"It's a bit like what Charlie Watts said about the Stones ... five years playing, twenty years waiting around."
Sir Buttz Yoddles spoke wearily as he was in discomfort from a horrific abscess for which he had just started taking analgesic medication. His weariness was not helped by the waiting around at Falmouth's Princess Pavilions prior to an interview that his PA had arranged for The Cornwall Channel. We were awaiting the arrival of 'The Original Rude Boy,' Neville Staple, who was on his way from the West Midlands for that night's gig with his band, who were already there. Hanging around in the bar drinking pineapple juices is all very well but the uncertainty about whether Neville was going to make it in time was making both of us a little bit uneasy. We decided to amuse ourselves by thinking of a silly question we could ask Neville at the end of the interview and the hot favourite was (to be spoken in hushed and earnest tones), "What was it like performing with Bananarama?" but then suddenly, we got the nod and were ushered backstage to a kitchen with an attached 'rest room.' I was deliberating on whether to use the facilities when Neville came bounding in, big grin and tasteful titfer in situ and hey ... Buttz is ready to roll The Cornwall Channel camera once again!
Neville was smaller in stature than I'd remembered from seeing his muscular frame on stage with The Specials back in '79 ... and also from a gig with The Neville Staple Band only five years ago. The reason became quickly apparent as, without prompting, he told us about his experience of having had four strokes following a car accident in recent years. This totally threw me. I found myself in concerned mode, especially when he started talking about how his memory was poor for certain things ... and as if proving this, he'd been unable to remember an old friend from Coventry who'd passed on his best wishes for our meeting tonight ... and I was thinking that this is some testimony to the man's determination to do this music and performance thing. When I spoke about the joyousness and energy that he'd brought to that performance in 2007, Neville said that "the energy's no longer there, but I've still got the joy." I'd always been impressed with Neville's effervescent stage antics, but this took my admiration of him to another level, especially when he was being so candid about how his condition resulted in him having to sit down towards the end of the gig.
The interview seemed over in less time than it would take to play one of The Specials' fantastic three minute singles. Neville spoke about his involvement with the 'Third Wave Of Ska' when he moved to the USA in the late eighties, his elevation from roadie with The Coventry Automatics to their toaster before they became The Specials, the changing of the times from when Two Tone was born, the influence of Bluebeat in the Staple household, The Specials' reunion gigs with the toll it took on him and lastly, the ongoing popularity of Ska - with a scene noted here in Falmouth and its popularity with an even younger generation than the teenager I was when I first heard it. The highlight though was when Neville was distracted and amused by Buttz skanking (from behind the camera) to the sound of the support band, Captain Skalet ... I hope that we'll be able to see this again when the interview is aired on The Cornwall Channel on Monday, December 10th. And finally, I tip my titfer to The Original Rude Boy - but I wish I'd remembered to ask him that question about Bananarama.