Now this was the thing. Members of the Specials forum could gain access to this pre-gig event which allowed fans and band to interact in a brilliant way. Photos taken, tickets signed, job done.
Amongst the 2 tone dignitaries in attendance was one John Sims, otherwise known as Teflon. Whilst you may not know his name, his work will be instantly recognisable to anyone over the age of 40 who ever bought a 7" single in Woolworths! I had met John previously at an earlier Specials gig in Margate. On that occasion, John had set up an exhibition of his 2 tone related design work in a local gallery, which warranted a visit on the morning after the gig.
John Sims a.k.a. Teflon and Me
Alexandra Palace 3rd November 2011
Teflon, in conjunction with Jerry (The General) Dammers was largely responsible for the look of 2 tone, a monochrome rash that infected half of the teenage population of Britain between 1979 and 1981.
Close associations between artists, bands and labels are nothing new, but with the exception of Jamie Reid's work with he Pistols, Teflon's artwork produced for The Specials and the 2 tone label have over the years become truly iconic.
Enter Walt Jabsco, label logo and undoubtedly the coolest guy in town!
Peter Tosh Inspired Walt Jabsco
From Walt their followed a series of stunning, yet simple black and white images that adorned record sleeves, billboards and the pages of the weekly music papers.
Bang up to date as they were, many of the pieces gave a nod to earlier times, thereby perhaps forging a link back to the '60's back to the time of those Blue Beat records, that when fused with punk, produced that unmistakable 2 tone sound.
From the pop art of the Rat Race single
To the tour promo posters based upon the ads for the package tours so popular in the '60's.
The graphic designs produced by Telflon and his associates has to my mind has transcended it's original function and now become part of social history. To see these images is to be thrown back in time to a period of mass unemployment, racial tension, urban decay and let's not forget some bloody good tunes!
Of all his work, perhaps none is more evocative of those times than the cover of Ghost Town, a song that was to become the soundtrack to some of the worst inner city riots ever seen in the UK.
Promo for Ghost Town 20th June 1981
It's re-release ten years later to the day drew on the unforgettable promo video, that saw the band driving a Vauxhall Cresta through a sinister, decaying urban landscape
Ghost Town (Revisited) 20th June 1991
Take a look at a BBC article written to mark the 30th anniversary of Ghost Town's original release, here.
John periodically displays his work and here is the real treat as the exhibition includes some of the original mock-ups that resulted in those familiar images. Remember, these works were produced at a time when the tools of the trade included a knife, inks and masking tape rather than an Apple Mac and Photoshop and it is this aspect of these works in-progress that to my untrained eye make them every bit as appealing as the finished, printed work.
30 years on and Walt is still going strong, even on the home furnishing front!!!
More information can be found on Telflon and the art of 2 tone on John's site.
Cheers John, maybe we'll see some more of this stuff on a new album. Fingers crossed!