How Scotland Created Ska


Made it back from Aberdeen. Just. If there hadn’t been that break in the snow, we would have been fucked like those poor bastards on the M8 yesterday. Anyway…

After several years of his constant bragging and boasting, I’ve finally got that bigheaded bastard Lloyd Knibb of The Skatalites ‘told’, big time. We were hanging out, as we always do when he’s in town, shooting the breeze, slagging off the younger Ska bands such as The Specials and Bad Manners, bunch of Johnny come lately no hopers. Anyway he launches into his ‘did I mention how I invented the Ska beat, and therefore the Ska genre?’ speech, which, quite frankly I’m sick of hearing.

“Yeah, so there I was in Jamaica”, he drones, “not doing very much, just touching myself, playing drums and stuff, when I thought to myself ‘I wonder what would happen if I put the emphasis on the second beat of the bar, and just like that, boom, I’ve invented Ska. You’re welcome mother fucker!”

I’d had enough. “Hey Knibby Boy, pipe down will ye? Let’s say for a minute you’re right and you did invent it, which by the way, I’m sure Prince Buster might have some something to say about. But let’s say you did. You invented Ska. It doesn’t matter, because we, as in the Scots, invented all of you.”

“What are you talking about, you invented us? You didn’t invent us?”

“Sure we did. To our eternal shame.” Basically, Scotland and the Scots, especially us Glaswegians were at the heart of the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries. We sent ships to Africa to capture slaves, transported them to the plantations in the Caribbean and Virginia, and then transported the tobacco and cotton back to Glasgow, and then onto the rest of the British Empire. The so-called Tobacco Lords made massive fortunes and built huge mansions in Glasgow. People like William Cunningham, whose house became the Gallery of Modern Art; Andrew Buchanan, Archibald Ingram, Alexander Oswald, who Buchanan Street, Ingram Street and Oswald Street are all named after; all of them made their fortunes from Tobacco and from Slavery. Take a walk through the Merchant City and centre of Glasgow; street names like Virginia Street and Jamaica Street remind us of Scotland’s shameful involvement in the historical development of places like Jamaica. And even the surnames of the members of The Skatalites remind us; Don Drummond, Vin Gordon, Val Douglas, Tommy McCook, Johnny Moore, those aren’t French names.

“So fair enough Knibbster,” I concluded, “you may have invented Ska, but if we hadn’t kidnapped and enslaved your ancestors, you would never have been in Jamaica at that time to invent Ska, so you might say we invented you, and therefore we invented Ska. Quod erat demonstratum. You’re welcome, mother fucker!”

Check. And. Mate. Look, I’m not proud of it but I made him a cry a little bit, not the first time I’ve made a grown man weep openly. Anyway we always argue like that, it’s good clean fun between friends. To prove that there were no hard feelings I let him use my bubblegum pink Tama Granstar kit again when we played at The Picture House, and he let me have his beers backstage because he’s off the drink. He really enjoyed using the kit again. For some reason, when you play my pink kit, it’s like wearing stockings and suspenders, you just feel sexy. So I’m told.

Thanks to everyone who came down to that gig, that was a great night. We thought our new tunes are beginning to come together; ‘Bitch Boy’, ‘Triplet Bypass Surgery’, and ‘Where Eagles Dare’, all pretty strong we thought. ‘Where Eagles Dare’ is the second part of our Alastair MacLean trilogy obviously, and also we like songs about being really cold. The Skatalites had several new members, new trombone, new alto, new keyboards, and new guitar; that’s half the band, all new blood. That wouldn’t work with us. Each of us jealously guards our parts so no one knows what each other plays, that way we can’t sack each other or the band would disintegrate. Clever, eh? Or really stupid, I can’t be sure. In any case it seems we are doomed. The Skatalites were great as usual. Lester Sterling tried to get me up to do a trumpet solo, clearly mistaking me for Colin somehow. They did get our Matt up for a solo on their last tune of the encore and he played a blinder. Pure jazz-tastic.

I’d also like to mention that we are nominating our Sam for Drummer of the Year award after our Skalloween gig, the award being a giant pair of clown shaped shoes. He turned up to the sound check blazing drunk with only one drum and a superman costume, after two days in the pub and about an hours sleep. That’s the curse of Bombskare for you. It was still a great night though and yet again you guys amazed us with your costumes. My personal favourite was Ali Wales who really pushed the boat out with his Baron Samedi costume, although Colin’s Batman and my Joker definitely win the prize for believability, especially after he threw me off the roof, whilst I pissed myself laughing. Good times.

Recording has stalled. We have sixteen tracks about eighty percent completed. It tends to take longer to complete tracks than start them. By that I mean you spend more time messing around with things like vocals and horns than you do with drums and bass. That said, we will be going back in soon to put down drum tracks for five more songs, hopefully next week. Assuming the snowing stops.

One more gig to go this year, out in the wild east. See you in the Pans!

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