The Specials

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The Specials (formed 1977)

The Specials (Also known as The Special AKA) are a 2-Tone / ska band from Coventry, England. They are one of the most influential bands to come from the 2-Tone movement, which was highly synonymous with the punk sound that was also emerging at the time.

The Specials: History

The Specials was formed in 1977 by Lynval Golding, Jerry Dammers and Horace Panter (also known as Sir Horace Gentleman). Originally, the band was named The Automatics, followed by The Coventry Automatics. Terry Hall joined the band, as did Roddy Byers (known as Roddy Radiation) and Neville Staple, at which point they were known as The Special AKA The Coventry Automatics. Then they reverted simply to The Special AKA.

Joe Strummer invited the band to open for The Clash on their On Parole tour of the UK. During this time, the band briefly shared the same management team as The Clash. The tour enabled the band to gain a much wider fan base and more press exposure.

Jerry Dammers formed the 2 Tone Records label in 1979 and they released their debut "7 single, 'Gangsters' which featured Prince Buster's ska song 'Al Capone'. By this point, the band had adopted a 'rude boy' image, mimicking the teen fashions of the late 1960s. They changed their name to The Specials and released their debut album The Specials in 1979. The album was produced by Elvis Costello. The band continued with their references to ska tunes, with 'A Message To You, Rudy', a minor alteration to Dandy Livingstone's 'Rudy, A Message To You'. As well as covering songs by Prince Buster and Toots and the Maytals.

There was some controversy when the band released the 'Too Much Too Young' EP, which referenced teen pregnancy and contraception.

The band's second album was entitled More Specials but was not as commercially successful as its predecessor. They used a number of backing singers on the record, including Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey of The Go-Gos, Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders and Rhoda Dakar of The Bodysnatchers. The Specials then released a non-LP single, 'Ghost Town', recorded at the Woodbine St recording studio in Leamington Spa in 1981. Following the release of the single, Terry Hall, Neville Staple and Lynval Golding left the band and formed Fun Boy Three.

The line-up of the band was then altered by Jerry Dammers, who added Stan Campbell and Rhoda Dakar on vocals and resumed working under the name The Special AKA. Their track 'Free Nelson Mandela' was a huge success, though the album In the Studio, was not.

Following the break-up of the band, the Fun Boy Three went on to have a number of hits, including 'The Lunatics (Have Taken Over The Asylum)' and Terry Hall has also had a successful solo career, as well as fronting The Colourfield, with some commercial success. He has also worked with the Dub Pistols and The Lightning Seeds. Roddy Radiation has worked with members of various bands, including The Selecter, The Stranglers and The Jam. In the 1990s, members of the Specials and The Beat got together to form Special Beat.

The Specials reformed in 1996, resulting in the album Today's Specials, which mostly comprised covers of reggae and ska songs. In 1998, they released an album of original songs, entitled Guilty 'Til Proved Innocent, which featured vocals by Tim Armstrong and Lars Frederiksen of the band Rancid.

In 2007, Hall and Golding performed 'Gangsters' onstage with Lily Allen at the Glastonbury Festival. In 2008, the band reformed and performed at the Bestival festival on the Isle of Wight. However, Jerry Dammers owns the right to the name and did not perform at the festival, so they were billed as very 'Special' guests. Jerry Dammers has claimed that he has been forced out of the band and that the new reformation has been a 'takeover'. In the summer of 2009, the band embarked on a 30th Anniversary Tour.

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Are These The 10 Greatest Halloween Anthems Of All Time?

Michael Jackson Talking Heads The Specials

Halloween is the second greatest holiday for music (after good ol’ Christmas, of course) with an insane number of songs having been written about the spooky festival, monsters, witches and zombies. Only a few, however, have ever become ultimate Halloween staples and a party at this time of year isn’t the same without these timeless classics.

Photo credit: UnsplashPhoto credit: Unsplash

10. Ghost Town - The Specials

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Terry Hall and the rest of The Specials perform in concert at Cambridge Corn Exchange - Cambridge, United Kingdom - Friday 11th November 2016

The Specials
The Specials and Terry Hall
The Specials and Terry Hall
The Specials and Terry Hall
The Specials and Terry Hall
The Specials

Splendour Festival - Nottingham - July 2015 Live Review

in Music Reviews on 03 August 2015

Nottingham's Splendour Festival has a popular reputation in the city as a decent family day out - weather permitting - and this year it certainly lived up to its billing. After attracting the likes of local lad Jake Bugg (who has probably graced every single venue in the city with that shrill voice of his), Happy Mondays (brilliant) and The Boomtown Rats (not so brilliant, but entertaining) last year, the one-day festival has certainly grown in appeal. This year the main attractions are nineties chart stalwarts James and the legendary Specials.

Splendour Festival - Nottingham - July 2015 Live Review

Hidden behind the pop fare was certainly some very interesting music, mainly in the courtyard near the Comedy stage away from the funfair, hotdogs, candy floss and ice creams. If the Confetti stage - named after Nottingham's media college - featured generic indie led by the likes of The Twang, the acoustic stage had a few real treats like terrific singer-songwriter Daudi Matsiko (who would appeal to both soul and alternative fans equally) and Eyre Lew, with their well layered ambient guitar soundscapes.  

The sun and the crowd really came alive for James, who admitted that they had only just started playing their most popular tune 'Sit Down' again after a long period. I can understand why; it's nowhere near the best song of a great pop band who left Factory Records early in their career because they were finding their independence getting lost, so compromising with the masses doesn't tend to be a route they go down. On this occasion though, I'm glad they did. A mass sing-a-long ensues for 'Sit Down', enabling the real five-star material to come out.  

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The Specials - Specials, More Specials And In The Studio (Remastered Editions) Album Review

There have been moments - they're becoming increasingly rare - in which music as an art form wraps itself into the absolute contours of society, perfectly mining the cultural tempest of the  moment until a song becomes more indelibly linked with a space of time than the events themselves.

The Specials - Specials, More Specials and In The Studio (Remastered Editions) Album Review

Such a collision happened in the summer of 1981 as The Specials released 'Ghost Town', a single into which the band injected all the melancholy, foreboding and despair which the government of Margaret Thatcher had rained down on carefully targeted sections of British society. As it played, the streets of many of Britain's inner cities burned; accompanied by a highly cinematic video shot in the then mainly derelict areas of London's East End, it proved to be the apex moment for a band who were frequently cast in the mould of lippy hedonists.

'More Specials', their second album and the one which preceded 'Ghost Town' in the septet's brief chronology, implied in its title a degree of continuity from their eponymous début, released in 1979. With a new decade around the corner, this was a time when they and the Two Tone label briefly annexed the charts with a brand of amphetamine laced Ska that presented a more carefree alternative for the country's youth than the immolating final throes of punk. Closer inspection, however, reveals otherwise and, by peeling back three decades of nostalgia, the band's second outing is a slightly haphazard, far more introverted proposition than its more straightforward forebear.

Continue reading: The Specials - Specials, More Specials And In The Studio (Remastered Editions) Album Review

Isle of Wight Festival 2014 Review

If there's something to take away from this year's Isle of Wight Festival, it's probably sunburn. Unlike the mud bath of two years ago, 2014 will be remembered for serving up one of the hottest weekends I can remember for a festival, along with some crowd-pleasing performances. While not every act managed to capture their moment in the sun, all the major names delivered in spades.

Isle of Wight Festival 2014 Review

But it wasn't just the music that made the weekend for many; a real sense of celebration seemed to erupt across the site. Partly fuelled by anticipation over the World Cup and partly because of the good weather, thousands of smiling faces could be seen everywhere. Sunflowers seemed to be an essential festival accessory and many opted for as few clothes as possible with t-shirts looking like they'd gone out of fashion altogether. I've even had to make a note in my diary that it's international flip-flop day on June 20th, just one of the many things I learnt around Seaclose Park this year.

The highlight of Friday afternoon should have really been local boy Tom Odell on the main stage. But his piano led ballads took some time to win the crowd over despite his number 1 album 'Long Way Down'. By the time he'd finished though, the reaction showed that he'd justified his place on the main stage billing.

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Your Guide To The Isle Of Wight Festival 2014

Isle of Wight Festival Kings Of Leon Red Hot Chili Peppers The Specials Biffy Clyro Calvin Harris

The annual Isle of Wight Festival kicks off tomorrow (June 12th), beginning a British summertime so filled with awesome music events you might even forget about that whole football thing that’s also happening. This year the festival boasts an impressive line up featuring acts such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kings Of Leon and Fall Out Boy. So if you’re one of the lucky ones packing your bag to head off to Seaclose park, or if you’ll just be following the action from the comfort of your own home, here’s our handy guide to enjoying the Isle of Wight Festival 2014.

Red Hot Chili Peppers
The festival season kicks off June 12th on the Isle of Wight, where Red Hot Chili Peppers will perform


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Isle of Wight Festival 2014 Preview

With just hours until thousands of people flock to Portsmouth and Southampton for their annual ferry trip to the Isle of Wight Festival, it's time to look ahead to the first big event in the summer festival calendar.

Isle of Wight Festival 2014 Preview

Twelve years since the festival was resurrected, organiser John Giddings has steered Isle of Wight from strength to strength. With around 60,000 punters travelling to the Island, it's not just Seaclose Park that's transformed for the weekend, there's a real community spirit that's evident as buses wind their way towards the festival site. Past years have seen a surprise appearance from Kanye West for Jay-Z's headline set, rock royalty like Jagger, McCartney and Neil Young take to the main stage, and bands such as the Foo Fighters casually chatting to fans on the car ferry. This year looks like it will live up to the festival's reputation without a repeat of 2012's well-publicised mud bath. Although there's perhaps not many surprises on the line-up, there's still plenty to look forward to.

The top twelve to watch from June 12:
Boy George PerformingBoy GeorgeIf you're arriving early, the former Culture Club front man is headlining the Thursday night festivities. But far from a nostalgia act, George is touring his first album of original material in 18 years. He's embraced DJ culture and is likely to put on an impressive show whether he's behind the turntable or the microphone.

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Dave Brubeck Dead Aged 91; Jazz World Mourns True Pioneer

Dave Brubeck Ella Fitzgerald Duke Ellington Al Jarreau George Benson Quincy Jones The Specials

Dave Brubeck, the jazz musician heralded for defying convention and experimenting with complex rhythms, has died in Norwalk, Connecticut - he was 91. Brubeck, who would have turned 92 on Thursday (December 6, 2012), gained pop star-like acclaim for recordings including Take Five, and Blue Rondo a la Turk. He died of heart failure en route to "a regular treatment with his cardiologist," according to his long-time manager and producer Russell Gloyd, who spoke with the Chicago Tribune. 

Eschewing conventional swing rhythms, Brubeck's work was admired outside of jazz circles and he took his mix elegant sound to colleges in the 1950s, smashing to pieces he long-held notion that jazz had no place in academia. In the 60s, he achieved phenomenal success with The Dave Brubeck Quartet, selling millions of albums whilst playing with the likes of Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. The group's 1959 album Time Out spawned Take That, the biggest selling jazz single of all time, still used in countless television programmes and movies, among them the BBC's Secret Life of Machines and NBC's Today programme. It has been covered by the likes of Al Jarreau, George Benson, Quincy Jones and The Specials. The track is generally considered to be the first jazz competition to achieve mainstream significance, reaching No.25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and breaking the Top 5 on Billboard's Easy Listening survey - a precursor to the now Adult Contemporary chart. Ironically, the track wasn't even written by Brubeck - the hefty royalty cheques were picked up by saxophonist Paul Desmond before his death in 1977. He left the royalties for performances and compositions of Take Five to the American Red Cross, which has since received around $100,000 per year. 

In later years, Brubeck composed music for operas and ballet while performing for several world leaders. In 1988, he played for Mikhail Gorbachev at a Moscow dinner hosted by then-President Ronald Reagan. "I can't understand Russian, but I can understand body language," Brubeck said after seeing the general secretary tapping his foot. The jazz legend was still touring in 2009 at the age of 88 and was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honours later that year. The same honor was bestowed upon Led Zeppelin this week.

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