with TOD A of

“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day. Today’s guest is someone whose path I crossed with way back in the original days of the fanzine in the early/mid 90s, I was asked to “get in the van” and interviewed his band Cop Shoot Cop in the band’s rental in a street outside the Garage venue in London’s Highbury & Islington. Fortunately I was accompanied by my mate Big Rich, as it was one of the most intimidating/menacing interviews I’d ever conducted, second only to meeting Michael Gira of the Swans in his rental house in Highgate.

Cop Shoot Cop had an arresting and uncompromising style on stage too, a band that mixed unconventional staging with incredible noise, but irresistible hooks too. I loved the tune “10 Dollar Bill” (probably their biggest hit) and I think it made it to one of my end of year lists (my own version of a Festive 50). John Peel liked them too, having hosted them for sessions a couple of times – and that sealed the deal for me. Suffice to say, I was set free out of the van with some great quotes and witnessed one of the best gigs I’d ever caught. After Cop Shoot Cop, he went onto form the group Firewater, a rambunctious rolling collective of world music inspired punk hi-jinks, which has included fellow VS fav Duane Denison of The Jesus Lizard among their number. It’s fair to say that his very own Mescaleros defo paved the way for the likes of Gogol Bordello, with their gypsy folk you style.

Still very much playing and touring as Firewater (on Bloodshot Records), and also an accomplished travel writer/blogger (“Postcards From The Other Side of The World”), I am pleased to welcome back to these pages, the irrepressible Tod A!

(here’s an old Firewater classic…)

I always love a reggae or dub “song for ewe”, with some classics chosen by Mac McCaughan, Duke Garwood and Ajay Saggar which have become real ear-worms for me, and Tod’s choice doesn’t disappoint…so without further ado…

“I fell in love with this melody the first time I heard it, when I inherited a cardboard box of Trojan records in around 2003. I immediately dug the descending line of the chorus. It wasn’t until a decade later that I discovered that the Skatalites had ripped off the song —note-for-note —from a song called “Comin’ Home, Baby,” and simply changed the title to “Christine Keeler.” (I guess you could get away with that kind of shit in Jamaica in those days.)

Christine Keeler was an English model best known for her involvement in the Profumo Affair, a 1963 scandal which brought down the British Secretary of State, during the height of the cold war.

The original song, first recorded by the Dave Bailey Quintet in 1961, has been covered by everyone and their fucking uncle—from Dee Dee Sharp, to The Kingsmen, to Quincy Jones, to Mel Torme. All plagiarism issues aside, I still have a soft spot for the Skatalites version. But no matter who plays it, to my ears the melody stands up every time.

Tod A


more about Firewater…