27
Jun 00

The Specials and the first great ska revival

I Hate Music9 comments • 1,812 views

How Special were The Specials? Undoubtedly some of them along the line went to a special school, if you get my drift. Certainly the dramatic decline of Terry Hall’s career suggests that education was not what he was all about.

Ah but take us back to the heady days of the first great Ska revival. The Specials were certainly at the Transit vanguard of this appropriation of tunes better suited to the Caribbean and transplanting them to the South Midlands. Ska is a joyous, infectious racket in theory – of course theories can rarely be proved in the cold light of day and instead what we got were a number of groups bludgeoning pissed down* Skatalites “classics”. But at least the Ska revival allowed lots of dumb groups (Bad Manners, The Beat) to bounce around and get their frustrations out in the carefully controlled atmosphere of the back room of a pub. Instead of beating people up on street corners (which I daresay Buster Bloodvessel may have turned to if he hadn’t got the funk.)

Problem is with any kind of dumb music, a band comes along and tries to make it intelligent. Two Tone Records gave us The Specials. Two Tone because, hey, some of them were black and some of them were white. Two Tone also because there were two tones in their music, the up beat and the down beat. And boy were they down beat. What The Specials did for racial integration in this country, they also did for political comment in song. Exactly nothing.

To try and explain the place of The Specials in a transatlantic context I will compare the first great ska revival with the second. Loathe as I am to point out that the Yanks fell for the same trick we did just fifteen years too late, I can try to make comparisons. If The Selecter are No Doubt, then The Specials were The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The highpoint of The Specials recording career was “Ghost Town”, a song about people not going out in Coventry anymore. Of course they weren’t going out anymore, all they were playing in the clubs was fucking Specials records. Oh – Coventry is like Detroit. Pointless concrete city who’s football team never does anything.

Ska withered and died, and will do too in the States. There are only so many songs you can play with two notes alternating. One starting on the up beat and the other starting on the down beat. Terry Hall became the mathematically correct third of Fun Boy Three, the highlight of whose career was doing a duet with Bananarama. And there’s nothing special about that.

*Pissed Down is like being watered down, with an obvious substitution of liquids.

Comments

  1. 1
    TOM VEAR on 4 Nov 2006 #

    YOU DONT KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT SKA MUSIC DO YOU? IF YOU WERE ABOUT IN THAT TIME, YOU DIDNT HAVE ANY FRIENDS AND STAYED AT HOME A LOT. YOU ARE A TOSSER.

    TANYA HEADON IS A TOSSER

  2. 2
    TOM VEAR on 4 Nov 2006 #

    YOU DONT KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT SKA MUSIC DO YOU? IF YOU WERE ABOUT IN THAT TIME, YOU DIDNT HAVE ANY FRIENDS AND STAYED AT HOME A LOT. YOU ARE A TOSSER.

    TANYA HEADON IS A TOSSER

  3. 3
    Steve Kleenex on 26 Feb 2007 #

    Thats hardly a balanced article Tanya. You’ve presented a document that is biased, under researched and in my opinion childish. How old are you? 12!

    Lets remember that the Specials and other Two Tone bands not only had hit records in this country, but also started a very positive movement, that many people related to and gained a hell of a lot from. You’re not talking about Milli Vanili here, you’re talking about a band who made a great contribution to british music.

    There seems to be more than a trace of bitterness in the above article. Why is this?

    You make a lot of assumptions. You call Terry Hall an idiot, Buster Bloodvessel a thug and then state that the Specials did nothing for racial intergration in this country.

    This article is crap, you’ll never pass your English GCSE like this Tanya. Whats more I feel that I’ve wasted part of my life, taking the time to read and reply to it…
    ___________________________________________________________

    http://www.myspace.com/skaburlesque

  4. 4
    Abingdon Pembroke on 26 Feb 2007 #

    yo dude you want balance go watch dancing on ice

  5. 5
    j-damn on 20 Jan 2008 #

    *If The Selecter are No Doubt, then The Specials were The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The highpoint of The Specials recording career was “Ghost Town”, a song about people not going out in Coventry anymore. Of course they weren’t going out anymore, all they were playing in the clubs was fucking Specials records. Oh – Coventry is like Detroit.*

    Oddly enough, the height of the MMBTs career was recording a cover version of “Detroit Rock City”.

    I find it touching the way the devotees of the music you slam come in here screaming in all caps like a bunch of trained animals.

  6. 6
    Myles on 22 Mar 2009 #

    Written by someone who obviously didn’t grow up with Maggie, the Miners and the 1980s in general. Also, to say that The Specials contributed nothing to politics and racial integration is just nonsense. Obviously a hater, no balance in the argument. Id say that if you ‘scrape the make up off her skin, then we’d see the warts upon her chin’ and ‘her temper changed, she looked so deranged, her perfume turned to gin’, but most importantly, its all a load of bollocks.

  7. 7
    Stevie B. on 9 Jun 2010 #

    Tanya, yr a complete idiot. YOU TALK UTTER CRAP.

  8. 8
    Paul Scrafton on 24 Jan 2012 #

    written by someone who doesn’t understand Britain or the British music scene, meh.

  9. 9
    Samantha on 19 Apr 2012 #

    Hm. I love how you make your mindless rant sound logical by throwing in a couple of witty and sarcastic phrases. Any fool can find a flaw in something, it takes a wise man to find the good. Remember that as you wallow in your pool of ignorant pride.

    Darling, if you despise music so much please tell me why you’re wasting your precious time ranting against it? Why don’t you blog about something you do enjoy? Surely it doesn’t pay well enough to rely on as a legitimate source of income! And no, I’m not trying to be polite. This is my condescending comment as I laugh and go on to the next article that will hopefully be more informative. And interesting. On top of being ignorant, your article was boring. If you’re going to insult, give us something that is in some way amusing.

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