The Uptones

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The Uptones
The uptones.jpg
The Uptones, reunited in 2007
Background information
Origin Berkeley, California, USA
Genres Ska
Years active 1981-1989, 2002-present
Labels 415 Records (1984)
Son of Beserkley (1995)
Fun Fun Fun Recordings (present)
Website Official Web site
Members Eric Din
Paul Jackson
Ben Eastwood
Adam Beach
Emily Jayne
Mike Stevens
Jeanne Geiger
Scott Bertrand
Past members Scott Jensen, Charles Stella, Erik Rader, Michael Wadman, Thomas White, Tim Carter, Musashi (Moose) Lethridge, John Mader, Jay Lane, Kenny Brooks, Dave Ellis, Joshua Redman, Josh Miller, Greg Blanch, Ricky Alexander, Brent Bergman

The Uptones were one of the first bands devoted to playing ska on the West Coast of the United States.

History[edit]

The Uptones in 1986

The Uptones formed in Berkeley, California while band members Eric Dinwiddie (aka, "Din"), Paul Jackson, Ben Eastwood and Charles Stella were attending Berkeley High School and Cazadero Performing Arts Camp. They were originally inspired to start a ska band in 1981 after attending an English Beat show in San Francisco.[1] The Uptones were heavily influenced by the English 2 Tone sound, as well as the British mod scene, punk rock, and the original Jamaican ska sound from the late 1950s."[2]

Live shows[edit]

Their first gig of 1981 was at Barrington Hall in Berkeley with MDC headlining. The Uptones, consisting entirely of 15- and 16-year-olds, would continue to play sold-out shows throughout the San Francisco Bay Area for the next seven years.

East Bay venues included The Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley Square, and Ruthie's Inn. San Francisco gigs took place at the On Broadway, The Farm, the Old Waldorf, The Stone, the Kabuki, and Wolfgang's, which sold out to large audiences consisting mainly of high school students. With this success, Bill Graham Presents started booking the band as support for major acts such as the Go-Go's and UB40 at the Greek Theater in Berkeley; X, Madness and the English Beat at the Kabuki; Oingo Boingo at the Warfield; General Public at the Henry J. Kaiser Center; and Billy Idol at the Oakland Coliseum.[3]

Influence[edit]

Jesse Michaels of Operation Ivy, has cited the Uptones as a key influence. His bandmates Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman were also influenced by the Uptones, having opened for them in their earlier band, Basic Radio.[4] Michaels describes the Uptones' place in the underground Berkeley ska scene in an interview:

There was a ska scene in Berkeley that most people don't know about, in the mid-80s, and it was like high school, really young scene. The bands were intense...like punk bands. There was this great band called the Uptones that would get on stage [and do] the whole 2-Tone thing...and they looked and played like a punk band, really dynamic and exciting. People would be stage diving and going crazy at their shows.[5]

By the time the Uptones broke up in 1989, they had become an influence on other popular California bands such as Rancid,[6] Sublime,[1] and Green Day.[7] Rancid covered The Uptones song, "Get Out of My Way" on their 1993 self-titled album.

Reformation[edit]

The Uptones in 2008

Despite critical acclaim and a devoted following, the band went their separate ways after seven years together. Original band members Din, Jackson and Eastwood formed new rock bands, first Hobo and then Stiff Richards, playing a combination of alt-rock, ska and reggae. They would eventually reunite the Uptones in 2002, noting that the other bands, according to Din, "were just keeping the heart of the Uptones alive."[5]

The new line-up included original members singer/guitarist Din, singer/keyboardist Jackson, bass-player Eastwood and saxophonist Adam Beach, along with new members Musashi (Moose) Lethridge on guitar, Mike Stevens on drums, and a horn section featuring Jeanne Geiger on trombone and Scott Bertrand on trumpet. The band currently plays live shows throughout the Bay Area and was featured in a cover story in the San Francisco Chronicle Datebook in March, 2008.[1]

In 2008, the Uptones recorded a new CD, Skankin' Foolz Unite! with producers Matthew King Kaufman and Michael Rosen for the Fun Fun Fun Recordings label.

In 2009, Moose Lethridge and Eric Din, at the behest of Matthew King Kaufman, constructed a Ska Shrine devoted to skanking, hosted at the Ska4u website.

Lead guitarist Moose Lethridge left The Uptones to join the English Beat in 2010. He was replaced by singer/guitarist Emily Jayne. On occasion, Lethridge still plays live shows with The Uptones.

In June, 2010, the Uptones played four California dates on The Warped Tour.[8]

Critical acclaim[edit]

Allmusic praises the Uptones for being ahead of the mid-1980s Third wave ska ska movement:

Their impact upon the evolving ska scene was enormous ... With a musical maturity far beyond their years and a groundbreaking third wave sound ... the Uptones knocked out high-energy songs quite removed from anything or anyone else ... Light years ahead of their time, the Uptones were a pivotal band and a seminal one."[9]

The review notes the Uptones' rabid hometown following and strong influence on later ska practitioners.

San Francisco Chronicle music critic Joel Selvin includes the Uptones in his list of top 100 Bay Area bands:

Along with Operation Ivy, the Uptones formed the core of the Berkeley ska-punk scene that paved the way for the likes of Rancid. A hard-edged, upbeat band that would have been huge if it hadn't been years ahead of its time."[1]

Crawdaddy! called the The Uptones Live!! 924 Gilman album, issued in 1995 after the discovery of a DAT tape of a 924 Gilman Street show, "the best live ska record ever."[10]

Discography[edit]

  • Skankin' Foolz Unite!, Fun Fun Fun Recordings, 2008
  • The Uptones Live!! 924 Gilman, Son of Beserkley, 1995
  • KUSA, 415 Records, 1984

References[edit]

External links[edit]