The band emerged in Coventry in the late 1970s as the multiracial flagship of the 2 Tone movement, and enjoyed hits with tracks such as Gangsters and A Message to you, Rudy, as well as chart-toppers Ghost Town and Too Much Too Young as they sang about racism, unemployment and injustice.
Now, 40 years later they are back with a new album, Protest Songs – 1924-2012, featuring 12 takes on specially chosen protest songs across an almost 100-year span.
Bassist Horace Panter says: “People have been using music as a vehicle for protest since time immemorial.
“Injustice is timeless.”
The album follows their 2019 long-player Encore, their first number one album, and was originally envisaged as a reggae follow-up.
The current line-up of The Specials – lead singer Terry Hall, guitarist/vocalist Lynval Golding and Horace – and co-producer Nikolaj Torp Larsen gathered in February 2020 to begin work.
However, then the coronavirus pandemic hit and plans were put on hold. During the first lockdown and following the murder of George Floyd and the waves of protest that grew around the world, Terry suggested that they make a different kind of record as a response to recent events – leading to Protest Songs.
A spokesman said: “It shows the band still care and are still protesting… reflecting the society we live in and taking a stand against all forms of injustice.”
The trio started by picking some favourites, including The Mothers of Invention’s Trouble Every Day, Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows, Bob Marley’s classic rebel song Get Up, Stand Up and Trouble Every Day, about the Watts riots in 1965.
They then began researching other songs to complete the album, leading to tracks such as the Staple Singers’ Freedom Highway, written for the marches from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, and Soldiers Who Want to Be Heroes, which related to the Vietnam War.
The release, on September 24, coincides with an autumn tour, which includes a show at Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena on September 17 and Doncaster’s The Dome on September 18. For tickets, see thespecials.com/live