The Specials

The Specials

Infobox musical artist
Name = The Specials

Img_capt =
Background = group_or_band
Origin = Coventry, England
Genre = 2 Tone, Ska, New Wave
Years_active = 1977-1981
Label = 2 Tone, Chrysalis
Current_members = Jerry Dammers
Terry Hall Neville Staple Sir Horace Gentleman Roddy Radiation Lynval Golding
John Bradbury

The Specials (sometimes called The Special AKA) are an English 2 Tone ska revival band formed in 1977 in Coventry. They have had hits in the United Kingdom, and their music is featured in film and television soundtracks. After seven consecutive UK hit singles between 1979 and 1981, the band broke up. On April 7 2008 it was announced that the band are officially reforming.


After being formed in 1977 by Jerry Dammers, Lynval Golding, and Horace Panter, the band was first called The Automatics, and then The Coventry Automatics. [ [ The] ] Terry Hall and Roddy Radiation joined the band the following year, and the band changed its name to The Special AKA The Coventry Automatics, and then to The Special AKA. Joe Strummer of The Clash had attended one of their concerts, and invited The Special AKA to open for his band in their "On Parole UK Tour." This performance gave The Special AKA a new level of national exposure, and they briefly shared the Clash's management. In 1979, Dammers decided to form his own record label, and 2 Tone Records was born. On this label, the band released their 7" debut, "Gangsters", which became a Top Ten hit in 1979.

The band had begun wearing mod/rude boy/skinhead-style two-tone tonic suits, along with other elements of late 1960s teen fashions. Changing their name to The Specials, they recorded their debut LP "Specials" in 1979, produced by Elvis Costello. In a nod to classic Ska, the album lead off with Dandy Livingstone's "A Message To You, Rudy" and also had covers of Prince Buster and Toots and the Maytals songs from the late-1960s. In 1980, the EP "Too Much Too Young" (credited to The Special AKA) was a number one hit in the UK Singles Chart, despite controversy over the song's lyrics, which reference teen pregnancy and promote condom use.

Reverting once again to the moniker The Specials, the band's second album, "More Specials" was not as commercially successful or plainly ska-influenced as previous recordings. The album featured a more experimental approach; including influences from pop music, new wave, and muzak. Their 'lounge music' style would later be an influence on bands such as Air. The band also experimented with what could be described as dark, almost psychedelic reggae. Notable female backing singers on the Specials first two studio albums included: Chrissie Hynde, Rhoda Dakar (Then of The Bodysnatchers and later of The Special AKA), Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey (of The Go-Gos). "Ghost Town", a non-LP Specials single, hit number one in 1981, However, shortly afterwards, Staple, Golding and Hall left the band to form Fun Boy Three.

Dammers then drastically revised the line-up of the band, adding vocalists Stan Campbell and Rhoda Dakar, and began working again under the group name The Special AKA. The resulting album from the new line-up, "In the Studio", was not very commercially successful, although the songs "Racist Friend" and "Nelson Mandela" were hits. The latter contributed to making Mandela a cause célèbre in the United Kingdom, and became popular with anti-Apartheid activists in South Africa. Dammers then dissolved the band and pursued political activism.

Later developments

Since the breakup of the original line-up, various members of the band have performed in other bands and have reformed several times to tour and record in Specials-related projects. However, there has never been a complete reunion of the original line-up. In the 1980s, Hall, Staple and Golding founded the pop band Fun Boy Three and enjoyed commercial success from 1981 to 1983 with hits such as "Tunnel of Love", "Our Lips Are Sealed" and "The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum)". From 1984 until 1987, Hall fronted The Colourfield, with some commercial success. After they disbanded, Hall pursued a solo career, working mostly in the New Wave genre. He co-wrote a number of early Lightning Seeds releases. He also performed some vocals for a Dub Pistols' album.

In the early 1990s, members of The Beat teamed up with members of The Specials to form Special Beat. The band toured and released some live albums. In 1996, with ska enjoying a resurgence in mainstream popularity on North American radio and MTV, several members of The Specials reunited to record "Today's Specials", a studio album mostly of reggae and ska covers. This was followed in 1998 with an album of originals, "Guilty 'Til Proved Innocent", featuring guest vocals by Tim Armstrong and Lars Frederiksen of Rancid. The band toured heavily in support of both releases. Notably absent from these records and tours were Hall and Dammers. In 1992, ex-Specials bassist Steve Panter (aka Sir Horace Gentleman) quit music to train as a primary school teacher at the University of Central England in Birmingham. He later resumed his musical career.

In 2007, Hall teamed up with Golding for the first time in 24 years, to play Specials songs at two music festivals. At Glastonbury Festival they appeared on the Pyramid Stage with Lily Allen to perform "Gangsters". Later the same day they played on The Park Stage, with Damon Albarn of Blur on piano and with beatboxer Shlomo providing rhythm, to perform "A Message To You, Rudy". At GuilFest, Golding joined the Dub Pistols to again perform "Gangsters". In 2007, Golding had been regularly performing concerts and recording with Pama International, a collective of musicians , who were members of Special Beat.

On 30 March, 2008 Terry Hall stated that The Specials would be reforming for tour dates in Autumn 2008, and possibly for some recording. [ [ BBC - 6 Music - The Specials reunion ] ] This was officially confirmed on 7 April, 2008. [ [ "Ska band confirms reunion plans"] ]

On 6th September 2008, six members of the band performed on the Main Stage at the Bestival as the 'Surprise Act'. As Jerry Dammers did not play at the festival and owns the trademark rights to the name "The Specials", the group was billed as "Terry Hall and Friends".


Original Specials lineup

* Terry Hall - vocals
* Lynval Golding - rhythm guitar, vocals
* Neville Staple - toasting, backing vocals, percussion
* Jerry Dammers - keyboards
* Roddy Radiation - lead guitar
* Sir Horace Gentleman - bass guitar
* John Bradbury - drumsUnofficial members
* Rico Rodriguez - trombone
* Dick Cuthell - flugel horn

pecial AKA

* Jerry Dammers - keyboards, vocals
* John Bradbury - drums
* Rhoda Dakar - vocals
* Dick Cuthell - flugel horn
* Stan Campbell - vocals
* Egidio Newton - vocals, percussion
* John Shipley - guitar
* Gary McManus - bass guitar

1996 reformation

* Neville Staple - vocals, percussion
* Roddy Radiation - lead guitar
* Sir Horace Gentleman - bass guitar
* Lynval Golding - rhythm guitar, vocals
* Aitch Bembridge - drums
* Adam Birch - trumpet, trombone
* Mark Adams - keyboards




* Guinness Book of British Hit Singles - 16th Edition - ISBN 0-85112-190-X
* Guinness Book of British Hit Albums - 7th Edition - ISBN 0-85112-619-7
* Guinness Rockopedia - ISBN 0-85112-072-5
* The Great Rock Discography - 5th Edition - ISBN 1-84195-017-3
* The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits - ISBN 0-85112-250-7
* "Vinylnet Record Label Discographies". [ link] . - 2 Tone Catalogue Numbers.

Further reading

* Williams, Paul (1995) "You're Wondering Now - A History Of The Specials", ST Publishing. ISBN 1-89892-725-1

External links

* [ The Specials] - official website
* [ The Specials profile] - on unofficial 2 Tone site

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