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1977 – present (40 years)
Coventry, West Midlands, England, United Kingdom
The Specials are a British band formed in 1977 in Coventry, UK, aka The Special A.K.A.. Their founder, Jerry Dammers, based on his knowledge of 60's mod and ska cultures, formed the label "Two Tone", releasing a number of seminal singles by seminal bands with the same passion, outlook and style.
After being formed in 1977 by Jerry Dammers, Lynval Golding and Horace Panter (also known as Sir Horace Gentleman), the band was first called The Automatics, and then The Coventry Automatics. Terry Hall and Roddy Byers (AKA 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.
The Specials began at the same time as Rock Against Racism which first gathered in 1978. According to Jerry Dammers anti-racism was intrinsic to the formation of The Specials with an intention to integrate both black and white people. Many years later Jerry Dammers stated, "Music gets political when there are new ideas in music, …punk was innovative, so was ska, and that was why bands such as the Specials and the Clash could be political."
The Specials assault on both the charts and popular UK culture began with their debut, a reworking of Prince Buster's ska hit "Al Capone", retitled "Gangsters", the song became a Top Ten hit in 1979." closely followed with a cover of Dandy Livingstone's "A Message To You Rudy", and then a short-lived but brilliant career featuring such highlights as the "Too Much Too Young (live)" single, Toots and The Maytals' Monkey Man, by The Specials: Monkey Man, "Rat Race" (featuring the stomping B-side, "Rude Boys Outta Jail"), "Do Nothing", "Stereotype" (documenting the lad-about-town thug that every UK town knew, made pleasantries with, but were secretly terrified of) and the bleak, terrifying "Ghost Town", a song eeirly documenting the mass unemployment and disaffection amongst the youth of the UK, and swiftly making its' way to the top of the charts.
"Ghost Town" later made a resurgence into popular culture, after an episode of 'Father Ted', where 'The Spinmaster' Father Billy O'Dwyer, a DJ-yet-gambling-addicted priest, forgot to bring any records to the disco, but later found a copy of "Ghost Town" in the boot of his car. The point where everyone stood for the national, anthem, and "doooooo,do do do do do dooooo…." kicked in, was possibly the only moment when British thugs wished that 'God Save The Queen' wasn't what they had to sing at the start of footy matches! Notably though, The Specials attitudes and methodology urged a multicultural outlook, vocally opposed to the "far-right" tendencies that seemed to linger around the "skinhead" faction of their fanbase.
Lead singer Terry Hall later went on to form Fun Boy Three with Lynval Golding and Neville Staple, and The Colourfield.
The Specials later became The Special AKA (a name which they had originally adopted circa their first single, "Gangsters"), and single-handedly raised awareness to the British public to the plight of Nelson Mandela, long before Princess Di or Bono from U2 ever did.
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