Boards of Canada

Friday, 27 March 2015

The Specials: My Top 20

The Specials: My Favourite 20 Tracks

It almost seems as though it's been light years since I first listened to The Specials back in the distant past of the latter part of the 1970's. Their first hit was Gangsters, which got to number 6 in the UK charts back in 1979. I remember first hearing about Gangsters, then listening to it on BBC Radio 1, and watching The Specials perform it on Top Of The Pops. I liked Gangsters and subsequent releases, however I didn't really care for the music and fashion scene which The Specials seemed to kickstart. It appeared that where ever I went there were teenage fan replicants of ska and mods (The Jam) that stalked the streets of Worcester like something from out of the Anthony Burgess novel, A Clockwork Orange.

A lot of the older kids with whom I went to school with had embraced the whole 'rude boy' imagery and culture. There was also an air of delinquency which seemed to have been cultivated by more than a few. I had different ideas, I was a fan of a 'new wave' of post punk, and an emerging electronic music scene. It may have been a way of expressing my own individualism, by wanting to distance myself from the monochromatic generation of terry toweling sock wearing sheep that followed the other genres of music. In hindsight it all seemed so frivolous and pointless. All these different genres of music were just a metaphor for the constantly evolving state of music, and a way for teens to align themselves to the different musical tribes which had seemed so prevalent throughout the decade.

I had listened to the albums, The Specials and More Specials quite a few times. What I liked about these albums was how there was a successful marriage of different styles of music combined with songwriting that kept true to the punk aesthetic. Their first album, The Specials stayed true to their ska origins, where as More Specials was a little more advantageous and represented a departure into various other musical styles. I enjoyed The Specials, however, I didn't really care for other bands like The Beat, Madness, Bad Manners and the other ska bands which seemed generic and sounded akin to a novelty act. I've listened to the back catalogue of The Specials from time to time. What I've always liked about their songs is the underlying social commentary. They were never afraid to express opinion and their point of view on a variety of topical issues like racism which is as relevant in the 21st century as it was back in the 1980's. To me, The Specials have passed the test of time and still sound as dynamic and controversial as the first day I first heard them on Radio 1.

I always enjoy listening to The Specials for a variety of reasons. I have to confess that there is a certain amount of nostalgia combined with a lot of emotional baggage in 
this particular time of my life that is intertwined within this music. It was fun to go through my back catalogue and try to figure out a top 20 of their songs. I think an echo of my distant Elbury Mount Junior School/Samuel Southall Secondary School self from the 70's/80's who liked songs with swear words had a huge say in my selections! My top 20 songs reflect a combination of those two early albums combined with seminal EP's and singles that came to represent escapism and mirror the apathy of Thatcher's Britain in the early 80's. 

This compilation is dedicated to my brother Andrew, who was a huge fan of ska, and introduced me to The Specials albums and singles that I still listen to this day. It would have been interesting to see what Andrew's top 20 songs by The Specials might have been? Most likely different to mine!  

My Top 20 Tunes By The Specials

20. Stupid Marriage (The Specials 1979)

19. Maggie's Farm (Do Nothing 1980)

18. A Message To You Rudy (1979)

17. Sock It To 'Em JB (More Specials 1980)

16. Little Bitch (The Specials 1979)

15. International Jet Set (More Specials 1980)

14. Blank Expression (The Specials 1979)

13. Rat Race (1980)

12. Do The Dog (The Specials 1979)

11. Skinhead Symphony (Too Much Too Young 1980)

10. Pearl's Cafe (More Specials 1980)

09. Ghost Town (1981)

08. Man At C&A (More Specials 1980)

07. Nite Klub (A Message To You Rudy 1979)

06. Friday Night, Saturday Morning (Ghost Town 1981)

05. Concrete Jungle (The Specials 1979)

04. Do Nothing (1981)

03. Gangsters (1979)

02. Too Much Too Young (1980)

01. Stereotype/Stereotypes Part 2 (1980)