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The Specials, also known as The Special AKA, are an English 2 Tone and ska revival band formed in 1977 in Coventry.
The Special A.K.A.: A Musical Biography
Do you remember the time when music had a deeper meaning? When musicians weren’t afraid to speak their minds and make a statement? Meet The Special A.K.A.: one of the most socially and politically conscious bands of the 1980s. From its inception in Coventry, England, The Special A.K.A. (also called The Specials) used ska, punk, and reggae to make a statement about the injustice and inequality they saw around them. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the musical biography of The Special A.K.A, explore some of its best songs, and examine the band’s musical genre.
The Special A.K.A. formed in 1977 after an impromptu jam session between a group of Coventry locals who shared a love of ska and punk music. The band was founded by Jerry Dammers and Neville Staple and went through many lineup changes over the years. In 1979, they released their debut single, Gangsters, which became a hit in the UK. The song combined the upbeat sounds of ska with lyrics that told a story about gang violence and poverty. The success of Gangsters led to the band releasing its first self-titled album in 1980.
One of The Special A.K.A.’s most famous songs is Free Nelson Mandela, which was released in 1984. The song was written to bring attention to the plight of Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned in South Africa at the time. The upbeat ska rhythm and catchy chorus of Free Nelson Mandela made it a commercial success, as well as a rallying cry for activist movements around the world. The song has since become an anthem for the anti-apartheid movement.
The Special A.K.A. is often categorized as a ska band, but the band’s music also blended elements of reggae, punk, and new wave. The band tackled issues like racism, war, and social inequality in its lyrics, using its music as a platform to raise awareness and encourage change. The sound of The Special A.K.A. was a fusion of styles that defied easy categorization, but always remained true to its roots in Jamaican ska.
One of the band’s most notable concerts was the UK’s Two Tone Tour in 1980. The name of the tour was a nod to the record label founded by Jerry Dammers, called Two Tone Records. The tour featured The Special A.K.A. alongside other Two Tone bands like The Selecter, The Beat, and Madness. The tour was a huge success and helped to popularize ska music in the UK.
Critics have praised The Special A.K.A. for its political and social message, as well as its musical experimentation. The band’s use of ska, punk, and reggae to tackle serious issues like apartheid and racism made it one of the most important bands of the 1980s. Despite personnel changes and a few hiatuses, The Special A.K.A. remained relevant and influential. By the 1990s, many bands indebted to the Specials’ two-tone ska revival became popular thanks to The Specials influence.
The Special A.K.A. was more than just a ska band; it was a political and social force in the music world. The band’s ability to fuse ska, punk, reggae, and new wave into catchy songs with a serious message helped redefine the boundaries of music. The Specials’ legacy remains strong today, as their music is still played, celebrated, and used to inspire change around the world. With its musical biography, genre-blending sound and hit songs, The Special A.K.A. has long been a staple for music listeners looking for socially and politically-conscious music.
1 - Break Down the Door!
2 - Gangsters
3 - Too Much Too Young
4 - Nelson Mandela