Skinhead Love Affair

Should I have to preface this with an explanation of what ‘skinhead’ means? I think that, if you’re over here listening to Bad Manners, you probably don’t need it. Let’s just say that it’s a long and convoluted story how a music- and fashion- oriented youth movement that began in the 60’s has somehow come to be seen as semi-synonymous with neo-Nazism. For casual fans of ska music and checker-print suspenders, those kinds of associations are a real detraction; for others, looking malevolent is part of the appeal. By the time Bad Manners released Fat Sound in 1992, the movement had already been well taken away from kids who just wanna skank and show off their skulls, well taken over by the sort of people who have deeply held political convictions and the broken bottles to back them up with. This does, however, hark back to more innocent times when being a skin just meant being a working-class young lout with romance and pints on your mind.

Sally Brown

If rock music is to be believed, dozens of girls in every school are named Sally. If Bad Manners are to be believed, Charlie Brown’s baby sister grew up, moved to the rough end of London and became a skinhead. I’ve never met anyone named Sally, or even known of one. As for little Sally Brown, you can imagine what you like. This particular Sally sounds like a real cool girl, though she probably has a switchblade in her boot and doesn’t mind using it.

Return of the Ugly

When Buster Bloodvessel sings about the return of the ugly, he means himself. Damn, that dude is ugly! If you’re cursed with a face like that, make it your schtick. Buster has made a career from being an ugly rudeboy, to the eternal inspiration of ugly rudeboys everywhere. You don’t have to be pretty to succeed at ska, you just have to be really fun, and I guarantee that Buster has more fun than you. He’s probably having more fun than you right now. And that’s why Bad Manners exists – to help you have more fun. Forget about social consciousness, let’s get drunk and rampage til we drop!

Non Shrewd

Well, somehow this guy missed out on becoming the single most iconic face of Great Britain’s late seventies ska revival. Clearly Buster Bloodvessel is the Gene Simmons of his milieu; unrepentantly ugly, completely ridiculous and best recognized by his tongue. There the similarities end. However, I do think that Bad Manners deserves a bit more recognition for being the most fun, sloppy and irreverent party music to come out of that scene. They’re the side of ska that doesn’t care about making a statement and just wants everyone to get drunk and be happy. What they’re actually talking about I usually don’t know, so much of their lyrics are slang unfamiliar to me, but I’m fairly sure it’s about living the life of a low down skint skinhead.

My Girl Lollipop

Brighten up your day with some ska! Bad Manners were probably the silliest, and therefore fun, groups of the early 80’s ska revival. Where many of their peers delved into social commentary and prided themselves on political awareness, Bad Manners just wanted to play fun music laced with raunchy humor. Millie Small’s original 1964 hit My Boy Lollipop was regarded as a novelty song, despite being one of the biggest selling ska songs to this day. The novelty lay partly in Small’s unusual voice, and in large part in the fairly unsubtle double-entendre of the title. Both of those things being just a perfect match for Bad Manners, with Buster Bloodvessel’s unusual voice and love of unsubtle entendres. Either way, it’s an irrepressibly fun song, and who doesn’t love a lollipop?

Lip Up Fatty

Ska – the authentic sound of now! Or so it was in 1980, when Bad Manners and all things ska were at their most popular. It’s not something I know a lot about, but I know it looked like fun. One thing I wonder is the use of the word Fatty. I can’t help but think it carried a different meaning than the one we associate it with. Bad Manners aren’t the only band to make use of it; it’s really common in ska music and I think it might be a term of endearment. Either it was a totally loving and appreciative thing to call someone, or everybody had a weird love/hate/fetish attitude towards chubby girls.

Also, Buster Bloodvessel is very ugly.

How Big Do You Love?

This is one of the gayest songs ever. In the top five of song gayness. Right up there with YMCA and Go West and Relax and uh, whatever the fourth one is, something by Pet Shop Boys probably. You wouldn’t expect the fifth gayest song on earth to be vintage ska, but Bad Manners aren’t your typical ska band. Not that I know very much about ska, but there’s usually a lot of political subtext that goes over my head because they’re all English and talking about political English things from the 70’s, which I know nothing about. What I’m saying is, most ska bands think they have something important and clever to say. There’s nothing wrong with having convictions and backing them up with your checkerboard print guitar straps, but the topical aspect can get lost among listeners who aren’t old enough to remember whatever the hell everyone was so angry about in those days. So I really like Bad Manners because they are so frickin’ goofy. I don’t know them well enough to judge their entire catalog, and I’m sure they had intelligent things to say. But they also had a lot of jokes to tell, and lead singer Buster Bloodvessel’s outsize (literally) persona couldn’t possibly be taken seriously. I guess they’ve developed a reputation as something of a novelty act, but that’s not exactly a bad thing. They’re a damn funny band. You could even call them England’s most popular parody ska band, because they often seem to be poking fun at their more serious minded 2tone brethren. So, yeah, of course they would come up with the world’s gayest ska song.