Acclaimed Albums – The Specials by The Specials

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 225/250Title: The Specials
Artist: The Specials
Year: 1979
Position: #185

As part of his own journey through the 1001 TV show list, my husband has been watching old episodes of the UK chart show Top of the Pops. For some reason, we watched one of these last night from late 1979 and had a good time watching timeless classics like ‘Luton Airport’ and ‘Iron Lady’. First out of the gate was ‘A Message to You Rudy’ by The Specials, which inspired today’s choice.

I haven’t exactly been listening to a lot of music these last two weeks because I have been trying to catch up on my four-month podcast backlog, so this album has the odd position of not having any surrounding music to be compared to. That is until I got to ‘(Dawning Of a) New Era’, whose intro gave me the overwhelming urge to listen to ‘Your Kisses Are Wasted on Me’ by The Pipettes. There must have been some kinship in the music, even if the genres are pretty different.

The Specials is a bit of an anomaly within the albums list as it is the only 2-tone entry on there. The name pretty much gives away the meaning – a band of a ska influence that is made up of members form a range of different ethnic backgrounds. This is further highlighted by the chessboard pattern on the album cover.

Ska music in general is not my cup of tea, but it was interesting to see how many of these songs I ended up knowing. I knew ‘Monkey Man’ and ‘Blank Expression’ thanks to covers by Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen respectively.

However, ‘A Message to You Rudy’ is the main one I had heard through the years, primarily from adverts and period dramas. It’s one of those pieces where the style of music is extremely evocative of a moment in time – specifically the early years of Thatcher’s premiership and the hardship felt my many around the country thanks to her social policies. The rest of the album has shades of anger because of this hardship which helps to make it a very interesting time capsule.

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