The Specials were a British band formed in 1977 in Coventry (see 1977 in music). They fused elements of mod and ska to create a new sound that became known as Two Tone. They were best known for singles including "Ghost Town", "Too Much Too Young" and their debut, "Gangsters" . The band members were Jerry Dammers (né Gerald Danki), Terry Hall, Roddy Radiation, John Bradbury, Sir Horace Gentleman (AKA Horace Panter), Lynval Golding and Neville Staples.
Shortly after being formed in 1977 by Dammers, Golding, and Gentleman, the band performed minor gigs under the name The Coventry Automatics. Terry Hall and Roddy Radiation joined the band the following year, and the band changed its name to The Coventry Specials and then to The Special AKA. Joe Strummer of the Clash had attended one of their gigs, and invited The Special AKA to open for his band in their No Parole UK Tour. This performance gave The AKA a new level of national exposure, and they briefly shared the Clash's management. However, in 1979, Dammers decided to found his own label, and 2-Tone Records was born. On this label, the band released "Gangsters," which became a Top Ten hit in 1979 (See 1979 in music). The band had begun wearing two-toned mod-style tonic suits, along with other late 60s teen fashion. Their debut LP was Specials, produced by Elvis Costello. "Too Much Too Young" was a #1 hit in spite of a ban by the BBC due to the song's lyrics, which promoted contraception. Album cover of More Specials
Their second album, More Specials was not as successful as previous recordings. The band had seemingly abandoned the ska genre, despite having been single-handedly responsible for its revival and newfound popularity in Britain, in favor of a more ambiguous and experimental approach to music. More Specials contained music of many different styles, most of which eluded genre specification, but traces of pop and New Wave were apparent. The band also experimented with what could be best described as a dark, almost psychedelic reggae. Due to their previous establishment as one of the most important ska bands of all time, their original fanbase was alienated and disillusioned with their departure from the genre. However, a B-side of the album, "Ghost Town," hit #1 in 1981 (see 1981 in music). Despite this, 2-Tone was in trouble. Staples, Golding and Hall departed, and Dammers added Stan Campbell and began working under the name Special A.K.A.. The result, In the Studio, was regarded by many as a failure, though "Racist Friend" and "Free Nelson Mandela" were hits. Dammers then dissolved the group and pursued activism.
The Beat from nearby Birmingham collaborated on tracks such as Free Nelson Mandela and teamed up with members of The Specials in the early 90's to form the 'Special Beat'.
Terry Hall continued to be successful after departing from The Specials, mainly with his 80's pop band The Fun Boy Three (with fellow ex-Specials Neville Staples and Lynval Golding), who enjoyed success with a small collection of hits including Tunnel of Love, Our Lips Are Sealed, and The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum). Hall then went on to pursue a solo career (mostly in the New Wave genre) and has recently done vocal work on The Dub Pistols' latest album.
More recently, The Specials have appeared in the Dance Dance Revolution video game series and in the soundtrack for the 2000 movie Snatch and more recently, british Zombie film Shaun of the Dead.