I co-founded The Uptones in 1981, and have been a member for every show and recording of our long strange Berkeley ska trip. This is my blog category about some Uptones doings, past, present and future.
When SF Chronicle pop music critic Joel Selvin interviewed Paul Jackson, Moose Lethridge and myself for his article about The Uptones’ reformation in the 2000’s, we had no idea it would be part of a cover story in the Sunday Datebook. Shortly after the release of our Skankin’ Foolz Unite! CD, there it was next to the morning coffee and we were gobsmacked. Pat Johnson took the cover photo and Katy Raddatz got some fun color action shots of the band in rehearsal in West Oakland. You can read the saga in SFGate. Thanks Joel, and thanks everyone who has enjoyed this long, strange, ska trip with us.
This is a compilation featuring each of the six people (so far!) who have performed lead vocal duties in The UPTONES: Erik Rader, Charles Stella, The Rev. Paul Jackson, Moose Lethridge, Emily Jayne, and myself. The most recent recording (“T.V. Guns”) is from 2010, and the earliest (“Out To Sea”) is from 1983! We did a show in 2011 in which we got all these characters onstage to perform their signature Uptones songs. It was an epic bit of cat-herding but definitely worth it, the show was a blast. That probably won’t happen again, but you can still get the record from iTunes, or order a CD from uptones.com – I think we have like 2 left!
Playing the Gilman Street Project as it was then known, is unlike playing any other venue. It’s all-ages and volunteer-run and there’s no booze inside. All of the energy of the audience pours onto the stage and is amplified by the band and launched back in a way you don’t often find in mainstream clubs. There’s a sign that says “NO STAGE DIVING” and that’s pretty funny. We played two sold-out shows in August of 1989 when the club was starting and The UPTONES’ 1st chapter was ending. Beserkley Records got ahold of a recording of the 2nd night, mastered it up and released it! You can hear a few tunes from it at uptones.com or pickitup at iTunes.
At the Uptones’ Skanking Fools Dance Contest, Ska Reigns Supreme
When the Uptones finally appear after 11 p.m., the energy in the room seems to peak. “Y’all ready to skank? ‘Cause that’s what we’re here for,” announces guitarist Musashi “Moose” Lethridge. …Again the dance floor is abuzz with energetic young skankers, a flurry of flailing limbs and bobbing bodies.”
This song is about guns, media, and idiocy. It’s from the Uptones’ “East Bay Orbits” CD, you can get it at iTunes or Amazon, or download it from the link below if you like. Here are the lyrics. My bandmates all really came through on this track, and patiently put up with about 100 re-writes before it felt ready. In the end, I’m really happy with how it came out. I wish the subject matter never even existed, but, as the song goes, “It’s always on.”
The UPTONES are doing a one-night-only midsummer show at Ashkenaz on August 9th, with The TITAN-UPS (the best Jamaican Rocksteady style band in San Francisco) and TheRAVEUPS – an awesome band with guys from The Rubinoos, Santana, Psycotic Pineapple, and other bay area rock champs. It wasn’t until we had the show confirmed and the bands booked, that I realized all three bands have “UP” in their names. So I’m calling it an “UP-Fest.” ‘Cos I can.
The Rev. Paul Jackson whipped up this cool poster and we have a FB Event Page where you are invited to RSVP and invite your friends! If ya don’t know already, Ashkenaz is ALWAYS All-Ages, and they serve beer, wine and excellent food, AND they have a fantastic wooden dance floor AND a great sound system! Fact is, you can count the number of remaining venues in the east bay that can say ALL that, on one finger. I’m proud to bring The UPTONES show, with all my skankin’ foolz, to our stalwart hometown dance hall again, and I hope you will join us!
I have had the pleasure of collaborating with some fine songwriters over the years, including the unique and completely original Paul Jackson. As a keyboardist, singer and composer in The Uptones, Paul has always pushed the envelope, lyrically and musically. “Bested By Pelicans” is right out of Paul’s head; I just helped bring it to life. I watched the idea grow from the initial moment of inspiration at the beach (all of it really happened, including the cheese-food-stuff!) to the rehearsal where he passed out the parts. After we recorded this, our friend, cartoonist Shannon Wheeler made some images for a lyric sheet, which Paul later animated in this clip. It’s on the Uptones’ Skankin’ Foolz Unite! album which you can buy directly from the band as a CD, or from iTunes if you’d rather get the download.
A few years ago I asked Jesse Michaels to draw an interpretation of The Uptones’ hat-and-shades logo for our album, “Skankin’ Foolz Unite!” and Jesse sent us this wonderful ska doggie. We had a contest to name the pup, and numerous fans sent in the name of “Buster.” Buster also happens to be my cat’s name so it seemed natural that I’d have a Buster Doggie as well. Now Buster is all grow’d up and he turns up in the strangest places. A ska fan in Oregon had a skalloween jack-o-lantern contest, and one of the winners was this brilliant likeness of Buster. So naturally we’re inviting our fans to draw, carve or photoshop their own Buster interpretations, and send them in for a photo album. Deets in my post at Uptones.com: The Many Faces Of Buster the Ska Doggie.
“Ridiculous” is one of my favorite words. It’s also the name of a song on The Uptones’ “Skankin’ Foolz Unite!” album. Here are the lyrics. The trumpet player with goggles in the picture there is our very own “Ska-T” Bertrand. Naturally, he plays his leads on this with a plunger. Read Ska-T’s comments about rocking the ska with the Uptones horn section in this interview with Skanking Fool himself. It’s redonkulous.