Monday, August 22, 2011

The Equators - Hot (1981)

During a hot summer in a year of personal transition, I went into Detroit with my friend Peter, to a small club where we had heard that a ska band was playing. It was 1981 and the club scene in Ann Arbor was new wave, punk and, rarely, reggae, so a ska band promised something different, a link to The Specials, The Selector and Madness, who had been residing on our turntables. I remember the club as dark and fairly empty, but I also remember dancing like crazy to music that was ska with a new wave edge. I bought an album from the band: The Equators.

The Equators were one of the second wave of ska that blossomed in Britain, decades after the ska originators moved on to rock steady and reggae in Jamaica. The bands mentioned above spearheaded the 2 Tone movement, and it is a mystery to me why this band did not achieve the same fame and following. A cynic might speculate that there wasn't enough white to make it into 2 Tone, but more likely the label (Stiff) failed to promote the band. Or this record: I never saw it in a record store.

Too bad, because this is one of the best, if not The Best, record of the 2 Tone era. Led by three Bailey brothers from Birmingham, a first British generation from Jamaican immigrants, the band was really tight and rocking. The two lead-off songs, "Rescue Me" and "Age of 5," are among the strongest, but the instrumental "Rankin' Discipline" absolutely kicks. The album exhibits solid musicianship from beginning to end. It's been grey, cool and wet where I live, for too long, and this music is an antidote for me, as it was thirty years ago when life was gloomy.


dial africa said...

Really strange, I've never heard of them. - And I was a big fan of 2-Tone as I mentioned elsewhere several times. And I've bought quite a lot of records during these years (as far as possible for a student).
I'm curious listening to this album. Thank you for sharing!

Amy said...

Very cool. Ska music brings back happy memories. What a wonderful service you are providing. xoxox