Category Archives: ska

locomotive

LOCOMOTIVE: first incarnation, 1965 photo credit, JIM SIMPSON

Reading the ‘tags’ above, you’d be forgiven for thinking there had been some kind of editorial cock-up. Ska & Blue Beat? Yes, obviously, if you played the track above. Prog / progressive rock? Eh?

Read on – I shall explain.

Locomotive (initially billed as The Locomotive)were formed in Birmingham, England, during 1965, by trumpet playing jazz musician, Jim Simpson. (Jim is on the far right of the opening image, above.) The original line-up, which wasn’t to last too long, also boasted Chris Wood (bottom left of photo) who would leave towards the end of 1966 to join forces with Jim Capaldi, Steve Winwood and Dave Mason, to form Traffic.

There had been several personnel changes throughout 1966 and Chris’s departure left only Jim Simpson of the original line-up.

Amongst those enlisted to the new line-up was keyboard player Norman Haines who had previously played with The Brum Beats. Norman worked in a record shop in the Smethwick area of Birmingham which had a large West Indian population. The shop would meet the local demand for ska and blue-beat records, and Norman himself became a big fan of the genre.

His influence was brought to bear with the release of the ‘new’ band’s first single ‘Broken Heart.’Written by Haines, it had a blue-beat feel, but was drenched in soulful vocals and horns.

Other than the track itself, there are two interesting facts about this release:
1) it was the last records to be played on the original ‘Jukebox Jury’ television programme … and voted a ‘Miss.’ And it was.
2) the B-side was a cover of Dandy Livingstone‘s ‘Rudy, A Message To You,‘ which would become a hit for The Specials some twelve years later.

The following year, saw the band spend eight weeks in the UK charts, peaking at number twenty-five, with ‘Rudi’s In Love.‘ (This single would be reissued in both 1971 and 1980 during the respective periods of skinhead and two tone popularity, the latter being when I myself bought a copy.)

The remaining original band member, Jim Simpson left in 1968 to concentrate on music management … and did reasonably well, I’d say, going on to eventually look after Black Sabbath.

With a ‘hit’ single and lots of airplay behind them, an album deal beckoned and in early 1969, the lead single from the soon to be released, ‘We Are Everything You See’ long player hit the shops.

You will of course have detected a change in Locomotive’s musical direction!

Opening with a short classical piece, ‘Overture,‘ the album then progresses into blend of psychedelic, jazz and soul. Listening to ‘Mr Armageddan’ puts me in mind of some Paul Weller / Style Council type songs that would follow, the best part of forty years later.

‘Lay Me Down Gently‘ in parts echos The Small Faces, while the Nigel Phillips (three part) composition ‘The Loves of Augustus Abbey‘ has that prog-rock reflection of medieval England.

It’s most certainly an adventurous release. However, as great as it sounds, and no matter the positive music press reviews , the album pretty much bombed as it was released to a somewhat confused fanbase.

Perhaps understandably, established fans of the ska-infused Locomotive did not take to the new prog- rock imbued version of the band. Likewise, the new target audiences regarded them as a bit ‘poppy,’ and were reluctant to buy in.

The follow-up single, ‘I’m Never Gonna Let You Go,’ a cover of the ? and The Mysterions song, also missed the charts.

As a result, Parlophone delayed the album’s release. It did eventually see the light of day in February 1970, but by this time, Norman had left the band and in effect, Locomotive no longer existed.

With no promotion or marketing, sales were unsurprisingly poor, and the album was quickly withdrawn, marking it a rare collector’s item, with copies at time of writing for sale via Discogs at upwards of £500!

Norman would go on to form Sacrfice, later to be known simply as The Norman Haines Band. Remaining band members Bob Lamb (who would later join The Steve Gibbons Band) Mick Hincks, John Caswell and Keith Millar would record one more single before changing the band name to The Dog That Bit People.

Yeah – while the ability to diversify is a great attribute, I wonder how things would have turned out had the band simply avoided any confusion and conflict of fanbase by changing their name prior to releasing the album.

(I love this track! The B-side to Mr Amagedddon)

LOCOMOTIVE
(Throughout their time, I count twenty musicians who played with the band. The following are those I believe were involve with the album’s recording.)

Norman Haines – Keyboards / Vocals
Bill Madge – Saxophone
Mick Hincks – Bass / Vocals
Bob Lamb – Drums
Mick Taylor – Trumpet
+
Dick Heckstall-Smith – Saxophone (session musician)
Henry Lowther – Trumpet (session musician)
Chris Mercer – Saxophone (session musician)

TITLEFORMATYEARLABELNOTES
Broken Heart7″ single1967Direction
Rudi’s In Love7″ single1968Parlophone
I’m Never Gonna Let You Go7″ single1969Parlophone
Mr. Armageddan7″ single1969Parlophone
Roll Over Mary 7″ single1970Parlophone
We Are Everything You SeeLP1970Parlophone


(** Reference was made to the brumbeat.net website in preparation of this piece. **)

jackie mittoo

Though I wasn’t to know it at the time, Jackie Mittoo was partly responsible for my love of all things reggae, ska and dub.

With the association between punk and reggae back in the mid-Seventies, combined with the release of Bob Marley‘s ‘Exodus’ album, my interest was piqued. The John Peel radio show here in UK, partially satisfied this new thirst for new sounds, but by regularly playing out ska tunes from the previous decade, he led me deeper and deeper into a whole new musical world.

I bought ‘Exodus’ (on cassette) as I’m sure many other punks did but it wasn’t until the two ‘Intensified’ compilations were released in 1979 / 1980 that I totally bought into the ska culture.

Recorded at various points between 1962 and 1967, these albums were produced with a group of studio session musicians providing the backing. From these players would emerge The Skatalites whose sound was supplemented by the piano / keyboards of … Jackie Mittoo.

Donat Roy Mittoo (Jackie) was born in in Brown’s Town, Jamaica in 1948 and died tragically young in Toronto, Canada, forty-two years later. But, boy, did he pack a lot into such a short life!

Initially taught piano by his grandmother, Jackie started playing professionally at age thirteen, having moved to Kingston. It was there he joined the Rivals, playing organ, but soon switched to the Sheiks, one of Jamaica’s most popular club bands, where he would meet up with future fellow Skatalites, Lloyd Knib an Johnny Moore.

Two years later (1963) when Clement (Coxsone) Dodd opened his famous Studio One, Jackie was invited to act as talent scout and session arranger. He worked closely with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry on Coxone Dodd’s productions, while sitting in on piano for The Skatalites.

It was the on the Hammond organ though that Jackie would really make his name. When the Skatalites broke up following trombonist Don Drummond’s incarceration for the murder of his girlfriend in 1965, Mittoo formed The Soul Brothers with Roland Alphonso, Johnny Moore and Lloyd Brevett. They became the backing band for all Studio One’s rocksteady recordings.

In 1968, he formed the Jackie Mittoo Trio, with The Hepones‘ Leroy Sibbles on bass. Jackie, with his experience of arranging, would write the bass lines, pioneering a new style of bass laden reggae.

He moved to Toronto for several years, working for Summer Records and launching a side career in Easy Listening recordings. However, He would regularly return to Jamaica where he’ d record for Coxone Dodd.

In the mid-Seventies, he also worked with the producer Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee. By now, recording technology had come on leaps and bounds and so Jackie was able to re-record many tracks in the new ‘rockers’ style. The likes of drummer Sly Dunbar, bassist Robbie Shakespeare , pianist Ansel Collins and several others joined in the reworkings to produce the landmark ‘Jackie Mittoo Showcase’ album, from which the accompanying tracks are taken.

In addition to his own recordings, Jackie takes credit for writing hits for Alton Ellis, Marcia Griffiths and Freddie McGregor amongst others. In 1970, his ‘Peanie Wallie‘ was versioned by The Wailers, becoming the hit ‘Duppy Conqueror.’ He would also work closely with Sugar Minot and UB40 from the UK.

Throughout his time at Studio One, Mittoo recorded literally thousands of songs for so many of the artists whose talents he nurtured and coached to great success.

Thirty-one years on from his passing, his style and influence still echoes in all aspects of modern day reggae, ska and dub.

JACKIE MITTOO
(Jackie worked with way too many musicians to list here!!)

TITLEFORMATLABELYEARNOTES
Working with so many artists, Jackie Mittoo has over two hundred, 7″ singles listed on Discogs.

Regards albums, I have listed only those released during Jackie’s lifetime.
In LondonLPCoxone Records1967
Evening TimeLPCoxone Records1968Recorded with his band The Soul Vendors also credited.
Keep On Dancing LPCoxone Records1969
NowLPStudio One1969
Macka FatLPCoxone Records1969
Wishbone LPSumus Records1971
Reggae Magic LPStudio One1972
Let’s Put It All TogetherLPUnited Artists Records1975
The Keyboard King LPThird World1976
Hot Blood LPThird World1977
Show Case Volume 3LPJackpot1977
The Money MakersLPJackie Mittoo Music Production1978

In Cold Blood
LPThird World1978
Jackie MittooLPUnited Artist Records1978
Stepping Tiger LPRite Sound Inc.1979
ShowcaseLPStudio One1980
Version StudioLPJakki1985
Wild JockeyLPWackie’s1990