Album: Lorraine (single)
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Though it is one of the most common occurrences across the entire history of recorded music, there are few things as frustrating as when bands begin to take themselves too seriously. While there are certainly groups that have made massive social impact, there is a point when you can see a band "forget" how much fun it is to actually BE in a band, and when this loss of perspective occurs, it is the music that suffers. In many ways, this is one of the most enjoyable things about the ska genre, in the fact that at its base, it is about having a good time and creating an upbeat, positive mood. Even when ska groups are singing about more sober or painful ideas, there is still the almost oddly optimistic feel that underscores the song through the music and mood. Among the many great ska bands that displayed this idea, there were few that embodied the idea of pure fun better than Bad Manners, and to this day, their songs can still ignite a room and completely change ones' mood. Throughout the tail-end of the 1970's and the early 1980's, Bad Manners released a number of singles and albums, all filled with their trademark style, and though they often bordered on the line of "silly," there is no denying the almost intoxicating mood that comes through in almost every one of their songs. Following what many see as their breakthrough single, one can quickly understand just what Bad Manners remain such ska legends in their unforgettable and uniquely uplifting 1981 single, "Lorraine."
There are actually two different studio released of "Lorraine," as the complete track runs just under six-and-a-half minutes, while the better known edit is just over three. Yet even the shorter version delivers all one needs to understand the band, and it some ways, they are unlike any other ska band in history. On "Lorraine," the song is set into motion and largely dictated by the bouncing organ of Martin Stewart and the distinctive harmonica progression from Winston Bazoomies. It is the way in which these two sounds interact with one another that gives "Lorraine" a tone unlike any other song, and the bassline from David Farren is the element that completely captures the attention of every listener. It is his performance that sets the pattern for the crowds one can imagine dancing to the song, and there is a fantastic contrast between his sound and the brilliant horns that join in at the bridge section of "Lorraine." Trumpet player Paul Hyman, along with the sax duo of Chris Kane and Andrew Marson offer a perfect balance in every sense of the word, as they are able to give the largely sparse musical arrangement an amazing amount of depth and movement. It is also the way in which both drummer Brian Tuitt, as well as guitarist Louis Cook deliver solid performances, yet manage to not dominate the other players that gives "Lorraine" a unique balance, and it is this musical equality that enables the song to become so much larger than the sum of its parts.
However, while one cannot overlook the spirited and upbeat performance of the musicians, the soul of Bad Manners was always contained within the voice and vocals of Buster Bloodvessel (AKA Douglas Trendle). There are few singers from any genre that have as instantly recognizable a voice as one finds here, and on "Lorraine," one can experience both sides of his vocal personality. For a majority of the song, Bloodvessel does little more than speak with a touch of pitch, and yet there is an intriguing sincerity and "every man" tone to his voice that sets him far apart from most of his peers. One gets the sense that he is much like a friend, venting his frustrations, and it is this attitude that further endeared itself to fans across the globe. Yet it is the other side of Bloodvessel's performance style that turned him into such a legend, as his almost comic-like, light-spirited vocal shift that occurs during the songs' breakdowns make "Lorraine" completely unforgettable. Though there is a slight level of "silly" within these vocal moments, one can also hear it as a defense mechanism as he pours his heart out about the most evil of women. The juxtaposition he creates with the lines, "...Lorraine she took everything, even my brand new engagement ring...she took the car and went to town, but now she can no longer be found..." is absolutely fantastic, and it is Buster Bloodvessel's ability to create these contrasts that makes "Lorraine" such a brilliant recording.
Yet while both studio versions of "Lorraine" are fantastic, much like a majority of ska bands, the true definition of the bands' sound lives within their live performances. Much in the same way as punk rock, ska music was meant to be taken in via a live show, and thankfully, there are a handful of recordings of "Lorraine" that deliver this level of energy. One of the finest comes on the Trojan Ska Revival Box Set, and one would be hard pressed to find another ska band that brought a similar level of passion and energy as one hears on this recording. From his almost "warning" introduction of the song to the way in which one can feel the the band feeding off the crowd the entire time, this live recording stands as one of the most complete encapsulations of the ska sound, and it is certainly worth tracking down. However, regardless of "how" one experiences the music of Bad Manners, it is clear that they were unlike any other ska band at the time, mostly in the fact that one can sense the level of tongue-in-cheek humor within a majority of their songs. From titles and lyrics that were little more than gibberish to the larger than life personality of Buster Bloodvessel, Bad Manners remain one of the most wonderfully unique bands in all of music history. Though it is somewhat distinctive in their catalog due to the more down-beat lyrics, the bands' mood and spirit never dip even in the least, and it is this contrast that makes Bad Manner's classic 1981 song, "Lorraine" one of the most enjoyable moments in all of music history.