Thursday, August 23, 2007

SPECIALS: The Specials (Re-up)

After being formed in 1977 by Dammers, Golding, and Panter, the band was first called The Automatics, and then The Coventry Automatics.[1] Terry Hall and 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. In 1979, Dammers decided to form his own record label, and 2 Tone Records was born. On this label, the band released "Gangsters", which became a Top Ten hit in 1979. In a nod to classic Ska, the album lead off with Dandy Livingstone's "A Message to You Rudy" and also had covers of Prince Buster and Toots and the Maytals songs from the late 1960s.
The band had begun wearing mod/rude boy/skinhead-style two-tone tonic suits, along with other elements of late 1960s teen fashions. Their debut LP was Specials, produced by Elvis Costello. "Too Much Too Young" was a number one hit in the UK Singles Chart, despite controversy over the song's lyrics, which reference teen pregnancy and promote [[condom] use. Their second album, More Specials was not as commercially successful or plainly ska-influenced as previous recordings. The album featured a more experimental approach; including influences from pop music, new wave, and muzak. The band also experimented with what could be described as dark, almost psychedelic reggae. Notable female backing singers on the Specials first two studio albums included: Chrissie Hynde, Rhoda Dakar (Then of The Bodysnatchers and later of The Special AKA), Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey (of The Go-Gos).
After "Ghost Town" hit number one in 1981, Staple, Golding and Hall left the band (forming Fun Boy Three). Dammers added Stan Campbell, to begin working again under the group's previous name Special AKA. The resulting album, In the Studio, was not very commercially successful, although the songs "Racist Friend" and "Nelson Mandela" were hits. The latter contributed to making Mandela a cause célèbre in the United Kingdom, and became popular with anti-Apartheid activists in South Africa. Dammers then dissolved the band and pursued political activism.

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