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May 12

The Special AKA: “Night on the Tiles”

Special AKA -- In the Studio

Or "Not" in the Studio, as it would appear from this photo.

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The Special AKA was the original name of Jerry Dammers’s band, The Specials, but it was shortened to the more well-known band name before the release of their debut album in 1979. But following their rise to fame as the leading lights of the British ska movement of the late ’70s and early ’80s, Dammers reverted the band to that original name after the second Specials album, following the departure of Terry Hall, Lynval Golding, and Neville Staples to form Fun Boy Three. So in 1984, it was the Special AKA who released the album In the Studio, which featured the great single, “Free Nelson Mandela.”

“Free Nelson Mandela” was easily the best known song on the album; it was a big hit particularly in the U.K., where it reached the Top Ten — it also found its way to South Africa, where it became a rallying chant and anthem for the protests to release Mandela. (Mandela was ultimately freed in 1990, for the record.) It is a great song indeed, but the rest of the comparatively dark songs on In the Studio are excellent as well. My favorite song of the bunch is “Night on the Tiles,” a song with a deceivingly upbeat rhythm: the lyrics by my reading are about feeling trapped in a loveless marriage and needing to be set free, if only temporarily, to experience a good time again. Either that, or it’s literally about being in prison for life and just wanting a night’s furlough to experience the joys of life one more time. Regardless of the exact interpretation, the rush of the guitar as the song begins is an uplifting moment every time I hear it, as though the music itself is enough to set one free. Stan Campbell’s soulful singing yearns for that freedom, yet leaves no doubt as to the anguish of the singer. And anguish sure does result in some great songs, doesn’t it?

6 Comments

  1. an inspired choice. The was a very good which was overshadowed by Free (a great song in it’s own) I particularly liked the Fun Boy Three, kind of dismal lyrically accompanied by fine music, The Pressure of Life being a memorable song of theirs

    1. I like “FB3” a lot too, and Terry’s followup band The Colourfield was also quite good (been meaning to feature a song by them one of these days, in fact).

  2. Dave, why don’t you post your 2011 to demonoid or some such site?

    1. Because I don’t even know what “Demonoid” is! Hope that doesn’t make me too out of touch…

      Of course, now I’ll have to go check it out.

      1. terry says:

        I completely forgot the Colourfied In fact all I remember about them is the one title track. One album and then gone I think. I’ remember.
        Demonoid is another way to share music.peope download something really big into some really small (called a torrent), that you restore with the help of a small piece of software and voila you have music or some near to it,
        +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

        1. They did a great version of “Can’t Get Enough of You, Baby” that is far better than the Smashmouth version that came out a few years ago. And yes, I checked out Demonoid after your other comment, and saw that it was a torrent site — so I won’t be doing that. I don’t offer the music for download…

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