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EP84 – Rhoda Dakar – Singer, Musician, Red Wedge… ”You see things can change…” – Paul Weller Fan Podcast : Desperately Seeking Paul
On Episode 84 of The Paul Weller Fan Podcast, I am joined by singer, musician, activist & campaigner, Rhoda Dakar.
We hear how her love of performing kicked in aged 9 and her musical career began as lead vocalist with all female 2Tone band, The Bodysnatchers in 1979.
Their first single was a double A-side Let’s Do Rocksteady backed with Ruder Than You. It reached 22 in the UK Singles Chart.
Their second single Easy Life coupled with their version of Bob Andy’s Too Experienced reached number 50.
The band split shortly after and Rhoda went on to guest with The Specials in Europe and the USA, having featured on their second album, More Specials, for which she won the first of her seven gold records.
After The Specials announced their break up in 1981, Jerry Dammers formed The Special AKA – which included Rhoda. In fact, their first single The Boiler was credited to “Rhoda with the Special AKA”, and Rhoda has talked about this point being where she feels that she started to become a songwriter.
Phill Jupitus AKA Porky the Poet once commented on the song. “They did it when I saw the Bodysnatchers support Lene Lovich at the Lyceum. It was the most disturbing song I’ve ever heard. I think John Peel played it on the radio once and there were complaints and he couldn’t play it again. It’s the most horrific and powerful record I own, without fucking question.”
Banned from seeing The Jam!
We kick off the podcast chat with a great Paul Weller connection through The Jam and Rhoda being banned from seeing them live in concert in the late 70s / early 80s!. Rhoda talks about seeing John’s Boys live – which would have been November 1979, when the band performed 2 secret London gigs to test out new material from forthcoming Setting Sons album.
Red Wedge – Chair of the Steering Group
We then dive in to Red Wedge in the mid-eighties, for which Rhoda became Chair of the Steering Group, whilst making guest appearances on stage alongside the likes of Paul Weller, Billy Bragg, Dr. Robert, Lorna Gee, Junior Giscombe and The Communards.
In Daniel Rachel’s brilliant book – Walls Come Tumbling Down – Billy Bragg is quoted as saying “Rhoda has an ability to see through a lot of the bullshit around politics and rock ’n’ roll. Chairing the Red Wedge steering committees is a credit to her commitment to trying to make music that says something and does something.”
Friendships & Recordings
It was great to hear Rhoda chatting about her friendship with Paul and what she sees as his incredible work ethic (something that she has passed on to her son).
We hear stories of seeing Paul perform live on the comeback trail as a solo artist in the early 90s along with listening and birthday parties, and singing backing vocals with Paul for a track on the Dr Robert LP – Realms of Gold. (More info below on that).
Rhoda also reveals all about recording a brilliant EP of songs at Black Barn (PW HQ) in 2017 called The LoTek Four, Vol I.
Heck, we even hear another angle on the famous ‘Mick Talbot gets left at motorway service station’ story!
Plug in your headphones and enjoy an hour with Rhoda Dakar on the latest Paul Weller Fan Podcast.
Music + 2022 Live Dates
Find more about Rhoda’s music on Bandcamp here and live dates & tickets for Rhoda on tour here
Coming of Grace with Dr. Robert + PW + Rhoda
You can hear Rhoda on record with Paul Weller on the magnificent Dr Robert album – Realms of Gold. Paul plays guitar on Comfort of the Clan, piano on Circular Quay, 12 string guitar, acoustic guitar, bass and percussion on Have No Roots.
The stunningly beautiful song The Coming of Grace features Rhoda, Paul and Robert on Backing vocals with Style Councillor, Mick Talbot on Hammond Organ too.
You can buy the album here.
2016 – Concert for Corbyn with PW
2016’s Concert For Corbyn at the Brighton Dome saw Rhoda being asked to compere the gig with Paul Weller on the bill alongside the likes of Robert Wyatt, Danny Thompson, The Farm and Kathryn Williams.
The LoTek Four, Vol 1 – Recorded at Black Barn Studio – Paul Weller HQ
Following the critical acclaim of Rhoda Dakar sings The Bodysnatchers album, Rhoda released an EP called The LoTek Four, Vol I in 2017.
Four beautifully crafted songs, recorded in the very best of surroundings at Paul Weller HQ – Black Barn Studio – the idea was to record different versions that could be engineered, versioneered, if you will. The songs draw on Rhoda’s rich and personal musical influences, with Volume I embracing a fantastic array of story tellers and versioneers that include David Bowie, The Slits, Dolly Parton, Aretha, Gram and Emmylou, and her father, famed Jazz musician and entrepreneur Rudy Evans aka André Dakar. You can hear the EP on Spotify here.
1986 – Red Wedge Documentary inc PW, Rhoda, Billy Bragg etc
2015 – Rhoda Dakar Sings The Bodysnatchers
In 2015, Rhoda released what has been hailed as “the lost 2Tone album”, Rhoda Dakar sings The Bodysnatchers, including many previously unrecorded tracks. It was crowd funded through Pledgemusic, reaching the target in just 16 days! Featuring old friends from The Specials, Horace Panter and Lynval Golding, plus the cream of current Ska scene musicians. It was launched on Halloween at London’s Jazz Café to the delight of many fans from back in the day. For 2Tone’s 40th anniversary, this album was remastered at Abbey Road Studios. You can buy it here.
2021 – Rhoda Dakar – Everyday is Like Sunday
During the first lockdown, trapped in her front room looking out over London, this Morrissey song was her earworm (albeit more The Pretenders version). It never went away. Late summer 2020 they had the chance to get into the studio, in a socially distanced fashion. The track they recorded sounded good, very good and everyone smiled. Find the single on Bandcamp here.
2022 – Rhoda Dakar – The Man Who Sold The World
The David Bowie classic has been covered multiple times by artists as diverse as Lulu and Nirvana, but never has it been given a committed reggae treatment.
Rhoda’s version of the song was recorded at Perry Vale Studios in London and produced by guitarist Lenny Bignell, who has worked with almost every legacy Reggae artist.
A low, rumbling bassline by Andi McLean accompanies a laidback groove by drummer Marley Drummond and a bluesy harmonica solo outro by Joff Watkins. LA’s Roger Rivas, hailed by many including The Specials’ Lynval Golding as the world’s best Reggae keyboard player rounds things off to perfectly soundtrack one of the best vocal performances of Rhoda’s career to date. Find the single on Bandcamp here.