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MUSIC Video: The Specials – ‘Ghost Town’ Reflects A Period Of Economic Unrest, That Has Come Full Circle

by on Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 4:53 pm EDT in Arts & Entertainment, Music

In 1981, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberal policies — marked by austerity, deregulation, union-busting, and privatization — pummeled the economy with an 11.3% unemployment rate, and riots erupted literally everywhere in the UK, spreading from city to city, town to town.

This was the political climate in which The Specials released their amazing 3-song EP, with ‘Ghost Town’ as its single. With two albums under their belt — an absolutely incredible self-titled debut LP, and a remarkable follow up, More Specials; both infusing upbeat Jamaican Ska with the raw energy of punk — the band allowed its sound to evolve with ‘Ghost Town‘.

The song injects a subdued, haunting, almost middle-eastern melody with sparse, dark, post-apocalyptic lyrics, evoking the surreal imagery of a downtrodden urban wasteland. 

Jerry Dammers reveals his inspiration for writing the song:

There was a riot in Brixton about a year before the record came out. I was writing the song partly about that. Also, Britain was falling apart. The car industry was closing down in Coventry. We were touring, so we saw a lot of it. Liverpool and Glasgow were particularly bad. The overall sense I wanted to convey was impending doom.

It remained #1 in the charts for three weeks, having charted the very day after riots began to spread, making the song something of an anthem for that era. But, listening to the lyrics, you might think they were singing about 2012.

Ghost Town:

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This town, is coming like a ghost town
All the clubs have been closed down
This place, is coming like a ghost town
Bands won’t play no more
too much fighting on the dance floor

Do you remember the good old days before the ghost town?
We danced and sang, and the music played in a de boomtown

This town, is coming like a ghost town
Why must the youth fight against themselves?
Government leaving the youth on the shelf
This place, is coming like a ghost town
No job to be found in this country
Can’t go on no more
The people getting angry 

This town, is coming like a ghost town
This town, is coming like a ghost town
This town, is coming like a ghost town
This town, is coming like a ghost town

by Jerry Dammers/2 Tone Records

Music VIDEO: General Public Performs ‘Rainy Days’

by on Sunday, April 8, 2012 at 3:58 pm EDT in Arts & Entertainment, Music

When The English Beat disbanded in 1983, the group’s singer/songwriter Dave Wakeling and toaster Ranking Roger continued to work together, but as a new entity: General Public.

Their first album, …All The Rage (which featured The Clash’s Mick Jones, The Specials’ Horace Panter, and Dexy’s Midnight Runners members Mickey Billingham and Stoker) enjoyed critical acclaim, climbing the charts in both the U.S. and the U.K.

The second single from that album — and one of the most well-recognized songs of the 80s — “Tenderness,” rose to #27 in the U.S. charts and was featured in films: Sixteen Candles (1984), Weird Science (1985), and Clueless (1995). Other well-received singles from the album, included “Never You Done That” and “Hot You’re Cool.” 

Off the success of …All The Rage, the band won the prestigious Juno award in Canada for 1984’s Best New Artist.

The band split-up shortly after their second album, Hand to Mouth, which spawned two memorable singles, but proved to be far less successful than their debut LP.

In 1995, while Dave was working for Greenpeace, long-time fan and friend Elvis Costello gave Dave Wakeling an earful in front of 18 other Greenpeacers, telling him: “All this Greenpeace stuff, and this anti-Apartheid stuff, that’s all well and good, but you know your place is on the stage, and you know that!” Costello’s words apparently had some affect, because two weeks later Dave rejoined with Roger as General Public to begin work on their third, and arguably strongest, album-to-date, Rub It Better

For the new album, Wakeling and Roger brought in their old English Beat comrade Saxa (on Saxophone), as well as Birmingham reggae singer and toaster Pato Banton (who’d worked previously w/ the English Beat on Special Beat Service). Other guests included Mick Jones, Chris Spedding, and  ex-General Public members Horace Panter and Stoker. Produced by Talking Heads keyboardist Jerry Harrison, the album is a perfect blend of soul, ska, dancehall, pop, and contemporary rock.

Despite receiving a 5-star rating from Rolling Stone Magazine and becoming an instant Beat/GP-fan favorite, Epic Records somehow dropped the ball on promoting this amazing album, resulting in lackluster sales. Roger eventually grew tired of traveling back and forth between England and America (where Wakeling had earlier relocated) and the band, once again, called it quits. 

Dave Wakeling is now touring the world as The English Beat, with plans to go into the studio to record two new albums. Ranking Roger can also be seen touring the U.K. as The Beat

I have had the pleasure of seeing Dave Wakeling’s The English Beat on several occasions, which go down as some of my all-time favorite live performances (and I have seen A LOT over the years). His set includes many of the fabulous songs from both The English Beat and General Public. He is truly one of the most gifted (and underrated) songwriters/singers/guitarists/performers of our time.

From General Public’s Rub It Better, here is the effervescent “Rainy Days,” with Roger at the mic:


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