When I was at college in the Midlands, the Specials crashed my girlfriends’ twenty-first birthday party. I’ll always treasure the memory of Terry Hall skanking in my kitchen.
The band’s continuing reunion tour has proved a tumultuous success and anyone who has missed them might want to catch the gig at the Royal Albert Hall in April, in aid of the teenage cancer trust. Personally, I hope that they will re-release Ghost Town, perhaps featuring Dizzee Rascal who would no doubt inject his own, often overlooked, sly humour into the song’s mordant analysis of modern malaise.
Ghost Town topped the charts in 1981 and captured perfectly the atmosphere of alienation, boredom and hopelessness of that period – the 80s weren’t all about silly hairstyles, rah-rah skirts and John Hughes movies. It seems to me that the next few years are set to be every bit as grim as those times. Next month in my neck of the woods, Brighton Hove and District Trades Union Council will organise a ‘March for Jobs’. Whichever political party assumes power following the general election, making sure public workers pay for the banking sector’s mistakes is going to be top of the agenda. The Trades Union Council wants to highlight local opposition to job losses and public sector cuts.
I received another dose of déjà-vu when I saw a leaflet declaring ‘If Cameron Gets Up Your Nose… Picket The Tory Spring Conference’. In a marriage of 80s agit-prop style and 21st century social media, something called The Right to Work campaign is calling for a mass demonstration outside the Hilton Metropole in Brighton next week. It strikes me as quixotic to picket the opposition rather than the government (especially when the opposition’s policies are vague, to put it kindly) but at least they recognise that social change doesn’t come through a Twitter campaign.
Here, from a time of royal weddings and riots in the streets, are The Specials taking a tour through the wasteland that was London.