The 1991 Yes album ‘Union’ is one that very much splits opinion. Rick Wakeman famously nicknamed it ‘Onion’ as it made him cry whenever he heard it, and even from a fan perspective, it never really connected with a strong audience. Those who liked the poppier route Yes had taken in the 80s found musical kinship in the more commercial tracks – like the lead single ‘Lift Me Up’ and Billy Sherwood’s excellent ‘The More We Live – Let Go’ – but didn’t really like the proggier aspects, while the proggy fans welcomed the return of Steve Howe and a few more adventurous bits but still had no time for the pop aspects still present. It was a case of “too many cooks” – the album took in too much variation and enlisted five different producers – and in an attempt to please everyone, almost ended up pleasing no-one.
Ever since the CD boom in the 90s, the market hasn’t been short of rock compilations. There have been literally thousands of collections of 70s rock classics flooding the market, often very similar in nature. You’d think they’d only be a finite amount of people willing to put their hands in their pockets for discs containing Rainbow’s ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’, UFO’s ‘Doctor Doctor’ and Hawkwind’s ‘Silver Machine’, but still they come…and in huge numbers.
There are few things as ubiquitous with the 1970s as glam rock. The first half of the decade’s music was shaped by David Bowie in his Ziggy and Aladdin pomp, Marc Bolan’s colourful pixie-like antics on Top of The Pops, and a run of stompin’ great hits from Birmingham’s finest, Slade. Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn penned a truckload of hits for Mickie Most’s RAK label, making the music mogul’s yacht almost as famous as the acts themselves. In full leathers, Suzi Quatro helped pave the way for a generation of female rock stars and self-confessed “navvies in mascara” Sweet hadn’t “got a clue what to do”. On the artier end of things, there were Roxy Music’s appearances on the Old Grey Whistle Test where Bryan Ferry and company looked – and, indeed, sounded – like they’d been dropped to Earth by aliens and Sparks’ appearances between the likes of The Hollies and Wings on your favourite Thursday evening pop show had ability to frighten small children. It was very much a fertile time for new pop music.
With the vinyl reissue of the 2-Tone live album ‘Dance Craze’ and the 8CD 2-Tone box set hitting the shelves in the autumn of 2020, it seemed like a good time to be a ska fan. While there seems to be no news regarding a much needed reissue of the ‘Dance Craze’ film as we move into 2021, The Selecter’s fans are given another cause for celebration.
On April 23rd, the classic Selecter debut ‘Too Much Pressure’ will be reissued on vinyl (in clear and black varieties) and a vastly expanded 3CD set.
In the summer of 1979, several young bands with a political conscience and an ear for the Jamaican sounds of the late 60s began to storm the UK charts. The British music scene subsequently experienced one of its most exciting post-punk movements when bands like The Specials and The Selecter became the “new cool” with their brand of energetic ska music. By October, the new movement had reached fever pitch when no fewer than three bands associated with the 2-Tone label appeared on a single edition of Top of The Pops. Decades on, it’s still possible to understand the incendiary effect these bands had when revisiting that footage. Much has been said about Madness’ abilities to give the studio a party atmosphere, but it’s The Selecter’s first appearance playing ‘On My Radio’ which, perhaps, best sums up the pure energy of ska’s second wave in a little over two minutes, with Pauline Black, Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson and Charley Anderson giving it the full on skank throughout.