The Specials

Posted on November 28, 2009

I went with Pete and a couple of other Basingstoke boys to watch The Specials last night, it was a cracking performance, they are a great band musically and lyrically I really enjoyed it even though I couldn’t quite identify with parts of it, I think I know why.

Something that really stood out about last night was the multi ethnic audience all dancing in harmony. Not anything odd about that in 2009, but The Specials achieved that in 1979, firstly in the Midlands and then across cities throughout the UK, they created more racial harmony between black and white than any politician could dream of.

The reason I say I did not identify with some of it, was that when I was 12 there were no black people in Tadley, except some poor unsuspecting lad called Maboo Valoo, and Darren “strangely”Brown. This meant there was no racial harmony to be had, because there was no one to have it with, the only true Afro Caribbeans we saw were on the news having their heads staved in with truncheons, or getting pelted with bananas on Match of The Day.

There was not much unemployment in Tadley either, as their were no mines, and factories to be shut down, the only factory we had (AWE) which was boombing (almost literally) making nuclear bombs, something Margaret Thatcher couldn’t get enough of, she thought they were great, in fact so great, she invited the Americans to bring their bombs over to Greenham Common, and this where I remember the link between urban bands like The Specials, The Clash and The Jam and my youth.

Thatcher’s lust for war meant money was short, and dilapidated schools were not just an urban nightmare, but a nationwide disgrace. As a 12 or 13 year old I felt disillusioned by it all, there was no clue to what the future held, just a school made up of rat infested portakabins, and the teachers were unsuprisingly unmotivated. There was a very real threat of East West Armageddon that makes today’s terror threat look like a game of tiddlywinks, and pointless war against Argentina. Songs like Rat Race (working at AWE), Ghost Town (Basingstoke), Nite Klub (Martines Youth Disco’s) Too Much Too Young (pregnant teenagers) were all songs that I could clearly identify with my minds eye. They were, and still are, great songs.

People can be very critical of bands reforming and singing songs that have no relevance today, and I understand that, but a bit of nostalgia is harmless, and to be reminded in songs what a shit place Britain was during the late seventies and early eighties is no bad thing. The Specials came back by popular demand (and probably a need of a pension) and put on great show for a generation of people, (many including me not old enough to see them first time) who made them a success, A double bonus, payback to the fans, and a pay cheque in the bank, Paul Weller might want to do the same for his fans before he is to old, but he wont, he is to busy counting his cash.

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