Archive for the ‘British Ska’ Category

Bad Manners, Islington Assembly Room, February 18th 2012

Take 400 or so middle-aged men and some women, mix in some beer and other alcoholic beverages, add nine jolly musicians in a ska band and finally stir in a larger than life character person of Buster Bloodvessel on home turf and what have you got? One great excuse for a rollicking party.

The crowd didn’t need much excuse. They had already been more warmed up by the excellent ska group The Skanx and had been singing and dancing along to nostalgia tunes on the loud speakers between acts from Madness, The Specials, The Selecter and The Jam.

Bad Manners open their show at Islington Assembly Hall, London, UK, February 18th 2012

Bad Manners open their show at Islington Assembly Hall, London, UK, February 18th 2012

And although you could sense the anticipation in the air, Bad Manners arrival merely continued this vibe. Buster aka Douglas Trendle hadn’t even come on the stage and yet large sections of the audience were already bending the knees ska-stylie with the Ska instrumental being played by the rest of the band. When he did finally arrive to the affectionate crowd chants of “You fat b**stard, you fat b**stard” he brought with him that cheeky irreverence that we have come to know and love over the years. He stood at the front of the stage surveying the crowd like a king surveying his realm taking in the cheers in almost mock adulation and then gave forth “For those of who don’t know, This is Ska”, an bold statement that launched the band into the song of that name and the crowd into frenetic dancing.

Buster Bloodvessel from Bad Manners strikes a pose at Islington Assembly Hall, February 18th, 2012

Buster Bloodvessel from Bad Manners strikes a pose at Islington Assembly Hall, February 18th 2012

And that’s what the evening was about: dancing wildly and jumping around, generally making merry and having a good time. There were the hits, of course. “Lorraine”, a story about a tempestuous relationship between boy and girl always seems to have a fun pantomime element to it with interaction between Buster and backing vocalist.  “Just a feeling” told a story about a girl or flatmate taking over the living space of guy who is essentially a slob to a slower more sombre ska beat. The dreamy rhythms and harmonica of  “Special Brew” at the end of the main set belied the fact that song is not a love song but a song about a person’s addiction to extra strong beer. Many people forget that behind the fun persona of the group they produced some well observed and hard hitting social commentary about UK life in the early 80’s, no more so than “Inner London Violence”, a tune that when played live visible cranked the aggression in the mosh pit and another hit “Walking in the Sunshine” a song about wanting to escape from dire everyday life.

But this concert was all about the energy and fun levels and there were many many moments of those. Buster exhorted the crowd to jump up and down in “Feel like Jumping” which they duly did. “Fatty Fatty” got Buster to proudly show off his generously proportioned shape and in a cover version of “Too Good to Be True”, the naughty lad even slipped in the F-word.

There was even a guest star mid-set in the form of Max Splodge who Buster claimed was even madder than him. Indeed, with such cover tunes as Tenpole Tudor’s ubermasculine classic “Swords of 1000 Men”, Sham 69’s “Hurry Up Harry” and Splodge’s own manic “Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps”. Although some parts of the crowd disappeared to the side bars for a top-up, many stayed and pogo’ed.

The encore section from Bad Manners was positively climatic with untamed dancing, singing and chanting from all quarters to the carnivalesque “Lip Up Fatty” and a mass knees-up to their greatest hit “Can Can”. How the band managed to jog around the stage while playing their instruments, I will never know.

The crowd were obviously there to let loose and boy – did they ever and then some. During the show, I saw one guy standing on a radiator with shirt and bare torso and there was even a wheelchair moving about rhythmically. By the time Can Can brought the show down, Buster Bloodvessel stuck his giant tongue out at the crowd, did a cheeky little moon and exited ; several gallons of sweat had perspired from me and so much energy has been spent that I was practically on my knees with exhaustion. What a gig!  Goes down in my top 3 of most manic concerts of all time.

And for anyone was thinking Bad Manners was a group with only minor success. Let me put this in context. The UK Top 5 for 4th July 1981 saw sitting them with very illustrious company.

  1. Michael Jackson – One Day in Your Life
  2. The Specials – Ghost Town
  3. Bad Manners – Can Can
  4. Odyssey – Going Back to My Roots
  5. Being with You – Smokey Robinson

Bad Manners would stay at Number 3 for 4 weeks.