June 04, 2020
The remarkable, dark power of this song, with its harrowing wail of a chorus, plunges you straight back into the anger, violence and despair of the early 80sOur list of the 100 greatest UK No 1s In early 1981, the Specials were both at the top of their game and in their death throes. They had enjoyed a dizzying, agenda-setting rise to fame. Seven top 10 singles and two gold albums in two years; an entire youth subculture formed in their wake; a record label, 2 Tone, that seemed to guarantee success for anyone who signed to it: Madness, the Selecter, the Beat, the Bodysnatchers.
The 100 greatest UK No 1s: No 2, The Specials – Ghost Town
But the Specials were falling apart. They were overworked and riven with internal disagreements about the jazz and easy-listening-influenced direction leader Jerry Dammers was taking them in. They were a band born out of political and racial tension. They had changed their name from the Coventry Automatics and started playing a punky take on ska, with lyrics pleading for racial tolerance and unity, after a 1978 gig supporting the Clash was disrupted by the National Front. But now political and racial tension was threatening to engulf them. Guitarist Lynval Golding was seriously injured in a racist attack in south London. Gigs on their late 1980 tour were marred by audience violence: in Cambridge, Dammers and vocalist Terry Hall were arrested and charged with incitement to riot after trying to stop the fighting. The band announced they would quit touring.
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