Wednesday 31 May 2023

Rhoda Dakar - Banquet Records, Kingston - 30th May 2023

Many, many years ago I saw the Bodysnatchers play a gig in Bournemouth.

I'd really gone to see The Selecter, who I must admit I found rather disappointing, but the infectious fun of the all-female Bodysnatchers left a last memory and Rhoda Dakar was their lead singer.

The band didn't stay together long, breaking up before they could even record an album (some went onto form the core of the Belle Stars who had some success), but Rhoda went onto perform with the Specials and has released a number of solo albums throughout the years, including one named 'Rhoda Dakar sings the Bodysnatchers', which is, in effect, the Bodysnatchers album that never was....

I'd started following Rhoda on the book of faces, after discovering the 'sings the Bodysnatchers' album and thought maybe I'd go and see her live.

One day she released a list of venues, but the closest was central London and I left a comment bemoaning the fact that there was nothing south west of there and she replied to it, quite reasonably stating that it was hard to justify going to venues where a small audience might be expected.

However, when she released another new album, Version Girl, containing covers of non-Ska tracks in a Ska style, I noticed she was doing an 'in shop appearance' at Banquet Records in Kingston (I'd seen Wet Leg at the nearby Pryzm through them) and for the price of the CD I could go and see her too, so it seemed a bit churlish to pass up the opportunity as it had arisen.

The shop is tiny (The only other 'in-shop' appearance I'd seen was Joan As Policewoman in Rough Trade Records in East London, which was a far bigger shop), but a good shop full of, mostly 60-ish, people arrived to listen to (and meet) Rhoda.

She sang live to a pre-recorded backing track of each song, no room for a band or even a backing musician, but she sounded pretty good in the venue, not designed for it's brilliant acoustics, over a fairly standard PA system (I'm probably doing it a bit of a disservice, as it was impressively clear).

I was delighted when she started the short set with Easy Life, a Bodysnatchers song, as I'd really expected only tracks from the new album.

She followed that up with "Everyday Is Like Sunday", "As Tears Go By", "What a Wonderful World" (recounting that her father had played with Louis Armstrong in the 1920s in Paris!), "The Man Who Sold The World" and "Peace, Love and Understanding", which all seemed to suit the Ska-versioning brilliantly.

Again, to general delight, she finished on another Bodysnatchers song, "Do Rocksteady", a track originally by the man who wrote "Version Girl" which was the track which inspired the title of the new album (although it turned out, as she told us, that the "Version Girl" on the album is their version as they couldn't get the licence for the sample!).

Rhoda must be my sort of age (early 60s), but she looked good and trim in her Brixton Cycles cycling jersey (my Dad, a Londoner and avid cyclist would have approved!) and her voice sounded impressively good still.

Unlike The Selecter's lead singer, Pauline Black (who always seems joylessly serious to me), Rhoda still exudes the sense of fun that the Bodysnatchers embodied all those years ago (Although not all her material is frivolous, lookup The Boiler for a grim example of that).

Afterwards she stayed to sign people's albums and CDs and chat, but I'm not really one for that and found myself at the very back of the queue anyway, so headed home.

Had I stayed, I would have told her that I thought the new album features some great versions of some familiar songs in the Two-Tone style and deserves to be a huge success.

For the price of the CD, it was a great, if short, event, and I will definitely try and see her perform a full gig at some point.

Easy Life (Bodysnatchers Cover)
Everyday is Like Sunday (Morrissey Cover)
As Tears Go By (Rolling Stones Cover)
What a Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong Cover)
The Man Who Sold The World (David Bowie Cover)
Peace, Love and Understanding (Elvis Costello Cover)
Do Rocksteady (Bodysnatchers Cover)