Music

'Injustice is timeless': The Specials talk enduring politics in music

The legendary band say their comeback album sees them continuing to tackle the big issues

The Specials, in 2019

The Specials photographed in 2019 for The Big Issue by Matthew Parri Thomas

Legendary band The Specials have said that their comeback album has come at the right time – as the UK is in as much turmoil then as it was when they last recorded together 38 years ago.

The band, whose 1981 UK chart-topper Ghost Town soundtracked the riots in the inner cities that year, spoke exclusively to The Big Issue about the political threads that run through their music, including their comeback album Encore. They reaffirmed that no matter how many decades have passed, they have always got a lot to say.

“You could tie our music in with any event of any year we release it… maybe apart from the Winter Olympics,” frontman Terry Hall said. “We wouldn’t be so relevant there. But yeah, it just so happens that the country is in turmoil again. Huge turmoil. Bigger than you would want to imagine.

“I find myself in awe of the mess, nightly listening to politicians giving their opinion and thinking, I don’t necessarily trust any of you, really. It is pretty sad.

“I grew up aligned to a party, the Labour Party, quite strongly. Until Tony Blair made Noel Gallagher prime minister I knew exactly where I stood.”

Bassist Horace Panter agreed. He added: Injustice is timeless, unfortunately. You can write songs with the same subject matter, I’m afraid, now in 2019 as you could in 1979. Mrs Thatcher was voted in as prime minister on 4 May 1979. I remember we played at Dingwalls the night before.

“Playing songs like Doesn’t Make It Alright is as important to me now as it was back then. I still play with the same intensity, for the same reasons I did it in the first place.”

Guitarist Lynval Golding sees the 1970s reflected in contemporary politics. He said: “Maggie [Thatcher] inspired us to write songs. And with this new song, Vote For Me, we are telling them that we wouldn’t vote for them. None of them.

“Because the people who have been elected to represent us now are doing a very, very, very bad job. They are not representing us, the people.”

Read the full interview in this week’s Big Issue, and see the band revisit their classic video for Ghost Town via our exclusive augmented reality footage.

Encore is released on February 1.

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