It’s 1981. Britain is two years into the Thatcher era.
“The tide is a bit further in,” says Terry Hall. Hall, Lynval Golding and Horace Panter, aka The Specials, are throwing rocks into the Thames at St Katharine Docks. It is almost 38 years since they were last on this tidal mudbank together, at 5am, rounding off a riotous night shoot for the video to accompany perhaps their finest achievement as a band.
Ghost Town was so much more than a hit record. It was a visceral, uncompromising portrait of how it felt to be young in Thatcher’s Britain.
“No jobs to be found in this country.” “Government leaving the youth on the shelf.” “All the clubs have been closed down.” “The people getting angry.” The song depicted a country on the edge of violent unrest.
The recording, release and success of Ghost Town took place against a backdrop of UK rioting, including Toxteth in Liverpool, Handsworth in Birmingham, Brixton in London and Moss Side in Manchester. The video showed the band careering through Britain’s deserted financial heartlands in the City of London, and if the 1962 Vauxhall Cresta driven by Panter seemed out of control, so was the country.
For an exclusive, behind the scenes look at our cover feature with The Specials revisiting Ghost Town, pick up this week’s Big Issue, on the streets today, and use our Augmented Reality app to bring the pages to life.
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Image: Mathew Parri Thomas