A Song and a Story: “Ghost Town” #AtoZChallenge

Today’s tune is one I discovered serendipitously and seek out to make it mine.  It’s by the UK 2-Tone ska band The Specials and it’s called:

Ghost Town

I spent a portion of my teenage years living in the past, taking deep dives into Classic Rock from the 1960s, and avoiding anything contemporary.  By my junior year though, I was ready to once again be a man of my times, and since some of my good friends listened to what we were still calling “New Wave” at the time, I started listening to their favorite radio station, WDRE.  Broadcasting from Long Island, the radio signals carried WDRE across the Sound to eager young Connecticutians seeking refuge from Top 40 and Classic Rock.  WDRE refered to their format simply as “Modern Rock,” and the bands they played included Erasure, Depeche Mode, Morrissey (so much Morrissey), New Order, Midnight Oil, Jane’s Addiction, R.E.M., The Replacements, and They Might Be Giants.  No one would think  of any of these bands as obscure today, but in 1990 they were hard to acess anywhere else.

So there I was laying on my bed one sunny afternoon listening to WDRE, and the DJ played a song by a band I’d never heard before that blew my mind.  It was “Ghost Town” by The Specials. I HAD to have this song and since we didn’t have the World Wide Web back then and other resources were limited, it meant trying my luck at the local record store.  I checked under “Rock” – no Specials.  I checked under “Reggae” – no specials.  I check under “World Music” – no Specials.  Finally, on a whim, I decided to look in the racks of compilations, and stumbled on a tape called This Are Two-Tone. It had my song by The Specials and many more from UK bands that played a music called ska.  And it turns out, it wasn’t anything new. I was about a decade late.

For the next several years, well into my college days, I accumulated ska music – the original Jamaica ska, 2 Tone Ska from the UK in the 70s & 80s, and some more contemporary stuff like Fishbone and Bim Skala Bim. Oddly enough my enthusiasm for ska music was tempered the fact that by the mid-1990s, ska had widespread popularity in the United States.  Except this Third Wave ska (as it was called) sounded more like a bunch of white bros who liked to go to the beach and get drunk than the ska I loved.

Returning to “Ghost Town,” it’s still a remarkable song.  The spooky vocal effects make it a popular Halloween track.  But listen to the lyrics and its a stark depiction of the poverty, decay, and desolation of England under Thatcherism.  And that trombone solo by Rico slays me every time.  It’s still blows me away to this day.

2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – A Song and a Story

A: Always on My Mind
B: Baby Come Back and Baker Street
C: Cheek to Cheek
D: Don’t Worry, Be Happy and Doctor Jones
E: Everyday Sunshine
F: Fly Me to the Moon

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

Album Review: Encore by The Specials

Album: Encore
Artist: The Specials
Release Date: February 1, 2019
Favorite Tracks: B.L.M, The Lunatics, Blam Blam Fever, 10 Commandments, The Life and Times (Of a Man Called Depression)

The Specials, the 2 Tone UK ska revival band from the 1970s and 80s, are back with a new album!  I remember back in the 1990s, the band released Today’s Specials, which was good enough but since it was all covers it felt more like UB40’s Labor of Love than anything The Specials had done before.  Encore has three covers, but the rest of the album is new material.  And just as they did back in the Thatcher Era, The Specials have something to say to our times with tracks focusing on Black Lives Matter, gun violence, and women’s rights (the latter with guest vocals by Saffiyah Khan).  The opening track is firmly in the disco genre which made me wonder what I was in store for, but the rest of the album falls into the more expected ska/reggae/punk sounds.  I’d say overall, that the album is hit and miss, but tracks like “B.L.M” and “10 Commandments” make the whole thing feel more relevant than one would expect from a 40-year-old band.  The deluxe version of the album features live versions of The Specials’ classic tunes.

Rating: ***1/2