About The Specials
While The Specials are deservedly credited with kick-starting the two-tone ska revival of the '70s and '80s—which also included Madness and The English Beat—the group’s legacy goes much further. Not only did the UK band light the match for an ongoing series of ska-punk movements in the decades that followed, they used their music, arresting black-and-white imagery, and neo-mod fashion to deliver a powerful anti-racist message. Formed in 1977, the original lineup released only two albums, infusing ska with a punk edge and complementing Terry Hall's laconic cry with the avuncular toasting of Neville Staple. The band’s Elvis Costello-produced self-titled debut album garnered success, and 1979 single “Gangsters” served up a strong working-class critique of Thatcherism and established a fervent political ethos within the group’s ebullient ska-punk hybrid. In 1981, Hall, Staple, and Lynval Golding left to form Fun Boy Three while keyboardist and primary songwriter Jerry Dammers held the band together, rebranding it as Special AKA. He released the hit “Free Nelson Mandela” in 1984, but without its original singers, the group soon dissolved. The Specials have reunited in different iterations in the years since, although never with Dammers in the mix.