The 90s was a weird time for mainstream music. After Nirvana and the “Grunge” scene blew up, major labels were on the prowl for the next big thing. A lot of unlikely bands and music genres had their 15 minutes of fame. Ska, of course, was one of those trends, as was the “swing revival.” We could debate whether it was good or bad that a handful of ska bands got launched into the mainstream for a few years, but regardless, the very fact that ska and swing were flavors of the month is a bizarre phenomenon worth exploring.
Kenneth Partridge, this week’s guest, has spent considerable time analyzing bands from this moment in time, like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish, No Doubt, Royal Crown Revue, Squirrel Nut Zippers, and Sublime. His new book, Hell of a Hat: The Rise of 90s Ska and Swing takes an analytical approach to study why these groups blew up in the US at the time they did. Kenneth also tries to understand what the defining characteristics were of mainstream 90s ska in the US and to explain what value they hold that is unique to their time and place in culture.
It is a great read and we talk about his book at length. But before that, we ask Kenneth to defend swing, and then he offers to defend “Skaturday” (The 2-hour ska special on MTV in 1997, hosted by Carson Daly) and we also discuss some of the lesser-known bands that Kenneth grew up listening to like Thumper, Spring Heel Jack and Johnny Too Bad and the Strikeouts. And you might notice a subtle noise in the background during the interview. At the very end, we explain exactly what that sound was. So stay tuned for the entire interview!
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