The Specials (formed 1977)
The Specials (Also known as The Special AKA) are a 2-Tone / ska band from Coventry, England. They are one of the most influential bands to come from the 2-Tone movement, which was highly synonymous with the punk sound that was also emerging at the time.
The Specials: History
The Specials was formed in 1977 by Lynval Golding, Jerry Dammers and Horace Panter (also known as Sir Horace Gentleman). Originally, the band was named The Automatics, followed by The Coventry Automatics. Terry Hall joined the band, as did Roddy Byers (known as Roddy Radiation) and Neville Staple, at which point they were known as The Special AKA The Coventry Automatics. Then they reverted simply to The Special AKA.
Joe Strummer invited the band to open for The Clash on their On Parole tour of the UK. During this time, the band briefly shared the same management team as The Clash. The tour enabled the band to gain a much wider fan base and more press exposure.
Jerry Dammers formed the 2 Tone Records label in 1979 and they released their debut "7 single, 'Gangsters' which featured Prince Buster's ska song 'Al Capone'. By this point, the band had adopted a 'rude boy' image, mimicking the teen fashions of the late 1960s. They changed their name to The Specials and released their debut album The Specials in 1979. The album was produced by Elvis Costello. The band continued with their references to ska tunes, with 'A Message To You, Rudy', a minor alteration to Dandy Livingstone's 'Rudy, A Message To You'. As well as covering songs by Prince Buster and Toots and the Maytals.
There was some controversy when the band released the 'Too Much Too Young' EP, which referenced teen pregnancy and contraception.
The band's second album was entitled More Specials but was not as commercially successful as its predecessor. They used a number of backing singers on the record, including Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey of The Go-Gos, Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders and Rhoda Dakar of The Bodysnatchers. The Specials then released a non-LP single, 'Ghost Town', recorded at the Woodbine St recording studio in Leamington Spa in 1981. Following the release of the single, Terry Hall, Neville Staple and Lynval Golding left the band and formed Fun Boy Three.
The line-up of the band was then altered by Jerry Dammers, who added Stan Campbell and Rhoda Dakar on vocals and resumed working under the name The Special AKA. Their track 'Free Nelson Mandela' was a huge success, though the album In the Studio, was not.
Following the break-up of the band, the Fun Boy Three went on to have a number of hits, including 'The Lunatics (Have Taken Over The Asylum)' and Terry Hall has also had a successful solo career, as well as fronting The Colourfield, with some commercial success. He has also worked with the Dub Pistols and The Lightning Seeds. Roddy Radiation has worked with members of various bands, including The Selecter, The Stranglers and The Jam. In the 1990s, members of the Specials and The Beat got together to form Special Beat.
The Specials reformed in 1996, resulting in the album Today's Specials, which mostly comprised covers of reggae and ska songs. In 1998, they released an album of original songs, entitled Guilty 'Til Proved Innocent, which featured vocals by Tim Armstrong and Lars Frederiksen of the band Rancid.
In 2007, Hall and Golding performed 'Gangsters' onstage with Lily Allen at the Glastonbury Festival. In 2008, the band reformed and performed at the Bestival festival on the Isle of Wight. However, Jerry Dammers owns the right to the name and did not perform at the festival, so they were billed as very 'Special' guests. Jerry Dammers has claimed that he has been forced out of the band and that the new reformation has been a 'takeover'. In the summer of 2009, the band embarked on a 30th Anniversary Tour.