Formed in Coventry, England, back in 1977, five guys combined the danceable beat of rocksteady and ska with the vibrant energy and political activism of punk. With a combination like that, they could only be known as The Specials.
Joe Strummer of The Clash immediately took a liking to The Specials, particularly to the band’s anti-racism stance. He invited the band to open for them on tour, and they even shared management for a while. And even rocksteady royalty liked them: when the band covered the 1967 Dandy Livingstone single, “A Message to You, Rudy,” they got legendary trombonist Rico Rodriguez to reprise his role on their version, as he did on the original a decade before. Here they all are, performing on the influential BBC music show “The Old Grey Whistle Test” back in 1979:
The Specials broke up in 1984, and have seen some reincarnations here and there (some members went on to form Fun Boy Three, and who can forget the early 90’s group The Special Beat, combining members of The Specials and The English Beat). Recently, The Specials reunited after almost thirty years, playing Coachella earlier this year, and even appearing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. All of this has been without their founding member and principal songwriter Jerry Dammers, however, leaving many fans wondering what the comeback album will sound like.
But their 1979 self-titled debut still stands as a cornerstone of punk and ska. And for the rest of the week on The Afternoon Show, I’ll be giving away a copy of this album, reissued for the first time on 180-gram vinyl. Be sure to tune in for your chance to win!