Jan 232012

Play continues in our tournament to determine—once and for all—rock’s greatest backing band ever.

The first two rounds have been completed. We enter the final conference matches in the Regional round of play. The attached grid shows where we stand as the Regionals round is played out: backingband-tournament-64

Feel free to think ahead to coming Regional battles as you begin work on the present conference match up. Meanwhile, tournament play for the Rebel Conference has begun. Four backing bands remain: The Wailers vs The Rumour and The Maytalls vs The Attractions.

Regionals: Rebel Conference

Because the selections from this point forward are so crucial to future generations’ understanding of rock history, play will follow a different course of action in this round. Before any voting can take place, Townspeople are encouraged to post comments and YouTube clips of the backing bands you support in this round. You may begin launching your campaigns now. After a day or two of lobbying and counter-lobbying the polls for this conference’s regional round will open. We don’t want any rash votes on Day 1 that you may regret on Day 3 of discussion. Dig?


Regionals, Rebel Conference: The Wailers vs The Rumour

  • The Wailers (58%, 18 Votes)
  • The Rumour (42%, 13 Votes)

Total Voters: 31

Loading ... Loading ...

Regionals, Rebel Conference: The Maytals vs The Attractions

  • The Attractions (89%, 34 Votes)
  • The Maytals (11%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 38

Loading ... Loading ...

  33 Responses to “Regionals, Rebel Conference: Rock’s Greatest Backing Band Tournament Continues!”

  1. The Wailers are legendary — but The Rumour could do it all. Check out this clip of them doing a reggae number backing Garland Jeffreys!

  2. The Wailers-Rumour match is going to be tough for me.

    I go way back with my Graham Parker & the Rumour albums. One of the things I love about their work is that is grew and coalesced into a tough, original rock ‘n roll sound of its own on Squeezing Out Sparks.

    The playing on the one Bob Marley & the Wailers album I love, Burnin’, is amazing. The feel, the “touch” they have on that album is right up there with the playing on the second Band album or whatever other album I find “just right” on all playing and production levels. Beyond that album, though, all Bob Marley starts sounding like the Grateful Dead to me. I know I still struggle with visions of not-so-cool white folks getting a little buzz and cracking out their one album in their collection involving black artists (not named Michael Jackson or Donna Summer). They all had that greatest hits album and seemed compelled to go right to “Jammin’,” getting in my face with their Tequila-scented breath. Ugh. I won’t hold those experiences against the Wailers, however. I’ll spend some time with the other Marley songs I do like spread across their later albums, and I’ll revisit some of my early Wailers collections. Lack of musical diversity, however, may hinder the chances of either reggae backing band.

  3. I agree this is another tough one. These days, (and for the past 2 decades or so), I listen to Graham Parker a lot more than I listen to Bob Marley. But I’m leaning towards the Wailers here.

    The Rumour was a versatile outfit, capable of adding whatever flavor GP wanted in a given song from punk/new wave to old school R&B to cod reggae/ska. A truly great band… but..

    The Wailers essentially invented a genre, or at least had such a big impact that they codified it. Their playing is subtle, tasteful and has great grooves. And if there’s one element that I’m using in my evaluation more than any other in this contest, it’s the band’s ability to support the vision of the guy before the ampersand. The Wailers excel at that. I can’t hold the more embarrassing members of their fan base against them.

  4. machinery

    I hear ya Mr. Mod. But as much as I dig the Rumour’s members separately — and they did make some great music together — they were always a great Pub Rock band to me, which is a bit of damning with feint praise, if you know what I mean. I never listen to them without hearing just Graham Parker. I never get wowed by a great drum fill or bass line, the way I do with the Attractions. It all just chugs along really nicely, but is that enough? They’re like the English E. Street Band.

    The same argument can be made for the Wailers, true. (yes, a lot of reggae sounds similar in its overall approach.) But Bob Marley and The Wailers were cultural touchstones and pioneers in a way the Rumour were not. They crossed over big time. And, let’s not forget they were pretty awesome at what they did — maybe the most awesome reggae band ever. Can the Rumour claim that? For that reason, the edge has to go to the Wailers, in my opinion.

  5. machinery


  6. You and cdm make great cases. Believe me, I’ve been weighing these issues. On the strength of Burnin’ alone I may vote for the Wailers.

  7. More evidence of The Rumour’s mastery of styles as a backing band –here they are country-rocking with Carlene Carter.


  8. bostonhistorian

    As much as I love Toots and the Maytals, I can’t in good conscience vote for the Maytals as a “backing band”. The Maytals were the two singers along with Toots, and were originally billed as “The Maytals”. In their earliest days they recorded backed by the Skatalites, Prince Buster’s house band, and other musicians. Eventually Toots started to get top billing since he sang lead but in the earliest days there was no “Toots and the Maytals”.

  9. bostonhistorian

    It’s the same problem with the Wailers as with Toots and the Maytals. “The Wailers” of “Bob Marley and the Wailers” is really the “Wailers Band”, created when “The Wailers” disbanded after Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh left in 1974. “The Wailers” are a vocal trio, “Bob Marley and the Wailers” is a different entity altogether. “Burnin'”, which Mr. Mod references, is attributed to “The Wailers”, not “Bob Marley and the Wailers”, so I’m not really sure how The Wailers are a back-up band for the purposes of this contest.

  10. Excellent use of the pince nez. Too bad we hadn’t considered this during the selection process. I hadn’t factored in the billing on that one album I consider to be their best work, under whatever name. In light of this, I’m going to cast my vote in this contest now – or when the voting opens, that is. I hope others will do what’s right and follow my lead.

    As for the other match up, the Maytals have a ton of energy and punch, but many of you know how I feel about the Attractions. Even for those of you who’ve been snubbed in person by the band’s leader (I’m talking about you, Happiness Stan), who’s to argue with the Attractions’ flexibility, power, finesse, etc? They’ve been pushed to the limits unlike any other ampersand-attached backing band in this contest and almost never let Costello down. Call me an Attractions Fanboy if you must!

  11. bostonhistorian

    Well, I would have said something at the outset but was protesting the exclusion of the MGs.

  12. Double reverse Pince Nez! The Barrett brothers were in the Wailers from 1970 and the keyboard guy, Earl Lindo, was a Wailer from Burning (1973) forward.

  13. So they can stay in the tournament? That would be good. The selection committee was meeting to determine whether the Wailers and Maytals should be bounced from the tournament and replaced with the New Animals and the Voidoids.

  14. bostonhistorian

    The Barrett brothers were part of Lee Perry’s house band “The Upsetters” who backed the Wailers on many tracks into the early 1970s. As The Wailers grew bigger, the Barrett brothers left Lee Perry’s employ in 1972 and became part of “The Wailers”. This configuration lasted a year or so until Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer left. During that time though, everyone was part of “The Wailers”, and singles and albums were released as “The Wailers”, the point being that there was no distinction between Bob Marley and the rest of the group, hence no back up band.

    Post 1973 there is “Bob Marley and the Wailers”, and at that time “The Wailers” *are* the backup band and continue after Marley’s death as “The Wailers Band”. We shouldn’t conflate the original Wailers vocal trio with the Wailers band which supports Bob Marley starting in 1974.

  15. Happiness Stan

    Costello behaving like an ass during a tour he clearly wasn’t enjoying much anyway hasn’t prevented me voting solidly behind the Attractions so far, and I don’t think that I can in any conscience vote against them in this round either. The Maytals made some great records, but the Attractions gave Costello an edge and an instantly recognisable sound which I’ve never heard anywhere else in the admittedly limited number of his recordings I’ve listened to since “Get Happy”, the point where he and I parted company. Even though I don’t care much for even the records he made with the Attractions these days there is no arguing with the musicianship behind him, which wins my support in this round also.

  16. I knew I could count on you, Stan, to be a bigger man in this matter.

  17. misterioso

    Bottom line is from time to time I quite enjoy the GP and the Rumour albums whereas I am simply never going to be a person who has any interest in Bob Marley and the Wailers. And although I have warmer feelings for the Maytals, that is an easy call for me as well.

  18. Happiness Stan

    If the Wailers had never done anything other than this performance on the Old Grey Whistle Test, a show which went out absolutely live on British telly during the seventies and eighties, they would have my vote in this round. The first time I saw it I thought that it was probably the coolest thing there ever was on the show and nothing has shaken that belief since. Has anyone ever looked or sounded better than this on late night live telly? It’s like a huge ship being sailed into harbour on a warm summer night, a beautiful precision which is capable of generating a huge feeling of warmth as well as admiration. I have seen this clip over and over again and there is simply nothing wrong with any part of it, a perfect, flawless performance which can be loved as well as admired.


  19. I suggested both while freely admitting I am not a deep reggae fan. The Bob Marley & The Wailers of the ’75 Live! album was notably missing.
    Toots & the Maytals were next in that train of thought. Prince Nez accepted.

  20. bostonhistorian


  21. 2000 Man

    I think this one is easy. Two Rock bands and two reggae bands.

    I vote Rock.

  22. The polls have opened!

  23. Funny, I was going to post this clip to support the Wailers but it’s so tight that I wasn’t sure if it was live or a lip sync.

  24. Happiness Stan

    The Old Grey Whistle Test studio was so small and ill-equipped that occasionally bands would have to use backing tracks for some parts because they couldn’t physically fit all their gear (and sometimes members) into the space (The Who’s use of a synth track for The Seeker is often cited, generally so that the BBC can show the clip again), but there was never miming on the show. In the early days it was always the last programme on BBC2 before closedown, and until the channel went 24 hour in about the early 80s the OGWT didn’t have an official finish time – the producer would just wrap it up when all the bands had done their thing, extended solos and all.

  25. I love Graham Parker and The Rumor, and Parker’s music has always spoken to me more than Costello’s, whose great lyrical wit sometimes can’t mask an essential shallowness. The Rumor always brings to Parker’s songs whatever they need to.

    Still, it’s hard to see them as being as distinctive as The Wailers, especially if you also include the utterly amazing first side of Catch A Fire, the strong precise drive of Uprising, or their performance on several amazing live records.

    Both excellent backing bands, but I’m going with the one that brings something more distinctive to the table.

    For me, too many Costello songs are less than the sum of their parts, or maybe more exactly, just the sum of their parts. Still, without question, the musical parts of the Attractions are just consistently brilliant. I may admire their music more sometimes than I love it, but in terms of the debate here, I think their talent and originality is overwhelming.

    I don’t see as much in the Maytals as I do in The Wailers.

    Ultimately this round is a bit of a no-brainer for me.

  26. jeangray

    The Maytals didn’t deserve to be trounced like that. 🙁

  27. Good points, mwall, but I feel like Marley’s backing band (whatever bostonhistorian wants to call them) quickly stalled, like all reggae artists, on the 2-chord jams that typify the genre. I think people take points off the Rumour for their “bar band” roots and early sound. I believe, however, that the band developed a truly tough, flexible sound that incorporated their ’60s rock and soul roots in a manner more befitting the times on Squeezing Out Sparks. The well-known “Local Girls,” for instance, works along the same way as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ great hits of that era (call me old fashioned, but I still think they was robbed in their match against Crazy Horse), but has a more distinctive, personal oomph.


    I don’t hear much fire or subtlety in Marley’s music past a certain point, but they were pioneers and deserve credit for that and Burnin’ alone. I guess what I’m getting at is, Let’s give the Rumour a hearty round of applause should they fall short in their underdog role in this tournament.

  28. I always give hearty applause to The Rumor, and always enjoy hearing their non-flashy playing in the service of the tight intensity of Parker’s vision for the band. I give them kudos in the same way I was calling for kudos for some of the less flashy country rhythm sections that I really thought get the job done.

    The Wailers, for awhile, had too much time on the road, which led to their jamming phase, which I still like well enough. I feel like Uprising showed them moving beyond that, towards a sound that was actually the most driving forward-momentum that their rhythm section ever developed, a sort of key signpost along the way towards, say, the intense power and drive of Black Uhuru’s rhythm section.

  29. I’ll have to check out that Uprising album. Thanks.

  30. BigSteve

    So true.

  31. At least it’s not totally reggae Town Hall.

  32. Keep the faith as we prepare for the next rounds!

Lost Password?

twitter facebook youtube