The Specials were formed in 1977 in Coventry. The members were politically active and wanted to show a broad awareness of the current social and political issues of the day. The band aimed to combine the rhythms and grooves from reggae and ska with the spirit and spark of punk.

This fusion of influences and styles became a new genre of music: two-tone. Compared with earlier ska and reggae of the 1960s, two-tone used faster tempos, a wider range of instruments and a more edgy aesthetic. The genre was named after a record label started by Jerry Dammers, a member of The Specials.

Two-tone music promoted a message of racial equality and unity at a time when tensions in the UK ran high. Ghost Town came to be associated with the race riots of the early 1980s, as it encapsulated some of the feelings, of isolation, anger and fear, that had sparked riots against institutional racism and police brutality in ethnic minority communities across the country.

Two-tone bands, such as The Specials, gathered a wide audience across social divides, as they explored common themes, such as unemployment, inner city underfunding and socio-economic disparities. These themes resonated with both working-class White British listeners and first and second generation West Indian and Caribbean immigrants, who all experienced some of the same struggles addressed in the lyrics.

Ghost Town was a huge success, spending three weeks at the top of the UK chart and another seven weeks in the UK top ten. The Special’s unique style and cinematic feel continues to influence new artists.

About this Contributor

Given name
The Specials
Contributor type
Minutes created
Black Music Collection #8

Minutes by The Specials