THE FORGOTTEN BAND OF THE 2 TONE SUCCESS STORY

I can’t put it any better than what you can find over at 2-tone info.

This is slightly edited down to concentrate on the music and leaves out details about some TV appearances, and stops the story at the band’s break-up, although there’s some very interesting stuff beyond that I might return to with a future posting.

“The main instigator behind The Bodysnatchers was fruit and vegetable seller Nicky Summers. Nicky had caught The Specials at an early gig at the Moonlight Club in London and was totally bowled over not only by the music but also by the fact that the crowd seemed to be enjoying themselves so much. So impressed by The Specials was Nicky that she immediately set about forming a band. She placed an ad in the music press for like-minded musicians (The famous story of the replies to the Rude Girls Wanted ad has become a fable within 2 Tone circles) and things soon started to gather pace.

At first the band was a 4 piece but soon expanded to a 7 piece. Among the line-up were a civil servant, a fashion designer, a lifeguard, a secretary, a freelance illustrator and a schoolgirl. As wide and varied as this group of people may have been they did have one thing in common; they could either just about play their instruments or for others it was as case of not been able to play them at all. Of those who could just about manage a few notes they were either self-taught or were given the occasional lesson by boyfriends etc and for those who couldn’t play at all they just “learned to play as they went along”.

Rhoda Dakar Vocals
Nicky Summers Bass
Stella Barker Rhythm Guitar
SJ Owen Lead Guitar
Pennie Leyton Keyboards
Jane Summers * Drums
later replaced by Judy Parsons
Miranda Joyce Saxophone

Now that the line-up was complete, there was the matter of a name for the group and what material to play. They decided on the name Bodysnatchers because they said “the music is body snatching” but deciding on what material to play was less straightforward. Although they had taken inspiration from The Specials, and it was indeed their intention to play ska in its new 2 Tone form, they found the pace of ska was too much for such an inexperienced group of ‘musicians’. Instead, they opted for a slower style in the form of rocksteady. Now that the band had found a style of music within their somewhat limited capabilities, they collected together a number of songs, which would give the band a set to play live. They choose some old reggae/ska songs to cover such as Monkey Spanner, OO7 and a song, which was to become their first single, Let’s Do Rocksteady. Also, among their early set lists was a reggae version of London Bridge Is Falling Down. Once they were confident enough, they composed their first original song, ‘The Boiler’.

The band got their first gig in November 1979 at the Windsor Castle pub in London and at only their second gig were asked by The Selecter to support the band on their forthcoming tour. By the end of 1979 the nation was well and truly in the grip of 2 Tone fever, and it wasn’t longer before the music press was suggesting that The Bodysnatchers would be the labels next signing. So with only a few months experience behind them, they were indeed signed to the label. Their signing didn’t exactly meet with universal approval within the 2 Tone camp, with some voicing concern about what lay in the future for such an inexperienced band. Here was a band that by their own admission were not competent musicians, and they were about to jump under the media spotlight, which was waiting patiently for the label’s first failure.

The Dandy Livingstone song, Let’s Do Rocksteady, was the choice for the band’s debut single. For the b-side the band selected an original composition, Ruder Than You and producer on both tracks was Roger Lomas who was working with Bad Manners at the time. While the band were on tour with The Selecter, the single entered the charts at number 44 and peaked at number 16 which earned them an appearance on Top Of The Pops.

The band had signed a two-single deal with 2 Tone and for the second release an original was selected, Easy Life, and this time a cover version would appear on the b-side. The track chosen was Winston FrancisToo Experienced and the resulting track stayed faithful to the original. Although the band were pleased with the single, and it certainly deserved a higher position chart than it received (50), by this stage of 1980 2 Tone was beginning to lose its appeal with the record buying public.

The Selecter had announced that they were quitting the label as they felt that 2 Tone had lost direction and with the label’s next signing The Swinging Cats becoming the first 2 Tone single to miss the charts completely it was obvious that the label was no longer the force it once was. The band soldiered on regardless and managed a short headlining tour of their own and picked up the support slot on the Toots and the Maytals tour but by October 1980 the band had played their last gig at Camden’s Music Machine in London. The band cited ‘musical differences’ for their decline, with some wanting to take a more political stance while others wanted to follow a more pop orientated career.”

Here’s all the songs from the two singles:-

mp3: The Bodysnatchers – Let’s Do Rock Steady
mp3: The Bodysnatchers – Ruder Than You
mp3: The Bodysnatchers – Easy Life
mp3: The Bodysnatchers – Too Experienced

JC

9 thoughts on “THE FORGOTTEN BAND OF THE 2 TONE SUCCESS STORY

  1. I know little of the band and enjoyed this read. I will play The Boiler today by way of tribute.

  2. When The Bodysnatchers split, 5 of them (Stella Barker, Sarah-Jane Owen, Miranda Joyce, Penny Leyton, and Judy Parsons) went on to form The Belle Stars

  3. Brilliant pop story of someone being inspired, by a band,
    to form a band. Great post, JC.

  4. I didn’t realise that ‘The Boiler’ dated back to The Bodysnatcher’s time, first hearing it on a John Peel Session, and then as a single and album track. Other than the four songs featured here, I know nothing of the rest of their material.

  5. Great that they were genuinely unable to play/ self taught etc but inspired to do it and then did it so well. That’s what music (and punk, in whatever form you want to take it) is all about.

  6. I truly appreciate and enjoy everything that MVDreams do/ say/ be. So thank you.

    I grew up in Belfast in the 70s and came of age when the whole 2Tone thing was a fresh new scene in the later half of the decade. Learning wee nuggets of info in 2022, about bands like The Bodysnatchers, is always a joy and havin a top shelf soundtrack of a few tracks is a treat.

    Have a fantastic weekend, thanks again.

  7. So surprising to hear what amateurs they were! I was a fan of the Two-Tone scene, and was happy to pick up the very few things from the label I could find, not an easy thing to do in midwest America. The “Easy Life” single was one of them, and it still holds a place of honour in my collection It’s really a fantastic song, a classic in so many ways, both lyrically and musically. I was sad to hear that they had broken up, with the majority forming The Belle Stars. I picked up a few of their singles and first album, but found them mediocre efforts, it seemed the driving spirit of the ‘snatchers was the singer, Rhoda Dakar. Or maybe it was a synergistic magic, because even the few things I heard from Rhoda never quite appealed as much as these two singles.
    I wish I could have heard how this band handled the song “The Boiler.” The Special AKA version is one of the most powerful songs I have ever heard, but very unpleasant to listen to, I doubt I’ve played it more than half-a-dozen times.

  8. Hi Hermit,

    Indeed, apropos comparing the Bodysnatchers material to the Belle Stars, I felt exactly the same. Genie in a bottle stuff. But some of it was fun nonetheless.

    And with regards to The Boiler ? Im the same. And I know Ive watched this visually disturbing performance once, and that is more than enough. Very unpleasant. And the timing of poor tracking calibration on the video visuals dont help [or was it meant to be that way]…..But one incredible piece of work if it has that effect all these years later…

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