The Specials AKA – in session for John Peel, September 12, 1983 – BBC Radio 1. This was a reincarnated Specials, the best known lineup had broken up in 1981. but remaining founding member Jerry Dammers resurrected The Specials, adding AKA and recorded one last album.
This was the fourth and final session for John Peel, and it’s clearly obvious the band had gone in a direction far removed from the Ska-revival which propelled them to international popularity. This was, admittedly a darker version of The Specials. The first single from this reincarnated band was the deceptively jaunty but ultimately horrifying The Boiler, and it was clear the old fun-loving version of The Specials were no longer around and weren’t going to magically reappear anytime soon. This new incarnation of the band did pursue some interesting mashups of styles, which proved influential later on, particularly with much of the Jazz-based material they were doing. But the songs themselves, compelling though many of them were, were filled with such pessimism and depression and a dystopian view of the world that many admitted the future of the band might not be commercially viable. When In The Studio, their final album was finally issued in 1984, it was a dismal commercial failure and it spelled the end of the band. Jerry Dammers put a tremendous amount of time and a considerable amount of money was lavished on production, but the public simply weren’t ready to hear about oppressive times by way of their music.
This session, which was the last for Peel, captures much of that spirit and the new direction The Specials AKA were working on. If you’re not familiar with this incarnation of the band, but are familiar with The Specials by way of Gangsters and Too Much, Too Young, this might be a little shocking for you. Don’t expect to dance to it, but do give it a listen.