Friday, September 16, 2011

Sound Effects Album From 1960's Is Inspiration for The Specials Ghost Town Cover


The look and visuals of 2-Tone have been as much an inspiration for me as the sound of the music. Indeed, among the most satisfying experiences I've had writing this blog has been the chance to meet and interview the talented artists who were as much responsible for its overall success and legacy as the musicians who wrote and performed the songs.

The arc of my life over the last 30 years has been defined by ongoing change. However the one constant has been my ongoing love affair with 2-Tone ska and its iconic imagery. In fact, my own band Bigger Thomas plays 2-Tone influenced ska and our logo since the very start has been a direct descendant of Walt Jabsco, whom we affectionately call 'Mr 2-Tone' (and who looks a lot like Jerry Dammers on the back cover of The Specials first record). A debt of gratitude is owed to three individuals: Jerry Dammers; David Storey and John Sims.

Sims met David Storey at Chrysalis Records where they worked together as a team for over ten years. Working directly with Jerry Dammers, they were responsible for a huge amount of 2-Tone graphics including the album covers for The Selecter, Dance Craze and The Specials 'Ghost Town' single. As well as record sleeves, they produced hundreds of promotional items: posters, ads, T-shirts, badges etc. Where Sims strengths were as a 'Swiss School' typographer, Storey's strength was on the pictorial/collage side, so they made a perfect team.


As The Specials officially kick-off the European leg of the last tour of their three year reunion, I came across the album cover that inspired Dammers, Storey and Sims magnificent cover art for the Ghost Town single. Thanks to LPCoverLover.com who uncovered the original late 1960's masterpiece from an old Soma Records  release of Halloween themed 'Sounds To Make You Shiver'. Soma was based in Minneapolis Minnesota and were better known for garage band guitar hits like “Surfin Bird” by the Trashmen). While the Ghost Town cover that Dammers, Story and Sims created takes the Soma cover as inspiration, note that only 2 of the skeletons from the original made it on to the cover! Nevertheless, the album cover captured the dark dread and gloom that hung over a recession ravaged U.K. in 1981.  Ironically, thirty years later the album cover's timeless imagery is still relevant.

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