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on 20 May 2009
If you've been lucky enough to get tickets to The Specials' reunion tour, or see Neville live with his own band, you'll understand what I mean when I say this autobiography is as energetic and entertaining as the man himself. However, it's emphatically not a book for musos! Although a large stretch of the story is devoted to The Specials, 2 Tone, and Neville, Lynval and Terry's subsequent foray into pop with Fun Boy Three, the emphasis is on touring, performing, the dynamics within the band, bad behaviour and conflict - not composition and recording studios. And given Neville isn't a musician, but a self-confessed entertainer (he starts out as one of the band's roadies) that's both forgivable and refreshing.

What you get instead is the other half of 2 Tone's musical heritage. Terry Hall's couldn't-give-a-f*ck post-punk stage presence and Jerry Dammers's art school musical perfectionism are given their dues, but really this is the story of the working class Jamaican kids who brought ska to the Midlands and, through 2 Tone, the world. The first few chapters of the book - Neville's early years in Jamaica, growing up in Rugby and Coventry, his abusive father, riots ands fights with skinheads, the sound system scene, burglary and borstal - read like the source material for films like Scum or This Is England. It's edgy, amoral and fast. However, when he meets the then Coventry Automatics the story soon becomes one of rock 'n' roll excess, infighting and, above all, a sheer love of performing. Then, unfortunately, the Eighties really get going and bubblegum pop becomes the order of the day.

The most striking thing that emerges from the book, however, is the difference in attitude between Neville, fellow roadies Rex Griffiths and Trevor Evans, and the rest of the band. Having grown up poor, black and occasionally criminal, Neville seems like he can't believe his luck - and he certainly doesn't believe it'll last. So, he takes everything he can get - money, girls, booze, drugs and cars - and lives the life of an unabashed rude boy. At times other band members, Jerry and Horace in particular, clearly disapprove - seemingly on political grounds. But whereas Nev's clearly with them on some things - there's a lot of wading into crowds and walloping skinheads and NF thugs - socialist self-denial isn't one of them. In a sense, if the book has an argument, it's that you can't have the ska without the rude boy.

Original Rude Boy is a rough, ready and thoroughly entertaining read - but, as the Britain of 2009 looks back on 2 Tone with nostalgic, rose-tinted specs, it's also a timely reminder of the politically charged, racist, sometimes criminal Britain from which that music literally had to fight its way out.
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on 15 July 2016
There's a great story in here - sadly the man and his writing get in the way. The story of the rise of a young man from his Jamaican roots through a troubled teenhood in the UK to pop superstardom in one of the music industry's most iconic bands is engrossing. However, integral to this book is the man himself. Three words describe him: Me, Me and Me.

I got the message in the first few pages of the book that his life is about fighting (he's the toughest kid on the block) and sex (he's the biggest lover on the block). But the book continuously repeats tales of his pursuits in both these endeavours. Which is rather dull. His reasoning for his tedious, inconsiderate behaviour is he is a rude boy - a product of his Jamaican roots. I wasn't convinced. He just comes across as a bit of a w****r.

Add to that a conversational writing style that simply irritates - I lost count of how many times he'd introduce a subject only to say "more of that later".

I really thought I was going to enjoy this book. And parts of it were excellent. But there's a lot of nonsense and poor writing to endure to get to the good parts. I'd say it's just about worth it - but only just. Hopefully there's another book on the Specials out there that tells the story far better than this book. The story of the Coventry SKA phenomenon deserves better than this effort.
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on 28 May 2009
After renewing my love of the specials after the recent tour , i thought i would give Nev's book a read , a cracking insight to the life of Nev and his mates , even though he has been a bit of a bad lad , he came across quite genuine and clearly loves to entertain and put a bit of joy back into peoples lives .
Get reading.
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on 15 June 2009
I recieved this read as a present & have to say, could not put it down. The Specials & Neville were/are the consummate performers, entertaining, hard hitting & realist. This describes the book to the letter, bringing the reader life for Neville, arriving in a turbulent Britain & rising to the adversity of his domestic life.
Not always legal, but dealing with his lot in the only way he knew.
He was & is part of the most influential bands of the 20th century.
Fully recommended for those who remember & to those who may be witnessing the second coming.
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on 17 July 2016
Comes across as a likeable and funny guy and the book gives a great account of the thing that disappointed though was that he seemed quite proud of his early life as a burglar and a thief... Unless I missed it there didn't seem to be any hint of an apology or regret.
That aside its a great read
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on 22 September 2010
I used to LOVE The Specials so when I saw this book I just had to get it. i could just hear the tunes again as I read it!

It's a great read all the way. Lots of photos in there as well. Interesting characters.

I realise this is his point of view on why or how things went the way they did but it's only to be expected and doesn't come over as somebody's biased viewpoint at all.

If you were into ska, 2 tone or any of the groups like The Specials you could be interested in this. Also, if you're into autobiographies with a difference then I'd definitely recommend this. Not like your boring footballer stuff!
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on 2 March 2010
I tip my hat to Neville Staple for giving us his story with honesty, warmth and passion. These qualities are there when he performs on stage and having just been to the 30th anniversary tour The Specials are still very special. I could not put the book down it is a great read and insight into a man and piece of musical history and the people behind it that were a part of the back drop of life to many now like me in our 40's and the new generations that find the tone. This is not nostalgia talking I have never stopped being into the stuff I grew up with, the music is a necessary now as back then, a point not lost on Neville. Also the musicians have been working on Specials parted in their different guises its just the typical UK thing to put down our icons once they feel they are yesterday's chip paper. Two Tone and The Specials were never that and never will be, this book will go along way to document why. A top read -don't' argue!
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on 19 December 2013
Wow, it is easy to forget the attitudes and challenges of growing up in the 70's in the UK. Neville's account of childhood life in Coventry is honest and at times brutal. A familiar story to many of my mates and like Neville some ended up on the wrong side of the law and none were quite as colourful. A great read.
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on 5 September 2010
A really enjoyable romp through the life of Neville... nice to hear the whole history of the guy and not just the Specials section.

There is one aspect of the tale that started to really annoy me and thats the fact that Neville thinks he is the most important person in the whole world when it comes to influencing ska music in other nations. Apparantly the whole of the 3rd Wave was influenced by him.

Anyway, forgive him that and you have a very good read.
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on 14 June 2011
I've read Neville and Horace's accounts of being in the Specials, and they're both good. Neville's talks about a lot of interesting things outside his time in the original Specials, talking about his years as a rude boy, pre-punk and 2-tone (including anecdotes of sound systems, Borstal and mid-70s race war, which were very interesting), a little bit about Fun Boy Three, much more on the trials and tribulations of Special Beat, an account of The Specials' 2009 reformation, and some information about the seldom written about 3rd Wave of ska. The account of The Specials 1977-1981 is a lot shorter than Horace's.

It's accessible and fun, and it only took me a day or two to read so you could never be wasting time on it, but the book has a couple of flaws. Some of the information is questionable (I wouldn't quite say Rancid were a ska-punk band, for example), there's a lot of him talking about how much sex he has, there's a little bit of bitching (the index actually lists "Horace Panter, criticisms of") and it's ironically not as well written as Horace's book.

Nonetheless for the Specials fan it's great, and for the ska fan it's well worth reading (after all, who else has published more than a sentence on The Toasters?)
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