Boxset review: Bad Manners '“ The Albums 1980-85
Bad Manners were and still are the vehicle by which one Douglas Trendle '“ aka Buster Bloodvessel '“ has made people dance for the last 40 years.
They rose to prominence in the early 1980s as part of the ska revival spearheaded by the likes of The Specials, Madness and The Selecter.
Unlike those bands, they were never on the 2-Tone label, but they did feature in the 1981 documentary Dance Craze, which featured six leading lights of the scene.
They stood out from the rest because of their shaven-headed, huge-tongued frontman, whose antics got them banned from the BBC’s then-influential Top Of The Pops TV show – not that it did them any harm.
This collection brings together the five studio albums they recorded before splitting up in 1987, plus loads of extras, and all their best-known songs are included.
It kicks off with the 1980 debut Ska ‘N’ B, which is half covers and half originals. It includes the singles Ne-Ne Na-Na Na-Na Nu-Nu, Lip Up Fatty and Special Brew, as well as a non-too-serious take on Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett’s graveyard smash Monster Mash, the Magnificent Seven theme tune, and Sam The Sham & The Pharoahs’ '60s hit Wooly Bully.
Like the 2011 CD reissues by Cherry Red, it features five bonus tracks culled from 7” and 12” releases of the time.
The follow-up Loonee Tunes!, released just seven months later, also starts with an instrumental, Echo Four-Two, which would become their intro music at gigs, which attracted an - ahem - lively following.
There’s less reliance on covers (only two), and the singles Lorraine and Just A Feeling are among their best original compositions. Like the first album, it reached the Top 40 of the UK album charts, and achieved silver sales.
Sign up to our daily newsletter
The i newsletter cut through the noise
Their best was yet to come, and you couldn’t go anywhere in autumn 1981 without hearing a song from third album Gosh It’s…Bad Manners, which was their most successful, reaching No. 18. It was usually Can Can, which prompted outbreaks of high-kicking dancing at school discos and youth clubs the length and breadth of the country.
It wasn’t all such daftness, however. Gosh… includes one of their finest moments in the single Walking In the Sunshine, and a prime ska cut in Weeping And A Wailing, and the suggestive Only Funkin’.
The 2011 reissue of the album added six bonus tracks, and this one goes not one but two better, including their version of late ‘50s rock’n’roll hit Yakety Yak.
By the time of fourth album Forging Ahead, released in October 1982, the musical landscape was changing, and this was to be their last record for Magnet, their label since the start of their recording career.
Even the release of four singles from the album – including their retitled take on Millie’s 1964 reggae classic My Boy Lollipop – couldn’t propel it beyond a disappointing No. 78 in the UK charts.
Like the earlier reissue, this version includes 10 bonus tracks, lifted from various single releases, but it’s clear their star was beginning to wane.
By the time of their last original album Mental Notes, released in 1985, Bad Manners were barely recognisable as a ska band, having morphed into a synthpop outfit, and it didn't even merit a UK release.
It does include a few tracks of merit, notably the catchy single Blue Summer and a cover of Todd Rundgren’s Bang The Drum All Day. The inclusion of 10 bonus tracks (including three remixes of My Girl Lollipop, which isn’t even on this record) mean it’s either a completist’s dream, or an exercise in barrel-scraping, whichever you prefer.
Fans of old will probably have the first three albums in this set anyway, and possibly the fourth, but it does bring together 93 tracks - pretty much everything Buster and the boys recorded in their heyday - in a sturdy clamshell box, with an informative 20-page booklet, and for that alone it’s worth a punt. 7/10.