Here’s the first in a series of reviews of classic albums released by Coventry’s famous sons and daughters, which we’ll be publishing on Plug&Amp over the next few weeks.
Daniel Faulkner shares his love for The Specials’ 1979 debut release and queries whether, 35 years later, the album format really is dead…
Specials – The Specials
I’m not the first person to express my love for this album and, even 35 years later, I won’t be the last.
Back in 1979, and released through Jerry Dammer’s label, the band put out their debut – Specials, the pivot point for Coventry’s musical history. I mean, Elvis Costello was there.
Specials by The Specials is a historical monument that towers higher than either of our Cathedrals, not just the most iconic of Coventry albums, as soon as you hear that trumpet sound you are reminded that you are listening to an album that encapsulates a whole movement.
They refuse to stay outside, banging at the door, taking over the dance floor and sneaking behind the bar. The harmonies and infectious bass grooves keep the songs bouncing whilst Hall challenges you, demanding your attention with his lyrical prowess, timeless articulations and cunning observations. The words ring truer now than they did in ‘79.
Monkey Man defies anyone to not get on their feet, this is Ska at its absolute finest. Never to be repeated with the same urgency and honesty.
Roddy Radiation’s guitar work serves the songs with the subtlety and style needed, aiding the bass – lines, pushing the beat forward to keep your brogues moving. The guitars play together nicely (but not to nicely) and the balance between them is perfect.
When Dawning of a new Era kicks in, if you aren’t sold on the importance of this album then you may as well go home. This is what 12”s were made for.
What unifies the band on Specials is the camaraderie between members. The gang vocals punctuate that and really pull it all together. The interplay between Staples and Hall is absolutely the stuff of legends.
This album has no plateau. Imagine that. It serves as a window. It puts you in a moment, in a bar, in a place that you’ve never been to. That is why it has stood the test of time. That is why it will continue to do so.
Tip for aspiring bands: Do it the way the Specials would have done it. Or, at least try to.
There is a big argument in the music industry about the strength of the album. Born from marketing strategies that only care about selling singles. The album format is not dead. It’s a great medium, an important one as well. I challenge a band to put out an album on itunes and refuse to sell the tracks individually, just to see what happens. Fight for your art in its entirety. It’s yours to dictate how its listened to. – Daniel Faulkner