Friday, January 15, 2010
Toasters- The Beat b/w Brixton Beat (Toast 1/Toast 2)
This was the single that started it all. It was released in 1983 and technically wasn't even released on Moon Records, the label on the record says Ice Bear Records. This single is incredibly rare, however, the two songs are available on the out of print Thrill Me Up CD Reissue on Moon Ska (which is WAY easier to find). If I had to compare the A-side, "The Beat," to anything I would compare it to The English Beat. The English Beat (or just The Beat in the UK) were a big influence on Bucket and I hear that in this song. It has that great mod guitar and is only barely a ska song (the keyboard and the drummer are the only instruments that maintain a typical ska beat, and the keyboard cuts in and out throughout the song) however, that doesn't make it any less of a ska masterpiece. "Brixton Beat" is the first version of what would eventually turn into the Toasters' classic "East Side Beat" on their debut LP, Skaboom!. It starts out as a slow dirge and then turns into a mid-tempo, dark ska song with very prominent bass. There's also some chilling female vocals harmonizing with Buck at points but mostly singing Ooooooooh's during the verses. The only thing similar to the more well known version found on Skaboom! is that the horn line on that one is played by the guitar once or twice on this original version.
East of Eden- Mystic Mood b/w Sea of Happiness (Toast 3/ Toast 4)
This single was released in 1984 and was the first release with a proper Moon Records imprint. My info on this is a bit hazy, but from what I understand the main musician is Dieter Runge, and he used a revolving cast of characters for this and the full length he put out a few years later. What I know for sure is he is German and was in a punk band called Rotzkotz from 1977-1981 before moving out to New York and recording this. (I've tried to find some Rotzkotz singles on the internet and the few times over the years they've popped up, they go for far too much money for me to afford.) His East of Eden material is very interesting. "Mystic Mood" is a cool mod-rocker. "Sea of Happiness" is a simple yet incredibly catchy ska song. The chorus will have you singing along immediately and you'll have the melody stuck in your head all day.
Toasters- Recriminations (Toast 5/Toast 6)
It's now 1985, and the Toasters are back with a 4-song 12" EP. This is the beginning of my favorite period of the band's music. These 4 songs are where they begin finding that classic late 80's sound they would perfect on the Skaboom LP. The first side is "Recriminations" and "Razor Cut," two of my favorite Toasters tracks. The flip side is "Run Rudy Run" and "Radiation Skank." This record is their most new-wavey, and since the band still hadn't added any horns to the lineup it's heavy on the guitar and keyboards and "Run Rudy Run" features the melodica work of Joe Jackson, of "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" fame. Bucket knew Joe Jackson through working at Forbidden Planet in London. One day after Buck moved to New York City to work in Forbidden Planet's Manhattan location, Joe Jackson walked into the comic shop and the two caught up. The two British expatriats became friends and drinking buddies. Joe Jackson ended up producing this EP under a pseudonym, due to contractual obligations, and would play melodica with them live whenever he was in town. This EP was re-released twice in 1988 with a new cover on Unicorn Records in the UK and also on Moon Records. It was also added to Skaboom! on both CD reisssues (Moon Ska and Megalith).
Kill Me- s/t (Toast 7/ Toast 8)
This is a funk rock LP released in 1985. I haven't heard it yet (but I did just find a copy which should get to me in the mal in a week or two) but apparently the band consisted of a couple members of the Toasters and Bucket's friends from Forbidden Planet, a comic shop he used to work at.
Various- N.Y. Beat: Hit & Run (Toast 9/ Toast 10)
This comp came out in 1986 and is a landmark album in American ska history in that it was the first American ska compilation. It also means a lot to me as an album because this album is what got me into '80s American ska. Unless you really look deeper, not much is said about American ska music from the 1980's. The Toasters, Fishbone and Bim Skala Bim are the only bands that really get any credit. While those bands are/were great, they were not the only ska bands in town. N.Y. Beat opened my eyes to the fact that there was a coherent ska scene in New York City in the mid-eighties. There was more than just The Toasters, and some of the songs on this LP are arguably better than the 2 Toasters tracks. The bands on this comp are: The Toasters, Beat Brigade, The A Kings, Cryin Out Loud, City Beat, The Daybreakers, The Scene, The Press, Urban Blight, Second Step, The Boilers, Too True, and Floor Kiss. Every song is amazing and every band should have gotten the fame they deserved. My personal favorites are "Armageddon Beat" by Beat Brigade, "Escape from Reality" by Urban Blight, "Oppurtunity" by Second Step, "Brighter Days" by the Boilers, and "Why is the Boat so Small?" by Floor Kiss.
For more info on N.Y. Beat, you can check out the Marcoonthebass blog here and join this Facebook Group to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the album and read up on all of the bands that were featured on it.
Also, for those of you who love scene comps as much as I do, there is a NY Beat-esque comp devoted to what was going on in Boston called Mash It Up that you should definitely check out if given the chance. The LP is pretty hard to come by, but like NY Beat it was released on CD by Ska Records under the title Skaville USA Volume 2.
****As will be the case in all of these posts dedicated to the early days of Moon Records, The Duff Guide to Ska and Marco On The Bass provided invaluable information. I couldn't have written it without them, and EVERYONE should read those two blogs!*****