The Damned were kind of fun, but the evening was more about seeing mates and meeting up with old friends. Thoroughly enjoyed it. The week before though, was all about the music.
Got the train down to Bath to see my friend Tom, and go to the new Komedia there, where it was a real privilege to see genuine ska / rocksteady / reggae / jazz legends, the Skatalites. Regrettably, Don Drummond, Tommy McCook, Jackie Mittoo and Roland Alphonso have all passed on and as such are unlikely to be coming down to the west country in the near future, but Lester Stirling, Lloyd Knibb and Doreen Schaffer still remain…
I’ve looked up the biographies of some of the other musicians also currently in the Skatalites, and they’re pretty impressive as well. Look at the Wikipedia entries for sax player Cedric Brooks and trombonist Vin Gordon, for example… and then browse through some of the recording credits of bassist Val Douglas.
Yeah, it was a real thrill to see these old fellers - can I say “cats”? - walk onstage, which was given a bizarre but gratifying twist by the emergence of Lester Sterling apparently wearing an old-style Gloucester shirt… (Honestly, hoops and everything. In Bath, as well…).
Clearly not spring chickens, they tore through a set at least as energetic as the Damned’s, lovingly tossing away ska classics such as “007”, “Guns of Navarone” and “Lucky Seven”, all as tight as a drum and loose as hell. Great stuff.
I’d never been quite clear about the difference between Ska and Rock Steady but after about six or seven numbers, another original member vocalist Doreen Shaffer came onstage and the tempo changed completely. Still possessing a fine voice and a real warmth about her, she led the band through a series of beautifully light rock steady numbers, such as “You’re Wondering Now”, “Nice Time”, “Sugar, Sugar” and a version of “Simmer Down”. It was wonderful stuff.
And from there, the set changed again into a series of reggae and dub tracks, featuring Douglas’ thundering bass lines. It was breath-taking, and then not a little poignant to see Douglas walking off with the aid of stick at the end.
True to form, I left my microphone in the car, so I’m kicking myself that I have no recordings to share, but The Skatalites have a pretty active website and there are a number of freebies there, including these tracks with the wonderful Doreen Shaffer
A great evening in all, (topped off when I got to shake Cedric Brooks’ hand as he showed up at the bar half way through the set!)