If you've read Horace Panter's memoir 'Ska'd For Life', then you know he is a great writer with a wonderful flair for conveying the truth about life as a musician. The book charts the rise and fall of The Specials from their founding in 1978 to their disintegration in 1981. I loved the book, particularly for the way in which Panter explains what can happen when seven very different individuals with unique personalities and distinct backgrounds can harness their creative energy and passion. If you haven't read the book, then I highly recommend you pick up a copy. Both Amazon.US and Amazon.UK have copies available.
If you have read the book, and were sorry when you finished, then I have very good news for you. Panter has just posted an update on The Specials website titled 'Specials U.K. Tour By Sir Horace Gentleman' which picks up where the last one 'Specials European Tour Blog' left off. The posts are detailed updates -- part travelogue and part tour diary -- of The Specials experiences on their very last U.K. tour (at least until 2013). As always, its great reading and a perfect epilogue to his book and a capstone on the band's final tour to celebrate their 30th anniversary. Panter provides a vivid look at how much chaos -- travel, boredom, traffic delays, bad food, bad sound and bad moods can impact a traveling band of 10 plus support (roadies, sound, family, etc) attempting to get from Point A to Point B on time. Oh and then there is the small detail of having to perform with energy and enthusiasm. Its not always pretty, particularly when most of the band are pushing 60 years of age and don't recover from the wear and tear of touring the way they used to. That said, the show must go on and the band is playing at the height of their powers. Here's to hoping Panter will consider putting it all down in another book about The Specials reunion.
The latest installment may be the best one yet. Its precise, concise and pulls no punches when it comes to providing a real look behind the scenes of this most recent tour. Heard about rumors of tension in the band? Panter writes about it openly and honestly.
The reason Roddy has been spitting and snarling through the past few shows is because Terry has started singing Concrete Jungle. It was always agreed that Rod would sing it and he has since the band reformed. Terry had brought up the subject a few months ago that we should re-visit it. Rod would never stand centre-stage to sing it and it looked visually awkward. I would take Terry’s mich for the choruses. The upshot of all this is that in Hull, Terry stayed on stage and, much to everyone’s surprise, sang Concrete Jungle with Rod. It sounded great, the extra voice gave the song a lot more power but it put Roddy’s nose out of joint. This hasn’t helped and has ratcheted up the tension. There now exists the band…and Roddy which is sad.
Even better, Panter and his bandmates are clearly self-aware enough of the conundrum that faces them moving forward. One of the selling points of the tour that just ended was that the band incorporated songs from their second album 'More Specials' which is night to the first album's day. The crowd reaction to these songs varied. Here Panter ponders if he and his bandmates are the world's greatest Specials tribute band or just The Specials?
It would seem that the answer to that question will be answered in the next year or so. In the meantime, here is some video of the the band performing 'It Doesn't Make Alright' from the show in Glasgow which Panter deemed 'blistering'. Enjoy!International Jet Set is obviously not a rude boy crowd pleaser but there again, it wasn’t supposed to be. This is something I’ve noticed and we’ve talked about…The Two Specials. There’s the ‘first album’ band, all Doc Martens, tonic suits and Ben Shermans. Long Shot Kick De Bucket and 200 skinheads on stage. Then there’s the ‘2nd album/Ghost Town’ band which was a lot more studious, musically. The band that people associate with is not the second incarnation. There aren’t too many fans turning up to see The Specials wearing Zoot suits, berets and sporting goatee beards. The Manchester Skinhead Moonstompers don’t get the party they expected. It’s a difficult problem. Are we a tribute act to ourselves.. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen,The World’s greatest Specials tribute band…..The Specials!!’ Or do we become this ‘Heritage Act’ which gives us a certain room to maneuver, creatively.