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The Specials: The Specials – 1979

It came out of nowhere, at least for us in Italy. Produced by Elvis Costello, 14 songs in all including classics from The Maytals “Monkey Man”, “Too Hot” by Prince Buster and “A Message to You Rudy” by Dandy Livingstone, along with 11 original songs which became instant SKA classics, and for those of us who lived in those years and watched in horror to the City riots across U.K. Cities it will be forever remembered as a Soundtrack of those times.

I had never heard of SKA before, but I was instantly hooked by its walking bass lines, up-beat tempo and off-beat rhythms. Later on I would inhale everything Ska: The Selecter, Bad Manners, Madness, The Beat, The Skatelites, Toots & The Maytals, Jimmy Cliff and diving into the Mighty Mighty Bosstones when they broke into the U.S. Ska Scene. I also became a regular at any and all Ska concerts I would find and to this day I still hold on dearly to my collection of concert scarves.

Apart from the music, one gains much appreciation if you understand the lyrics, but not in a literal sense, but for what they imply and represent, and chances are that if you did not land in a Coventry Pub in the late 70’s early 80’s or wondered the squalor of the U.K. City Suburbs you may never gain a full appreciation for this timeless record. The irony of it all is that here we are in 2022, and fundamentally nothing has changed! And The Specials are just as relevant today as they were 40+ years ago.

But I am not here to praise this record for its message of racial unity, or for praising Jerry Demmers for starting 2 Tone Record Label and literally starting a new Ska era, I am here to tell you that The Specials is an absolute joy of a record, and regardless where you are from, you are going to enjoy this record from beginning to end. Personally, this record is solidly in my top 10 albums I have listened to and would guess I have done so more than 100 times in my life from beginning to end.

Speaking of “end”, the last track is “You’re Wondering Now”, it starts with a knock on a door… “you can’t come in” the voice replies… slowly Lynval Goldin’s 72 Fender Telecaster tip toes in with a simple tune, the Bass soon walks in, quarter note after quarter note, later the absurd sound of Jerry Demmers’ 1966 Vox Super Continental Organ joins in, it is a scene from 2:00 AM empty Pub, tired they drag on… a scene most of us who grew up during those times understands.

You’re wondering now, what to do,
Now you know this is the end
You’re wondering how, you will pay,
For the way you did behave

You’re wondering now, what to do,
Now you know this is the end

A simple, beautiful Polaroid