Friday, January 18, 2013

The Specials: Dawning of a New Era in the Concrete Jungle

The Specials' first album, produced by young Elvis Costello, came out in 1979; it inspired a lot of musicians in various parts of the world, including in North Carolina, where I lived at the time. The Pressure Boys was one band that comes to mind, right off the top of my two tone head. The Specials album was -- and still is -- an ideal backdrop for social gatherings. The music is wild enough to keep things interesting, quiet enough to keep stray thoughts from evaporating. Particularly in the USA, it's conciousness raising, because the sound draws from the 1960s, fuels it up a notch and mixes in some new stuff. Along with The English Beat (aka The Beat), it's sort of like mixing together some Kinks, ska, reggae, punk and Motown into one holistic milieu.

The Specials' lyrics reflect a sophisticated awareness of British socio-political realities in the 1970s. Just a couple of little samples from "Do the Dog" shows this:

All you punks and all you teds
National Front and natty dreads
Mods, rockers, hippies and skinheads
Keep on fighting 'till you're dead . . .

Who am I to say?
To the IRA
To the UDA
Soldier boy from UK
Am I just a hypocrite?
Another piece of your bullshit
Am I the dog that bit
The hand of the man that feeds it?

(Teds = Teddy Boys; National Front = whites-only neo-fascist party; IRA - Irish Republican Army; UDA = Ulster Defence Association).

And from "Concrete Jungle" (compare with the very different Bob Marley song of the same name):

I have to carry a knife
Because there's people threatening my life
I can't dress just the way I want
I'm being chased by the National Front.

Meanwhile, it's 2013 and Barack Obama is about to be sworn into a second term and on top of that, The English Beat are coming to play Dallas. Yes!

Today's Rune: Signals.

1 comment:

WAS said...

I'd put the Selector at the top of my list, but your recollection of the effect and the gestalt of that whole 2-tone revival import is just right. Brace yourself, though, Erik. Little did we know at the time the staying power of the punk and ska movements. I have been pleasantly shocked over the years the way long-dead bands like the Germs, the Damned, Misfits, Stiff Little Fingers, Crass, Circle Jerks and DOA have been embraced and idolized by America's youth, and with that wave after wave of new ska bands hewing closely to the late 70's party line, bands like Leftover Crack, Big D and the Kid's Table, Google Bordello, [spunge] and Reel Big Fish (not to mention sub-genre's like Christian ska). Rudie couldn't fail, who'd a thunk it?