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- Posted on Mar 18th 2010 3:00PM by Kenneth Partridge
Missing from the lineup is Jerry Dammers, the svengali keyboardist who formed the group, as well as its record label, 2 Tone, in the late '70s. While lead singer Terry Hall would have liked to reassemble the entire crew, he insists Dammers' absence hasn't soured the reunion.
"Not at all," Hall tells Spinner. "Jerry is Jerry, and he hasn't changed since I first met him in 1977. He does what he does. He sort of likes to stand alone, and I think that's unrealistic to try to do that now."
The Specials have been touring since late 2008, performing songs from the two albums they released before splitting up in the early '80s. Hall says Dammers was invited to participate but unwilling to perform the old songs as they sound on record. Ever the boundary pusher, he wanted to rework the tunes, as he's now doing with his rival free-jazz outfit, the Spatial AKA.
"I had a meeting with him when we first talked about [the reunion], and it was quite a constructive meeting, but his ideas didn't really feel right for the band," Hall says. "We've said to him all along we're going to go play this stuff -- the six members out of seven, we all own the name. If you want to join us, you should join us. We feel like we want to celebrate [our first two records] with the people that want to see it. He lives in Jerryland."
Beyond Jerryland, the band has fared well. Throughout Great Britain, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, the Specials have played to ecstatic audiences -- multi-generational mixes of aging rude boys and young ska enthusiasts. Next month, the group will perform at Coachella, appear on 'Late Night With Jimmy Fallon' and play a series of dates in Los Angeles, Toronto and New York City.
"The reaction to what we've been doing has been really positive, but that's what we set out to do," Hall says, adding that the idea of revisiting classic material has become more acceptable. "I went to see the Pixies in Brixton a couple years ago and again to see them play 'Doolittle.' I went to see Patti Smith play 'Horses.' It was OK. It's difficult, but you can only gauge it on the audience's reaction, really, and it's been fantastic."
Despite the beef with Dammers, Hall hasn't ruled out the possibility that all seven members will meet in the studio and record new music.
"That would be great," he says. "That would be fantastic. We fall out all the time, but underneath that there are strong feelings."