Mod Ska

(John Leo Waters' Top 50 Ska tunes from back in the day)

John Leo WatersHaving read 'Doctor Robert’s' excellent article on Ska/Blue Beat and noticing the discussions that followed it I got to thinking about my favourite Ska/Bluebeat records from the sixties Mod years. Once I started it was difficult to stop but I narrowed my list down to fifty.

All too often when clubbing back in those days we would hear a sound played but the DJ’s never announced the title or artist. There was little or no coverage of Ska on the radio so many great sounds have simply been consigned to that dark place at the back of my memory bank! Occasionally, over the years some of these have come to light but there are many more that linger waiting to be released!

My list is based purely on my own personal recollections and I am sure others could add to them. Looking through my reminiscences I cannot help but notice the influence both Prince Buster and the Skatellites have had on the music. Apart from his own efforts on disc so many are produced by the Prince. In addition, Don Drummond, Roland Alphonso, Jackie Mittoo et al along with the Skatellites themselves feature heavily on so many tracks.

So, in no particular order, here goes Mod Ska...

Prince Buster

The Flames - Broadway Jungle (1964) Also known as ‘Dog War’ this is unmistakably Toots Hibbert on an early Ska classic  

Laurel Aitken - Shake (1966) Often referred to as the ‘Godfather of Ska’ This was released on the Ska Beat label (a subsidiary of R&B records in UK)  

Millie - My Boy Lollipop (1964) What can you say about this classic. Originally recorded by Barbie Gaye ( that’s her name!) in 1956. Produced by Ernest Ranglin in the UK.  

Lord Tanamo - I’m in the Mood for Ska (1965) The mighty Skatellites on backing.  

Ezz Reco and the Launchers - King of Kings (1964) Previously released by Jimmy Cliff. This was the first Ska record to make the UK charts.  

Prince Buster - Enjoy Yourself (1963) The main man. Great Ska sound that has enjoyed something of a revival lately.  

Tommy McCook and The Supersonics - Thunderball – There was a great penchant for covering TV/film themes during the Ska years and this was as good as any. Tommy McCook was a well known saxophonist who featured with the Skatellites.  

Skatellites - The Guns of Navarone (1965) Talking of Ska film themes – this must rank as the best.

Ba Ba Brooks - Watermelon Ska (1964) Great Ska version of this classic number.  

Lynn Taitt and the Jets/Comets - Storm Warning – Fantastic number by talented guitarist - guaranteed to get feet moving!  

Laurel Aitken - Honey Girl (1960) One of the earliest Ska numbers issued on Starlite label  

Jackie Opel - You Send Me – Normally I would shout sacrilege but this Sam Cooke number is a Ska classic by a very underrated singer who cut some excellent Soul material also.  

Prince Buster - Al Capone (1965) Probably the most popular of all ‘Mod’ Ska favourites.  

Jackie Mittoo - Dr Ring Ding (1967) Also released as by Rolando Al and the Soul Brothers (Rolando Alphonso) on Doctor Bird label – Ska cover of Alvin Cash’s Twine Time – Brilliant!  

Ba Ba Brooks - One Eyed Giant – Ba Ba was a trumpet player who made some great Ska records. Another who played with the Skatellites at one time – was it obligatory?  

Duke Reid Group - What a Man Doeth – One time police officer turned record label owner and producer who also turned out some excellent material under his own name.  

Prince Buster - Ten Commandments (1963) Glorious slab of sexist Ska. Hit the charts in the USA also.  

Roland Alphonso - Phoenix City - Simply a classic!  

Don Drummond - Man in the Street (1965) Another Skatellite (trombone) and another dancefloor favourite.  

Desmond Decker - Get up Edina – An early Jamaican hit for the self styled ‘King of Ska’  

Prince Buster - Judge Dread (1967) The most popular track in the ‘Rude Boy’ series. It also tracks the shift from Ska to Rock Steady.  

Derek and Patsy - Housewife’s Choice (1962) early Ska favourite by Derrick Morgan and Patsy Todd. Produced by Leslie Kong.  

The Wailers - Simmer Down - Bob Marley’s first big success – topped the Jamaican charts  

Prince Buster - One Step Beyond (1964) Very popular with Mods long before it became a Two Tone favourite.  

Theo Beckford - Easy Snappin – Often quoted as being the first Ska recording. Relaesed in 1959 but apparently recorded in 1956 by pianist Beckford. Still popular in the sixties.  

Derrick Morgan - Forward Dance (1962) Another great track by ever reliable Mr Morgan  

Byron Lee and The Dragonairs – Jamaica Ska - Also known as the Ska Kings - this is a real ska classic!  

Roland Alphonso - James Bond (1966) Another film track cover. Anything to do with James Bond was always welcome.  

Eric Morris - Humpty Dumpty (1961) Produced by Prince Buster. Georgie Fame also did an excellent version  

Foulks Bros - Oh Carolina (1961?) One of the earliest Ska classics  

Derrick Morgan - Blazing Fire (1963) Storming Ska! A direct ‘dig’ at Prince Buster!  

Desmond Decker - 007 (1967) They don’t come any better!  

Owen Gray - Darling Patricia (1962) A greatly underrated artist. Earned a place in history as first record on Chris Blackwell’s Island label  

Ba Ba Brooks - Vitamin A – Try keeping still to this – impossible!  

Derrick Morgan - Tougher Than Tough (1967) A great rival of Prince Buster – Here he puts across his take on the ‘Judge Dread’ series.  

Justin Hinds and the Dominoes - The Higher the Monkey Climbs – Very popular artist in Jamaica. Check out ‘Carry Go Bring Home’ and ‘Rub Up Push Up’ also.  

Ken Richards and the Harmonizers - Judgement Day (1960) On the BlueBeat label. Commonly belived to be Laurel Aitken in another guise.  

Carlos Malcolm and His Afro Jamaican Rhythms - Bonanza Ska (1960) Fabulous nonsense Ska track  

Jimmy Cliff - Miss Jamaica (1962) Jimmy’s first hit in Jamaica.  

Derek Harriott - Monkey Ska (1965) Another release on the UK’s Ska Beat label by one time member of the Jiving Juniors.  

The Paragons - The Tide is High – Long before Blondie crucified it. Featuring the lead voice of John Holt.  

Laurel Aitken - Bug A Boo (1964) Listen to those lyrics!  

Prince Buster - Cincinnatti Kid – Not a track you hear very often these days but we loved it.  

Jackie Mittoo - Train to Skaville – Not to be confused with the Ethiopians classic of the same name. This is a track from Jackie Mittoo’s classic Lp of the same name. Keyboard player with the Skatellites.  

Sir Lord Comic - The Great Wugga Wugga (1967) Originally a dancer before turning deejay.  

Lee Perry - Doctor Dick (1966) A risqué outing for the eccentric maestro.  

The Ethiopians - Train to Skaville – Hugely popular in the clubs and rightly so.  

Stranger Cole - Rough and Tough (1963) On the Blue beat label. Often duetted with patsy Cole. Apparently nicknamed ‘Stranger’ because he didn’t look like any of his family!!  

Laurel Aitken - Little Sheila (1960) ‘B’ side of Boogie my Bones – re-released in 1965. We preferred this to the ‘A’ side.  

The Pyramids - Train Tour to Rainbow City (1967) Eddy Grant produced and written – loved it!

I know John would love to hear any feedback on this article. You can discuss it with him in the forum here or I will pass on any messages to him using the contact address.