Wednesday, September 16, 2009

September 16

Apologize for the wonky dating; I try to post on the day of, but I guess I have to adjust my PC's calendars.

You know those songs that you only seem to hear at wedding receptions? Not the love songs - the dance floor songs for people that don’t usually dance. Songs so catchy that Grandma’s pulling you on the dance floor? If you like these songs, that’s okay. Reception halls are the last sanctuary for tunes like the “Macarena” and “Electric Slide.”
Black Lace has made a career from churning out these kinds of songs. Alan Barton and Colin Routh had tried to make a go as conventional music artists, but a meager showing at the 1979 Eurovision Song Contest, almost destroyed the group altogether. The duo discovered a song in the Spanish discos called “Gioca Jouer”, wrote some English lyrics for it, called it “Superman,” and delivered their first top 10 hit to the charts.

I found this tribute to it, on a British skitcom called “Psychoville,” to soften the blow. Be glad I didn’t choose “Agadoo”...

Our next birthday boy has been called “The Master Drummer of Jamaica” and “The Unknown Legend”. Winston Grennan was a session drummer around Jamaica in the 60’s and early 70’s, and the one credited with inventing the “One Drop” beat that became the bedrock of the reggae sound. He played on thousands of tracks, with everybody from Toots and the Maytalls to Bob Marley, from Booker T and the MGs to the Rolling Stones. He’s all over the soundtrack to the Jimmy Cliff film “The Harder They Come”

In 1973, he moved to America to immerse himself in the jazz scene; he was recording and working with Marvin Gaye, Aretha, Herbie Hancock, the OJays…
Finds like this are the reason I write this blog. I consider myself a ska fan, but learning about Winston Grennan reminds me how much I still have to learn.
I considered linking to some footage of Kid Creole and the Coconuts, or a clip from "9 ½ Weeks" featuring his Ska Rocks band, so we could see him play… But I’m going with Paul Simon’s “Mother and Child Reunion,” because it’s a song you probably know, so it gives you an idea of how far reaching his music is. It’s indicative of a man who has his fingerprints on hundreds of songs, whether he played them himself or inspired the sound, that have snuck under our radar.

Ron Blair played bass for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for the first four albums, helping establish the sound that would carry them over 25 years. In 1982, he left to focus on his family, and was replaced by Howie Epstein. Epstein died of an overdose in 2002, before the group’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Blair joined the group onstage that night, and then returned to the fold altogether.

Happy birthday to all the birthday boys and girls out there. Hope you heard something you liked today, and it encourages you to dig a little further. If there's someone that you feel deserves a spotlight, send me an e-mail at and try to convince me.

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