Moments: Ghost Town goes to No 1

18 01 2012

One of the most of the extraordinary chart-toppers if all time, The Specials masterpiece, Ghost Town has been wheeled out a lot in the last few years, be it because of global recession, or last summers riots in London (and elsewhere). It remains a prescient a damning indictment of government, of elements of youth culture and of the far-right, but if it remains appropriate 21 years after its release, that is nothing to how it summed up how it was to live in the UK  in 1981.

Yet Ghost Town was The Specials swansong, just two years after their début single, Gangsters. The band had fallen to pieces, and Ghost Town was a final chance to make something coherent, and they couldn’t have picked a better statement.

The Specials had formed in Coventry in 1977, but really found their identity after supporting The Clash (Joe Strummer was an early supporter of the group) where a member of  fellow support band Suicide had been beaten up by members of the National Front, at that point on a mission to disrupt as much of society as possible. The band realised they had to make music to unite these people – a curious mix of the hippie and punk aesthetics.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Moments: The Smiths Play This Charming Man on TOTP

9 01 2012

When Johnny Marr was a kid, he watched Top of the Pops, that then-immovable baramoter of the nation’s music taste, saw T.Rex play Metal Guru, and so filled with energy from the performance, he rode on his bike for miles and miles before realising he was completely lost. 11 years later he was providing a new generation their own moment to lose themselves to.

On the face of it, is surprising that The Smiths first (of 11, and Morrissey would return to the show 11 more times as a solo artist) performance on Top of the Pops is so revered and regarded, in fact on the face of it, it isn’t even a performance at all, the thing is mimed.

Perhaps the reason that it spoke to a generation (everyone from Nicky Wire to Noel Gallagher have cited it) is how joyful it is. Morrissey’s stated intention was to “bring some life to Top of the Pops”, and he certainly does that. Eschewing a microphone as everyone knew they were miming anyway, it a moment of sheer joy, matching the effervescence of the record, with balloons, flowers and and Morrissey having fun with his audience. Indeed if you ever wanted proof that The Smiths were more than the miserablists that they are often written off as, you would only need to show them this video.  Read the rest of this entry »