatalites, but to find anyone to come close nowadays, you need not look further than Switzerland; yeah, you read that right.

Ska in Switzerland usually abbreviates Square Kilometre Array, the forefront organisation of fundamental science, with a mahoosive universe-scoping telescope. Yet I’ve discovered some stars of my own, creating some sublime ska music. While Skaladdin are strictly ska-punk, and the amazing Sir Jay & The Skatanauts are majorly jazz-inspired, there is a scene blossoming. Geneva based combo Cosmic Shuffling are ones to watch. With a penchant and dedication to the authentic golden age of Jamaican sounds, Cosmic Shuffling deserve a comparison to Skatalites more than anyone else I could roll off, even to note, they’re Fruits Record’s inhouse band.

After a few scorching singles on Fruits Records, Cosmic Shuffling release an album, Magic Rocket Ship, tomorrow, 13th November. Nine tracks strong, this is mega-ska bliss. Without the usual ethos of speed being the essence, this lends perhaps closer to rock steady, but prevalent horns give it that initial changeover between styles, when ska was slowing, due to curfew in Jamaica and a particularly sweltering summer. Rock Steady may’ve been short-lived but was reggae’s blueprint, ska’s successor and arguably the most creative period of Jamaican recorded music history.

If you’ve even a slight fondness for traditional ska and reggae, I cannot recommend this enough. At one point I felt the English lyrics slightly quirky, with wonky connotations perhaps lost in translation, albeit with a tune stimulated from a Dr Seuss character, namely The Cat in the Hat, I guess seriousness is not on the agenda. Neither are vocals wholly on show here, but the “tightness” of the band, making the composition of every tune simply divine. I can’t fault it, only jump and twist to it like it was going out of fashion! Which, by the way, in my world, it never will.

Magic Rocket Ship is both a tribute to Jamaican music and a breakthrough into the innovative world of the sextet. Recorded in the aesthetics of sixties sound; ribbon microphones, magnetic tapes and analogue saturation, by extraordinary Spanish producer Roberto Sánchez, it’s a delight to listen to. From it’s opening vocal title track, which doubles up as an explanation to the band name, to the fantastic instrumental up-tempo finale Eastern Ska, every tune is a banger.

Perhaps with Anne Bonny as the most subject worthy, Short Break the most romantically inducing, and Night In Palermo being the most sublimely jazzy, it’s clear with Magic Rocket Ship vocalist Leo Mohr, with Loïc Moret on drums, backing vocals and percussion, Mathias Liengme on piano, organ, backing vocals, percussion, Basile Rickli on alto saxophone, backing vocals, Anthony Dietrich Buclin on trombone, backing vocals and bassist Primo Viviani. With guest guitarists Roberto Sánchez, Josu Santamaria and Tom Brunt, Gregor Vidic on tenor saxophone, William Jacquemet on trombone and trumpeters Thomas Florin, and Ludovic Lagana, Cosmic Shuffling have set a new benchmark, mimicking those legendary Skatalites, without the help of a nun. At least, I don’t believe there was a nun involved!


Tune into my show on http://www.bootboyradio.co.uk every Friday night, 10pm GMT till midnight

Bionic Rats, Alive in Dublin

A superb new live album from Dublin’s finest ska-reggae outfit, The Bionic Rats….

There’s some wonky logic in the character Jimmy Rabbitte’s bemusing outburst in The Commitments film, “The Irish are the blacks of Europe. And Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland. And the Northside Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin. So, say it once and say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud!” Persecuted before the slave trade, there are some intelligible contrasts between the oppressed races.

Still, the thought of Dublin conjures rock legends to outsiders of every decade, be it from Thin Lizzy to Skid Row and U2 to The Script. Diverse as any city though, if you thought the idea of music of black origin was the stuff of films, think again.

Far from a retrospective regression going through the motions of a bygone Two-Tone era, The Bionic Rats are an exciting, energetic reggae and ska six-piece from Dublin with a building collection of original and stimulating material. Even their band name, I suspect, is taken from a Black Ark tune, Lee Scratch Perry’s renowned studio. Yesterday they released a dynamic album doing their thing where they do it best, on stage, in their home city.

In a conclusively roots reggae inspired track, Red Gold and Green, frontman, Del Bionic lays down a chorus not so far fled from the Commitments quote, “reggae is talking about the things I bear witness to, on and off the Liffey quays. I’m not Jamaican, Dublin born and bred, I don’t wanna be a natty dread,” Though a bulk of the material here is upbeat ska, if it relates to a modern ska era, it borrows extensively from Two-Tone, particularly for it’s no bullshit attitude and social commentary. A component definingly reggae, or correlated to any plight of poverty and societal righteousness in general. It rings out the enduring message, reggae is universal.

Reggae often takes on board regional folk roots, be it influenced by, or using traditional instruments of that area, the recent surge in Balkan ska for example. Yet, the only local element the Bionic Rats take is said Irish bitter repartee and attitude within their subject matter.

Their sound is beguiling and directed towards the very origins of Jamaican pop music, and skanks to any highest region! The very reason why they’re a force to be reckoned with, internationally, having shared the stage with their mentors, Madness, Bad Manners, Horace Andy, Israel Vibration, Johnny Clarke and their aforementioned namesake, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, also opening for Damien Dempsey and Imelda May. A hit with the crowds at the One Love Festival in Sussex, London International Ska Festival, they’ve made the frontpage of eminent Do The Dog Skazine, Doc Marten’s used their song Dear John for an online campaign and they continue to skank the crowd at Dublin’s longest running reggae night ‘The Sunday Skank’ in the Temple Bar.

Ironically the 2009 debut album was titled Return of The Bionic Rats, and since three more albums have followed. The good news is, wonderful as their studio albums are, we can all now pretend we’re in the crowd of a Sunday Skank with this beauty of a recorded live show, and boy, do they give it some.

The premise is simple, as it is with ska. Lyrics often minor compared to offbeats and horns. Subject matter slight; between girls, lust, dancing, record buying and being rude, the Rats offer sentiments on prejudges, tyranny and oppression, but seldom will romance be on the cards. You may not be enchanted by The Bionic Rats, who describe this release as “perfectly capturing The Bionic Rats in all their sloppy greatness,” but your waistline will get a darn good workout.

While we’re tempted by the simplicity of the upbeat ska sound in danceable tracks like Annie Oakes, the sweary Bad Garda and the particularly well grafted tale of obsessive record buying, Hooked on 45s, there’s roots, like aforementioned Red, Gold & Green, and rock steady numbers such as prejudice themed Dear John. There’s no end of expected banter and comical themes, such as the English Beat sounding Girl with Big Hands. Then there’s that contemporary third-gen fashioned ska-reggae but wrapped in a no-bars-held cussing, of which titles speak for themselves; Twisted Little Bitter Little Fuckers, for example.

Such is the expected acrimonious nature of an Irish ska band; lap it up, it’s refined rudeness. Done too, with experience, The Bionic Rats rose from the ashes of Dublin-based reggae band, King Sativa, who were active on the scene from 1998 until their breakup in 2005. Their guitarist Graham Birney, and drummer Anthony Kenny moved over to the Bionic Rats. Like them, or not, I’m convinced they probably don’t give a toss, but going on this superb live album, you certainly can’t ignore them.

Alive in Dublin, out now, here.

Singer, Del Bionic also does a live streaming set every Sunday from Facebook at 9pm (GMT) well worth tuning in to: https://www.facebook.com/thebionicratspage/live/


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Island Bop with Shuffle & Bang

San Diego, California, 2018, King Pops Horn and son, Korey Kingston began on a musical partnership, merging Korey’s deep vested love for dub and reggae with his father’s tenure as a decorated traditional jazz singer.

Gathering a gang of musicians with resumes including savvy veterans from The Aggrolites, Rhythm Doctors, Suedehead, Brian Setzer Orchestra, The Original Wailers, Stevie Wonder and a pianist who plays organ for the San Diego Padres baseball team, they formed Shuffle & Bang.

Over multiple recording sessions taking two years, this unique musical journey culminated in an accomplished album, Island Bop. Pirates Press Records, partnered with the band’s own Jetsetter Records are ready to deliver this gem to the world on 6th November; everything about it suggests it’s right up my street and banging loudly on my door.

And it is, and it is loud. Dressed as a classic Blue Note jazz album, with indistinct band-in-action photo and simple capitalised font running down the left side, it comes exceptionally close to capturing the elegance of an era of definitive jazz and soul. Yet it drifts wildly between genres, a surprise to know what’s coming next in many ways, but often, perhaps, constituting a Jack-of-all-trades.

I mean this in the nicest way possible, to hit the benchmarks of such legendary epochs, to come close to all the variety of influences represented here in one shebang, from Blue Note to Stax and Studio One, is quite near impossible. You got to hand it to them for trying. For all it is worth, it is accomplished, highly polished and grand. It’s exceedingly entertaining and highly danceable, to boot! Just don’t let the cover art allow to run off with the idea you’ve stumbled upon a new Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going on.

At all times, no matter what subgenre it’s mimicking, it’s brash but not slapdash, flamboyant and proud. There’s minimal subtly of soul, delicately tight riffs of ska, and to cast it overall is to say it is akin to big band, as it’s in your face and won’t let you escape, even if you wanted to, which, you probably wouldn’t. Big Band does jump blues, ska, soul, and even by the end, dub reggae.

Yep, you heard it right; it ticks all the boxes. The opening song is a deep acapella with a booming Teddy Pendergrass fashioned soul voice, whereas the second sets the running theme as this big band panache. Taking the jazz end of a classic ska sound, the third tune dragged me onto the dancefloor, or my kitchen lino to be more precise; yep, I’m reviewing while washing the dishes again!

Switching back to Cab Calloway big band groove for a fifth song, it is perhaps the next which is most interesting to date, Naima maintains a big band style but serves it with a rock steady riff. Quickly as it does it, it shifts again, onto a shuffle rhythm with some killer horns, more Louis Jordan than T-Bone Walker.

Within the thirteen strong songs, the whole album is showy and that makes it rather magnificently inimitable, and because of this running big band ethos incorporating all the various styles, at no time does it jerk into an alternative genre, shudder the goalposts, rather surprisingly, they flow all rather splendidly.

It gets unpremeditated and rides the Ratpack train, with beguiling vocal gorgeousness, When I Take My Sugar to Tea, particularly, or a take of traditional ska like the Skatalites, but the next tune might again return to up-tempo swing. Given our Louis Jordan reference, the only recognisable cover is his Tympany Five’s Let the Good Times Roll, at least you think it is, until the end song.

If you figured this cover might act as a grand finale, prepare, because after a drum and cymbal interlude, the groove suddenly and without warning dubs. Yep, true dat; with a deep rolling bass and reverbs akin to King Tubby, and perhaps melodica to impersonate Augustus Pablo, we are treated to a divine dub of the Gorillaz’s Clint Eastwood. Although they’re calling it Drum Song.

The culmination forces you to hardly recognise the style at the beginning of the album, and to return to it might make you think, no, I want to go listen to some Sly & Robbie now instead. However, Island Bop will rest accustomed in a jazz, blues, soul or reggae record collection, and you will return to its gorgeous portrayals. For all its swapping and merging, yes, Island Bop is hard to pin down, but for eclectic jazz and soul fans, its refreshingly experimental and a damn good groove!


Man on the Bridge: Erin Bardwell teams up with ex-Hotknives Dave Clifton

Local reggae a rarity around these backwaters, but when it does rise you can trust Pop-A-Top Records is a watermark of quality. Since prolific Swindon Skanxter keyboardist, Erin Bardwell’s amazing solo album, Interval, he’s rubbed his unique style into a collaboration with Hotknives co-founder, Dave Clifton on this sublime project called The Man on the Bridge.

A double-A EP was out in April, followed this week by a six-track album A Million Miles. There are chilled echoes of rocksteady and traditional boss reggae blended with slight roots and dressed with a garnish of Bardwell’s inimitable take on the genre. Naturally, there’s a splinter of Two-Tone reggae too, which works on so many levels.

Dave Clifton

The Hotknives are best known for their live albums, but did release one studio album The Way Things Are. Formed in Horsham, back in 1982, they principally play ska. Guitarist Dave Clifton was among the original line-up. He left in 1993, but with a slimmer roster the band still perform today.

Opening tune to A Million Miles, Don’t Blame Me, is immediately likeable rocksteady, and wouldn’t look out of place on a classic Trojan Tighten Up compilation. Looking over the Land plods securely, resonances Erin’s band the Erin Bardwell Collective and is just simply beguiling.

Erin Bardwell

Just Dreaming though dubs, is as at sounds, dreamy, using flute, by another ex-Hotknives, Paul Mumford of Too Many Crooks, it connotes that eastern dub vibe of Augustus Pablo. Yet with Believe we return to chugging boss, with sublime horns, also by Mumford, and Dave’s picking guitar riff. The guest vocal is a refreshing change, provided by Pat Powell of the Melbourne Ska Orchestra. Proof, as I’ve said, ska is an international thing, and the Melbourne Ska Orchestra are pushing boundaries on the other side of the world.

Title track, A Million Miles again deviates, fusing a slight English folk influence, it reflects memories and cites Dave and Ansell Collins and the O’Jays in a theme of a lost romance. Never Say Never raps up the journey you don’t want to end, with a plonking fairground twist; as if Madness worked with UB40. With Erin’s dream team, Drummer Pete O’Driscoll, Pete Fitzsimmons on bass, except Looking Over The Land where long term friend from The Skanxters, Vinny Hill features, we’re in capable hands, and this is a memorable collaboration producing a superb and varied mellow reggae vibe. You need this right now!


The Bighead!

“The Truth is Hard to Find celebrates their unique but retrospective style with a passion for pop-reggae, an uplifting beat, chugging ska riff and beguiling two-tone vocal harmonies….”

Far from what the name suggests, and common generalisation of the genre, I found Northampton’s six-piece reggae/ska band, The Bighead, not in the slightest egotistical and very approachable! Thus, I’ll be spinning their tunes on Ska-ing West Country on Friday, and for the foreseeable future.

That said in this era where a plethora of bands like the Dualers and Death of Guitar Pop have breathed renewed energy and a fresh approach to the UK two-tone scene, which otherwise risked falling into a diehard cult of seniors on Lambrettas who spent their pension on a pair of cherry Doc Martins!

Though nothing with Bighead is as the frenzied ska blended with delinquent-filled punk of yore. They tend to flow maturely, with rocksteady and roots reggae, while attire the fashion akin to the two-tone era. I’ve no issue there, through the furious ska thrashings of The Specials, the downtempo Ghost Town is likely cited foremostly, and on the island of origination, the short rocksteady age between ska and reggae was undoubtedly the most creative musical period in Jamaican history.

Seems while previous decades hugged youth cultures which devoted to a sole variety of Jamaican music, newly formed bands, like Bighead in 2008 by Da Costa, follow a similar ethos as what we discussed when Trevor Evans’ Barbdwire came to Devizes Arts Festival. They select the benefits and choosiest elements of ska, rocksteady and all subgenres of reggae, and fuse them with sublime results.

There’s a plentiful gap to fill, and it’s all trilbies and shades for Bighead. Their May single, The Truth is Hard to Find celebrates their unique but retrospective style with a passion for pop-reggae, an uplifting beat, chugging ska riff and beguiling two-tone vocal harmonies, signifying an optimistic new era for the old genre. In contrast, the other two brilliant tunes Da Costa kindly emailed me, Step Up and Try Me Again, rely on roots reggae and doo-wop rocksteady respectively.

The Bighead are no strangers to the festival and club circuit, have headlined and supported original 2-Tone acts such as the Beat, The Selector, Bad Manners and a 2013 show with Madness. They’ve played over Europe and are regulars on the Berlin Reggae scene.

So, polish your boots, snap on your braces and follow Bighead; not that I should really be flattering a band who are already self-confessed big heads!


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A Modern Reggae Classic: Wonderland of Green

On first hearing Wonderland of Green, I was like, yeah, that’s as sweet as a sugarcane field. But it’s moreish; every listen it approves all elements, everything I love about reggae, and why I love it.

Fruits Records may be based in Switzerland, but their dedication to authentic Jamaican roots reggae is paramount. This latest release featuring the Silvertones is a prime example, a sublimely balanced one-drop riddim with all the hallmarks of reggae’s golden era; the roots sound of the seventies, Black Ark, the legendary studio of Lee “Scratch” Perry, and the Roots Radics rub-a-dub riddims of the early eighties. These traditional styles echo through this 7” EP; the heavy bass, the offbeat guitar riff, and the traditional female backing vocals as passed into mainstream by the Wailers’ I-Threes.

Yet it also pounds contemporary at you too, fresh sounding, with a version, Living In A Wonderland, toasted by Burro Banton, an incredibly gritty-voiced DJ popular in the late eighties and nineties dancehalls of Jamaica. Even the subject matter of Wonderland of Green is timeless, as it suggests, it’s earthy and ecological, a tenet inherent in Rastafarians long before it became trendy.

The band behind the riddim is the 18th Parallel. Produced, composed and arranged by Antonin Chatelain, Léo Marin and Mathias Liengme, and recorded at Geneva’s Bridge Studio by Liengme. There’s an instrumental on the flipside, and an extra killer dub mix by French wizard Westfinga, who retains the retrospective ethos using the traditional dub values set by King Tubby.

Burro Banton

But what makes it so thoroughly beguiling is the vocals by The Silvertones. A legendary vocal harmony trio from the early ska era, originally, Keith Coley, and Gilmore Grant, with Delroy Denton joining early in their career. Delroy’s individual baritone and guitar skills saw him quickly become the frontman. Though he migrated to the States and was replaced by Joel “Kush” Brown.

Though the only remaining member is Keith, who takes lead, that’s just technicalities, as the modern line up rests with Norris Knight and Nathan Skyers on harmonies, both of whom have solo careers in their own right.

Westfinga & The 18th Parallel’s Wonderland of Dub

Recording at Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One, they interestingly triumphed in Jamaica with their debut single, a ska re-creation of Brook Benton’s “True Confession,” a track producer Duke Reid would also have the early Wailers record, but the Silvertones is indisputably more poignant. They also recorded under guises The Gold Tones, The Admirals, but most popularly as The Valentines, prevalent with the skinhead’s ska revival era was a tune called “Blam Blam Fever,” denouncing the rude boy’s gun culture.

The Silvertones

Through the late sixties they enjoyed success recording for Reid’s Treasure Isle label and Clancy Eccles, as vocal harmonies became more significant during the rock steady era. Yet their dominant period was the early seventies when they stepped into the converted carport which was Black Ark.

The eccentric amplifier genius, Lee “Scratch” Perry is renowned for getting the best out of any artist, he shaped the way we view Bob Marley & The Wailers. With penchant for outlandish, heavyweight psychedelic sound testing, he was the experimentalist who would pave the way for dub pioneers like King Tubby.

Historically then, Wonderland of Green slips right in as if it’s been there all along, but prominent now with its environmental subject matter, it’s gorgeous. I look forward to blasting it on my Boot Boy Radio show this Friday, maybe blending versions together, even if they’re live from the Skinhead Reunion, and who’s punters would favour boss reggae!

Wonderland of Green is newly released this week, as download, or on regular black wax 7” vinyl and on a beautiful limited and numbered picture sleeve edition with opaque dark green vinyl; how apt!

Streaming: http://hyperurl.co/wonderlandofgreen

Vinyl records: https://fruitsrecords.bandcamp.com/album/wonderland-of-green


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The Big Yellow Bus Rocks The Gazebo

Two things former humble truck driver Gerry Watkins is a natural at, plucking an ingenious idea and putting it into action, and putting on a gig to fund it. In 2017 Gerry raised four-grand to buy a double-decker bus, which he converted into a homeless shelter in Cirencester. Since he’s launched a similar plan in Swindon, and continues to raise funds for this amazing homeless project. The Big Yellow Bus project is innovative but simple, and Gerry works tirelessly to keep it running.

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With live music teetering on return, it still maybe a while before some venues are ready to reopen, despite yesterday’s sudden given date of August 1st. The following weekend, 7&8th, sees a grand restart for The Big Yellow Bus, to get funds rolling once again. The Tavern Inn in Kembleplays host to this glorious two-day mini festival, which is free, with collection buckets for the Big Yellow Bus doing the rounds.

Music plans to kick off at 7pm on Friday 7th August with our good friends, Absolute Beginners. I know, like most, Cath, Gouldy and the gang will be itching to get back to live music. While there’s still a few gaps in the line-up to confirm, The Roughcut Rebels will be a welcomed act, introducing their new frontman, the one and only Finley Trusler; an awesome unification we look forward to hearing. Mick O Toole is also on Friday’s header.

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Saturday 8th though is an all-dayer. Paul Cooper (Martin Mucklowe) from the twice BAFTA award-winning BBC tv series, This Country, will be opening up the event at midday. Shaun Peter Smith will be the Compère for the day, as Miss Lucy Luscious Lips, he’s certain to add a little bit of glamour and sparkle. There’s a number of faces I know to this busy line-up, and plenty new to me.

An interesting Opening at midday, Ascenda are a four-piece, playing smooth music with a rock edge and thoughtful, theatrical vocals. Their current collection of songs ‘Celeste,’ forms a love story that explores conflicts; solitude versus companionship, and spirituality versus practicality.

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Acenda (image by Eric Hobson Photography)

Cath, Gouldy and the gang return as The Day Breakers at 1pm, with their irresistible blend of Celtic and mod-rock covers, it’s guaranteed to go off! Swindon’s all-girl rock and pop covers band, Bimbo follow at 2pm. Dirty and filthy punk is promised to followed with The Useless Eaters, a band who accurately recreate the iconic sound of late 70’s British and American punk.

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Six Lives Left

Cirencester’s masters of high-energy classic eighties rock covers, Loaded Dice are on at 4pm, followed by a mesh of Britpop, new wave and ska with SkA’D Hearts at 6pm. Era-spanning soul follows with Joli and The Souls, and rock restarts in style with Six Lives Left. Sticking with six as the magic number, the finale will be from Calne’s fantastic misfits of Britpop and new wave, Six O Clock Circus, who are always up for a party!

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Joili & The Souls

Yeah, it’s all slightly out of our usual jurisdiction, but with a line up like this, all for such a great cause, and with limited events these lockdown days, this is highly recommended and worth the effort. Kemble Railway Station is right opposite The Tavern Inn so it’s easy to find.

Note, putting such an event on so early after lockdown will not be without expected guidelines, everyone must abide by. Gerry urges social distancing and that you respect those around you. “This is all done so you can enjoy yourself and have a great time watching and dancing to great live bands and performers, thank you for all your support and together we can have a great time.” I’m sure they will, Gerry. If anyone is heading off from Devizes, gimmie a lift, pal, because this sounds unmissable!

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From The Specials; Neville Staple Band in Lockdown

Photos by John Coles
Artwork by Sugary Staple

If last year’s fortieth anniversary of Two-Tone Records saw an upsurge of interest in this homegrown second-generation ska, it shows no sign of flawing anytime soon. Perhaps you could attribute parallels to the social and political climate of our era, or debate intransigent devotees are reliving their youth, but I’d argue it’s simply an irresistible sound.

One thing our eighties counterparts didn’t have to contend with was the Covid19 pandemic, and musicians of every genre are reflecting on it. Ska is of no exception, we’ve seen many contemporary performers releasing new material on the subject, but here we have a legend doing his thing, topically.

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The Neville Staple Band releases this timely single, Lockdown. A dynamic modern-sounding reggae track, yet encompassing all the goodness of the Two-Tone era of yore. Understandable, original rude boy Neville Staple is conversant with this, a founder member and co-frontman of The Specials, Fun Boy Three and Special Beat. Those influences shine through here. There’s something very Fun Boy Three about this tune, with a slice of poetically-driven Linton Kwesi Johnson to its feel.

As true as the song suggests, in lockdown Dr Neville Staple has teamed up with wife Sugary Staple, to pump out this relevant single, commonly reflecting on the feeling of many concerning the virus and staying safe. “Sugary came up with the idea to write a song about the lockdown,” Neville explains, “which, at first, was a very fast-stomping ska track. We then realised that it was too fun and happy a tune for the theme. Most of us have been quite down about the whole virus thing, so we decided to take it on a more sweet but moody 2Tone reggae route, in a similar vein to ‘Ghost Town’, with some music we had worked on previously with Sledge [Steve Armstrong.]”

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While I detect echoes of Ghost Town, this tune also breathes originality and present-day freshness, confirming progression of the genre rather than a frequently supposed nostalgia. Being a local site, some may recall his visit to Melksham’s ParkFest last year, where an unfortunately damp evening didn’t stop the revelling, and Neville stole the show with an assortment of Two-Tone classics. I was backstage with the wonderful support band Train to Skaville. A chance meeting with Neville, when he popped out of his tent for pizza, humourlessly failed to engage long enough to explain who I was, and ended with him pointing at his pizza-box and saying “yeah, I’m going off to eat this.” I should’ve known better than to harass a legend when their pizza is chilling in drizzle! I nodded my approval, knowing I’d have done the same thing.

Neville was awarded an honorary doctorate from Arden University last year. With a tour, and so many international shows and festivals postponed, the couple decided to do a lot of extra charity work as well as new song writing. DJ recordings for people sick in hospitals or in isolation, personally dedicated to them, was just the start. Sugary and Neville wanted to highlight the work of Zoe’s Place, a charity run for terminally ill babies and toddlers. As ambassadors for this charity, Sugary expressed, “charities like these really do suffer at a time like this, as the focus is on other things. But the work they do at Zoe’s Place is like one of a kind and so very special. They step in when families really do need the support, providing 24-hour high quality, one-to-one palliative, respite and end-of-life care for children aged 0-5 years. A heart-breaking time for anyone involved. We must not lose a charity like this – it is too important and so we will be supporting this, along with other charities we are patrons or ambassadors to, with this single.” And the duo dedicates this song to all those who have been affected by Covid-19.

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Shared to our Boot Boy Radio DJs, you can expect we will be spinning in for the foreseeable future, but you can get it here:

7″ vinyl order https://bit.ly/2NeeoUA

Spotify https://open.spotify.com/album/1s2wuLNQ3q4wsvq7tOUfVh

iTunes https://music.apple.com/gb/album/lockdown-single/1515072018

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Lockdown/dp/B0894K4G1Q


SPECIAL NOTICE – FROM THE SPECIALS, NEVILLE STAPLE & SUGARY:

A MESSAGE TO YOU..! The Legendary Neville Staple (Dr), Sugary Staple & the Band, need your help please.

Can you wonderful people please donate just £3 towards this project (which will also get you 2 signed exclusives pics), or any random amount, or check out the mega exclusive vinyl 45 & CD gift set offers (these are going really well, and are extremely rare limited edition items, so grab them while you can). You just click this link and choose your reward, to then register your donation.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/fromthespecials/lockdown-ska-2020-from-the-specials-neville-staple-and-sugary/   


If you like a bit of ska and reggae, catch me on www.bootboyradio.co.uk Fridays from 10pm GMT till midnight!

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International Ska! Hugo Lobo teams up with Lynval Golding and Val Douglas

If I penned an all-purpose article a week or so ago, about ska in South America being as prospering now as it once was in England, I follow it up with this grand example….

Argentina’s Dancing Mood trumpeter and producer Hugo Lobo made history this week, releasing “Fire Fire,” a skanking upbeat cover of a Wailers rarity, by calling in international troops. Throughout this prolific career, Hugo endeavours to encourage legendarily collaborations, exalting the international genre and keeping the flame of Ska and Rocksteady alive.

Dancing Mood staggeringly sold over 200,000 albums. Hugo Lobo presented his debut solo album ‘Ska is the Way’ in 2017. This renowned trumpeter not only performed and produced for many of the south American ska and reggae bands I mentioned in my previous piece, but transcends to international acclaim, working with Rico Rodriguez, Janet Kay, The Skatalites, Doreen Shaffer, and Dennis Bovell. With Jerry Dammers, Hugo paid tribute to Rico Rodriguez in 2015 at the London International Ska Festival.

In a transcendental meeting, three generations of ska artists from the corners of the planet combined to recreate this 1968 musical nugget from the Wailers’ homemade label “Wail’n Soul’m,” where Peter Tosh leads. Jamaican-born British rhythm guitarist and vocalist Lynval Golding, of the Specials and who later founded the Fun Boy Three with Terry Hall and Neville Staple, is central to the single, yet he always is central to something ska! Lynval appeared on Glasto’s Pyramid Stage with Terry Hall backing Lily Allen, and the Park Stage where Blur frontman Damon Albarn and beatboxer Shlomo knocked out Dandy Livingstone’s “Message to You Rudy,” a popular cover for the Specials.

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Lynval Golding

With a generation-spanning résumé, Lynval Golding continues with current group, Pama International, undoubtedly the UK’s most celebrated contemporary ska outfit who we were the first new band in thirty years to sign to Trojan Records. Yet through this huge portfolio, Hugo Lobo proudly announces his presentation is Lynval Golding’s first solo material.

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Lynval with Jerry Dammers and Jools Holland

If that’s not enough to whet your appetite, Hugo also called upon the current bassist of The Skatalites, Val Douglas to add to the enthralling sound. Check the bass on Bob Marley’s “Wake Up and Live” if you want a shining example of Val’s talent. Though Val is a multi-instrumentalist, arranger, composer and producer, working with just about any reggae legend you could name; Toots & The Maytals, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Ernest Ranglin, The Abyssinians, Delroy Wilson, Dennis Brown, Ken Boothe, Lloyd Charmers, as well as contemporary ska artists the New York Ska Jazz Ensemble.

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Val Douglas

All this considered, it could go one of two ways, overloaded with ego and fighting for centre stage as would many legends of other genres, or simply a sublime sound. Bear in mind this is SKA, collaborations are more frequent and common than rock and pop, and unlike the often-pugnacious insolence of ska bands, there’s never anything narcissistic about legendary collaborations. Glad to announce it’s the latter of the two ways, this sound leads the way. It holds all the catchiness we expect from ska, it heralds tradition but sounds fresh and innovative; the hallmark of the scene I love.


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South American Ska

Discovering a thriving ska scene in South America is like England in 1979……

Studio 1’s architect, composer and guitarist, Ernest Ranglin proclaimed while the US R&B’s shuffle offbeat being replicated by Jamaicans in their early recording studios went “chink-ka,” their own crafted pop, ska, went “ka-chink.” Theorised this simple flip of shuffle took place during Duke Reid’s Prince Buster recording session mid-1959, added with Buster’s desire to include traditional Jamaican drumming, created the defining ska sound.

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Prince Buster’s block party on Orange Street

Coinciding with the island’s celebration of independence in 1962, the explosion of ska was eminent and two years later the sound found its way out of Jamaica, when Byron Lee & the Dragonaires, Prince Buster, Eric “Monty” Morris, and Jimmy Cliff played the New York World’s Fair. But if Jamaica’s government revelled in the glory of the creation of a homegrown pop, behind the scenes, Kingston’s downtown was using it as signature to a culture of hooliganism, known as The Rude Boys, and thwarted it. Through curfew and a particularly sweltering summer of 67, horns were lessened, tempo was mellowed and reggae’s blueprint, rock steady, had formed.

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World’s Fair, New York 1964

Forward wind fifty-five years and Jamaican ska pioneer, Stranger Cole launched album “More Life,” yet it’s released by Liquidator Music, a label dedicated to the classic Jamaican rhythms, but based in Madrid. Perhaps in similar light to Buster’s innovation, Jamaica doesn’t revel in retrospection and strives to progress; the last place in the world you’re likely to hear ska these days, is in Jamaica itself. Modern dancehall trends can be attributed closer to the folk music of mento.

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But the design was set, and to satisfy the musical taste of Windrush immigrants in England, Bluebeat, and later, Trojan Records set to cheaply import the sounds of home. It was a combination of their offspring taking their records to parties, and the affordable price tag which appealed to the white kids in Britain. Thus, the second wave of ska spawned in the UK. By the late seventies the formation of Two-Tone records in Coventry saw English youths mimicking the sound.

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Similarly, though, this has become today somewhat of a cult. Given the task of producing a radio show last year, for ska-based internet station, Boot Boy Radio, while aware of American dominated “third gen ska,” that there were few contemporary bands here, such as the Dualers, and Madness and The Specials still appeased the diehard fans, I never fathomed the spread of ska worldwide. The fact Liquidator Music is Spanish, it is clear, ska has a profound effect internationally, and in no place more than Latin America. Yet while England’s second wave is largely attributed to the worldwide distribution of ska, and waves the Union Jack patriotically at it, the sound of ska music spread to Jamaica’s neighbours significantly prior.

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Caribbean islands created their own pop music. Barbados had spouge, cited as “Bajan ska,” despite a completely different rhythm section more attributed to calypso. Columbia likewise saw a surge in cumbia during the early sixties, a genre derived from cumbé; “a dance of African origin.”

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In South America though, ska was fused with their own sounds of samba, and particularly upcoming rock ‘n’ roll inspired genres such as “iê-iê-iê,” via Brazilian musical television show, Jovem Guarda. Os Aaalucinantes’ 1964 album Festa Do Bolinha predates England’s embrace of ska, the same year, in fact, as Byron Lee & the Dragonaires, et all playing the New York World’s Fair. At this point in time, through Bluebeat, English youth were only just discovering a love for Jamaican music, and Lee Gopthal wouldn’t found Trojan Records for another four years. This mesh of fusions gave birth to a creative period in Brazil, vocal harmony groups like Renato E Seus Blue Caps, and The Fevers followed suit, blending US bubble-gum pop with jazzy offbeat rhythms. It did not borrow from England’s mods; it followed a similar pattern.

Las Cuatro Monedas a Go Go
Las Cuatro Monedas

Similarly, in Venezuela, Las Cuatro Monedas introduced ska and reggae as early as 1963, with their debut album, “Las Cuatro Monedas a Go Go.” Through maestro arranger and composer, Hugo Blanco they won the 1969 Song Festival in Barcelona, and continued until 1981, when over here The Specials were only just releasing “Ghost Town.” Desorden Público is Venezuela’s most renowned ska band, formed in the eighties. When frontman Horacio Blanco was still at school, he wrote “Paralytic Politicians,” an angry, anti-Hugo Chavez anthem which his fans still yell for. Although Chavez died in 2013, his protégé Nicolas Maduro has descended the country into political and economic crisis; one example where South American ska is equally, if not more, dogmatically defending justice as Two-Tone here in the UK.

Desorden Publico
Desorden Público

Chile trended towards cumbia through tropical orchestra Sonora Palacios in the sixties, therefore ska didn’t fully surface until the third-gen bands of the nineties. Even today though, Latin enthused bands such as Cholomandinga and reggae is favoured through bands like Gondwana. The modern melting pot is universal and extensive though, I’ve got a lovely cover of Ghost Town by Argentine cumbia band Fantasma, who cite themselves as being the first to develop a cumbia rap. And when upcoming, all-female Mexican ska band, Girls Go Ska sent me some tunes to play, a cover of the Jam’s David Watts was one of them.

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Girls Go Ska

All’s fair in love and war; undoubtedly the Two-Tone era of England has had a profound effect on the worldwide contemporary ska scene, so did their revolutionary principles. Peru commonly cites its scene commenced in the mid-eighties, when punk and second-gen underground rock bands emerged in Lima. Edwin Zcuela’s band, Zcuela Crrada differed by having a saxophonist, and adopted a sound which bordered ska. Azincope and Refugio were quick to follow, not to the taste of the rock-based crowd who classed it commercialised pop. Psicosis came about in 88, the band to initiate the term “ska band” in Peru, taking steps to eradicate the preconception. They won a recording contract through a radio contest, the jury expressed concern; the band were radicals within a pseudo-movement with libertarian ideas, and so the band refused to record.

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Zcuela Crrada

With influences from the Basque ska-punk band, Kortatu, Breakfast continued the rebellious nature with ska in Peru, but discarded their discography. It will take us into the nineties to start to find orchestral flairs, when Carnaval Patetico and Barrio Pamara emerged, bringing with them the country’s belated by comparison, second wave. Odd to see how punk gave ska a leg-up in this legacy, but the melting pot is bottomless.

Where some bands, such as Swiss Sir Jay & The Skatanauts, favour pouring jazz into their style, akin to how the Skatalites formed the backbone of Studio 1 through attending Kingston’s Alpha Cottage School, others, such as the States bands like The Dance Hall Crashers prefer to fuse punk influences, Big Reel Fish takes Americana to ska, and one has to agree the tension of teenage anguish felt by eighties skinheads equalled that of latter punk-rock.

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The Dance Hall Crashers

The rulebook is borderless and limitless, to the point there is no longer a rulebook, through an online generation one can teeter on the edge of this rabbit hole, or go diving deeper. If I said previously, Two-Tone is a cult in England, in South America ska is thriving. Some subgenres bear little relevance to the sounds and ethos of original Jamaican ska. Other than the usage of horns to sperate them from punk or rockabilly, off-shoots of skacore and skabilly tangent along their own path. Oi bands prime example, where a largely neo-Nazi tenet cannot possibly relate to an afro-Caribbean origin.

Again, the folk of a nation mergers with the sound, and there can create an interesting blend, such as the Balkan states, where the Antwerp Gipsy Ska Orchestra and Dubioza Kolekiv carve their own influences into ska. Which, in turn, has spurred a folk-ska scene in Bristol and the Southwest, bands like The Carny Villains, Mr Tea & The Minions and Mad Apple Circus, who add swing to the combination, and folk-rock bands such as The Boot Hill Allstars, confident to meld ska into the dynamic festival circuit. South America typifies this too.

Mr Tea & The Minions

Modern murga, a widespread musical theatre performed in Montevideo, Uruguay and Argentina hugs ska through carnival. Argentina’s scene is as widespread and varied as the UK or USA, in fact it was former Boot Boy presenter, Mariano Goldenstein, frontman of The Sombrero Club who led me to the rabbit hole. If the name of this Argentinean band signifies Mexican, one should note, The Sombrero Club was a Jamaican nightclub on the famous ‘Four Roads’ intersection of Molynes and Waltham Park Roads in St. Andrew.

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Byron Lee @ The Sombrero Club

Journalist Mel Cooke recalls in a 2005 article for the Jamaica Gleaner, “although it carried a Mexican name, the senors and senoritas who stepped inside the Sombrero nightclub did it in true Jamaican style. It was an audience that demanded a certain quality of entertainment and, in the height of the band era the cream of the cream played there. “It was one of the premier dance halls for bands, live music,” says Jasper Adams, a regular at The Sombrero. “If you capture the image of the dance hall in London at the time, you get an idea of what it was like.”

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Note the Wailers, bottom of the billing!

After the demise of the Bournmouthe in East Kingston, in a bygone era, The Sombrero was the place to catch ska legends, Toots and the Maytals, Tommy McCook and the Supersonics and Byron Lee and the Dragonaires. There could be no name more apt for Argentina’s Sombrero Club, for within a thriving scene which mimics England in the grip of Two-Tone, their proficient and authentic sound is akin to our Specials or Madness.

The Sombrero Club

It is, however, through Marcos Mossi of the Buena Onda Reggae Club from Sao Paulo, perhaps a lesser known band outside Brazil, who have really spurred my interest in South American ska, through their sublime blend of mellowed jazz-ska and reggae, and through it I realise I’m still teetering on the edge of the rabbit hole. Aside the aforementioned bands, I’m only just discovering Brazil’s Firebug, Argentina’s Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Los Calzones Rotos, Los Auténticos Decadentes, Karamelo Santo, Cienfuegos, Satellite Kingston, Dancing Mood, Staya Staya, Los Intocables, and Ska Beat City, Cultura Profética from Puerto Rico and Peru’s Vieja Skina. Pondering if the list will ever end.

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One thing this highlights, while ska is international now, with vibrant scenes from Montreal to Melbourne, Latin America holds the key to a spirit akin to how it was when I opened my Christmas present in 1980 to find Madness long player, Absolutely.

 


Tune into my show on http://www.bootboyradio.co.uk – Friday nights from 10pm till Midnight GMT, where we play an international selection of ska, reggae, rock steady, soul and funk, RnB, shuffle and jazz, anything related which takes my fancy, actually!


© 2017-2020 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.

A Skandal in Marlborough

Broke my hibernation last night to trek across the downs and catch Swindon’s Skandals play the Lamb in Marlborough; well worth the effort……

“Some proper drum and bass,” yelled frontman of The Skandals, Mark Colton during the break of a Bad Manners’ Special Brew cover, “not like the shit the kids listen to today!” In essence there’s the summary of The Skandals’ ethos, yet with the catchiness of the simple offbeat of ska, you’ll commonly find every generation up dancing together. So, while the attitude is to appease the elder, skinhead, mods and scooterists, I think you’ll find generations too young to personally recall the days of yore a band like The Skandals arrest, still love it.

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This was certainly true in Marlborough’s Lamb last night, as this Swindon ska cover band came to skank, with bells on. It was a squeeze in the crowd, with the aforementioned varied demographic, but none can resist the surge of retrospective ska. Limited to saxophonist Nina as the brass section, and without keyboards, this six-piece still manage to capture the spirit of the era and throw it back in your face loud and proud. I’d wager this comes from experience; the band boasting not just Nina, but both guitarists Jase and Mark, who previously played with Swindon’s legendary Skanxters, and in turn this event brings fond memories to my old watering hole, as those Skanxters skanked here during their nineties reign.

Though frontman Mark also heads a new wave punk cover band, The Rotten Aces, among other projects such as Thin Lizzy tribute, The Lizzy Legacy. This punker angle showed through the playlist, as adroit but only subtly ‘ska’d’ covers of “Echo Beach” and the Toy Doll’s bonkers arrangement of “Nellie the Elephant,” echoed between the more archetypal tunes of Madness, The Specials, Bad Manners, et all. I wanted to quiz Mark on what he favours, but when they stated they were taking a ten-minute break, it was far more punctual than most bands!

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Pigeonholing I haven’t time for, and in a hedonistic moment it matters not. Example; they covered Rancid’s Time Bomb, pioneers of the ska-punk crossover that the international third-gen ska-heads thrive on. Yet the Skandals didn’t venture over this border, delivering predominantly eighties Two-Tone they were obviously inspired by, and giving the audience diminutive verbal notations as to why, amidst the usual banter. They were lively, fun and entertaining; everything a ska band should be, and would guarantee to liven up your venue or pub. Specials covers Rat Race, Rich Girl, Little Bitch and their version of Toot’s Monkey Man being the nimblest.

It may be a timeworn formula for a ska band to cover classics like Baggy Trousers, Lip Up Fatty and Mirror in the Bathroom, but like fish n chips, it’s cliché because it never fails to thrill an audience, and The Skandals do it superbly. Interestingly, they added northern soul anthem “Tainted Love,” reggae’s “Pressure Drop” and “Chase the Devil,” into the melting pot, and choosing “Food for Thought,” as their UB40 cover is a wise move; anything post-Red Red Wine and it’s a cover band covering a cover band!

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While Devizes has a thriving music scene, other than sporadic gigs from the scooter club, the pub circuit lacks ska and reggae, and you all know how I feel about that. If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad. It was a delight to pay a visit to Marlborough’s Lamb again, despite remining in Wadworthshire, it’s working formula stands the test of time. “We’re quite lucky in Marlborough,” a regular informed me, rattling off the Bear’s backroom, The Wellington and Royal Oak as fond live music venues, as well as the Lamb. Yes, I nodded my acknowledgment, but when ska comes to town that’s where you’ll find me! “Let me tell about Sally Brown……”


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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Minions, and Mr Tea’s Mutiny

Put the kettle on; Balkan gypsy ska here in Bristol, Mutiny, the new album from Mr Tea & The Minions is a favourite for my best album of the year, with a top hat on.

Impressionable, I creaked the door on a near-expired student party, where a cocktail of Cinzano and shrooms polished off the amateur bassist, and he hung unconscious half off the edge of a sofa in his own puke. I witnessed scholar deprivation; comatose youth, crusty dreadlocks matted into a teetering Christmas tree, and a random arm draped over a guitar amp, howling feedback. I gulped, no partygoer standing, but an erratic noise of a “Red Roses For Me” cassette whirling. Sounds blessing such a character-building eye-opener makes you reconsider your loathing for a particular genre of music.

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Until then, my presumption of folk music was pruned from an overwhelming desire to hold primary school sweetheart, Trudi’s hand, and the only foreseeable method to achieve it; to opt for country dancing. Ever frustrated to find myself partnered with dowdy Emma instead, I guess it rubbed a revulsion for frumpy folk music, with its delicate romances of falling autumn leaves and daisies dancing in a spring zephyr. It can be nauseating, symbolic of my failure to caress Trudi’s nail-bitten digits.

The epiphany dusted, I bought the Pouges long-player, shaking my preconception solo until crusties like The Levellers came onto the scene, boiling the realisation folk doesn’t have to be frumpy, in fact, it’s an epoch, a people’s music, and the roots of all that followed owe it. But if that era of recklessly launching yourself around, knocking down parent’s ornaments and calling it dancing has come of age, and if the Pouges are now acceptable, seasonally, (they stole the best Christmas song slot from a band in tartan trozzers and platform shoes after all,) I say unto thee, Mr Tea & the Minions; it’s my new favourite thing.

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It’s not an awkward mesh of Despicable Me and the A-Team, rather a contemporary Bristol based, female-fronted six-piece ska-post-punk-folk Balkan-inspired riot, and their new album, Mutiny is beyond blooming gorgeous. Constructed out of lead vocalist and controller of “shaky things,” Elle Ashwell, drummer Fabian Huss, guitarists James Pemberton, James Tomlinson and James (Fold) Talbot on bass, with manager Lucy Razz on violin, they formed six years ago through James’ love of Balkan music. With the edges polished by collaborating with DJ Howla, and James’ professed love of tea, Mr Tea & The Minions was born, a name which they say was “a joke that was never meant to go so far.”

As Balkan, it’s fresh, electrifying and wonderfully danceable. Elle’s gritty shrill is apt and uplifting, the theme is often invitingly saucy, awakeningly tangible, sometimes metaphorically current affairs, but it hardly wanes in energy, and if it does you know it’s building to something. Mutiny is ten songs of splendour, drizzly evening enriching with a gypsy spin. It’s a warm musky pub of yore, where a furtive crusty band jams and you spill your cider on a scraggy dog. It also riffs like ska, boils like The Levellers and rinses fresher than Shane MacGowan on his best hair day.

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The Eye of the Storm, like the title track, and Pandemonium are the Fruit Pastels, breezier tempo tunes like the beautifully crafted The Spider and The Fly stun you in anticipation of the melody, but no single tune stands alone, there’s a flow of prog-rock, and if it starts and ends with a little “meow,” it’s never completely nonsensical. Lyrics are sublimely executed, mostly evocative, but dashed with fun. There’s really nought bad I could say about this unique album, I’ll be dancing to it for the foreseeable future, maybe even look up Trudi on Facebook, she can’t still bite her nails.

Somebody local book these, pl-weaseeee; the Southgate or Barge would suit to a, pardon the pun, tea. Yet times are looking good for this madcap band, on the verge of another spectacular festival season and numerous gigs on tour, our closest to date is the Prince Albert Stroud Nov 22nd, Bocabar in Glastonbury on the 9th, or recommended homecoming at the Old Market Assembly, Bristol on 30th Nov. Failing this, try the Mutiny for size.

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© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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Train to Skaville, Called at The Foresters Arms

If Devizes’ thriving live music scene lacks one thing, in my humble opinion, it’s ska. I got to get over my grumpy, staying-in head-state for fear Celebrity X-Factor is the best mainstream telly can thrust upon me, drive to the Sham, if only for a pint. Ska will force my hand if nothing else will.

The Foresters Arms is a new one for me, but it’s immediately attractive, in a humble way. Functional, even for the eight-piece ska-cover maestros known as Train to Skaville. They fit comfortably; Devizes needs something like this, a reasonably sized pub-venue for a brass section to bounce, and a landlord wearing a Fred Perry and cherry Doc Martins. Proof was in the pudding; we are missing out.

It’s a welcoming and friendly community spirited pub, with ample space to skank rainy blues away. Amidst bustling crowd of young and old, male and female, black and white, there was a point when the landlord was up having a jig himself, for jolly example. And a band, if whose appeal seems to fizzle east of Bromham, are welcomed with open arms here. I can’t drum this point any further, Train to Skaville are brilliant.

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If doing this ska show on Boot Boy Radio has taught me one thing, it’s that this division is far from an aging retrospective minority who can’t shake their Two-Tone youth culture, rather an international burgeoning scene where bands under a “Ska-Family” banner aspire to create new and original tangents. The foundation of which, though, is that classic period where the Windrush generation gifted us this offbeat sound for us to exploit to the max, and Train to Skaville embrace this. They are not out to be the next best thing, rather to supply an audience with the benchmarks they know and love, and to get them off their seats. They do this, with bells on.

Propping the foyer of the Foresters during the break, I laughed that although it was raining, it was nicer to be huddled inside, rather than the last time I caught this act, on a drizzly St George’s Playing Field supporting Neville Staple. Jules of the band remarked happily that they could play Specials covers too, which were crossed out of a setlist prior to Neville wanting to understandably do them. Train to Skaville did just that this time; Ghost Town, Rat Race, Gangsters, you name them, they covered them with unique panache, a cut above the average ska covers band. Alongside typical Madness and Bad Manners floor-fillers.

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But it doesn’t stop there, their repertories know no bounds, as they break it down to reggae anthems, owning Bob Marely’s “Is This Love,” Marica Griffith’s “Feel Like Jumping,” and Tim’s heart-warming rendition of Ken Boothe’s “Everything I Own,” a tribute to his mum who he recently lost. There were tears, but veneration as the band played through. Our respect and condolences go out to Tim and his family.

I find though, even greater than knocking out known ska classics, or bouncing to boss reggae, when a ska band can produce ska versions of pop songs. Sometimes amusing, sometimes out of admiration of another genre, but for a ska-fan, often better than the original. Train to Skaville also have a line which branches out here, as a skanking Echo Beach rang out towards the end of the first half of the show.

A great night, great surroundings, and sure sign for me that Devizes needs to skank it up a bit!


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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Choo-Choo, Train to Skaville Supported Neville Staple at Parkfest!

Some years back I was told a ska band played the previous night in the village across the dual carriageway. Being an aficionado of the genre, I was disappointed to hear I’d missed it; good enough reason we now have Devizine so you need not be like me and can hear of events before they happen!

Informed the band was called Train to Skaville worsened matters; such a great name, taken from the 1967 single of Jamaica’s harmony group, The Ethiopians. The launchpad for a UK tour when it hit our charts, the song’s riff has been applied to many later songs, including Toots & The Maytal’s 54-46 and heralded the concept of the chugging train sound used in a plethora of later ska and reggae songs.

Despite ensuring I’d added all their local gigs to the event guide here since day dot, and befriended singer Jules Morton as part of the all-female fundraising supergroup, The Female of the Species, the must-see box on my perpetually cumulative to-do-list remained unticked, until last night. Unfortunate weather clouded sanguinity early on when I ventured over to Melksham for the opening of Party in the Park. An evening dubbed “Parkfest,” separated from the main event happening today, as what once may have been a welcoming gig, has spawned its own identity; the main event builds on universal pop appeal, Parkfest has a more matured feel.

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It was in chatting with Bruce Burry, event coordinator at the Assembly Rooms, which revealed this forthcoming grand line-up of ska. I was taken aback, Party in the Park is Bruce’s baby, and boy, does he take care of it. Impressive and vast is the setup at King George V park, professional is the stage, sound and effects. I’d heard of it before, but when Bruce uttered the name Neville Staple, my heart whacked into hyperdrive. Some months on, I was kindly invited backstage, as the support, none other than my burning-box-to-be-ticked band, Train to Skaville, prepared and tuned. Attempting optimism, my mutterings that once they took the stage the drizzle would cease met with sullenness, but guys, I was right, wasn’t I?! Call me Michael Fish.

 

Naturally, headline act, the original rude-boy, formerly of The Specials and who later formed Fun Boy Three with Terry Hall and Lynval Golding, Neville Staple excelled with sleekness and anticipated competence. His combo group, The Neville Staple band has become the stuff of legend amidst the ska scene since 2004. Again, akin to our review of Trevor Evan’s Bardbwire at Devizes Arts Festival last month, Neville’s outfit merges two-tone and punky reggae back into its precursor ska, for this explosive melting pot, prevalently fermented the anniversary of Two-Tone Records, the Coventry record label which spurred a scene and both aforementioned artists played a pivotal role in.

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However, this was not before Neville and friends ran through some Specials classics, and if classics are the given thing in this retrospective amalgamation, Train to Skaville knocked it out of King George Park, prior to this fabled performance. For the headline act was grand, this should be taken as red, and despite my pedestal I popped Train to Skaville onto, they surely flew above all expectations.

For blending 007 (Shanty Town) into The Tide is High, as a teaser, the burgeoning crowd began to yearn for their start time, as gratis was handed to DJ setup, Fun Boy Two, Train to Skaville stepped up to an audience clearly familiar with the panache of this local band.

Train to Skaville have been on the circuit for eight years, albeit it a number of roster variations through their time, partly the reason, Jules told me, for not putting down any original material. This if-it-ain’t-broke attitude fitting, for the majority of ska followers just want to hear the anthems. While this is done timelessly by many-a-cover-band, Train to Skaville sit atop this standard, their unique style, singer’s Tim Cross’s witty repartee and entire band’s expertise reeks of good-time ska and explodes with party atmosphere.

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For what seems to be a rare thing, a ska band from the Trowbridge/Melksham area, they set the bar high, and through Israelites, Too Much Pressure, and Rancid’s Timebomb to name but a few, they launched back on stage, slowing for reggae and rock steady classics, Hurt so Good and Is This Love, and detonating the finale by slipping back into ska with Prince Buster’s Madness, followed by Madness, Selector and Bad Manners hits and a sublime versions of Tears of a Clown.

Yet this train doesn’t seem to call at Devizes, and if word of the group of friends from Devizes I was delighted to meet there, Vince Bell, Tamsin Quin and significant other halves, isn’t enough to convince you I don’t know what is! The last train pulled out of our town in 1966 and I can’t wait for the Devizes Parkway project to become a reality, the angle of this piece is simply that someone needs to book this lively band in our town, we can’t let the Sham take all the spotlight! They’ve rammed pubs, gigged The Cheese & Grain, supported Neville a couple of times previous, and become hot favourites westward, we just need to stop them buffering at Seend!

 

As for Party in the Park, the main event kicks off this afternoon, a more pop-feel, they’ve some awesome local legends, including Indecision, Kirsty Clinch, Burbank, Forklift Truck, along with a fire-show, unicorns, fairground and food and drink stalls, topped off with a Take That Tribute. You can get a ticket on the gate, this an affordable event and the pride of the Sham.

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© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


 

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Reggae, Reggae, Reggae, in…. Devizes Arts Festival?! Barbdwire Bring a Taste of Coventry to Town

All Photos used with kind permission of Gail Foster

 

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From a talk by CBE award-winning English foreign correspondent and BBC News world affairs editor, John Simpson, to the Sub-Organist at Durham Cathedral, Francesca Massey, the Devizes Arts Festival has kicked off this week, better than Tottenham. Their showcase, more varied than ever before, truly caters for all; you just need to either research, or hear me bashing on to find something suitable for you.

Personally, my time came Saturday, when the Corn Exchange was blessed with sweet, sweet reggae music! You know I love thee, local music scene, but my ongoing quest to encourage more reggae in these backwaters came to an apex last night.

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Perhaps a hard sell in Devizes, yet a genre I’ll push until the wheels fall off. Yep, said wheels won’t last to shove Devizes into the streets of downtown Kingston Jamaica, but our great hall was lively and the modest audience appreciative of what Coventry based Barbdwire delivered.

Without doubt Barbdwire could produce a “beginners guide to reggae,” without watering down or succumbing to commercialisation. For all sub-genres were presented to us last night, with tremendous panache and sublime competence.

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I often wonder how irritated Ziggy Marley gets when interviews adopt the cliché angle of his father, recollecting him once stating, “reggae is not a one-man-music, it’s a people music.” An apt quote for Barbdwire, the band a varied bunch. While originator and drummer, Trevor Evans, the former Specials roadie-once drummer, characteristically oozes a reggae archetypal, bassist Chelly’s persona rings out dub and the proficient trombonist has Two-Tone band written all over him, trumpeter John Pudge, clearly the youngest, doesn’t appear represent any reggae stereotype.

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I snatched a quick tête-à-tête with John, attired in a T-shirt embossed with “Roots, Rock, Reggae,” I was keen on querying his t-shirt gainsays against his instrument choice, brass sections being generally considered ska-related. We discussed how Barbdwire play to the audience; their ability to pull any of reggae’s subgenres out of their hat makes the band flexible, supporting The Specials, as their next gig, or Holli Cook, as they did last week.

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But centre of attention last night in Devizes, this band were an epiphany for some residents and a universal accreditation for those reggae lovers. In our preview I said, “(Two-Tone) may have challenged punk with chicness akin to mod, but today, these subcultures are inconsequential, we can bundle it all into one retrospective burlesque, select whatever element of any we care to, and fuse them without pretence or offense; one reason why a group like Barb’d Wire is fresh and electrifying.”

 

Well, while reproducing their album Time Has Come’s originals did just that, their choice of covers was equally extensive. From ska favourites like Baba Brook’s version of Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man and the Wailer’s debut hit Simmer Down, they also exposed the audience to roots, with Max Romeo’s Chase the Devil, Horace Andy’s Skylarking, renowned for his later work with Massive Attack, and even dub, akin to its master King Tubby.

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There were versions of reggae classics, like Uptown Top Ranking, and all harmonised by the beautifully melodic and confident vocals of Cherelle Harding, a singer who could roll on a lovers tune with the finesse of Phillis Dillon to convert without haste to toast a stepper’s riddim, at one point verging on dancehall with a wonderfully luminous interpretation of Sister Nancy’s Bam-Bam.

Make no mistake, this diversity was not delivered reggae-lite, rather an expertise and rounded acknowledgement to the many faces of Jamaica’s music export, and delivered to us adhering to all the positivity and joyfulness the genre celebrates. As an apt example, they gathered outside to meet and greet, where they were applauded with respect vowed to add our town to their tour map; something I’ll hold against them, as this was an outstanding performance!

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Long live the Devizes Arts Festival then, hopeful they’ll consider the evening a success and plan in, as they are already planning 2020, something else reggae-related. Following on, this week sees Strange Face at The Bear today (Sunday) where the Adventures with a Lost Nick Drake Recording takes place.

Monday and Christian Garrick & John Etheridge presents Strings on Fire at The Exchange. Tuesday is The Shakespeare Smackdown, and Wednesday String Sisters are at St Andrews Church.

An Audience with Bob Flowerdew at the Town Hall, also Wednesday, and Thursday, Atila Sings the Nat King Cole Story at the Town Hall. Oh, and next Saturday has a whole host of FREE fringe events across town. Check the website for booking details, but hurry, Friday’s Moscow Drug Club event is sold out. If cancelations occur find posts on the Arts Festival Facebook page, and I’ll promise to share them as soon as I spot them; have a great festival!

Barb’d Wire and Corn Exchanging; Reggae Finds a Home at Devizes Arts Festival

Never content with what contemporary music thrust down our throats, even as a youngster, the easiest and sneakiest place to hunt for origins was Dad’s record collection. It would be years before he discovered the shortfall of vinyl and confronted me. Sixties Merseybeat and blues-pop standard, I recall the intriguing moment I unearthed a shabby cover of a girl’s naked torso, “Tighten Up Vol 2” was inscribed on her abdomen in lipstick. So, when he did, I inquired why he bought this, Trojan Record. More concerned where his Pink Floyd gatefold had vanished to, he half-heartedly explained, “it was something different,” as if he didn’t wish to divulge too much, “and cheap.”

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The estate of Bob Marley is still argued over, he never understood how to handle the royalties of rock star. Other than a BMW he had no extravagance, the house on Hope Road a gift from Blackwell, in which he lobbed a single mattress in the corner of a bedroom. What you see of the Jamaican music industry in the movie, “The Harder they Come,” is staunchly realistic; peanuts a too expensive commodity to compare to payments made to singers and musicians.

Poor wages triggered a prolific industry, hundreds of hopefuls jammed Orange Street awaiting to be ripped off. Trojan Records was founded the year after Bluebeat dissolved, 1968. The reasoning both English labels sourced Jamaican music was originally to supply the Windrush generation with the sounds of home, it is doubtful either realised the legacy they would leave. The underpaid nobodies singing on these records meant Bluebeat and Trojan could lower the price tag when compared to what upstarts like Bowie or Clapton would require, and price was everything for white British kids attempting to amass vinyl for house parties; as my father summed up.

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Though the attraction may’ve been the price, the enticement of these records came when the needle hit the groove; these rhythms were insatiably beguiling and exotic. I felt that ambiance too, and fell head over heels. But my palette had been preconditioned without comprehending it. Slightly too young to have immersed in the youth cultures of the late seventies, the sound bequest our pop charts.

Whether it was Blondie or the Police, or Madness, The Beat, or Piranhas, the charts of pre electronica eighties was inspired by the two youth cultures of punk and skinhead, and until the day I discovered a Bluebeat 7” of Prince Buster’s Madness, exposing Suggs and his Nutty Boy’s embodiment, I had no idea. Jerry Dammers’ Two Tone Records only had six years, an insecure contract with a get-out clause after one single, saw the acts achieve acclaim and jump ship.

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But if we celebrated Trojan’s fiftieth last year, we must do the same for Two-Tone’s fortieth, as it engraved its hometown, Coventry, as firmly on the ska map as Kingston. Within its short run Two Tone defined an era and reintroduced the roots of the dub reggae scene that punk spurred to white British youth; ska. The nonchalant rudimentary street-styled design of Two-Tone’s corporate identity is today considered standard ska practise; Dave Storey’s chequered monochrome background with Walt Jabsco, a character based upon a Peter Tosh image.

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It may have challenged punk with chicness akin to mod, but today, these subcultures are inconsequential, we can bundle it all into one retrospective burlesque, select whatever element of any of them and fuse them without pretence or offense; one reason why a group like Barb’d Wire is fresh and electrifying.

Though hailing from Two Tone’s home, Coventry, drummer and vocalist, Trevor Evans, a.k.a. ET Rockers, having begun his sparkling career as roadie turned DJ for The Specials, and with a brass section arrangement by Jon Pudge, ska is only an element of Barb’d Wire’s sound. Guitarist Ryan Every, Fingers Aitken on bass, and Mark Bigz Smith commanding the keys, blend influences as far and wide as punk to orchestral and blues into a melting pot of reggae. Fronted by the spiralling, gospel-inspired vocals of Cherelle Harding, their unique sound drives a heavy dub bassline, while not divulging on its preconditioned instrumental ethos. What we’re left with is a genuinely contemporary reggae lattice landing the group as firm favourites on the dynamic Coventry scene and festival circuit such as Skamouth.

 

While tracks like Duppy Town and Et Rockers Up Town, on their 2017 debut album, Time Has Come, rely on dub, a stepper’s riddim thrives throughout, but incorporates aforementioned influences. The only recognisable cover, for example, is the classic Latino-inspired Rockfort Rock of which the Skatalites perfected a ska-rhumba amalgamation. Produced by Roger Lomas, who also handles Bad Manners and The Selecter, again, Barb’d Wire pride themselves with Two-Tone influences, yet unlike the standard ska cover band you’re likely to get on our local scene, who all have their place in maintaining a clandestine but welcomed scene here, Barb’d Wire will be a fresh and welcomed gig, when they arrive at Devizes Corn Exchange on Saturday 1st June as a feature of Devizes Arts Festival.

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For me, and any reggae/ska/soul aficionado, this is simply unmissable, but for the Arts Festival it may be a risky move, breaking their typical booking in search for newer audiences. While organ recitals, poetry slams and theatre noir have their place, we owe it to ourselves to support this event in hope it will spur future events at the festival of an alternative and contemporary genre. That is why you’ll see our Devizine logo proudly on the posters for this particular appearance, as though we plan to bring you more in-depth previews and reviews of this year’s stunning line-up, I’m most excited about this one!

 

Saturday 1st June: Tickets available now, £18

 

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Decatonics to take Devizes to Skaville!

Designing the posters for the Devizes Scooter Club came to the peak of absurdity with this one for the latest event on the 30th March, and I feel I may need tone down the experimentation a tad. Still, I think it stands out from the run-the-mill event poster; in the words of Mike the Cool Person, “I never stand on convention, it never stood on me.”

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But I cannot deny, with a bombardment of highly anticipated local gigs this coming month, I’m looking forward to this one perhaps, the most. We’ve seen a few Northern Soul and Motown nights of recent from the Scooter Club, and while my eclectic taste appreciates these along with the plethora of other gigs lined up on my calendar, you still can’t, in my opinion, beat a bit of ska.

This will reflect well against the forthcoming Scooter Rally, as while a weekend-long event will provide scope for the club to parade all relevant genres, there’s a truckload of ska to be heard. Orange Street headlining will be one to watch, while Swindon’s The Tribe mesh ska with hip hop beats, and other local outfit The Erin Bardwell Collective will simmer in some rock steady. Essex’s finest, The Start are not averse to playing ska, and I’m sure, given the nature of the event that the Day Breakers will blast a two-tone classic or three. Of course, Bad Manners tribute Special Brew take as red.

Confident in the statement international third-gen ska is regenerating the old Two-Tone scene here in England, is evident in the success of groups like the Dualers. Call it cliché, say yeah, diehard skins don’t know when to give it up, but there’s something in that joyous offbeat which makes you want to jump and skank.

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So put your braces together, your boots on your feet, and allow me to introduce this prodigious booking, Dorset’s eight-piece ska band, The Decatonics. It promises to be a blinding night at the Devizes Conservative Club. The band, formed in 2012 have indeed supported the aforementioned Dualers, along with The Skatelites, The Neville Staple Band and Bad Manners.

An established 8-piece female-fronted ska band, The Decatonics are constructed of bassist Rowan, two Steves, one on keys and the other on drums, an energetic backline and powerful horn section of Mike on tenor sax, Harry on trumpet and alto sax, and Ian on trombone. They’re fronted by two adept vocalists who compliment one another; Shaun, also on lead guitar and Sally, who I’ve been chatting with. I started by asking her how long they’d been together and if the members were the same original line-up.

“The bass and I, and the lead brass, are original, with our drummer being with us for five years,” she explained, “but as with any large band, changes are inevitable along the way.”

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“Is it all covers, or have you any original songs recorded?” I asked Sally.

“We do just cover songs,” she sustained, “but try and give our own little flair, and being female-fronted we get to play a more diverse set than your standard ska covers band.” No issue there, in retrospective glory, cover songs make the night at the Scooter Club. Not forgoing, Sally mentioned that since 2017, The Decatonics have been part of a Specialised Project, recording tracks for a CD. I saw my opening, boasted of my newfound show on Boot Boy Radio and blagged two tunes to play on the show next week!

The first song a Trojan hit in the UK, Bob & Marica’s up-tempo Pied Piper, proves their ability to sprinkle a joyous contemporary ska riff to a boss reggae classic, but the second hoists up that skill, with a concentrated ska adaption of the Jam’s Standards.

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The Decatonics draw influences from both original Jamaican ska, bluebeat, and its new-wave Two-Tone, but also from successors rock steady and reggae. They even accommodate soul in the melting pot, bringing a vibrant live show which has built up a great reputation with the entire mod/scooter scene rather than just ska aficionados. Do not expect third generation punk experimentation, but a suitable English ska sound popularised by Madness and The Beat.

With a strong following through regular pub and club gigs, and festivals such as the Big One Weekender Festival, Dorset Volksfest, The Dorset Steam Fair and Teddy Rocks under their belt, I’m certain they’ll transport their astounding party atmosphere to our already lively Devizes Scooter Club nights.

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Tickets are a tenner, by messaging the Devizes Scooter Club Facebook page, from Vinyl Realm, Jefferson’s Café, or from the Devizes Cons Club direct. As usual there will be a raffle, and I believe it’s me warming up the crowd on the wheels of steel, like a musical fluffer; but don’t let that put you off! The club ascertain everyone is welcome, not just members. Think of this as an opportunity to taste what you might bear witness to at the forthcoming Rally in July, oh and to have a good knees-up too!

 

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Devizes Scooter Club’s Grand BBQ

All images used with kind permission of Ruth Wordly

@ MoongypZy Creative Photography

 

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If last weekend in Devizes belonged to rockers, as the Sports Club shook by the awesome Saddleback Festival, it was small mercies for the Mods this Saturday as Devizes Scooter Club hosted a more moderately proportioned charity BBQ day, which wasn’t without equal summer fun and frolics.

The corner of Hillworth Road and Long Street became a haven for scooter enthusiasts, who’d travelled from far and wide, and local lovers of soul, reggae and ska who gathered outside the Conservative Club to raise some funds for the Devizes and District Opportunity Centre.

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How much was raised at this tender morning moment (at the time of writing this on Sunday) is unconfirmed, majority of organisers I’d wager are taking a fully-earned rest, if not nursing a sore head!