When I was a kid, I loved television, movies and music–not in that order. I lived and breathed for all of them, but if I had to pick one … music was it! I remember loving bands such as AC/DC, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Social Distortion, Bob Marley & the Wailers, Parliament and Rick James. Then a movie came along called Quadrophenia that changed the dynamic in music and society in many parts of the world. Before I knew it, I found myself following a fledgling musical genre called Two-tone, which is also known as mod-ska or just ska. Sure enough, in 1981, Dance Craze came out, and that documentary literally changed lives.
Circling back to those early days, in the late ’70s when Jerry Dammers of The Specials launched his 2 Tone Records ska revival label in England, it sparked a movement. Now in its 40th year, the Two-tone ska movement remains alive and well. Earlier this year, The Specials released Encore, their first album in 37 years, and it did very, very well. Another legendary mod-ska band, The Selecter, has had a great success from their 2017 release Daylight. It features a song called “Frontline” that has done for The Selecter what Encore did for the Specials. It’s opened up this extraordinary band to a new generation. Now The Selecter, which was among the bands featured in Dance Craze, is here in SoCal.
As for ska itself, the genre started in Jamaica in the 1950s and migrated to all parts of the world. In the ’80s, that second wave of ska hit England like a bag of rocks! It’s a multi-racial, multi-cultural explosion born out of Coventry and the Midlands that transformed British pop. Aside from The Specials and The Selecter, pioneers of the era include The Beat, Bad Manners, Bodysnatchers and Madness. Without these bands, the likelihood is there would be no Sublime, No Doubt, Reel Big Fish or Interrupters. At least, not the way we’ve grown to love their music. Check out a newer film called Pick It Up! – Ska in the ’90s to see what impact these early ska bands had on the music scene.
The Selecter are the class of the genre. Their breakout and historically important debut studio full-length album, Too Much Pressure, came out in 1979, and they’ve been leading the way ever since. The band is well known for their direct and opinionated songs outlining their views on race, gender, society and politics; just like the Clash, Sex Pistols and Johnny Cash. All of this is mixed with a great fusion of punk, reggae and good ol’ soulful Two-tone.
Like all legendary artists, The Selecter members speak their minds about things that matter, and people listen. So much so that Pauline Black and Arthur “Gaps” Hendrickson have become icons among icons. Their music leads by example, with a catalogue that includes hits like “Too Much Pressure,” “On My Radio,” “Three Minute Hero,” “Celebrate the Bullet,” “James Bond” and “Missing Words.”
Aside from being very entertaining, ska has connected with fans for decades. That’s why ska bands are beloved worldwide. They know what’s important and what matters to people in general. That being said, on opening night of their 2019 North American tour, The Selecter landed in New York on Sept. 11. Instead of shining a light on themselves, they did something that tells you all you need to know about Two-tone and The Selecter: They honored 911 first responders by sharing the stage with them. The crowd and social media ate that up.
Often referred to as the Two-tone Queen of Ska, Pauline leads by example and speaks from her heart about what’s right and what’s wrong. The electricity on 911 was exceptional as was the band’s performance. That’s why The Selecter has become an integral part of the ska community. No matter where they play, be it Riot Fest in Chicago, the Mezzanine in San Francisco or venues throughout the world, The Selecter commands the respect of their peers, while constantly reminding us how important treating fans well plays out.
This iconic band is at The Casbah in San Diego tonight and Thursday (Sept. 18-19), St. Rocke in Hermosa Beach on Friday (Sept. 20), and the final stop of their North American tour will be at The Glass House on Saturday (Sept. 21) before they head back to Europe. That will make The Glass House show a very special night, as will all concertgoers being treated to a special DJ set by Rhoda Dakar (The Bodysnatchers, The Specials and Special AKA) that in itself is worth the price of admission. The opener is Orange County’s own Half Past Two. This band has been part of the local ska community for years, and they put on a very nice show. Lead singer Tara Hahn has developed into one of the best stage performers you’ll see anywhere, while the band itself is electric.
The Selecter with Special Guest and DJ Rhoda Dakar and Half Past Two at The Glass House, 200 W. 2nd St., Pomona, (909) 865-3802; theglasshouse.us. Sat., 7 p.m. $22.