This has not been a good year. I will be happy to see the back of it. One of the undoubted highlights was seeing The Specials at the festival in the grounds of Rochester Castle.
I have no idea how many times I've seen The Specials over the years, but I suspect that they are the band I've either seen most or second most after The Ramones. I recounted the first time I saw them in a Saturday List blog in June this year. I wrote
Every song on the Specials first album is a classic, but to me this is the stand out track, for its melancholic tone and message. A masterpiece that is often overlooked for the more frenetic and well known songs. I went to see the Specials supporting the Damned and The UK Subs. I'd not really heard of the Specials. As they came on, I was about to take a sip of beer. They transfixed me for their whole set and it was only when they went off that I finally moved the glass to my lips. They blew me away. I loved the Subs, but I can't remember their set at all, as I was so blown away by The Specials.
I soon wore out their first album, overplaying it on my cheap stereo. The thing about the Specials was that they exemplified everyting I believe music should do. They promoted other bands via their Two Tone label. They promoted justice and equality. They wrote great pop songs about very difficult subjects. They were avowedly anti Nazi. It was a constant theme and a Specials T shirt was very much a statement, as exemplified in this tweet
When Saffiyah Khan (wearing a Specials T- shirt) confronted a fascist at a march Terry Hall commented:— Gareth Williams (@GarethW89011699) December 20, 2022
“It felt like a vindication of everything the band had set out to do.” pic.twitter.com/8p8vdeiSJG
At the front was Terry Hall. Crushingly good looking and cool, minimalist in his presentation and singing in a Coventry accent. The stars of previous generations such as Jagger would try and imitate their American heroes in their presentation and gyrate wildly in the process. Hall did the opposite. All too soon he quit the Specials and formed the Fun Boy Three. For me, they were a good band, but not the same. The Specials had re-acquainted me with Ska, a musical genre that I loved in the late 60's as a kid, but had fallen out of fashion, apart from on the terraces at Chelsea. The Two Tone bands moved on, I got into various other genres, Greensleeves Reggae as an example. And then the Specials reformed. I was wary, bands reforming to pay the bills is not always great, but the first time I saw the reformed band, I was blown away and I think we saw them on every tour.
When I heard the news about Terry Hall, I was devastated. Some of this was purely selfish. The Specials were a guaranteed amazing night out. I see a lot of gigs and they are the best live band I've seen this century. They influenced my music. If you listen to They cleared out your desk, that I co wrote with Allen Ashley for the launch of the #KickOutCapita campaign, you cannot miss the influence of The Specials.
As I ponder the musical landscape of 2023, I can feel the loss of Terry. There will be no Specials tours to see, there will be no new album. If something needs to be said, there will be no Terry Hall to say it. Someone once said to me, when I was grieving my father's sudden death "We all have to go at some point to make space few new people, who will do even more wonderful things than we did". This is a heartfelt plea. If you know who is replacing the massive hole in my life that Terry Hall has left, please tell me as there is just a void there right now and Christmas just doesn't feel right.
Terry Hall RIP and thank you
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