Oct 052021

I am uncertain how much traction the Specials had outside the UK, where they are rightly considered national treasures, riding a wave of energy since their most recent regrouping and reiteration. Now down to the core trio of Terry Hall on vocals, Lynval Golding on guitar and vocals, and Horace Panting on bass, here they are again aided and abetted by much the same cast who crewed 2019’s Encore, the touring of which had been rudely interrupted by Covid. Rather than sitting home and ruing, the band fired up their default setting of righteous indignation.

As a multiracial band in the English midlands city of Coventry, on the cusp of the 1980s, the Specials became famous, not just for their infectious bluebeat, but also as bastions in the burgeoning fight against racism, generally and in music, appearing, on occasion, on the Rock Against Racism platform. Their response to the George Floyd case last year, was to utilize lockdown and raid their record collections, putting together Protest Songs 1924-2012, a collection of covers which, in some way or form, cast a reflection on the circumstances that could allow such a thing to happen. Protest songs, one and all, if sometimes not necessarily appreciated as so, with about as eclectic a selection as could be, with source material including the unlikely triad of the Staples Singers, Frank Zappa and Leonard Cohen. The one style absent is of ska, the band’s erstwhile calling card and M.O., with any number other of genres embraced in its wake. If nothing else, this displays the broad grasp of musical strengths available within the Specials, yet without losing the strident declaratory croon of Hall, or, indeed, the collective identity. Ska or not, this could be no other band.
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Jul 132011

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

If you saw Daniel McLain in a bar in 1983 you might have assumed that he was president of his local Hells Angels chapter. Actually Daniel, better known as Country Dick Montana, was a much less threatening former record store owner, former high school class president and former president of the Kinks Preservation Society fan club. Back in 1983, while scouring San Diego looking to put together a new band – or “rolling musical pleasure machine” as he called it – Country Dick recruited Jerry Raney, Buddy Blue and Rolle Love. These guys became the Beat Farmers, a band with three singers and two lead guitarists, whose most enduring (and endearing) song was a 90-second ditty about a dead dog featuring gargling and a kazoo. Country Dick played drums, but also occasionally fronted the band. Imagine a cross between Johnny Cash and Sam Kinison and you have Country Dick’s stage presence. Country Dick called his fans maggots, and tossed beer on them. They loved it…and after the show, Dick would often stay and chat with the Beat Farmer faithful; he really wasn’t so intimidating after all. You could make the case that the Beat Farmers were the best bar band ever. Continue reading »