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The Mid-Week Beat: Happy Birthday to Mick Jones of The Clash!

Today is Mick Jones, guitarist of The Clash‘s birthday! Which means that today’s post is a completely self-indulgent one for me as I get to talk about my favorite band and feature some upcoming shows of bands that I loved as a young punk rocker.

Mick Jones, was there at the beginning of the UK punk rock movement. Like many of the early punks, Mick started out as a fan of glam bands like Mott the Hoople and proto-punk bands like the New York Dolls. He formed a glam band in the early 70s called The Delinquents and shortly after, formed the legendary London SS with Tony James, who would later form the bands Chelsea and Generation X with Billy Idol. The band featured a number of members that would go on to become major players in the London punk scene including Brian James and Rat Scabies of The Damned and Matt Dangerfield and Casino Steel of The Boys.

When the SS broke up in 1976, Jones and Paul Simonon began a new group after seeing the Sex Pistols. They recruited lead singer Joe Strummer, formerly of pub rockers The 101ers and The Clash were born. The Clash would then go on to be one of the major players, if not THE major player, in the UK punk scene, eventually achieving international success. Their global success encouraged many punk purists to label the band as “sell-outs” but the band outlasted most of their contemporaries by incorporating different musical styles into their sound and expanding the definitions of what a punk band was. Jones was eventually fired from the band in 1983 by Strummer and Simonon and the band limped along for one more record, but many agree that The Clash ended the day Jones left the band.

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Do the Ska – Coast to Coast!

Ska music a blend of Caribbean mento and calypso with the American r&b and jazz that Jamaicans were hearing from New Orleans radio stations, emerged in the late 50s and is considered to be the grandfather of reggae music. It established the walking bass line and accented upbeat that would become the foundation of the reggae beat but unlike the laid-back vibe of reggae, ska was high energy dance music. This was indicative of the celebratory feeling pulsing through the Jamaican populous. Jamaica received its independence from the UK in 1962 and the upbeat ska sound became the soundtrack for independent Jamaica.

Many of reggae’s stars got their start in ska. Bob Marley & the Wailers started out as a ska group. Jimmy Cliff, one of the first Jamaican singers to reach an international audience was a popular ska singer, even showcasing the music at the 1964 Worlds Fair in New York City. But, there’s one group that provided the music to many of the best known ska hits: The Skatalites. The original lineup of the band broke up in 1965 but they reformed in 1983 due to renewed interest in ska music and have been touring ever since. Only two of the original Skatalites are still playing with the band, vocalist Doreen Shaffer and saxophonist Lester Sterling. Sadly, original drummer Lloyd Knibb just passed away on May 12, 2011 but the new band keeps the spirit of the original ska sound alive.
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The Upsetter Hits the Big Screen!

What do The Clash, Paul McCartney, Andrew W.K., Beastie Boys and Bob Marley have in common? They have all worked with legendary Jamaican producer Lee “Scratch” Perry, whose influence on music and audio engineering can not be over-stated. An infamous eccentric behind the mixing board, “The Upsetter” not only revolutionized reggae music in his native Jamaica; his influence can be heard in everything from electronica to indie rock to hip-hop.

Perry began his career in music in the late 50’s as a record seller for Clement “Coxone” Dodd’s Kingston sound system and quickly began recording tracks for Dodd’s Studio One record label, eventually recording nearly thirty ska and rocksteady tunes. Eventually he and Dodd had a falling out and he began working with Joe Gibbs. He shortly fell out with Gibbs as well and founded his own Upsetter record label in 1968. His first single “People Funny Boy” was one of the first records to contain a “sample” (of a baby crying) and it also featured the chugging, syncopated beat that would eventually become known as the “reggae” rhythm.
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