It’s a significant day over here at Bologna Towers, and not simply because it’s that time of the month when my landlord’s bank account is furnished with a princely sum of money. Sob stories aside, this also marks the 30th anniversary since the release of (arguably) the greatest UK number 1.
Ghost Town by The Specials hit the shelves on June 12th 1981, topping the pop charts for three weeks, hammocked uncomfortable between a glossy Michael Jackson ballad and the tawdry teddyboy antics of Shaking Stevens. It’s menacing melody snaking it’s way through the nation’s radios, quickly becoming the unofficial theme to a backdrop of rioting and civil unrest, and in the 90’s, the Irish national anthem.
The indolent dub of the backing track is almost the antithesis of the band’s breakneck paced ska introduction only 2 years prior, and following a non-stop schedule of touring and recording, it’s fractured themes and downbeat pace could be construed as the sound of a band grinding to a halt, as much as a sonic document of the time and place.
It’s worth noting that there isn’t a trace of ska on any of the three tracks featured on the single; something that will no doubt be dealt with in the future on Skank Blog but for now feast your eyes on a classic Top Of The Pops performance of Ghost Town…
Following that, here’s the dub of what I’ve been told is an earlier studio take of the Lynval Golding penned Why?
Next up, a live recording of Friday Night And Saturday Morning, the first and final Specials song written exclusively by lead singer Terry Hall. Taken from a show in Staten Island, New York on their final tour soon after Ghost Town’s release.
Lastly there’s a clip of Jerry Dammers talking to boogie-woogie menace Jools Holland about his current Spatial AKA project, with a live performance of Ghost Town conjuring the spirit of Sun Ra in the process…