April 8, 2013

Annette Funicello, RIP

One cultural oddity is that ska music, a Jamaican forerunner to reggae and, on its own, a dance music that recurrently becomes a craze in the U.S. every decade or two, was introduced to the American public by Annette Funicello with her 1964 hit "Jamaica Ska." 

It's not as good as late 1960s ska songs like Desmond Dekker's "The Israelites" or Toots and the Maytals' "Pressure Drop," not to mention first revival ska songs like the English Beat's "Mirror in the Bathroom" or Madness's "One Step Beyond," or second revival hits like Rancid's "Time Bomb," but "Jamaica Ska" was on AM radio in America in 1964.

Ska is unusual in that it's a dance music genre that became increasingly monopolized by straight guys.


Pat Boyle said...

Good God! I came here looking for your take on Margaret Thatcher whom you knew and I find instead. Annette Funicello.


Anonymous said...

What a terrible song.

Anonymous said...

If you're of a certain age, you know that Annette Funicello is FAR more important than Margaret Thatcher!

Luke Lea said...

Your thoughts on Thatcher?

dirk said...

Put another way: it's dance music even straight white guys can dance to. All you got to do is jump.

Unknown said...

Yeah, where is Thatcher? On the ska topic, "Pressure Drop" kills, both the original and it's many covers. Especially like Izzy Stradlin's cover. Any Izzy fans here on iSteve?

Anonymous said...

picking Rancid, while not terrible, is odd. You seriously are going to pass over Operation Ivy's "healthy body" for Rancid?

slumber_j said...

I used my newly-manufactured fake ID to get into an English Beat show in 1983--at Bogart's in Cincinnati. REM, whose stuff I really liked, was the opening act. I was disappointed to find their lead singer was this static, lugubrious presence on stage. The Beat pretty much wiped the floor with those guys.

The consequent tinnitus prevented me from going to school the next day, which was a definite bonus.

slumber_j said...


Steve Sailer said...

The English Beat was an awesome live act, and they got a lot of exposure in America because they were hired to open for most of the major New Wave era bands such as Talking Heads, Clash, Pretenders, and Police (afair), but they never broke through here with the public and they gave up after about four years on the road. The best concert I ever went to was Talking Heads with the English Beat opening for them in 1980.

Mr Lomez said...

Steve on ska. Good stuff.

Ska is a perfect genre for sublimating the normal-spectrum angst of suburban adolescents. In California in the late 80's/early 90's being into bands like Operation Ivy, Let's Go Bowling, and Buck-O-Nine, was both edgy and, because of the reggae influence, "vibrant" enough to suggest a worldliness that miffed stuffy lawyer/doctor class parents. Still, unlike rap and punk, ska didn't promote any kind of violence or anger. It was a pretty tepid counter-culture, but fun and basically benign. It was particularly appealing for band geeks due to the emphasis on horns.

By the mid-90's this third-wave ska movement had been appropriated by mainstream culture--Mighty Mighty Bosstones and No Doubt, for example--and lost whatever marginal edge it once had. Not incidentally, this is about the same time rap came to dominate suburban culture.

Steve Sailer said...

"It was particularly appealing for band geeks due to the emphasis on horns."

Good point.

Anonymous said...

The ska revivals are almost invariably more interesting musically. Heh, "Madness"! Good old boys. Tongue in cheek, this one is classic:


Anonymous said...

Maybe because it's straight guys who have the hots for Gwen Stefani.

Anonymous said...

The original Annette Jamacian Ska:


That one hadn't actually registered in my consciousness.

The underrated "Back to the Beach" has an updated version with Fishbone, so Annette was in both the original and retro waves.


"Back to the Beach" was actually a pretty enjoyable update to the beach movies. Dick Dale and SRV do an damn good Pipeline.


Anonymous said...

English Beat on tour this week in Southern California.
No doubt, play this song as their encore.


Anonymous said...

"It was particularly appealing for band geeks due to the emphasis on horns."

Good point.

A music critic friend pointed out that a huge number of American ska bands, especially from Orange County, got their start as...a bunch of friends from high school marching band.

Aaron James said...

"Ska is unusual in that it's a dance music genre that became increasingly monopolized by straight guys."

Don't say that, the left is gonna demonize it out of existence for being homophobic and cisgender privileged.

agnostic said...

The two-tone sound unfortunately didn't leave as much of an impression (at least in America) as other styles.

The first I remember hearing it was around 1993 or '94 -- "House of Fun" by Madness, as performed in a re-run of The Young Ones. I think "One Step Beyond" might have been on an episode of Beavis and Butt-head around that time too.

Otherwise the style rarely shows up when people think of '80s music. I have heard quite a few songs by the Specials at '80s night -- "Monkey Man," "Little Bitch" -- though sadly no English Beat.

In high school I had CDs by Madness, the Specials, and a compilation of first-wave Jamaican stuff, and a good number of friends were into the then-current third wave. Didn't do much for me, but it was still a social scene -- normal guys meeting up at a club and just cutting loose.

I think it was the horn section that prevented the third wave from amounting to much. By the mid-late '90s, the zeitgeist among young people was all about going TO THE EXTREME, and being all IN YOUR FACE. That 'tude sounds bad no matter what the timbre, but horrendous when it's horns. Way to spastic and blaring.

The horn section also made it get confused with or hijacked by the big band / swing revival of the late '90s. Because anything with a horn section must be the same thing.

The spazzy tempo and overall cacophony made Mighty Mighty Bosstones, No Doubt, and Reel Big Fish sound less like first-wave or two-tone and more like their contemporaries in the big band / swing revival, like Squirrel Nut Zippers and the Cherry Poppin Daddies.

...and you couldn't get any more cacophonous than that, so anything ska-related died off for good after about 2000.

David Davenport said...

Was Annette Funicello's 1964 "Jamaica Ska" in 1964 the first ska-sounding single to get wide airplay in the USA, or was it Anglo-Jamaican Millie Small's version of "My Girl Lollypop"?, which was also released in 1964. I dunno. I suspect the latter.

my boy lollipop - millie small (1964)

Wikipedia says:

"My Boy Lollipop" (originally written as "My Girl Lollypop") is a song written in the mid-1950s by Robert Spencer of the doo-wop group The Cadillacs, and usually credited to Spencer, Morris Levy, and Johnny Roberts.


Eight years later [ in 1964 ] the song was discovered by Island Records founder, Chris Blackwell, who was trying to find songs for his young artist, Millie Small, to record. Changing the spelling to read "lollipop" instead of "lollypop", Millie's version was recorded in a similar shuffle/ska/bluebeat-style, and in 1964 it became her breakthrough blockbuster hit in the United Kingdom, reaching #2. The song also went to No. 1 in Republic of Ireland and No. 2 in the United States (on the Smash Record label). Considered the first commercially successful international ska song, Small's version of "My Boy Lollipop" sold over six million records worldwide and helped to launch Island Records into mainstream popular music. It remains one of the best-selling reggae/ska hits of all time.[5]


British reggae DJ David Rodigan has stated that watching Millie Small perform the song at the Ready Steady Go! TV show as a school boy initiated his lifelong passion for Jamaican music.[7] The song featured in the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony in London.


eah said...

Sad news indeed.

I can't think of a person whose passing is more emblematic of the death of 1950s America -- that is, America as it was before the beginning of mass non-white immigration in 1965 or thereabouts -- than her. Imagine the contrived 'diversity' if the 'Mickey Mouse Club' were produced today. Glorious.

Anonymous said...



Mr Lomez said...

"By the mid-late '90s, the zeitgeist among young people was all about going TO THE EXTREME, and being all IN YOUR FACE. That 'tude sounds bad no matter what the timbre, but horrendous when it's horns.

The horn section also made it get confused with or hijacked by the big band / swing revival of the late '90s."

Yup, but of course the horns were the defining feature of that era of ska...so what are you gonna do?

Also, aside from the sound, 90's ska grew increasingly juvenile in theme. This Aquabats video is a good example of what ska looked like by the mid-90's. It has a certain appeal, but it's basically Pete and Pete the musical.


Auntie Analogue said...

That one ska recording is hardly why so many Americans remember Annette fondly.

(Ever notice that ska spelled backwards is the way that a lot of ignoramuses mispronounce the word "ask"?)

Commenter eah summed up my sentiments on Annette's death. She was the last squeaky-clean pop culture icon. Yes, the last - by the time TV had scrambled to catch up with post-mid-1960's pop culture and came up with 'The Partridge Family,' that culture had already begun to atomize.

Annette Funicello was the last icon of what too many deride and scathe as the "monoculture" that was, actually, nothing more than the culture we shared when we were 90% White and were One People who were raised to be decent and proud of who we were, instead of having been browbeaten since the mid-1960's into believing that we are somehow the sexist, racist, nativist "cancer of the human race."

I miss you, Annette, as I miss the America that you exemplified and charmed in your budding years and on into the full flush of your womanhood. Annette, you personnified the best in us when we and our civilization were at our apogee. Requiescat in pace.

wren said...

I saw a great Madness show in the mid eighties and loved it, being the stereotypical horn playing band geek, and liked a lot of other ska from around that time, too. (It wasn't as good a show as Oingo Boingo put on with their horn section though...)

I was pretty surprised to see them on youtube a few months ago looking pretty much the same, just older and plumper.

When I was in Japan in the early nineties there was a thriving ska culture there, too, as you'd expect. Great bands like Tokyo Ska Paradise nailed the ska sound that I knew, and had their own sound too. Lots of great Japanese ska bands and songs from that time on.

For some reason most of the comments on the Japanese ska videos are in Spanish.

A commenter exlains: xDD its just (im speaking about mexico only, dont know how is the ska in all latin america) here in mexico ska is listened by most of youth, and several of the most important bands here are ska bands

Forgot My Alias Again said...

I recall reading somewhere that "My Boy Lollipop" was in the charts when the Beatles were recording "I Call Your Name" and its influence can be heard in the guitar-solo section (1:08):

Anonymous said...

The English Beat played my college's Senior Day in 1983, and they were amazing. Their version of Tears of a Clown is my favorite.

Sorry, Steve, I went to a triple bill at the Orpheum in Boston in the 70s: Eddie and the Hot Rods, Talking Heads and the Ramones. I don't know if it was due to the controlled substances, but the Talking Heads put me to sleep. DeeDee Ramone, however, performed the Herculean feat of breaking THREE bass strings in one set. Some bassists go an entire career with breaking one.

stari_momak said...

I think Rodney Bingingheimer used to spin Funnicello's "Jamaican Ska" every once in a while.

Tangential to the beach theme -- AQMD is thinking of banning open fires on SoCal beaches. Newport Beach and Corona del Mar already have movements of the well heeled to get rid of fire rings in those towns. So increasing population, and the increasing ability and willingness of the rich to insulate themselves from their servants (and the remains of the white working class), take their toll on a SoCal tradition. (This isn't NIMBY-ism, it is Get-it-out-of-my-backyardism).

Anonymous said...

RIP lovely Annette...
At Emelita St. elementary in 1955, the boys wanted to be as cool as the "irrepressible Ricky" and have the Mouseketeer Alpha-girl Annette for a
girlfriend. Aim for the Stars, right?

Anonymous said...

Tribute song for Annette Funicello
Annette (Larry W. Jones 04/09/2013) (song#6684)

Well, there's a little Mouseketeer lookin' real good
And she's churnin' up the surf like I knew she would
She's on her way to Disneyland , I’ll bet
Cause she’s got the whole country out of breath

Annette, sweet dancin’ Mouseketeer, Annette
She’s a singin’ California brunette
My heart gets to pumpin’ up a big sweat
For Annette, that sweet Mouseketeer, Annette

Well, I feel like a lucky boy, she brings me joy
Beach Blanket Bingo makes me give a shout, Ahoy
The cutest movie queen I ever met
She’s Annette, that sweet Mouseketeer, Annette


Well, I feel like a lucky boy, she brings me joy
Beach Blanket Bingo makes me give a shout, Ahoy
The cutest movie queen I ever met
She’s Annette, that sweet Mouseketeer, Annette

The Mickey Mouse Club was a television scene
With a nice vision that made every boyhood’s dream
She was the prettiest girl, everybody’s pet
Sweet Annette, that sweet Mouseketeer, Annette

Anonymous said...


Val Bennett's 1968 ska "Take Five"

not a hacker said...

When I was a basketball junkie in the '90's, I was always looking for interesting t-shirts to play in. Somewhere I found one with an image of a skateboarding cucumber and the slogan, "Skankin' Pickle." I had no idea what it meant, but it seemed to generate a lot of admiration on the hardwood in Berkeley.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, ooh, Mister Sailer, call on me!!!!!!

The connection is this:

The English Beat released "Stand Down, Margaret" on their debut album in 1980.

They were and still are very anti-Thatcher.

I love their music but they just prove once again that musicians are incredibly stupid about politics.