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

Favorite Songs of 1981

The project continues with my favorite songs of 1981.  Read the first post for the detail on this project.

The Classical – The Fall

City of God – Dan Schutte

Genius of Love – Tom Tom Club

Ghost Town  –  The Specials Featuring Rico

I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) – Hall & Oates

Just the Two of Us –  Grover Washington & Bill Withers

Our Lips Are Sealed – The Go-Go’s

Pocket Calculator – Kraftwerk

Under Pressure – David Bowie w/ Queen

Theme from “Chariots of Fire” – Vangelis


Looking at songs that charted in 1981, there is about a dozen or so that my 7-year-old self inexplicably loved, but it seems appropriate to confess my youthful fondness for Air Supply, especially this song of shame:

The One That You Love – Air Supply

What is your favorite song from 1981?  Let me know in the comments

Favorite Songs of 1980

The project continues with my favorite songs of 1980.  Read the first post for the detail on this project.

The Eighties begin.  It’s the decade where my childhood memories of music come into clear focus.  A lot of people say that there was no good music in the Eighties, but I’ve got 100 songs coming up that will prove them wrong.

Academy Fight Song – Mission Of Burma

Another Nail In My Heart – Squeeze

Do Nothing –  The Specials

Hungry Heart – Bruce Springsteen

I Will Follow – U2

Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division

Mirror In The Bathroom – The English Beat

Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads

Three Minute Hero – The Selecter

What I Like About You – The Romantics

And my song of shame for 1980 is Funky Town by Lipps Inc.


Favorite Songs of 1979

The project continues with my favorite songs of 1979.  Read the first post for the detail on this project.

I think this may be the most unlikely collection of songs I’ve brought together yet.  My eclecticism is showing, but all of these are special to me in some way.

Bela Lugosi’s Dead – Bauhaus

Hammond Song – The Roches

Heart of Glass – Blondie

Logical Song – Supertramp

Lost in the Supermarket – The Clash

A Message to You, Rudy – The Specials

Oliver’s Army – Elvis Costello & The Attractions

Redemption Song  – Bob Marley

Theme From New York, New York – Frank Sinatra

We Are Family – Sister Sledge

And my song of shame for 1979 is You Don’t Bring Me Flowers – Neil Diamond & Barbra Streisand 

(I went through a Neil Diamond phase as a child.  I was a strange youth.)