Carling Academy, Glasgow, Sat 29 Nov
‘I joined the Skatalites after both Tommy McCook and Rolando Alphonso died. It was very tragic - they died not far apart. Tommy had some complications with emphysema and Roland died on the bandstand. He had already had a stroke and had been playing with his left arm only, he really was amazing with just that one arm.’ Cedric ‘lm’ Brooks, arguably the most innovative saxophone player in all of reggae music, is remembering old friends in a hotel room in Toulouse. ‘Yes, there was a period of mourning when I first came in.’
Brooks joined the band in 1998 but he is all too aware of the legacy he was moving into: when it comes to instrumental ska, the Skatalites have been little short of pioneers for almost 40 years.
Formed in 1964, the ﬁrst incarnation of the band now reads like a definitive list of the major Jamaican talent of the 605 and 705. Drawing on the huge talent amongst the ranks of Jamaican session musicians, McCook coined their name from a pun he liked whisper to himself whenever he heard news of the Soviet space satellite on the radio.
These boys started rocking the free world with their throbbing brand of ska, R&B and swing jazz. Their success and popularity were to be huge but theirs was to be a tragic trajectory. By 1965 the greatest reggae trombone player of all time, Don Drummond, had been jailed for the murder of his girlfriend and was to die depressed and mad in Bellevue Asylum in May 1969. The irony was that in early 1967 Drummond’s ska adaptation of the theme to the film ‘The Guns of Navarone’ was to enter the European Top Ten and elevate the profile of a band that had been split up for two years.
One man's pop vol-au-vent is another man’s chlcken’s foot. It all depends on your positioning.
*~ .. 1.. . :- ‘. ,1. .. a p
Skanking on through the tragedy
After reforming in 1983 to play at the Sunsplash festival in Montenegro the Skatalites sold out wherever they played while continuing to supply backing for every singer of note in the West Indian studio system. Then Jackie Mittoo died of cancer in 1990, McCook and Alphonso followed in 1998, at which point Brooks stepped in to shoulder the legacy of what had become one huge (fairly shambolic) musical franchise.
The Skatalites have been touring ever since really and the line-up is as strong as ever. So how is the tour going for this troupe of proud old men? “It’s great, the responses we have been getting are great, the concerts are always full and we have a newish singer Kim Miller up front (formerly of Israel Wbrations). She is really very exciting, she excites the crowd quite a lot, she excites us lot quite too.’ Brooks laughs a deep, throaty laugh into the chilly Toulouse night. (Paul Dale)
While the world's glitterati were gorging themselves on salt and sauce we were in Taiwan being subjected to the kind of cuisine that will remain a part of our nightmares for years to come. The most terrifying of all was a substance called “stinky tofu' which smells how I would imagine Lord of the Rings' Mordor would. were it not a fictional land. Stalls selling chicken's feet were on every street corner — sights that would turn the stomach of anyone who'd claim that haggis is
T rust me to be out of town when all the excitement happens. The unlikely scenario of the world's premier league of musical celebrities descended on Sunny Leith for the MTV Europe MUSIC Awards while we were away playing our last shows of the year in Japan and Taiwan. A worthy and enjoyable excuse. I hope you'll agree. and I surely won't moan but it would have been an amusing circus to behold on my own dOOrstep.
All the talk beforehand was of what benefits the city would receive from hosting such a high profile event. Very
52 THE LIST 27 Nov—l 1 Dec 2003
little. according to disgruntled locals. and untold kudos and riches according to the hosts and those who profited financially. As a non-attendee who only witnessed the build up and aftermath, I reckon the truth lies somewhere in between. I'm sure that Britney Spears never went to see Hibs but that isn‘t to say that the whole thing wasn't good for Scotland. Particularly in these times of sporting humiliation. surely any events that paint our country in a good light should be celebrated and at least it wasn't the Brit Awards. which are always truly shite.
minging. Questionable food apart. our time in Taipei was tremendous and it was a fitting place to end our tour. which started in Greece eight months earlier. Getting to such unlikely parts of the world and playing to people who actually know our music is pretty amazing when you think about it.
So. one long flight later. made to seem even longer by the cinematic atrocity that is Identity (a film that does for movies what Hitler did for world peace). Home in time for the build up for Christmas shopping. joy of joys.
All the inquisitions, celebrations and exhibitions in the wonderful world of mUSIC
HAPPY BIRTHDAY RADIO Scotland. It sure doesn't look a quarter of a century old but there you go. As part of the celebrations it has trawled its archives to come up with 25 sessions and live sets broadcast over the years. and will be streaming the most popular five on its website. Live shows on the site include Primal Scream from T in the Park in 1994, Mogwai and the Delgados at King Tut's in 1996 and the Shamen from waaaaay back in 1985 before they were even called the Shamen. There are also sessions by the Go Betweens. Edwin Collins, PJ Harvey and more. Go to www.bbc.co.uk/air to cast your vote.
ART MEETS MUSIC IN TWO innovative exhibitions opening this fortnight. First off, Christian Marclay presents ‘The Sounds of Christmas’ from 6 December at the CCA, an installation/ performance piece that brings together over 1000 Christmas LPs with DJs Mingo-Go and Guy Veal creating live remixes using your festive favourites on vinyl. The second is 4/4 at Glasgow School of Art, which kicks off on 2 December. It draws together elements of art, music, performance and architecture and is not as scary as it sounds. Go check out the Art listings on page 95 for full details.
ONE INDICATION THAT 2005 could be another top year for gigs is the news that American art rock geniuses Yo La Tengo and Welsh musical madrigals Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci are to conduct a co- headlining tour of Britain in the spring. They are to come to the Arches on 9 March and the Usher Hall on 10 March.
THE 13TH NOTE CAFE IS hosting a novel fund raiser for the Malawi Tomorrow campaign. It is looking for 24 bands to play 30 minutes sets each with no gap between songs or between bands, non stop for 12 hours, noon-6pm. Further details can be obtained from firstname.lastname@example.org.