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- Posted on Apr 8th 2010 3:30PM by Kenneth Partridge
As those latter-day groups rose to prominence, scoring moderate hits on modern-rock radio, Specials lead singer Terry Hall was heartened to learn how influential his band had been.
"I got glimpses of it, really, and I got to know some of the bands, like No Doubt," Hall tells Spinner. "I got to know Gwen [Stefani], just because there was a real connection with us and Madness and stuff."
One of Stefani's favorites, Madness ruled the British charts in the late '70s and early '80s and was among the groups that got its start recording for 2 Tone, the label cofounded by Specials keyboardist and sonic architect Jerry Dammers. While 2 Tone's roster featured a diverse bunch of acts, many drew from '60s Jamaican music, juxtaposing jaunty ska beats with lyrics about racial violence, joblessness and other political issues.
The Specials split up in the early '80s after releasing two albums, songs from which the band is featuring on its current 30th anniversary tour. This month, the newly reunited sextet heads to the North America, where it will perform at Coachella and play a handful of dates in Toronto, Los Angeles and New York City.
Hall says he's always glad to see new groups pick up the punk-ska banner, so long as they take the music in new directions.
"It's great, because that's what we did in the late '70s," he says. "We took a musical form and reshaped it a bit. If bands can do that, that's good. I guess the thing is to try to move it on a little."
Of course, American ska revivalists aren't the only ones that have been influenced by the Specials. Back in the UK, trip-hop pioneer and former Massive Attack member Tricky has been candid about his love for the band.
"He told me he played the first Specials album over and over and over, and he related to it," Hall says. "He got out of a certain culture and wanted to make music as an escape."
Such testimonials are common, Hall says, and they sometimes come from unexpected people.
"I think it was in the early '90s, I was in L.A. and having a tattoo done on my leg by this boy who didn't recognize me, but when I told him what I did, he was freaking out, because he said our first album got him out of gang culture, and now he wanted to do something else," Hall says. "I was a bit worried, because his hand started shaking."