Albums You Should Own Part 6

And welcome back for the sixth instalment of my guide to a record collection to make your friends jealous. Now we’ve entered the digital age, it’s becoming rarer for people to actually own a physical record or CD. It’s great for cutting down on storage (you can hear the designers at Ikea crying over their funky, stylish but practical drawing boards) but, let’s be honest, it’s screwing the record shops. The independents are all but gone, and even the bigger fish have suffered. Hands up who remembers Our Price?

The latest offering takes us back to the late Seventies…

The Specials by The Specials
Released in late 1979, this debut album by The Specials was produced by Elvis Costello and released on the 2 Tone label which is known for it’s Ska output including briefly Madness and other British Ska revival bands. Whilst not exactly ‘new’ music, it brought Jamaican Ska (dating back to the late fifties and into the sixties) to a fresh audience. With songs describing desolate, rough and tumble inner-city life, it appealed to a new breed of people – skinheads, mods and created the ‘Rude Boy’.

This album kicks off with ‘A Message To You Rudy’, a brass led romp that harks back to the Caribbean music that spawned this British genre. The other songs of note on this album are ‘Nite Klub’; ‘Too Much Too Young’, a song that should be played to all teenagers as a warning against youthful bedroom antics; ‘Stupid Marriage’ a tale of a man found guilty of smashing his ex-girlfriend’s window. The story is told using Judge Roughneck as a judge summarising the case, and Terry Hall as the defendant who explains his actions. The refrain of “Naked woman, naked man” runs through the song with variations. The song closes with the judge yelling “Take him away!”

My particular favourites on the album are ‘Blank Expression’ and ‘You’re Wondering Now’. ‘Blank Expression’ isn’t a particularly deep song, but it is certainly expressive, with the repetition of the line: “Where did you get that (BLANK) blank expression on your face?” It’s easy to sing along to, and it has that characteristic Ska guitar sound. ‘You’re Wondering Now’ is a melancholic ending to the album which is fast paced in places, contains social comment in others (particularly ‘Doesn’t Make It Alright’) and takes you through a tour of how the youth were living at the time (Thatcher had just come to power and was doing things her way). The closing refrain of “You’re wondering now, what to do, now you know this is the end” may sum up the listeners possible feelings as the album ends, but it’s also a message to someone who has done some wrong and is wondering how they will pay for their misdemeanor, the writer of the song confirms that they will be on their own, and as the backing fades out, leaving just the vocals, you get the feeling that maybe it really is the end…
That’s it then, an album of it’s time. When musicians had something to rally against. Not like these days, where all people tend to write about it their ‘bitches’, ‘bling’ and doing stuff with their man/woman. So, after you’ve listened to this album, you can go and buy yourself a porkpie hat, some shades and become a rude boy in the 21st Century. You may potentially be laughed at, but let’s be honest, people tend to make fun of what they don’t understand.

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