Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Ghost Town...Show # 157

The Specials formed in 1977, in Coventry, England. Before they got to the name The Specials, the band went by other names first The Automatics, The Coventry Automatics, then Special AKA. The band consisted of Jerry Dammers (keyboards/vocals), Lynval Golding (gutar/vocals), Roddy Radiation (lead guitar), Sir Horrace Gentleman (bass), John Bradbury (drums), and Terry Hall on vocals as well. After being seen by Joe Strummer of The Clash, they were offered an opening position on the bands On Parole UK Tour. Opening for The Clash generated interest in the band, which in turn generated interest in the band from major record labels. Instead of signing to a major label, Dammers would start his own record label known as 2-Tone. The labels design would be black and white checks, the band would adopt a unique fashion sense, one of the 60s rude boys, which featured Mohair/2-tone suits, hats, and loafers. It wouldn't be long before fans would be dressing the same way. 

In 1979, the band released their first single on their label "Gangsters". The ska paced single would become a top ten hit. In 1979, the band would also release its first self tilted album, Specials. The 14 track album was produced by Elvis Costello, and it featured a variety of covers. "A Message To You Rudy" (Daddy Livingstone), "Monkey Man" (Toots and Maytals), and "Too Hot" (Prince Buster). The album was a ska revivalist album which featured British ska mixed with Jamacian Ska from the 60s, with the energy of punk. It started a Ska movement (other bands included in this were Madness, The Beat, and The Selector). The album would also blend in political ideas surrounding Britain at the time, most notably the track "Concrete Jungle" (borrowed from a line in a Bob Marley song), which described the violence in the cities of a Margret Thatcher run Britain. "Nite Klub" was a song obviously about the club scene in Britain, "Too Much Too Young" about teen marriage and pregnancy (also it was a #1 hit on the UK Charts), and "It Doesn't Make It Alright" an anti-racism song. The album is a ska classic.

The band would then tour, but also release a live EP called Too Much Too Young. More Specials came in 1980. This album would draw in more influences such as, New Wave, and Lounge. The actual album would reach # 5 on the UK Charts. The album would have guest appearances (Ronda Dakar, The Go-Gos, Lee Jay Thompson from Madness). "Enjoy Yourself" starts the album, it is a cover of a song from the 40s (it is a ska song with western sounding piano). "Man at C & A" is a reggae song slower featuring saxophone, building organs and horn sections. "Hey, Little Rich Girl" is a ska flavoured song featuring Lee Jay Thompson from Madness on Saxophone. Other greats include "Do Nothing" (a more pop influence track), "Pearl's Cafe" (a song featuring beach sounding keyboards), and "Stereotype" (an odd mix of ska and western cowboy sounding influence). While the group did bring in new influences on More Specials, the album proves to be just as vital as Specials.

In 1981 the band released the single "Ghost Town" a song about unemployment rates in Britain and race related violence. The song did so well it went to number one on the UK charts and stayed there for three straight weeks. After its release Neville Staple (the then drummer), Terry Hall (vocalist), and Lyvnal Golding (guitar) left the group to form Fun Boy Three. This would not stop Dammers from making music, he would add Stan Campbell (vocals) to the band and change the name of the band back to Special AKA. In 1984, In Studio would be released. The album would have some hits "Free Nelson Mandela" and "Racist Friend". The album was deeply political, after the final single was released "What I Like Most About You is Your Girlfriend", the group disbanded; Dammers would go on to pursue political causes.

Remaining members of Specials would go on to tour with The Beat to form The Special Beat a touring band, that formed in the early nineties. The Specials would also return in the late 90s to release three albums (minus Jerry Dammers). In 1996 Today's Specials was released, in 1998 Guilty Till Proven Innocent!, and in 2002 Conquering Ruler. The Song "Ghost Town" has been featured in some films, in Snatch (2000) and Shaun of the Dead (2004). Both films featured the song as some sort of introduction to either characters or the film. The Specials were a ska revivalist band that brought in the energy of 70s punk, they would later bring in more influences such as lounge, and new wave. The band still stands up as a great band (one of the best British Ska bands to come out of Britain) and their influence can be seen all over.

Play list:

1. The Saints – river deep mountain high
2. Radio Birdman – I-94
3. Teenage Head – you’re tearin' me apart
4. Gruesomes – what’s your problem?
5. Modernettes – I can only give you everything (live)
6. Standbys – withdrawn
7. Victims – disco junkies
8. Lurkers – I don’t need to tell her
9. Coventry Automatics – jay walker
10. The Specials – Friday night, Saturday morning
11. The Specials – international jet set
12. Madness – night boat to Cairo
13. The Beat – drowning
14. Toasters – night train to Moscow
15. Ugly Ducklings – gaslight
16. King Beez – Gloria
17. Bureaucrats – grown up age
18. Piranhas – green don’t suit me
19. Only Ones – city of fun
20. The Cure – I want to be old
21. The Damned – I fall
22. Ramones – swallow my pride
23. Ramones - gimme gimme shock treatment
24. The Clash – gates of the west
25. The Stooges – little doll


A Message To You Rudy (OGWT 1979)
Gangsters Video
Ghost Town Video
Nite Klub (Live on Dance Craze 1980)
Friday Night, Saturday Morning Video
Monkey Man/Blank Expression (Live)


Elia said...

Good post.

Dave said...

Thanks. If there is an old show you want to hear, I can upload it for you.

Just leave a comment.

RGordon said...

Love the specials! terry hall is a top bloke