Play GHOST TOWN or STEREOTYPE or stunning debut single GANGSTERS and relive again those heady days of the late seventies/early eighties. More than anything the songs on this superb compilation sum up perfectly the culture of social unrest present in much of Margaret Thatcher's Brave New Britain. For many people life was pretty volatile - due, in no small part, to high unemployment, the poll tax, and the threat (or so we believed at the time) of nuclear armageddon, resulting in an unexpectedly energised left-wing protest movement of which I was a (fairly) active member for a while. That's not to say protesting against the Tory Government was an unrelentingly po-faced endeavour. No, there was a lot of fun to be had simply carrying banners and chanting primitive slogans outside the Houses of Parliament. But that was then.
See? That's just part of what this album does so well. TOO MUCH TOO YOUNG, NITE KLUB, RAT RACE, FRIDAY NIGHT SATURDAY MORNING...THE SPECIALS SINGLES: BEST OF is a scathing period piece and a recognisably human portrait of life, kitchen sinks and all. Yes, you had to be there, but forty-five or older, then you probably were; it just depends on which side of the fence you belonged.
Coventry boys JERRY DAMMERS, TERRY HALL and THE SPECIALS have provided us with the most evocative SKA/PUNK music you could ever wish to hear.
The Specials Singles is just that containing at least the a-sides of the 45's of one the greatest bands of all time. Opening with one of the strongest debut single of all time `Gangsters' it moves through double `a' side `Rudi, a Message to You' and `Nite Klub' to the first side of there live EP `Too Much Too Young' and the Skatalite inspired `Guns of Navarone'.
Stand alone single `Rat Race' is next before we move into less comfortable territory with double `a' `Stereotype' b/w `International Jet Set' and then `Do Nothing'. The magnificent `Ghost Town' is next together with both of its equally good b-sides `Why?' and `Friday Night, Saturday Morning'.
The quality drops as Terry Hall, Neville Staples and Lynval Golding leave to form Fun Boy Three and The Special AKA give us a poor `War Crimes' and `Racist Friend' . The temperature rises again with the fantastic `Nelson Mandela' but it's too late to save the band and `Girlfriend' leaves the album, and indeed the band, with a disappointing ending. Hopefully now the full band is reforming The Specials will be given the coda they deserve.
The bulk of the Specials' career between 1979 and 1981 is solidly collated in this truly excellent compilation album. Jerry Dammers was the musical genius who provided the main driving force behind the diverse talent he had collated, all of which were excellent live rock musicians. Furthermore, many have frontman viewed Terry Hall as the direct precursor of Morrissey, with his deadpan, sardonic vocals and tragi-comedic lyrics about life's more mundane subject-matter, eg, 'I'd rather have lipstick on my collar than piss-stains on my shoes'.... truly inspired ! For 18 months or so, The Special's were deservedly Britain's biggest band, even making a sizeable impact in the USA, where they achieved cult status. There are several standout tracks here, particularly the three #1 hits, Too Much Too Young (about teenage pregnancy), Rat Race (about the Coventry band's resentment of having to move south to London to succeed) and the haunting Ghost Town, from 1981. Ghost Town is an excellent snapshot of a country at the end of its tether, highlighting Coventry's rapid social, economic and psychological desolation during Thatcher's first two years in power, and it proved extremely prophetic when just months later, several major cities experienced rioting on an unprecedented scale (this theme was also inherent in their famous Concrete Jungle track). However, with choice tracks such as the classic Gangsters, A Message To You Rudi, Do Nothing and Friday Night, Saturday Morning plus the Special AKA's Nelson Mandela, there is quality here in adbundance. The sound of ska has never sounded so good and you will find few who do not hold this band with the utmost respect. The Special's proved to be one of the world's first socially-aware bands that did'nt ram their messages down our throats but just concentrated on sounded great (some irritatingly called them The Clash of Ska). They certainly led the way, if not musically, but thematically, for the likes of The Smiths and Billy Bragg and were a welcome diversion from the materialistic, New Romantic tosh that was rapidly swamping Britain at the time. Eventually it all came to an abrupt end after Ghost Town, but the offshoot was the brilliant, Terry Hall-led Fun Boy Three followed by his excellent Colourfield project, proving that Dammers was not the only musical genius onboard the ska phenomenon that brought the 'Dance Craze' to Britain.