Elisabeth and I are both fans of the Specials, and we got to see them play live at Seattle’s Showbox Sodo this past Wednesday night. We were not disappointed. Thankfully, this was not one of those deals where you had one original member surrounding himself with a bunch of new guys and still thinking that counts as the band. No, there were 5 of the 7 original members (the absences being Jerry Dammers, who apparently doesn’t associate with the other guys anymore, and Neville Staples, who pulled out of the tour just before it began due to health issues), and although I’m sure their energy level back in their glory days was higher, they were certainly lively and sounded great. Lead singer Terry Hall was quite amusing, in his own way, never once cracking a smile and generally putting on an air of disinterested bemusement — combined with how he has aged, he somehow reminded me of a non-smiling Alec Baldwin, as weird as that might sound — but it was pretty clearly an act, as he actually sounded like he was enjoying himself and was certainly friendly enough in the few times he said a few things to the audience. Lynval Golding was instead the very ebullient focal point for between-song patter — interestingly, it turns out that he lives in the Seattle area.
The Specials (1979)
Dandy Livingstone (1967)
One of the highlights of the night was their performance of “A Message to You Rudy,” the lead track from their 1979 debut album, Specials. The roar that went up when they started it made it clear that it was a crowd favorite. It occurred to me that it would be perfect for this week’s Cover Friday — what a lot of people don’t realize is that it’s a cover of a 1967 hit by a Jamaican rock-steady/reggae performer (and producer), Dandy Livingstone. (His original version was actually titled, “Rudy, A Message to You.”) The original was changed very little by the Specials, as you can hear. One cool factoid that I just learned on Wikipedia is that Rico Rodriguez, a trumpet player who played on the original recording by Livingstone, also appeared on the Specials’ version. Remember that — you never know when it might pop up in a trivia quiz with really obscure music questions…