Man goes into a

restaurant, and the

waiter says.


"Would you like to hear

the specials?"


Man says "Yes please".


Waiter starts singing.


"This town is coming

like a ghost town..."




At the sea side, there's

a really really rough

sea and there's a storm brewing and the waves

are high and the wind is blowing.


Out to sea there's a

little boat and you can faintly hear music and someone singing.


"Welcome to the house

of we've

come of age."


On the dock one sailer

turns to the other and



"it's Madness going to

sea in this weather".




Man gets thrown

through a window

whilst listening to

Desmond Dekker.


He’s ska’d for life.




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Ska is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s

and was the precursor to rocksteady and reggae.  Ska  combined

elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz

and rhythm and blues.


It is characterized by a walking bass line accented with rhythms

on the upbeat. Ska developed in Jamaica in the 1960s when

 Prince Buster , Clement "Coxsone" Dodd, and Duke Reid formed

sound systems to play American rhythm & blues and then began

recording their own songs. In the early 1960s, ska was the

dominant music genre of Jamaica and was popular with British

mods. Later it became popular with many skinheads.


Music historians typically divide the history of ska into three


             the original Jamaican scene  of the 1960s; the English 2

Tone ska revival of the late 1970s, which fused Jamaican ska rhythms and melodies with the

faster tempos and harder edge of punk rock; and the third wave of ska, which involved bands

from the UK, other European countries (notably Germany), Australia, Japan, South America

and the US, beginning in the 1980s and peaking in the 1990s.


There are different theories about the origins of the word ska.  Ernest Ranglin  claimed that

the term was coined by musicians to refer to the "skat! skat! skat!" scratching guitar strum.

Ranglin asserted that the difference between R&B and ska beats is that the former goes

"chink-ka" and the latter goes "ka-chink". Another explanation is that at a recording session

in 1959 produced by Coxsone Dodd, double bassist Cluett Johnson instructed guitarist

Ranglin to "play like ska, ska, ska", although Ranglin has denied this, stating "Clue couldn't

tell me what to play!"


A further theory is that it derives from Johnson's word skavoovie, with which he was known

to greet his friends. Jackie Mittoo insisted that the musicians called the rhythm Staya Staya,

and that it was  Byron Lee  who introduced the term "ska". Derrick Morgan said:                     

                                                                                                                              "Guitar and piano making a ska sound, like 'ska, ska, ska."


After World War II, Jamaicans purchased radios in increasing numbers and were able to hear rhythm and blues music from

Southern United States cities such as New Orleans by artists such as Fats Domino and Louis Jordan. Domino's rhythm, accentuating the offbeat as in the song "Be My Guest", was a particular influence. The stationing of American military forces during and after the war meant that Jamaicans could listen to military broadcasts of American music, and there was a constant influx of records from the US. To meet the demand for that music, entrepreneurs such as Prince Buster,  Coxsone Dodd , and Duke Reid formed sound systems.

the original jamaican ska


As the supply of previously unheard tunes in the jump blues and more traditional R&B genre began to dry up in the late 1950s,

Jamaican producers began recording their own version of the genres with local artists. These recordings were initially made to be played on "Soft Wax" (a lacquer on metal disc acetate later to become known as a "Dub Plate"), but as demand for them grew eventually some time in the second half of 1959 (Believed by most to be in the last quarter) producers such as Coxsone Dodd and  Duke Reid  began to issue these recording on 45 RPM 7 inch discs. At this point the style was a direct copy of the American

"Shuffle Blues" style, but with two-three years this had morphed into the more familiar Ska style with the off beat guitar chop that could be heard in some of the more uptempo late 1950s American Rhythm & Blues recordings such as Fats Domino's "Be My

Guest" and Barbie Gaye's "My boy Lollipop" (both hugely popular records on Jamaican Sound Systems of the late 1950s). This 'classic' Ska style was of bars made up of four triplets but was characterized by a guitar chop on the off beat - known as an upstroke or skank - with horns taking the lead and often following the off beat skank and piano emphasising the bass line and, again, playing the skank. Drums kept 4 / time and the bass drum was accented on the third beat of each 4 - triplet phrase. The snare would play side stick and accent the third beat of each 4 - triplet phrase. The up stroke sound can also be found in other Caribbean forms

of music, such as mento and calypso.


                                                                                           One theory about the origin of ska is that Prince Buster created it during                                                                                                  the inaugural recording session for his new record label  Wild Bells . The                                                                                                session was financed by Duke Reid, who was supposed to get half of                                                                                                      the songs to release. The guitar began emphasizing the second and

                                                                                           fourth beats in the bar, giving rise to the new sound. The drums were                                                                                                      taken from traditional Jamaican drumming and marching styles.


                                                                                           To create the ska beat, Prince Buster essentially flipped the R&B shuffle                                                                                                  beat, stressing the offbeats with the help of the guitar. Prince Buster has

                                                                                           explicitly cited American rhythm & blues as the origin of ska, specifically

                                                                                           Willis Jackson's song " Later for the Gator " which was Coxsone Dodd's

                                                                                           number one selection and Duke Reid's number one spin "Hey Hey Mr.

                                                                                           Berry", to this day by an unidentified artist and with this given title (The

                                                                                           Northern Soul DJs used to cover up the identity of records to prevent                                                                                                      other DJs from finding copies), the joke amongst surviving Jamaican           Sound men who were there at the time being that "This is the one the Duke took to the grave with him".


The first ska recordings were created at facilities such as Studio One and WIRL Records in Kingston, Jamaica with producers such as Dodd, Reid, Prince Buster, and Edward Seaga. The ska sound coincided with the celebratory feelings surrounding Jamaica's independence from the UK in 1962; an event commemorated by songs such as Derrick Morgan's "Forward March" and

"The Skatalites' "Freedom Sound.


Newly independent Jamaica ratified the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works in 1994. Until then the country didn't honor international music copyright protection. This created a large number of cover songs and reinterpretations. One such cover was   Millie Small's  version of the R&B/ shuffle tune, "My Boy Lolly pop" first recorded in New York in 1956 by 14 year old Barbie Gaye. Smalls' rhythmically similar version, released in 1964, was Jamaica's first commercially successful international hit. With over seven million copies sold, it remains one of the best selling reggae/ska songs of all time.


Many other Jamaican artists would have success recording instrumental ska versions of popular American and British music, such as Beatles songs,  Motown and Atlantic soul hits , movie theme songs and surf rock instrumentals. The Wailers covered The

Beatles' "And I Love Her", and radically reinterpreted Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone". They also created their own versions of Latin-influenced music from artists such as Mongo Santa maria.


Byron Lee & the Dragonaires performed ska with Prince Buster, Eric "Monty" Morris, and Jimmy Cliff at the 1964 New York World's Fair. As music changed in the United States, so did ska. In 1965 and 1966, when American soul music became slower and smoother, ska changed its sound accordingly and evolved into  rocksteady . However, rocksteady's heyday was brief, peaking in 1967. By 1968, ska evolved again into reggae.


The 2 Tone genre, which began in the late 1970s in Coventry, England, and was a fusion of Jamaican ska rhythms and melodies with punk rock's more aggressive guitar chords and lyrics. Compared to 1960s ska, 2 Tone music had faster tempos, fuller instrumentation and a harder edge. The genre was named after 2 Tone Records, a record label founded by  Jerry Dammers  of The Specials. In many cases, the reworking of classic ska songs turned the originals into hits again in the United Kingdom.


The 2 Tone movement promoted racial unity at a time when racial tensions were high in the UK. There were many Specials songs that raised awareness of the issues of racism, fighting and friendship issues. Riots in British cities were a feature during the summer that The Specials song " Ghost Town " was a hit, although this work was in a slower, Reggae beat. Most of the 2 Tone bands had multiracial lineups, such as The Beat (known as The English Beat in North America and the British Beat in Australia), The Specials, and The Selecter. Although only on the 2 Tone label for one single, Madness was one of the most effective bands at bringing the 2 Tone genre into the mainstream. The music of this era resonated with white working class youth and West Indian immigrants who experienced the struggles addressed it in the lyrics.


 Third wave ska  originated in the 1980s and became commercially

successfull in the 1990s. Although some third wave ska has a traditional

1960s sound, most third wave ska is characterised by dominating guitar riffs

and large horn sections.


By the early 1980s, 2 Tone-influenced ska bands began forming throughout

the United States.  The Uptones  from Berkeley, California and The Toasters

from New York City — both formed in 1981 — were among the first active

ska bands in North America. They are both credited with laying the

groundwork for American ska and establishing scenes in their respective



In Los Angeles around the same time,  The Untouchables  also formed.

While many of the early American ska bands continued in the musical

traditions set by 2 Tone and the mod revival, bands such as Fishbone, The

Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Operation Ivy pioneered the American ska

punk subgenre, a fusion of ska and punk rock that typically down played ska's R&B influence in favor of faster tempos and guitar



Two hotspots for the United States' burgeoning ska scenes were New York City and Orange County, California. In New York, Toasters frontman Robert "Bucket" Hingley formed independent record label Moon Ska Records in 1983. The label quickly became the largest independent ska label in the United States.  The Orange County ska scene  was a breeding ground for ska punk and more contemporary pop-influenced ska music, personified by bands such as Reel Big Fish, No Doubt and Sublime. It was here that the term "third wave ska" was coined and popularized by Tazy Phyllips (host of the Ska Parade radio show) to describe the new wave of ska-influenced bands which were steadily gaining notoriety. The San Francisco Bay Area also contributed to ska's growing popularity, with Skankin' Pickle, Let's Go Bowling and the Dance Hall Crashers becoming known on the touring circuit.


The mid-1990s saw a considerable rise in ska music's underground popularity, marked by the formation of many ska-based record labels, booking organizations and indie zines.  While Moon Ska  was still the largest of the United States' ska labels, other notable labels included Jump Up Records of Chicago, which covered the thriving midwest scene, and Steady Beat Recordings of Los Angeles, which covered Southern California's traditional ska revival. Stomp Records of Montreal was Canada's primary producer

and distributor of ska music. Additionally, many punk and indie rock labels, such as Hellcat Records and Fueled by Ramen, broadened their scope to include both ska and ska punk bands. Asian Man Records (formerly Dill Records), founded in 1996,

started out primarily releasing ska punk albums before branching out to other music styles.


In 1993,  The Mighty Mighty Bosstones  signed with Mercury Records, becoming the first American ska punk band to find

mainstream commercial success, with their 1994 album Question the Answers achieving gold record status and peaking at #138 on the Billboard 200. In 1995, punk band Rancid, featuring former members of Operation Ivy, released the ska punk single "Time Bomb", which reached #8 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks, becoming the first major ska punk hit of the 1990s and launching the genre into the public eye.


Over the next few years, a string of notable ska and ska-influenced singles became hits on mainstream radio, including

" Spiderwebs " by No Doubt, "Sell Out" by Reel Big Fish and "The Impression That I Get" by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, all of whom would reach platinum status with each of their respective albums. By 1996, third wave ska was one of the most popular forms of alternative music in the United States.


By the late 1990s, mainstream interest in third wave ska bands waned as other music genres gained momentum. Moon Ska

Records folded in 2000, but Moon Ska Europe, a licensed affiliate based in Europe, continued operating in the 2000s and was later relaunched as Moon Ska World. In 2003, Hingley launched a new ska record label,  Megalith Records .


By the late 1980s, ska had experienced a minor resurgence of popularity in the United Kingdom, due to bands such as The Burial

and  The Hotknives , ska-friendly record labels such as Unicorn Records, ska festivals, and a emergence of the traditional skinhead




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Germany, Spain, Australia, Japan and South America. The early

1980s saw a massive surge in ska's popularity in Germany,

which lead to the founding of a large number of ska bands,

record labels and festivals.


In Spain, ska became relevant in the 1980s in the Basque

Country by the hand of the Basque Radical Rock, being Kortatu

and Potato the most representative bands. (Skalariak and

Betagarri followed their footsteps in the early 1990s and their

influence is visible outside the Basque Country in punk-rock

bands like Ska-P, Boikot and many others that have taken

importance in the spanish rock and punk rock scene and



The Australian ska scene flourished in the mid-1980s, following

the musical precedents set by 2 Tone, and spearheaded by

bands such as Strange Tenants, No Nonsense and The Porkers.

Some of the Australian ska revival bands found success on the

national music charts, most notably The Allniters, who had a top

10 hit with a ska cover of "Montego Bay" in 1983.


Japan established its own ska scene, colloquially referred to as

J-ska, in the mid-1980s. The Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra,

formed in 1985, have been one of the most commercially

successful progenitors of Japanese ska.


South America's ska scene started developing in the mid-1980s. South American ska bands typically play traditional ska rhythms blended with strong influences from Latin music and rock en Español. The most prominent of these bands is Los Fabulosos

Cadillacs from Argentina. Formed in 1985, the band has sold millions of records worldwide, scoring an international hit single with

"El Matador" in 1994 and winning the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Latin Rock/Alternative album.


I won't dance in a club like this, all the girls are slags

and the beer tastes just like piss!

                                                                         The Specials




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The Beat

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