So I have come to the last post themed around the song 'The Boiler'. Here, one of the last gigs that The Specials played in their first incarnation is presented. It features what is perhaps one of my all-time favourite sets. Heavy on the 'More Specials' material. the set also features 'Friday Night, Saturday Morning' (surely, the best coming of age songs ever written!), 'Why?' (one of the best statements on the utter futility of race related violence) and of course 'The Boiler' of which much has already been said.
As we well know, the band fractured in two with Terry, Lynval and Neville sheering off to form The Fun Boy Three, whilst Jerry, Brad and Horace formed the nucleus of The Specials with a reinstated A.K.A. The former followed a more chart palatable path whilst the latter introduced a jazzy and soulful sophistication to The Specials sound.
The legacy of Jerry Dammers is astounding! His vision for The Specials was revolutionary at the time. Just the existence of a multiracial band leading the first meaningful music scene since punk was a statement in itself.... before they had even played a note!
To conclude the existence of the band with a song that so perfectly captured the mood of young people across the spectrum in Great Britain 1981 was a masterstroke. 'Ghost Town' remember was at number 1 when many of the country's inner cities burned as a result of wide spread rioting.
'The Boiler' was a courageous move on the part of Jerry Dammers and the 2 Tone label tackling as it did the subject of rape and sexual violence at a time when such issues remained unvoiced, especially in the 'pop' world (although it has to be said that The Fun Boy Three recorded the disturbing 'Well Fancy That!' the following year). It is difficult to imagine just how far from a 'woke' society we were living in in 1982.
The Special AKA were not finished yet either. Unarguably, their finest moment came in 1984 with the release of 'Nelson Mandela'. A song which, along with a huge 70th birthday tribute show staged some years later, played a pivotal role in the events that lead up to the release of Mandela who after 27 years in captivity went on to become the first president of South Africa. Our Rhoda was a vocalist on this track too.
It could be said that 'Nelson Mandela' was a swansong of the 2 Tone era, a journey of some five years that broke down barriers and even changed people's lives. On the recording (produced by Elvis Costello, as was the first Specials album) were Jerry, Brad, John Shipley (a former Swinging Cat), Rhoda and Dick Cuthell, whilst Lynval, Elvis, Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling offered backing vocals. A proper 2 Tone collective effort. A live performance of the song with the Special AKA with Elvis, Roger and Dave on backing vocals is a classic bit of 2 Tone footage.
Those who do not see beyond the boisterous, playful side of 2 Tone should take some time to venture into the label's back catalogue. It is for this reason that I consider the 2 Tone label and the bands associated with it to be as important as the original bands linked to punk's Year Zero.