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From the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

The Specials

The Specials

1979

Buy At Rough Trade
The Specials
Album Summary

The Specials is the debut album by British ska revival band The Specials. Released on 19 October 1979 on Jerry Dammers' 2 Tone label, the album is seen by some as the defining moment in the UK ska scene. Produced by Elvis Costello, the album captures the disaffection and anger felt by the youth of the UK's "concrete jungle"—a phrase borrowed from Bob Marley's 1973 album Catch a Fire—used to describe the grim, violent inner cities of 1970s Britain. The album features a mixture of original material and several covers of classic Jamaican ska tracks. A live version of "Too Much Too Young" was later released on a five-track EP, The Special AKA Live!, which went to number one on the UK charts. "'A Message to You, Rudy" was also released as a single. A digitally remastered edition also featuring promotional videos to "Gangsters" and "Too Much Too Young" as enhanced content was released by EMI in 2002. In 2013, NME ranked it at number 260 on its list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time".

Wikipedia

Rating

3.3

Votes

11283
Genres
Rock
Reggae

Reviews

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Fri Dec 23 2022
5

One of the best albums ever recorded. Huge loss of Terry Hall got me to listen again.

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Mon Mar 01 2021
3

I loved this album but I also couldn't wait for it to end.

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Wed Feb 24 2021
5

One of their great album. Not sure it's my favorite, but definitely really good. Also, if anyone can see them live, totally worth it (whenever we'll have live shows again, and hopefully they're not dead by then)

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Tue Oct 05 2021
5

Absolutely magnificent album. Had the pleasure of seeing the Specials live in 1979 at Loughborough uni on the Two Tone tour with The Selecter and Dexy's. One of the best gigs of my life.

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Sat Aug 07 2021
5

if the voting structure was out of 10 then most of my 5 star reviews would be 9s. this however would be a big fat 10. i fucking love this album almost as much as a SHACK loves lamb chops.

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Sat Aug 07 2021
4

It's incredible that a bunch of kids with learning difficulties can deliver music of this quality.

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Tue Sep 14 2021
2

Contrairement à ce qu'en a dit eltrapeze, cet album n'est pas nul, il est simplement mauvais.

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Wed Jul 21 2021
5

Absolutely love this. One of my favourites as a teenager, I loved this flavour of ska-punk, reminds me of skanking wildly to the local ska punk bands at gigs in dingy basements. Disillusion and hopelessness mixed with funky bass lines and upbeat horns. Deluxe version also has a live disc which is fun, wouldn't normally like live albums but you can feel their live energy. Favourites: A message to you rudy too much too young Monkey Man

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Tue Feb 02 2021
5

Iconic album that offered more than the superb tracks it contains. Part of a force that was challenging endemic racism, acceptance of unemployment and community disintegration all done with musicality and energy that would blow your porkpie hat off!

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Mon Jul 11 2022
5

I had heard of The Specials for years and never gave them a try. Now I wish I gave them a chance sooner. Amazing album front to back. Felt ahead of its time. Not a single song on the whole record that I disliked. I know I'll be coming back to it in the future and it has me interested to check out the rest of their work. Amazing. Favorite Song: A Message To You Rudy

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Fri Dec 16 2022
5

It’s the Rude Boys ‘Abbey Road’, innit? I can see why.

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Wed Feb 10 2021
4

I was going to do a my one track mind episode with a woman originally from england about this album. Wish I had gotten to that one before I threw in the towel. I would have loved to hear her more firsthand account of this album's significance. Having an interest in punk music inevitably leads you to it's intertwining with reggae/ska/rocksteady. Jamaican music was sort of the equivalent of HipHop to a certain segment of British youth at the time. I'd also say reggae/dub is the most significant precursor to hiphop in many ways but that's a whole nother conversation. Anyway, The Specials are pretty much THE archetypal British ska/two tone band that set the pattern for so many others to follow in their wake. It might sound formulaic now, but at that time they were creating that formula. Anyway, I like this album but don't love it. I find it very enjoyable and it would probably have been a great live show back in the day. It's fun and has the right amount of punk attitude in flashes so as to not spoil the party.

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Wed Dec 20 2023
4

I found The Specials quite intimidating as a nipper, their pork pike hats and two tone outfits carrying a faint whiff of violence; all the bad kids in school seemed to have the checker logo on their bag. I'm not scared anymore, this is a great debut and was hugely influential on the British music that followed. I'm a big fan of Terry Hall's vocal style and can handle ska skanking much better than reggae snoozing.

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Mon Jul 18 2022
5

Amazing album, an all-time classic. I love the punk energy and the ska attitude working together. I find the whole thing very moving, reminiscent of a time when music tried to change things (if only peoples’ minds) and be a force for good. Hard to pick a standout track, but have always loved the closing time feel of You’re Wondering Now.

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Fri Mar 10 2023
5

A supreme vibe, some timeless bangers, and redolent of a genre that was stacked with cool bands. Only downside is that there isn't a scene half as cool as this anymore. Cheers for reminding me, lads!

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Thu Sep 16 2021
4

Thanks for introducing me the two tone genre. As a punk fan, I absolutely love this fusion with ska. It's jazzy, danceable, and full of punk energy. Lots of diversity in these tracks, setting the standard for later ska bands to follow. They don't repeat the same trick twice; it's full of surprises. Although all the tracks are good, I feel like it fell short starting with "Too Hot", but picked up again with "Blank Expression." Favorite tracks: Gangsters, A Message to You Rudy, Doesn't Make It Alright, Stupid Marriage, Too Much Too Young, You're Wondering Now

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Mon Mar 22 2021
3

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4KCB3-UZqM Favorite tracks: A Message to You Rudy, Blank Expression, Stupid Marriage. Album art: Really dig this layout, with the track list and everything framing the band photo. 3/5

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Tue Oct 26 2021
3

Ouais ça fait changement un ska reaggea.j'ai bien aimé. Ça date en plus mais ça a un bon son 3.75

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Wed Dec 20 2023
3

I liked this more than I expected, scattershot in a beguiling way. The often volcanic rockabilly guitar surprised me, and while some of lyrics are dated mansplaining, they are interesting, unusual (to me) dated mansplaining - the character and the conceits in the singer’s mode of address hold the attention. The vocals are also pleasingly fey when Hall lets his guard down.

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Tue Feb 23 2021
1

If you love spending time after work down at your local drinking lagers with the lads, or chanting club songs in a group on your way to the weekend football match...then this albums for you. I don’t particularly see the enjoyment in either of those activities, hence I didn’t get much out of listening to this music. It’s dated yobbo English reggae and it’s ugly. The whole album reminded me of the tv show Minder and the song from the same era ‘Ullo John! Got New Motor?’ by (I think) Alexei Sayle...both of which should never be allowed out of the late 70s/early 80’s and definitely be kept there under lock and key. I found listening to these tracks utterly annoying and would describe them as sloppy, crass & an insult to my senses. 1 Star

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Mon Jun 07 2021
1

No. Just no. It sounds like this research that was conducted about the most unlikeable song.

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Tue Aug 31 2021
1

No thanks, I can 100% say this will never get listened to again

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Tue Sep 14 2021
1

Je suis à deux doigts de devenir particulièrement vulgaire pour écrire cette review, comment peut on servir un album aussi minable, mais pire, comment peut on considerer cet album comme "à écouter avant de mourir"? Là Robert, permet moi de te dire que c'est la honte, et que tout le générateur est déçu de ce choix, on pensait que tu valais mieux que ça. Autant en emporte le vent donc.

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Tue Apr 04 2023
1

Are they called “The Specials” because they’re special? I don’t know and frankly I don’t care- I could barely get through this album once. This may be my least favourite album so far, so in a sense they are special.

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Fri Jun 16 2023
1

Кринж не прошедший время

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Tue Jan 19 2021
5

Ska is a part of me, and I will never turn my back on Ska!

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Wed Feb 24 2021
5

There is exactly 0 song I don't like on this album, and a lot I really like.

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Thu Mar 04 2021
5

I was listening to The Specials a day or so ago, they make me happy. I'm listening now with a giant grin on my face. As soon as I saw that chequered album cover appear on the page my grin began, and hasn't left since. I'm a kid again, with all the music that goes with that. I love it, these guys can really do no wrong in my eyes. Lovely stuff!

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Mon Jan 18 2021
5

Favourite so far. Enjoy ska and knew several songs.

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Thu Mar 25 2021
5

This was so great! I loved the vibe and the message.

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Mon Jan 18 2021
5

Just totes amazeballs, sets the feeling for the rest of the day. The gloom of the setting, offset by the bounce in the feet - noice.

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Wed Feb 24 2021
5

Jay-Eff A message to you, Jay-Eff Pa pa ra pa ra paaaa

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Sun Jan 24 2021
5

Genial, renovaron el ska haciendo que suene un poco más eléctrico pero sin que se pierdan esas ganas de bailar.

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Mon Mar 22 2021
5

some cracking songs, lively, social commentary

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Tue Mar 02 2021
5

Classic. My last year in school. Timeless.

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Tue Mar 16 2021
5

Теперь я знаю, кто это

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Fri May 14 2021
5

Excellent album, good jamming and sunny vibes, songs stuck in my head for days

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Fri Jun 18 2021
5

Definitive Punk/SKA album of the time.

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Tue Jul 20 2021
5

One of the great debut albums and still throbs with energy 40 odd years later.

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Mon Sep 20 2021
5

Very good example of ska punk. 1979. Liked it.

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Mon Oct 25 2021
5

Definitive ska album and set the (two) tone for so much to come

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Tue Oct 26 2021
5

Awesome mix of styles to create something unique. Crazy that Costello produced this between Armed Forces and Get Happy in 79. Fun to discover that little snippet of Bohemian Like You in Little Bitch. Will definitely listen again.

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Sat Oct 30 2021
5

Another undeniable classic. Two days running. Best thing to ever come out of Cov. It amuses me that a band so avowedly anti racist can be so misogynistic, but the same hatred gets turned inwards enough that you feel it may just be a general misanthropy from Terry Hall (that's borne out by him over the next 40 years!) But there is no fat in the 45 minutes here - every track is there and on point. That it is the last album on the list from the 70s is fitting, as it feels like a lot of the excess is culled here, with an urgency and excitement often missing in some of the leaden rawk stodge that pads out the decade.

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Mon Nov 08 2021
5

Bursting with bangers - my favourite album in the list so far. Dammers deserved far more praise than he got.

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Tue Nov 09 2021
5

Hard to guess what this might sound like to fresh ears, but to my older ones it is a perfect balance of black, white and the shades of grey in between. Over time, the knees-up familiarity of the hits has drowned out the angst and anger of the rest. The dubby album version of Too Much Too Young came as the biggest surprise, but ultimately a welcome one: it takes the song to a more mournful place than the spikier no-future version we're used to.

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Tue Nov 09 2021
5

A perfect snapshot in time. Life, politics and race in Britain. The kitchen sink dramas. The bottled aggression. Desperate and beautiful.

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Mon Jan 17 2022
5

Fantastic from start to finish. I think SKA ran a bit off the rails in the 90's revival, resulting in the genre getting a bad wrap. Therefore, it's incredibly refreshing to go back to the roots with this album; to be reminded of just how fun the blend of influences are. The album starts out with the seminal \"A Message to You Rudy\", which introduces not only their fusion of reggae, punk, brass, funk and R&B, but also the bands socially minded lyrical leanings. And the whole album carries on as it starts, each track iterating on the same core spirit of house-party meets social commentary. And with that said, you'll need to excuse me. I'm going to immerse myself in The Specials' discography. Cheers!

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Wed Jan 19 2022
5

It’s ska. You take it or you leave it. This one though, this one I’ll take. Gladly.

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Wed Jan 26 2022
5

Easy 5 star. One of the best two-tone bands and albums released.

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Wed Jan 26 2022
5

Been listening to this since high school. Excellent.

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Sat Jan 29 2022
5

I am a ska fanatic and this is an absolute classic. YMMV if you don’t appreciate the genre of kings.

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Sat Feb 05 2022
5

10/10 album did they invent ska? it sure sounds like they did

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Wed Feb 23 2022
5

Kamalt El Hadra Loula Me Rbo3 Ethaleth. Barcha Bal8am Vocals Wack. Prooly Working On My First Televised Interview Ever

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Fri Mar 11 2022
5

An immensely satisfying album. Not a duff track on it, and still sounds as fresh in 2022 as it did in 1979. Political, humourous, sociological music but rollicking good tunes.

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Mon Mar 14 2022
5

I grew up listening compulsively to this album - so I am not even going to pretend to leave an objective review. Still sounds great!

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Tue Jan 25 2022
5

A personal favorite and a band that influenced a whole next generation of ska and punk.

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Thu Mar 17 2022
5

A perfect picture of Britain in 1979 - an album that absolutely stands the test of time.

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Tue Jan 25 2022
5

Great band and great album, I listen to a lot of 90's ska revival and hard to argue the influence that this band had. Too bad they didn't last as this lineup for long.

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Tue Apr 05 2022
5

I loved it. This is a great ska album.

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Thu Apr 14 2022
5

Geweldig ska album, heeft veel veranderd in het ska/reggae genre

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Sat Apr 30 2022
5

A cool mix of rock'n'roll and reggae tracks.

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Tue May 31 2022
5

The Specials 2 (more pop songs) will is more of a favourite, but their debut is almost just as good and the album style is -after relistening- not even that far away from the follow-up. I would put both in the list, together with the two Fun Boy Three albums (which are 5 star as well).

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Fri Jun 24 2022
5

Rarely has a band emerged with its first album with such a clear vision statement. The look, the sound, the politics and the voice of this band is clear and strong on this record. The Specials were an integrated band, with equal influences from black (ska, reggae, soul, r'n'b) and white (punk, rock) forms. Politically engaged in the new Thatcherite England, they were both protesting and ready to party. Elvis Costello did a great job of capturing the live feel of their performances (although some contemporaneous reviews bemoan how much slower the record is than their live shows). Smart, political, and above all fun, this is such a great record. It makes me wanna take to the streets in protest _and_ dance.

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Mon Jul 18 2022
5

The sheer joy and energy from this album still gets be buzzing off me tits more than 40 years later. SO many memories of youth club discos, especially with Nightklub. I could listen and dance to this every day.

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Tue Jul 19 2022
5

Love it. Such a banger. I remember thinking Stupid Marriage was such a funny song when I was a kid

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Thu Aug 11 2022
5

Хоккейная команда с берегов Невы И музыка которую играем мы

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Sat Aug 20 2022
5

Great album, full energy and holding up well. One of those albums that makes me grin.

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Fri Sep 02 2022
5

Adelantados a su época, álbum impecable y claramente influyente dentro del género. Nite Klub y Too Much Too Young son par de bombas.

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Thu Sep 08 2022
5

Rating: 9/10 Best songs: A message to you Rudy, Do the dog, Concrete jungle, Monkey man, New era

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Mon Sep 19 2022
5

heard the songs, never listened to the whole thing. how is that possible. Now I understand why all ska bands sound the same (in a good way) they're trying to recreate this sound.

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Tue Oct 04 2022
5

What a statement of intent this album was. So good still

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Mon Oct 10 2022
5

Now we're talking. 5*s in the bank. wall to wall hits. hard to beat really

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Thu Oct 13 2022
5

Never listened to this before, expected quite a bit due to its timelessness, it did not disappoint! Upbeat, sounds great today so must have blown people away in ‘79

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Tue Nov 01 2022
5

Really upbeat music. A touch of reggae and light alt rock.

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Tue Nov 15 2022
5

I didn't knew I could enjoy ska music and that I just did. A great album and lovely tunes.

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Wed Nov 16 2022
5

I listened to this last week, without prompting. Take that, algorithm. *adjusts porkpie hat* *skanks away*

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Thu Nov 24 2022
5

Whatcha gonna do? Just dropped this rating on you! This kinda ballz. special album no cap fr fra

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Thu Dec 08 2022
5

The perfect 2-tone album. This started the 2nd wave and lots of good things would've never existed if it wasnt for The Specials.

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Thu Dec 29 2022
5

This is an album I wish I'd been more familiar with. Better late than never!

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Thu Jan 05 2023
5

It’s pretty remarkable the effect Bob Marley, Toots, and Jamaican music at large had on the world. It’s pretty remarkable that such a huge subsection of disaffected, urban, English youth would turn to rocksteady, ska, and largely upbeat, surface-level-silly music to express their frustration with the modern world’s widening inequality gap and bureaucratic absurdisms. The result is a fantastically satirical and fun record that feels utterly timeless. As relevant and influential today as it was in 1979. A perfect cross-section of world music, punk rock, and new wave with more angst, political heart, and purpose than most burgeoning music scenes can hope for. The world of music in the 1980s, 90s and beyond would feel very different if not for this record. I am especially partial to the band’s sophomore album, More Specials, but what that album gains in sophistication, songwriting, and studio fidelity, it loses in spirit, urgency, and tenacity. To listen to the their self-titled debut today is to look back through history and experience a movement otherwise frozen in time. Few records, in my opinion, can claim that power quite like The Specials can.

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