Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Top 102 Albums⁺ No 38. More Specials

Top 102 Albums⁺ No 38. 
More Specials - The Specials

Take a trip with The Specials to the end of the world cabaret. Here at the cocktail lounge the band are playing easy listening. Suddenly the planes engines start to wheeze like an asthmatic barrel organ - the band slows down and plays along, their lounge/ska/cabaret/toasting/funk carnival of sound switching between exhilaration and dread.

From the opening cry of "Bernie Rhodes knows, don't argue", through to the swan song of the original band, the magnificent Ghost Town, The Specials released a body of work which can still haul these weary, overweighted bones onto a dance floor. They perhaps did save the best for some non-album singles - the aforementioned Gangsters and Ghost Town in particular but this album includes two great singles  - Do Nothing and Stereotypes. They captured the sense of a society which seemed to be disintegrating fast and from which huge swathes of people felt totally disconnected.

"I walk along this same old lonely street
Still trying to find, find a reason
Policeman comes and smacks me in the teeth
I don't complain, it's not my function
Nothing ever change, oh no...
Nothing ever change"

The songs are a mixture of covers and originals, and the originals really are. Pearl's Cafe is about how a partner becomes less attractive because of their lack of empathy for a lonely old woman who drinks too much. This ain't your standard breakup song.

"When I first met you, I really thought you were a wet dream come true
Now I know that you don't care, about somebody else's nightmare"

Stereotypes (Part 1) is another short story of a destructive young man "He drinks his age in pints / He has girls every night"  and who "blamed his fiancée when he caught VD / The doctor said no drink for seventeen weeks." After the seventeen weeks he goes out, drinks seventeen pints and does't make it home, "wrapped round a lamp post on Saturday night." This is the world of Ghost Town, society tearing itself apart, people destroying the place in which they have to live.

The reprise of Enjoy Yourself, which opens and closes the album, slows the song to a funereal pace and drips with irony. This band is letting you know that your cruise is heading for an iceberg. But hell, we knew that already. At least the music is good. Not just good, it's great!


  1. Another album that I have not listed to in avery long time!

    1. Brian, I do live in the past, I think, and listen to a disproportionate amount of music released between 1976 and 1984.

  2. Hi Seamus. Inspired pick. "Ghost Town" would be in the conversation of my all-time favorite song. Did you hear the latest album from Madness? If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the Specials should have felt on top of the world after hearing the song "Death of a Rude Boy." It sounds exactly like "Ghost Town."

    1. Yes I've heard it Brian - you're right. As for Ghost Town, the b-side (Friday Night & Saturday Morning) on its own would be one of my favourite singles.
      "Wish I had lipstick on my shirt / instead of piss stains on my shoes"

    2. & the other b-side provided some of the inspiration for Culture Club's Do You Really Want to Hurt Me!

  3. Bought this only recently as it has taken me so long o rid my suspicion of all things mod/ska (its a growing up in the fens thing where liking 2 tone and wearing a parker were the norm)

    you can trace a lot of bands back to this lp

    1. I can remember the age of the combat jacket / parka too. The school corridors were a sea of green.
      Sometimes everybody gets it right - The Specials seemed to belong to everyone without ever sounding like they were designed for everyone.