Monday, November 3, 2014


The Specials spearheaded a British ska revival with their multi-cultural blend of serious themes and infectious grooves.  Jerry Dammers assembled the group in 1977 from various local punk, rock, soul, and reggae bands. They started as The Automatics, which morphed into The Coventry Automatics and then The Special AKA.  They opened for The Clash on their "On Parole" UK tour and eventually shortened their name to The Specials.  Dammers arranged with Chrysalis Records to start a new label 2 Tone Records and the group released their first single "Gangsters" soon after.  Their eponymous debut was recorded at TW Studios in Fulham, London with Elvis Costello co-producing with the band.  The album features Terry Hall and Neville Staple on vocals;   Lynval Golding on rhythm guitar and vocals;  Roddy Byers (Roddy Radiation) on lead guitar and vocals;  Jerry Dammers on keyboards;  Horace Panter (Sir Horace Gentleman) on bass guitar;  John Bradbury on drums;  with guest musicians Chrissie Hynde on vocals;  Rico Rodriguez on trombone;  and Dick Cuthell on horns.   

Dammers:  "The instrumental side of ska was pretty much Jamaican jazz over a popular street rhythm.  So we're joining a lot of dots and maybe for the rock fan it's giving a slightly alternative history of what became known as psychedelic music...The thing I've always done is mix elements of the past with the present and the future. I hope from seeing this people will maybe see the original Specials slightly differently – although it was a ska band, it was also what I might call a cutting-edge retro band...Ska was the thing we happened to revive, but it could have been anything in a way. This is all part of a progression. It's not supposed to be a battle with anybody."

Panter:  "I was a student from 1972-75 and came from a small market town.  From the off, we were worried that Coventry was a violent place; it had that reputation. I lived in a house in Bramble Street and from the back bedroom window we could see the hordes of away fans being frog-marched by the police from the train station to the Coventry City football ground on Highfield Road...During the punk era you could see a band almost every night of the week - I got swept up in that...By the time I got to Coventry, I was into Free, The Doors, Fleetwood Mac - blues/rock. I got into soul music - Tamla Motown and Booker T and the MGs. I didn’t play reggae before I joined The Specials and we didn’t start playing ska until Christmas 1978. Ska was like blues, but the guitar played the off-beat, so for me, it wasn’t that much of a challenge. Reggae was harder to play...Ska, along with soul, was the music of the mods and by the time The Specials rose to prominence there was something of a mod revival going on. Coventry, I have now realised, was a multicultural city before multiculturalism existed.  This worked for musicians as well. You got the gig because you were a good guitar player, not because you were the ‘right’ colour."

Hall:   "There was an incredible amount of violence, but we felt like the Magnificent Seven, we really did...I never liked that statement that 'everybody's the same under the skin', because I don't think they are: you should appreciate people's differences. We came from a place where there was a lot of racial tension - we could remember a day where there was a terrible fight in Coventry and people got stabbed and we were on separate sides...You were in separate gangs and it just so happened to be a white gang and a black gang...We never analysed the black and white side of it. I'd only think someone was different from me if they supported Leeds ... There was a huge political statement being made with the Specials.  You just had to look at a photo and you got it. That's exactly what we feel about this. If you have Arabic and Hebrew on the same record you've made a political statement. I've been through the whole standing-on-a-box thing and it's great, but it gets sort of dangerous. The idea of suggestion sometimes is good...With the Specials, there were seven people in that band. Are you going to tell me we all had exactly the same political beliefs? Well we didn't. Absolutely not. But we were walking on stage each night and saying, 'This is what we all believe.' If you're going to present yourself as a unified thing then you've got to be that. Otherwise, what are you doing?"

Golding:   "The more people on the stage with me, the more I felt like we'd broken down a barrier. I thought we were really integrating, we're all brothers now...I always thought: what is the point of having a person with a racist view and locking him outside? Bring him inside so I can talk to him, we can discuss each other's culture, we can end up understanding each other and shake hands."

Staple:   “It was a great time, I was just a working class lad from the street. I was originally a roadie but Jerry Dammers invited me on stage at a gig and I never looked back and I became a singer in the group. All of a sudden I was playing all over the country and flying off to places like America and Australia to perform, it was a dream come true for me...Jerry went to technical college but really The Specials were very much a working class band and we sang about life as we knew it and our experiences. We were never afraid to sing about the issues of the day, and we refused to shy away from a subject because it was controversial...We sang about issues people could relate to, particularly working class people who were actually living and experiencing the things we were singing about. It’s quite strange really as many of the social issues in the early 80s are very much the same now and perhaps that is one of the reasons why our music has had a massive revival in recent years...One aspect of being involved with the 2Tone scene I am particularly proud of is the bridges it built between black and white communities. There is no doubting there was a lot of racial tension in the late 70s and early 80s, but through this music we were brought together. You had bands made up of a mixture of black and white musicians, which was rare. It was the same with the crowds as you had black youths dancing alongside white youths without a hint of trouble, which was really a first and it is a legacy which has lasted. Jerry was the driving force behind both The Specials and the 2Tone label, he was determined to show black and white people together in harmony, even the famous 2Tone logo was made in black and white to depict racial unity. All of what happed with the 2Tone scene was the foresight of Jerry Dammers and he should be given a lot of credit for the positive social impact he created.”

'Specials' reached eighty-four in the US, thirty-four in Sweden, twenty-one in Canada, five in New Zealand, and four in the UK.

"Gangsters" reached twenty-seven in Ireland, twenty in New Zealand, eleven in the Netherlands, and six in the UK.  It was originally a non-album single that was added to later pressings of  'Specials'.

"A Message to You, Rudy" made it to thirty-five in the Netherlands, twenty-nine in New Zealand, nineteen in Ireland, ten in the UK, and seven in Austria.

"Too Much Too Young" hit number fifteen in the Netherlands, three in Ireland, and number one in the UK.

"It's Up to You"

"Concrete Jungle"

"You're Wondering Now"

live 1980

full album:

Side one
"A Message to You, Rudy" (Dandy Livingstone) – 2:53
"Do the Dog" (Rufus Thomas, arr. by Jerry Dammers) – 2:09
"It's Up to You" (Dammers, The Specials) – 3:25
"Nite Klub" (Dammers, The Specials) – 3:22
"Doesn't Make It Alright" (Dammers, Dave Goldberg) – 3:26
"Concrete Jungle" (Byers) – 3:18
"Too Hot" (Cecil Campbell) – 3:09
Side two
"Monkey Man" (Toots Hibbert) – 2:45
"(Dawning of A) New Era" (Dammers) – 2:24
"Blank Expression" (Dammers, The Specials) – 2:43
"Stupid Marriage" (Dammers, Mark Harrison, Neville Staple) – 3:49
"Too Much Too Young" (Dammers, acknowledgment to Lloyd Charmers) – 6:06
"Little Bitch" (Dammers) – 2:31
"You're Wondering Now" (Seymour) – 2:36

No comments:

Post a Comment