"That was The Specials 'Gangsters'. The record of it - one of those records that really changes your life, I mean it actually does, rather like I suppose The Damned's first single, where you wake up the next day and nothing's ever really quite the same again." (John Peel, 09 June 1980)
The Specials - Gangsters-002:55

The Specials - Gangsters-0


The Specials - Ghost Town03:39

The Specials - Ghost Town

Ghost Town

Originally known as the Coventry Automatics, the Specials were the ska outfit from the Midlands who led the 2 Tone explosion that hit the UK for a couple of years from 1979, providing a launch pad for bands including Madness, Selecter, The Beat and Bodysnatchers, as well as others not on the label itself such as UB40 and Dexy's Midnight Runners.

The original Specials split in 1981 in the wake of the UK #1 hit 'Ghost Town' with the departure of the three main vocalists to form the Funboy Three. Led by keyboard player Jerry Dammers and including drummer John Bradbury (1953-2015), the others continued for a while with different singers under the earlier name Special AKA, which had been used on their landmark debut single 'Gangsters' and again shortly afterwards on their 'Too Much Too Young' live EP. The new grouping recorded a session and scored a 1984 Festive Fifty entry with 'Nelson Mandela'.

Links to Peel

Peel was keen to see a live show by the group at the earliest opportunity. The chance to attend the gig in Norwich on Saturday 26 May 1979 was scuppered due to the national petrol shortage, something that John particularly rued [1] [2]. After complaining on 17 September 1979 that the band were top of his list of bands that he really wanted to see (along with Madness), Peel eventually saw the band with the Selecter and Madness when the 2 Tone package tour played at Norwich UEA on 26 October 1979. [3]

Festive Fifty Entries


1. Gangsters / Too Much Too Young / Concrete Jungle / Monkey Man

Session released by Strange Fruit as a Peel Session EP (SFPS018).

2. Rude Boys Out Of Jail / Rat Race / Long Shot Kick - Liquidator - Moon Stomp (The Skinhead Symphony In Three Movements)

3. Sea Cruise / Stereotypes / Raquel

(as Special AKA)

4. Alcohol / Lonely Crowd / Bright Lights

(Please correct mistakes and add any missing info)

Other Shows Played



  • 20 February 1984: Free Nelson Mandela (7") Two-Tone CHS TT 26 (as Special AKA)
  • 05 June 1984: What I Like Most About You (as Special AKA)
  • 19 June 1984: The Lonely Crowd (album - In The Studio) 2-Tone (as Special AKA)
  • 30 August 1984: What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend! (7") Two-Tone CHS TT 12 27 (as Special AKA)
  • 20 September 1984: What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend! (7") Two-Tone CHS TT 12 27 (as Special AKA)
  • 13 January 1987: Too Much Too Young (12" - The Peel Sessions) Strange Fruit
  • 13 June 1988: Free Nelson Mandela (The Whole World Is Watching Dance Mix) (12") Tone  
  • 18 July 1988: Free Nelson Mandela (The Whole World Is Watching Dance Mix) (12") Tone  

See Also

External Links

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