Feb 242012

The Wailers vs The Attractions!

As we progress through the Semifinals round of our tournament to determine—once and for all—rock’s greatest backing band ever, the Rebel Conference promises possibly the most hotly contested match in Rock Town Hall tournament play, as The Wailers face off against The Attractions. The winner of this match will tell a lot about the make-up of our Townspeople. The winner of this match will likely blow away tournament overachievers Crazy Horse and move onto the Finals!

Through the long, painstaking course of this tournament adequate arguments have been made on behalf of all the semifinalists. That doesn’t mean you’re not encouraged to continue arguing for your selection in this round, but you are welcome to cast your vote now. Voting in this match will run through 11:59 pm on Tuesday, February February 28, 2012.

Semifinals, Rebel Conference: The Wailers vs The Attractions.

  • The Attractions (79%, 37 Votes)
  • The Wailers (21%, 10 Votes)

Total Voters: 47

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  20 Responses to “Semifinals, Rebel Conference: Rock’s Greatest Backing Band Tournament Threatens to Tear Apart Rock Town Hall as The Wailers Meet The Attractions”

  1. 2000 Man

    This was easy. I’ve avoided voting for the reggae band every time I’ve been able to.

  2. At their best, the Attractions were unbelievably tight and awesomely powerful. They get my vote. Steve Nieve is one of the great unsung keyboardists.

  3. Happiness Stan

    I’m currently alone in going with the Wailers, it would seem.

    The Attractions were a great, tight unit, and I bought and still own all of the records they made with Costello, whose output without them has left me mainly unimpressed, which demonstrates what a huge outfit they were. I also have to admit that I have never bought even a single by the Wailers, (although these days their music gives me more pleasure).

    But, having said that, I don’t see how anyone can even begin to imagine what rock would sound (and even look) like now if it wasn’t for the records the Wailers were making at the beginning of the seventies which revolutionised the way reggae was perceived and influenced practically everything that has happened in music since, and that includes the rhythms the Attractions regularly referenced. “Watching The Detectives”, the breakthrough single, for instance.

    I’m also baffled by the distinction which has been raised several times during the tournament between Reggae and “Rock” – the same argument hasn’t been used against Funk and Soul, Pop and Glam, and only half-heartedly against Country.

  4. Your comments remind me that reggae seemed to have been way more influential in England than it ever was in the US. Here it was a minor subgenre that most of us with good taste in music only learned to enjoy through its introduction by punk rock bands. Funnily enough, from my experience at least, Americans with typically subpar taste seemed to embrace Bob Marley’s Greatest Hits before anyone in my extended crowd. Somehow they learned that that album was a good way to broadcast the fact that they and their wine cooler-sipping friends were “getting crazy!” I held that scene against Marley for years before a friend turned me onto that Burnin’ album, which I think is one of the finest-performed albums ever.

    The key weakness is see in this match is that the Wailers only played two types of songs compared with a backing band that could play just about any style.

  5. tonyola

    Right. Reggae had barely been on the radar in the USA prior to the later 1970s. There were a few earlier radio hits like Millie Small’s “My Boy Lollipop”, Desmond Dekker’s “Israelites”, and “Hold Me Tight” and “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash. Also, remember that little ska break by the Beatles in “I Call Your Name”?

  6. tonyola

    A point of pince-nez – the Attractions had nothing to do with “Watching the Detectives” or anything on My Aim is True, for that matter. Costello was backed by Clover, an American country-rock outfit who later contributed some members to Huey Lewis’ backing band.

  7. Forgive me, but I must pince nez your pince nez. “Watching the Detectives” was recorded separately from the rest of MAIT. The backing band on that was Steve Goulding (drums) and Andrew Bodnar (bass), both from the Rumour, plus future Attraction Steve Nieve on organ!

  8. True, in part, but a partial pince-nez back at you, tonyola! The rhythm section on “Watching the Detectives” was Andrew Bodnar and Stephen Goulding, from The Rumour, the band Townspeople dismissed in favor of these very Wailers.

  9. There you go – and Oats remembered the fact that it was Nieve on organ. Bravo!

  10. tonyola

    Well, consider me nezzed! This is what I get for relying on memory instead of fact-checking. I should know better here, right?

  11. “I respect someone who can pull a half truth out of their ass more than someone who can look up the full truth on the internet.” I think the Buddha or Kierkegaard or somebody said that first but I concur.

  12. Happiness Stan

    Ah, I didn’t know that, although I did know it was Clover on MAIT. Over here WTD came out as a single ages after MAIT was released and about five minutes before This Year’s Model, and it was obviously Steve Nieve on keyboards.

    I was also thrown by the memory of this Top of the Pops appearance, with the Attractions backing him on the song

    There, I’ve done it, posted the first Attractions clip to appear in this competition (albeit miming to a record they didn’t play on), whilst willing on the opposition, without whom that song would not have existed in that form.

  13. Happiness Stan

    I’ve been musing all evening about the post-Beatles divergence of music in America and Britain. At the time they split we both had music with an awful lot of hair, which in the US developed into CSN, the Eagles and, ironically considering where they started from, Fleetwood Mac, all geared to your FM rock radio – which we’ve never had over here.

    What we had was pop radio, which was the ideal breeding ground for the bands the only decent DJ we had on radio had been championing for a few years, Bowie and Bolan, to be joined by Slade, Sweet, Roxy etc. to go back to their art school roots and create an art-pop/glam revolution. US punk and British punk came from entirely different places, with not very much more than a reaction against Too Much Hair in common, and it was not until Live Aid in the early 80s that the musics seemed to coalesce once more.

    The only two places for music lovers in the UK who weren’t convinced by Glam to go were Prog, which was bloody hard work if you were only aged between about ten and twelve, and the Underground, represented by Fairport, Caravan, Family, John Martin and the scene they represented, and almost every last one of them (along with Roxy Music, Free, King Crimson, Cat Stevens, Traffic) were on Island Records – who also had Bob Marley and the Wailers, and consequently received attention through being on the coolest label around, which mainly existed to put out music by bands who only John Peel would play on the radio and people who considered Glam beneath them and Prog too hard would buy. They were pretty underground, though, until the arrival of punk – with, ironically, at that point their heaviest and most convincing records behind them as they slipped easily into commerciality and chart success.

    Costello, (and the Rumour), came out of the pub rock scene, which by the time most people over here had noticed had pretty well been overtaken by punk, and you could easily substitute Bob Marley in what you’ve written above with Graham Parker, Dire Straits or almost any band from that genre to understand precisely how they were viewed by people who thought that they knew better about music than everyone else. The only honourable exceptions would have been Dr Feelgood, Eddie and the Hot Rods (for a very brief period) and Elvis Costello, who were embraced by the punks.

    It seems very strange to be building a case against the music that the fifteen-year-old me would have got into fights to defend, but to now-me the Attractions played unconvincing pub-rock, and Steve Nieve’s chirpy fairground keyboards really grate on my nerves. I fully accept that this has everything to do with the prejudices that I held as a fifteen-year-old and nothing to do with their undoubted musical ability. The Wailers, on the other hand looked like the meanest and heaviest gang in town, and it makes no difference that they only played two songs: I prefer those two songs to the entire Attractions canon. The Attractions couldn’t have played that version of Stir It Up which I posted in the last round, and the Wailers couldn’t have played my favourite EC and the A’s song “Big Tears”, although they could very easily have taken Watching The Detectives and booted it straight over the wall and into the next street.

    I expect that the Attractions will win this round, and on an intellectual level I can’t fault the case you and others are making. I would love to see the Wailers rally enough to make the run-up to Tuesday interesting, though.

  14. 2000 Man

    I’m listening to a record so I’ll watch that video later, but the Attractions did a pretty great job on Watching the Detectives on the single that came with Armed Forces. I think it’s pretty cool, anyway.

  15. Two interesting strands here:
    1. Do Marley & the Wailers only play in 2 styles? They don’t play fast but they’ve got heavy groovers (“Get Up Stand Up”,”Them Belly Full”) lighter, uplifting songs (“Two Little Birds”, etc) plus some more acoustic stuff that almost casts Bob as a singer-songwriter (“Redemption Song”). And that’s a very surface view from someone not very familiar with all the deep catalog songs.
    2. A Brit can write off the Attractions as pub rock / fairground music more easily than an Yank who had exposure to FM Radio Rock. In the US, you leave pop behind and go straight to Beatles / Stones / Hendrix / Zeppelin. Tons of people stay right there but to find the tightly-wound, exciting stuff like Costello and the Clash and the Ramones we had to step beyond that. It was a bit of a “we know better than you” badge that a youngster would wear proudly.

  16. tonyola

    It would have been easier if what we had to deal with in 1976-1977 was the Beatles, Stones, Hendrix, etc. What was being pushed on FM AOR radio was stuff like Eagles, Frampton, Boston, Blue Oyster Cult, Springsteen, Sytx, and so on. Prog and glam were dead or dying plus disco was threatening to smother everything in site. All this made the embryonic New Wave all the more thrilling to us jaded listeners. I wasn’t all that impressed by the Ramones, but the Talking Heads and Costello certainly piqued my interest.

  17. BigSteve

    As much as I love the Attractions, I’m leaning towards Stan’s position here. I think a lot of people raised on rock can’t really hear reggae rhythms, which leads to statements like “the Wailers can only play two songs.”

    And though I think it’s true that reggae didn’t influence American (white) rock musicians the way it did British rock musicians, the influence of reggae can be heard in disco and all of the varieties of bass-oriented music (hip-hop, techno, house, jungle, etc) that everyone else in the world listens to much more than they do skinny American dudes with guitars and a limited sense of rhythm.

  18. Point taken on the crappy corporate rock of the late 70’s. Those lifestyle FM stations were a big machine pushing the latest record label product. But they were grounded in the masters from the ’60’s. Just as you leave the pop stations for the rock stations (I specifically bailed when the Bee Gees held down the entire top ten in 77-78); if you care you leave the schlock behind when you begin to figure out what you like.

    And 20 years on you get weirdly nostalgic for the Bee Gees and Kansas.

  19. I posted a Lipstick Vogue video a while back to counter ChickenFrank’s nomination for that song in “The Worst of the Best” thread. I distinctly remember the Attractions performance Lipstick Vogue at the Tower just before This Year’s Model came out. It was the wildest, most virtuosic, rock performance I’ve ever seen. I appreciate the argument for the Wailers, but I just can’t agree.

  20. Really not a hard decision for me. The Attractions were tremendous unit that delivered in all sorts of styles and situations, from their teeth-on-edge sound on This Year’s Model to the smoother stuff on Almost Blue to When I was Cruel (Close but they’re the Imposters; I know!). Really cool that MacManus recruited these guys with an newspaper advert!

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