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The Specials

True innovators of the punk era, the Specials began the British ska revival craze, combining the highly danceable ska and rocksteady beat with punk's energy and attitude, and taking on a more focused and informed political and social stance than their predecessors and peers.

The band was originally formed in Coventry, in 1977, as the Coventry Automatics and later the Special A.K.A. by songwriter/keyboardist Jerry Dammers, with Terry Hall (vocals), Lynval Golding (guitar, vocals), Neville Staples (vocals, percussion), Roddy Radiation (guitar), Sir Horace Gentleman (bass), and John Bradbury (drums). An opening slot for the Clash stirred up interest with the major labels, but Dammers instead opted to start his own 2-Tone label, named for its multiracial agenda and after the two-tone tonic suits favored by the like-minded mods of the '60s. The Dammers-designed logos, based in '60s pop art with black and white checks, gave the label an instantly identifiable look. Dammers' eye for detail and authenticity also led to the band adopting '60s-period rude-boy outfits (porkpie hats, tonic and mohair suits, and loafers).

The Specials debuted with the "Gangsters" single, which reached the U.K. Top Ten in 1979. Soon after, hordes of bands and fans followed in the same tradition, and the movement reached full swing. Over the next several months, 2-Tone enjoyed hits by similar-sounding bands such as Madness, the (English) Beat, and the Selecter. Late in 1979, the band released its landmark debut album, The Specials, produced by Elvis Costello. They followed with several 2-Tone package tours and a live EP, Too Much Too Young (confusingly credited to Special A.K.A.). The title track, a pro-contraception song, was banned by the BBC but reached the number one spot in the U.K. At this time, the band switched musical directions, releasing album number two, More Specials, with a new neo-lounge persona. Signs indicated that the movement was fading and 2-Tone began to experience financial troubles. Nevertheless, a film documenting the 2-Tone package tours, Dance Craze, as well as its companion album, saw considerable success.

"Ghost Town," one of the band's most significant singles, was issued in 1981 amid race-related unemployment riots in Brixton and Liverpool. The song jumped to number one, but the band was falling apart. Hall, Staples, and Golding left to form Fun Boy Three, leaving the band without its trademark voice. Dammers held on, reverting back to the old name, Special A.K.A., and enlisted a new vocalist, Stan Campbell. After several years, they returned with In the Studio in 1984. They managed a few hits, including "Racist Friend" and "Free Nelson Mandela," but the album stiffed. The band's final single, "What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend," failed to break the British Top 40. Dammers dissolved the unit and pursued political causes such as Artists Against Apartheid.

Shortly after the official breakup, various members of the band joined up with other ska revivalists (English Beat, etc.) to form a touring unit named Special Beat. By the mid-'90s, in response to the third wave ska revival, a Dammers-less version of the Specials reappeared with a series of shameful cash-in albums: Today's Specials (1996) Guilty Til Proved Innocent! (1998), and Conquering Ruler (2002). ~ Chris Woodstra, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

lynns16
Willie Nelson
these guys are special
♥ ♪♪♪♪♪ I love this song and the band. It's so funny, I didn't know the line starts off with Bernie Rhodes
claricentp91 7
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shawnnavuz71 1
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One of the best concerts I ever attended - The Specials at First Avenue in Minneapolis, 1996!
theres still good ska bands out there, most play underground venues
They were Special, weren't they...
It's Gangsta !!!
check out The Oceanside Sound System ...the 4th wave is coming summer 2013.....
the_original _ m z t
We need another wave of ska to come through. Immediately.
Love The Specials, original musica. Wish there were more like them....
Former mods and cool kids- can you ever get enough of this song and kick az band???!!!! That's what I thought, "hell no!" Keep ska alive, skank till you rank and bop till you drop.
.
Ghost Town. History Repeating itself.
Just heard a version of this done by the Young@ Heart Chorus- very cool!
Friday night Saturday morning . Theme music. Skins 88 to 95.
anniemarley. r o w e
A message to you Rudy !!!!!!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! !
Love the Specials great creative ska music
Good band
Skank till ya rank and bop till ya drop. Gotta love ska!!
thecentralsh o t
Hey, who's got a beer belly!

Do the dog, not the donkey
Do the dog, don't be a jerk

the Special after all these years.
No matter what has happened... I always end up back at The Specials. Such and amazing band.
Every song is good.
one of the great pioneers of the second wave of ska. love this band
dvoogd1
was at an Aggrolites show a couple weeks ago and Lynval joined them for a couple of Specials songs... skanked my a** off... so happy.
Yes Joseph, they were British. All the Two-Tone bands were British.
Skank,,,Two- T o n e Army!
They were British?
ska ska skkkkaaa
Ska is the best!
morbidiqua
I so love the Specials. SO much!
Songs like Ghost Town are as relevant now as when they were released. the more things change...
sfw206
OFF DA' CHAIN!!!
Classic...
love them!!!
I heard their music on local radio station tonight for the first time and loved it! I definitely will be checking out their music.
My favorite ska band, these guys were awesome live.
sfw206
The Specials -- Big -Up Rude Bwoy! Keep on Skankin!
Love U Specials!
nothing like hanging out with Neville and ranking Roger in a smoke filled room and it isnt cigerettes. 1992
Skalicious baby!!!
to think i saw todays specials in 1997 only one or two original members still skankin awsome!!
kellyrabbit
old school for sure
When it come to ska the specials are king.
jzinsser
Music is Life.
Live a Happy One.
Listen to Ska!
One of my favorite Specials songs! Ska music was a great thing to have in my life growing up....always a great time with friends! I will cherish those memories forever! :-)
loreliharper
Todays' Specials is NOT shameful - it's all covers of old 1st wave songs and is really good. I was around for the original Specials line up and went to see them without Jerry and Terry twice and they still skanked hard!
brings back some memories.
Love the Specials. 2Tone all the way.
Cool band
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