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Bad Manners

Gate-crashing the ska revival party that had kicked off its second phase in 1979 with The SPECIALS, The SELECTER, MADNESS and The BEAT, the bandwagon-hopping BAD MANNERS added a touch of mindless, maniacal merriment to the movement. Led out like a bald bull in a china shop, fat boy slam Buster Bloodvessel (born Douglas Woods/raised Douglas Trendle) was the life and soul of the good-time North London combo, a band one had to see in concert to appreciate their unadulterated antics first hand. Incidentally, BB’s moniker stemmed from the bus conductor character (played by Scots humourist/poet IVOR CUTLER) in the BEATLES movie, Magical Mystery Tour.
BAD MANNERS had been around in some shape or form since 1976 when the British punk-rock era evolved. Spurred on by the burgeoning ska scene, but especially their London neighbours MADNESS, the 9-piece unit of shout-y singer Bloodvessel, Paul/Gus “Hot Lips” Hyman (trumpet), Chris Kane (saxophone), Andrew “Marcus Absent” Marson (saxophone), Louis “Alphonso” Cook (guitar), Martin Stewart (keyboards), David Farren (bass), Brian “Chew-It” Tuitt (drums) and Winston Bazoomies/Alan Sayagg (harmonica), they geared themselves towards a teenage audience after signing to pop label, Magnet, becoming regulars on Saturday morning TV show, Tiswas. This gave them a certain platform to launch initial singles such as hits `Ne-Ne Na-Na Na-Na Nu-Nu’, `Lip Up Fatty’ and `Special Brew’, all a bit of fun and frolics from their Top 40 debut set, SKA ‘N’ B (1980) {*6}; the record included re-vamps of SAM THE SHAM’s `Wooly Bully’, BOBBY “BORIS” PICKETT’s `Monster Mash’, LOUIS JORDAN’s `Caledonia’ and Elmer Bernstein’s `Magnificent 7’.
Subsequent albums such as LOONEE TUNES! (1980) {*6} and GOSH IT’S… BAD MANNERS (1981) {*5} took a secondary role to their buoyant hit 45s like `Lorraine’, `Just A Feeling’, `Can Can’ (Offenbach’s classical dance tune) and `Walking In The Sunshine’. Interestingly enough, the colourful cover versions had an appeal all of their own as the “large” ensemble played to the beat of ROLAND ALPHONSO (`El Pussycat’), The CHAMPS (`Tequila’) and NAPPY BROWN (`Don’t Be Angry’).
The good, the brash and the undeniably ugly, BAD MANNERS continued to roll out familiarity and pop numbers, but only really `My Girl Lollipop’ (a hit in the 60s for MILLIE as “My Boy Lollipop”) made the Top 10 grade; its parent LP FORGING AHEAD (1982) {*5} failed miserably in reaching the Top 75, while attendant singles `Got No Brains’ and `Samson And Delilah’ descended to a new low. Rivals MADNESS had moved on from just ska, and another widescreen cover by way of Ernest Gold’s `Exodus’ (not the relatively closer WAILERS reggae tune) was a million miles away from a take of VAN MORRISON’s `What’s Up Crazy Pup’.
Taking time out from the pop world for a few years buried any chance of re-establishing a commercial liaison with the charts; Winston had now made way for Stevie Smith and an added percussionist Jimmy Scott.
In 1985, Portrait Records let BAD MANNERS loose on audiences outside of Old Blighty, releasing their sadly run-of-the-mill MENTAL NOTES (1985) {*4} in mainly the Netherlands, Greece and North America. Continuously touring songs from the set, including their version of TODD RUNDGREN’s `Bang The Drum All Day’, the tongue-in-cheek Buster Bloodvessel (certainly the largest out-of-cheek-tongue ever!) looked to have had his 15 minutes of fame and fun.
Following on from a LIVE AND LOUD!! (1987) {*4} “official bootleg” concert LP for Link Records – soon to be known as “Greatest Hits Live” – Farren left, as did Tuitt and Marson. Buster, Louis, Martin and Winston reunited, adding All-Stars: Nick Welsh (bass), Dave Andrews (trombone), Jon Preston (trumpet) and Andy Bruton (drums), for the French-only album “Eat The Beat”, with many of the same tracks rolling over to 1989’s RETURN OF THE UGLY {*4}.
If fans had stuck around for FAT SOUND (1993) {*4} and DON’T KNOCK THE BALDHEAD (1997) {*4} – the latter entitled “Heavy Petting” in America – well, the usual display of mindless jollity was the dis-order of the day; covers galore given the boot-boy ska treatment; from DEEP PURPLE’s `Black Night’ to The MONKEES’ `Randy Scouse Git’. Meanwhile, Chris Kane duly departed, while Martin joined rivals The SELECTER; Welch would also become part of the latter outfit.
Buster and Louis subsequently recruited an entire new entourage of fun loving criminologists; namely Simon Cuell (guitar, vocals), John Thompson (bass), Rickesh Macwana (keyboards), Mark Harrison and Carlton Hunt (drums), Chris Bull, Dave Welton, Trevor Irving, Tony “Treacle” Richardson and Warren Middleton (brass), who turned in their ninth studio set by way of STUPIDITY (2003) {*5}. Had BAD MANNERS changed or matured any since their halcyon days of yore? Nope! 2011’s Japanese-only set, YOU’RE JUST TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE {*4} proved they had mileage if not a degree of sanity – and how could anyone not raise a grin or a chuckle to the gentle giant of ska, Buster Bloodvessel.
© MC Strong/MCS Jun2015

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