For a band that did so little, and in a very short space of time, it is remarkable that they are held in such high regard; the two-tone ska band that really meant something. Coming off the back of punk, the mixed-race Coventry band were a band deeply embedded in the cultural fabric of the UK for a couple of years; from the release of the Prince Buster-inspired ‘Gangsters’ to the epochal ‘Ghost Town’, which hit number one in the tumultuous summer of ’81, when the country was suffering from high unemployment, racial strife, and extensive rioting. ‘Ghost Town’ was to be the last song that founder members Terry Hall and Lynval Golding, were to be involved with. Immediately after appearing on the Top of the Pops stage to perform that hit, they, along with Neville Staple, told band leader Jerry Dammers that they were leaving, to form Fun Boy Three
When The Specials first came to notice, they were a revelation, and for so many, an experience they were unlikely to ever experience again. Coming off the back of punk, and very integral to that profound movement, the Coventry band were of mixed race, a rare beast in the 70s, and a band seemingly everywhere for a few short and heady years.
Initially known as the Coventry Automators, the band came together in time honoured fashion. Jerry Dammers was looking for some help with a music project whilst at Lancaster Polytechnic. Horace Panter was at hand, and in those heady days where, hand-in-hand, the spirit of punk and a DIY ethic was alive and quickly evolving, a band were born, eventually coalescing around the classic line up of Dammers, Panter, Terry Hall, Neville Staple, Lynval Golding, Roddy Radiation, John Bradbury, and horn players Dick Cuthell and Rico Rodriguez.
Resident, Brighton’s most popular independent record shop, doesn’t just sell records. While last year the likes of Slaves, Pale Waves and Bill Ryder-Jones all played sets inside the shop – while Idles played the very first ‘out-store’ in Komedia – the iconic shop also holds in-store signings for a chance to get your brand-new record signed by the band themselves, and they’ve just announced two absolute corkers.
The Specials’ new 10-song Encore album was produced by their founding members Terry Hall, Lynval Golding and Horace Panter, alongside Danish musician/producer Torp Larsen. It is the first time Hall, Golding and Panter have recorded new material together since the band’s 1981 No.1 single ‘Ghost Town’.
The Specials are one of Britain’s most iconic groups whose hits are still filling dance-floors to this day. This Spring the group’s albums have been given the reissue treatment, all three of their pioneering studio albums re-released, collected together with extensive bonus tracks including all the non-album singles, live concert versions, radio sessions and more; collected together with the blessing of the bands founder and main song-writer Jerry Dammers. Despite having been a big fan of the era, and having always been keen on those classic songs we’ve all heard like ‘Ghost Town’, ‘Too Much Too Young’, ‘Monkey Man’, ‘A Message To You Rudy’ and ‘Nelson Mandela’; I’d never listened through the albums themselves so I was keen to take this opportunity to immerse myself in their catalogue and learn more about the history of the band.
The Specials were formed in the 1970’s, originally known as The Coventry Automatics, the brainchild of keyboard player Jerry Dammers, who hand picked the group to realise his vision of a multi-cultural band who could fuse the two tones of punk and reggae to rock against racism and Thatcherite Britain. Terry Hall’s unique vocals often took centre stage paired with reggae MC vocals from Neville Staple. That same dual approach was taken with the choice of guitarists; Lynval Golding, playing the authentic reggae chops, and Roddy ‘Radiation’ Byers on lead-guitar, adding some punk and classic rock’n’roll to the mix. John Bradbury on drums and Horace Panter on bass were both sensational players whose skills gave The Specials a far more solid groove than many other popular bands at the time.