Released in October 1979, The Specials’ eponymous debut album perfectly captured the energy and excitement of the late seventies British SKA revival. The Specials were a blistering live act and this LP, produced by Elvis Costello, is testament to that. The band took the timeless offbeat skanking sound of SKA and rocksteady and infused this dance beat with the energy and anger of punk.
The Specials revered 1960s SKA and this is reflected by the inclusion of 4 respectful and essential cover versions of tracks from that period. There’s the smash hit rocksteady take on Dandy Livingstone’s A message to you Rudy, a powerful version of Prince Buster’s Too hot, the desperately exciting Monkey Man (Toots and the Maytals) and the mellow You’re wondering now written by Clement Seymour ‘Sir Coxsone’ Dodd and covered by The Skatalites amongst others. There was also a high-octane, uptempo, loosely-based take on Rufus Thomas’ The Dog entitled Do the Dog. The latter track was bang up to date as it directly addressed the contemporary increase in violence on UK streets; All you punks and all you teds, National Front and Natty dreads, Mods, rockers, hippies and skinheads, keep on fighting ’til you’re dead …
The cover versions are all top notch but The Specials’ original compositions truly astound the listener. 1979 was a relatively bleak time in Britain with a rise in unemployment, inflation, strikes and racial tension. It felt like Britain was lving on the edge and The Specials somehow encapsulated all of the associated societal disenchantment, frustration, anger, fear and bitterness in their songs.
The raw, noisy Concrete jungle vividly reflects the very genuine threat of inner city violence, Nite Klub depicts the saddest disco in the world with bad beer and frustrated fellas aplenty and Blank expression details the souless misery of endless drinking in tough backstreet boozers. The slower-sounding studio version of the energetic number 1 live hit Too much too young focusses on teenage pregnancy whilst the calypso-sounding Stupid marriage deals with the trial of a rude boy charged with criminal damage. Are we still all having fun? I told you these were bleak times!
Little bitch is a an extremely fast heavy skank that is rather harsh lyrically whilst the slower It’s up to you and It Doesn’t Make It Alright both take a heartfelt stance against racism. Although the lyrics and tone of some tracks reflect the bleak themes of late 1970s Britain, the overall sound is generally very bright and energetic (partly thanks to the pop-tastic Elvis Costello). This album is an amazing social document and a very fine collection of 14 wonderful songs.
We stock the 2019 reissue of this classic album and please note that, in addition to the purchasing option below, we can also offer 1st class postage and next day delivery options as well as click and collect. There is also free local (Stoke-on-Trent) delivery on orders over £30. If you require any of these options, please just contact us.
The Specials (1979)
40th anniversary half speed master edition double album. The price stated includes second class postage and packing.