As a tribute to Nelson Mandela, the Album Of The Day is The Best Of The Specials, including the track, Free Nelson Mandela.
When I was living in London in the seventies The Specials, Gangsters, A Message To You Rudy and Too Much Too Young were on the television and all over the radio, everyone knew them. The fact that this wasn’t exactly the kind of music that you listened to, or the fashion you followed, didn’t matter at all – there was no taking sides for some of us. The melting pot of music was genre free, it was the vibe that mattered. They were great dancey pop songs to hum along to, even if you couldn’t dance. Bands like The Specials were the real deal, political lyrics and that irresistible ska beat. Chrissie Hynde sang backing vocals on both their albums before Terry Hall, Neville Staple and Lynval Golding left to form the deadpan Fun Boy Three (that somehow had hits) with The Lunatics (Have Taken Over The Asylum), Tunnel Of Love and Our Lips Are Sealed as well as two hits with Bananarama.
Living in London in the late seventies you were surrounded by Reggae and Ska – it was a companion movement to Punk And New Wave. Some of us didn’t sell our vinyl when CD’s came out (an easy mistake to make), some of us didn’t desert the unfashionable progressive bands when Punk arrived. Choosing sides never sat well with me. To some, showing the slightest interest in Hip Hop or Rap almost seems like a betrayal of some sketchy Rock and Roll principles. If you think like this, you are your parents.
Like Nelson Mandela multi-racial bands broke down barriers. The Equals and The Foundations in the sixties, Sly And The Family Stone and Blue Mink into the seventies and The Specials, The Selector and The Beat in the Punk, Ska and New Wave era. Eighties onwards, attitudes had changed, most sensible people had gone beyond the race issue, like most sensible people have gone beyond the gay issue. Nelson Mandela sat in a jail for 27 years for equality, his sacrifice was a massive contributing factor to making racism repugnant and a thing of the past. Jerry Dammers’ Free Nelson Mandela was a massive contributing factor to getting him released from his incarceration and making people wake up to reality and put their prejudicies behind them.