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‘The Boiler’: The Specials’ harrowing song about date rape

By the summer of 1981 The Specials had all but split up when they topped the UK number one slot with their last single as original line-up “Ghost Town.”

Terry Hall, Lynval Golding and Neville Staples went off and formed Fun Boy Three releasing their debut single “The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum)” later that year. Bass player Horace Panter went to co-form General Union, Roddy Radiation fronted The Tearjerkers, which left band founder Jerry Dammers and drummer John Bradbury to regroup with Rhoda Dakar (vocals), John Shipley (guitar), Dick Cuthell (brass), Nicky Summers (bass) to continue as The Special AKA.

The Special AKA was how the band were originally known after they changed their name from The Automatics or The Special AKA The Coventry Automatics, which became The Specials for short—but what’s in a name?

“Ghost Town” was a powerful pay-off by The Specials and its strong political message saw it named “Single of the Year” by the UK’s top three music papers, NME, Sounds and Melody Maker. The song delivered a stinging social commentary on the poverty and inner city destruction caused by Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s economic policies during the 1980s. In 2002, Dammers discussed the inspiration to the song with Alex Petridis of the Guardian:

“You travelled from town to town and what was happening was terrible. In Liverpool, all the shops were shuttered up, everything was closing down… We could actually see it by touring around. You could see that frustration and anger in the audience. In Glasgow, there were these little old ladies on the streets selling all their household goods, their cups and saucers. It was unbelievable. It was clear that something was very, very wrong.”

The song’s success meant high expectations for what Dammers and his reconstructed Special AKA could achieve.
Dammers was often described by the music press as the main driving force and writer behind The Specials, which was perhaps unfair to his fellow bandmates. This was in part down to the fact he was the founder and CEO of the record label 2 Tone—a home to The Specials, Selecter, Madness and The Beat. 

Born in India in 1955, Dammers had attended King Henry VIII public school in Coventry, whose former pupils include poet Philip Larkin and co-founder of Napalm Death, Nic Bullen. He had been a mod and a hippie before becoming a skinhead and discovering his love for ska music. Ska led him to founding 2 Tone Records in 1979 that kick-started the ska revival.

Dammers had a glorious talent for writing upbeat pop music with strong social and political messages, which can be seen by most of The Specials tracks from “Too Much Too Young” to Ghost Town,” and he had never been one to shirk from difficult or controversial subject matter. When considering what the Special AKA shoudl release after the all-conquering “Ghost Town,” he collaborated with singer Rhoda Dakar on powerful single about date rape called “The Boiler” a song which Alex Petridis has described as having:

...[a] worldview [that] was so bleak as to make previous Specials albums – no barrel of laughs themselves – seem like the height of giddy gay abandon.

Rhoda Dakar had been a member of The Bodysnatchers (best known for the single “Do the Rock-Steady”) before joining The Specials as a backing vocalist, appearing on the band’s second album More Specials, and on their 1981 tour. Dakar and Dammers started work on “The Boiler” sometime in 1980, and the song was added to The Specials’ set list during the ‘81 tour, but was not fully finished until later that year.

“The Boiler” is the harrowing tale of a young girl who is swayed by the attentions of a man who eventually rapes her. Dakar said in an interview with Marco on the Bass that the song was based on “a friend [who] had been raped a couple of years earlier and I suppose I was thinking of her at the time. It was a very long and drawn out process. It was released a year after it was first recorded.” It was not the kind of song that ska fans were expecting to hear after “Ghost Town” but Dammers believed it was worth doing as it made a statement about a subject matter that needed to be brought to public attention.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Madness: Ska’s original Nutty Boys in concert from 1980
06:43 pm


Nutty Boys

Madness are now as loved as the Queen Mother was once adored by London cab drivers. Understandable as they have been making people happy with their infectious music for over 30 years.

This is Madness live in Nottingham from 1980. Originally recorded for the BBC, it’s a great show, and although the audio isn’t perfect, it’s difficult not to watch without a grin on your face.

Madness Graham ‘Suggs’ McPherson, Mark ‘Bedders’ Bedford, Lee ‘Kix’ Thompson, Carl Smyth (aka Chas Smash), Dan ‘Woody’ Woodgate, Chris Foreman (aka Chrissy Boy), Mike ‘Barso’ Barson

Set list:

01. “Night Boat To Cairo”
02. “E.R.N.I.E”
03. “Mistakes”
04. “Close Escape”
05. “Crying Shame”
06. “Razor Blade Alley”
07. “Baggy Trousers”
08. “My Girl”
09. “Land Of Hope And Glory”
10. “Embarrassment”
11. “On The Pete”
12. “The Prince”
13. “One Step Beyond”
14. “Madness”

Madness will be touring for the release of their 10th studio album Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da (with a cover by Peter Blake), which is out on October 29th, more details here.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Dance Craze - The Best of British Ska Live!’ ft Madness, The Specials, The Beat & more

There’s no need to explain why this film is such a corker. Joe Massot’s Dance Craze is 84 minutes of absolutely mint performances from the best British ska acts of the early 80s, featuring 27 tracks from Madness, The Specials, The Beat, The Selecter, Bad Manners and The Bodysnatchers.

All the bands were signed to the iconic 2 Tone label, who also put out a soundtrack album featuring some of the best cuts from the film. I have that record and it’s excellent, but seeing the footage for the first time in full really puts it in perspective.

The energy, the passion, the clothes, the diversity and yet the sense of community, it’s no wonder ska was the biggest youth movement in the UK after punk. These gigs look great, and it’s a pity more modern live experiences aren’t as communal and just such goddam fun.

I mean, how could you possibly go wrong with a tracklist like this:

“Nite Klub” – The Specials
“The Prince” – Madness
“Ne-Ne-Na-Na-Na-Na-Nu-Nu” – Bad Manners
“007 (Shanty Town)” – The Bodysnatchers
“Three Minute Hero” – The Selecter
“Ranking Full Stop” – The Beat
“Big Shot” – The Beat
“Concrete Jungle” – The Specials
“Swan Lake” – Madness
“Razor Blade Alley” – Madness
“Missing Words” – The Selecter
“Let’s Do the Rock Steady” – The Bodysnatchers
“Lip Up Fatty” – Bad Manners
“Madness” – Madness
“Too Much Too Young” – The Specials
“On My Radio” – The Selecter
“Easy Life” – The Bodysnatchers
“Rough Rider” – The Beat
“Man at C&A” – The Specials
“Inner London Violence” – Bad Manners
“Night Boat to Cairo” – Madness
“Twist and Crawl” – The Beat
“Wooly Bully” – Bad Manners
“Too Much Pressure” – The Selecter
“Mirror in the Bathroom” – The Beat
“One Step Beyond” – Madness
“Nite Klub” – The Specials


Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
The Specials: In Concert from ‘Rock Goes to College’ 1980
07:05 pm


The Specials
Two Tone


The Specials in concert at the Colchester Institute, January 21st 1980. Recorded as part of the Beeb’s series Rock Goes to College (boy, they must have struggled with that title), this is Coventry’s Magnificent 7 at their best.

Track listing:

01. “Do the Dog”
02. “Monkey Man”
03. “Rat Race”
04. “Blank Expression”
05. “Rude Boys Outta Jail”
06. “Doesn’t Make It Right”
07. “Concrete Jungle”
08. “Too Much Too Young”
09. “Guns of Navarone”
10. “Nite Club”
11. “Gangsters”
12. “Longshot Kick De Bucket”
13. “Madness”
14. “You’re Wondering”

Previously on Dangerous MInds

The Specials: Live in Japan 1980


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment