After a series of half-baked attempts over the years — Special Beat, anyone? — the near-complete reunion of 2 Tone ska legends The Specials finally had its public coming-out this week on the UK’s “Later with Jools Holland.”
Performing together for the first time since 1981, the original lineup — minus founding songwriter/keyboardist Jerry Dammers — played “Gangsters” and “A Message to You Rudy” on Tuesday’s broadcast. Two other performances — “Man at C&A” and “Little Bitch” aired Friday.
The broadcast (scroll down for full video) comes in advance of the Specials’ 30th anniversary tour of the UK, which kicks off April 22 in Newcastle and runs through mid-May. Dates in Australia and Japan were announced this week, as well.
Ever since singers Terry Hall and Neville Staple, along with guitarist Lynval Golding, quit to form Fun Boy Three in 1981, the remnants of the Specials have played together in myriad permutations, beginning with Dammers’ revival of the band’s original handle, The Special AKA, for one last album, In the Studio.
In the early ’90s, some of the band’s members teamed up with remnants of The Beat to form Special Beat, which toured extensively. Minus Dammers and Hall, the Specials released a string of albums in the late ’90s and early 2000s.
In recent years, Hall warmed up to the idea of reuniting with the band and began playing with some of his former bandmates. Last year, he announced the Specials would reunite in 2009 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their classic self-titled, Elvis Costello-produced debut.
While Hall told the press that the “door was open” for Dammers to take part, the keyboardist claimed he “was not invited to take part in this proposed tour, or even told about it.” In a lengthy December statement, Dammers called the reassembled Specials “a takeover, rather than a proper reunion” on the part of Hall.
Nevertheless, the reunion — featuring original members Hall, Staple, Golding, Roddy Radiation, Sir Horace Gentleman and John Bradbury — is on, with nearly every date sold out.
Video: The Specials on “Later with Jools Holland,” 4/7/09 and 4/10/09