Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Ska'd for life

Me around 1992 I think

My parents had a copy of The Specials seminal debut album which must have been my first exposure to the uk 70s and 80s ska revival. The Specials disappeared almost as quickly as they arrived, after only 2 albums, a heavy dose of touring and a bit of acrimony. Read all about it in Horace Panter's autobiography.
After leaving The Specials on a high with Ghost Town at number one, Terry Hall returned in various guises - mostly moody, with his back to the crowd, and not performing Specials songs - though he did play old Fun Boy Three classics Our Lips Are Sealed, and Tunnel of Love when I saw him occasionally in the 1990s.

Jerry Dammers continued as the Special AKA for a bit and had an international hit with Free Nelson Mandela. I last saw Jerry Dammers live when he performed for Nelson Mandela at Wembley in 1990, a few months after his release.


From the Specials me and my brother moved onto Madness, with an early bedroom favourite being the Complete Madness compilation, favourites including wacky Japanese ad song "In The City." Any of their numerous compilation albums are an ideal introduction to the band, but best listen to debut album One Step Beyond for the most ska tinged sound.

Another early favourite was the This R 2-Tone compilation album, notably featuring along with The Specials and Madness, tracks by The Selecter and Bad Manners amongst others. We also had the Dance Craze video which gave a glimpse of the frenzy that could be a live ska concert.


I started going to ska concerts in the late 80s - Bad Manners, and the Selecter continued touring with various line ups. Early highlights include Buster Bloodvessel surfing on the crowd on a real surfboard. This was before his tummy tuck - he was a big lad!

I always remember walking home from these gigs saturated in sweat, and elated. The crowd were on the whole exuberant and lively, but very friendly.

First live exposure to the Specials came with The Special Beat - a mixture The Specials and The Beat, minus Jerry & Terry of course. Obviously short of a few quid they even tried to rip my brother off at the merch stall - inflating prices for an appreciative audience!

Madness reformed in 1992 after splitting up in 1986 for the legendary Madstock concert at Finsbury park, where the nearby tower blocks had to be evacuated due to the rhythmic dancing causing a man-made earthquake. I ended up in Gossips on Dean St afterwards, and I think the sweaty stench still lingers. I then slept on Kings Cross platform, and got a coach home the next morning, and a well earned bath in Glasgow. This show was more fun than seeing Madness in Edinburgh, where the local football hooligans thought this would be a good place to bring knives and have a fight. Madness played a shortened set with all the lights switched on.


My cousin was an early member of Glasgow ska giants The Amphetameanies late 90s/early 2000s along with Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand) and Mick Cooke (Belle & Sebastian). Their debut album Right Line in Nylons is one of 2 CD's where you can find my name in the sleevenote thanks - my brother and I, not wanting to hold back a good ska band, bought her a new saxaphone for this venture.


Having seen Terry Hall on numerous times, I really never expected him to return to The Specials, so I was pretty excited when I heard they were reforming. Better still that they didn't disappoint and sounded as good as ever.

I just got my ticket to see them again next year in Glasgow, and this time my brother is joining me. Hopefully we will be walking home sweaty and elated.

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