One of the lesser luminaries from the Ska/Rocksteady movement of the late 1970s/early 1980s. The Bodysnatchers were a 7-piece all-female band consisting of Rhoda Dakar on vocals, Sarah Jane Owen on guitar, Stella Barker on rhythm guitar, Nicky Summers on bass, Penny Leyton on keyboards, Miranda Joyce on alto sax and Jane Summers on drums.
Together for only two years, and with no albums, but featured on several compilation albums as well as a string of singles, The Bodysnatchers were very much a part of the Two-Tone Records dynasty – and members of the band routinely appeared on projects by bandmates The Selecter and The Specials.
Sadly, The Bodysnatchers, like most of the bands from Two-Tone, didn’t really catch on in the U.S. – partly because America was still digesting Punk and partly because, like their label mates, The Bodysnatchers music often dealt with social issues, particularly the poverty-stricken aspects of life in Thatcher-era Britain. And even though America had its own issues of poverty, class and racism – the British take on it fell on perplexed ears over here.
Also, because much of the music coming out of this evolution of Ska/Rocksteady was of a social-issue nature, Rock Music of a highly-charged social nature wasn’t deemed commercially viable for America at the time.
Clearly evident of that is the third track on this BBC Session for John Peel – recorded on April 8, 1980. Issued as a single, The Boiler is, on its surface an innocent song about chance meetings – mid-way through the mood changes and becomes the graphic depiction of a rape. Even in this live version, it prompts John Peel to comment on the dead-seriousness of what seemed like a pretty frivolous tune at the start. I remember hearing it for the first time, when the commercial version was released, and found it profoundly disturbing and difficult to listen to more than once. But in retrospect, singer Rhoda Dakar pulled it off and did exactly what she set out to do – and it created an indelible impression. Such is the power of music sometimes.
Together with other songs during this time, the Ska/Rocksteady movement gave other such profound examples as The Specials’ Ghost Town, The Selecter’s Racist Friend – and later, Fun Boy Three with The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum. No light dance tunes here – but songs which conveyed powerful messages, meant to expose and enlighten.
But on the surface, The Bodysnatchers were one of the breakthrough bands in the male-dominated bastion of Rock in the late 1970s, and set the example for a lot of other bands to follow suit in the coming years.
If you don’t remember them, give this session a listen – and check out their commercial releases. If you do remember them, they were part of an exciting period of music – one which has been slightly overlooked in some parts of the world.