grapevine

Buy the double Vinyl LP here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B007JU8E7U/emimusiccamp001-21531-21/ref=nosim

Buy the Double CD here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B007JU7WXC/emimusiccamp001-21532-21/ref=nosim

The Specials
‘More…Or Less. The Specials Live’

Live compilation of the legendary band’s 2011 tour

Release date: 6th August, 2012

Double CD
CD 1
1. A Message To You Rudy
2. Do The Dog
3. It’s Up To You
4. Nite Klub
5. Doesn’t Make It Alright
6. Concrete Jungle
7. Too Hot
8. Monkey Man
9. (Dawning Of A) New Era
10. Blank Expression
11. Stupid Marriage
12. Too Much Too Young
13. Little Bitch
14. You’re Wondering Now
CD 2
1. Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think)
2. Rat Race
3. Man At C&A
4. Hey Little Rich Girl
5. Do Nothing
6. Pearl’s Cafe
7. Stereotype
8. Ghost Town
9. Friday Night, Saturday Morning
10. International Jet Set
11. Gangsters
12. Guns Of Navarone

Vinyl Album

Side 1
1. A Message To You Rudy
2. Do The Dog
3. It’s Up To You
4. Nite Klub
5. Doesn’t Make It Alright
6. Concrete Jungle
7. Too Hot
Side 2
1. Monkey Man
2. (Dawning Of A) New Era
3. Blank Expression
4. Stupid Marriage
5. Too Much Too Young
6. Little Bitch
7. You’re Wondering Now
Vinyl 2
Side 1
1. Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think)
2. Rat Race
3. Man At C&A
4. Hey Little Rich Girl
5. Do Nothing
6. Pearl’s Cafe
Side 2
1. Stereotype
2. Ghost Town
3. Friday Night, Saturday Morning
4. International Jet Set
5. Gangsters
6. Guns Of Navarone

To celebrate The Specials’ appearance at the Hyde Park Olympic Games Concert alongside Blur and New Order, representing the best of British music, EMI will release a live document of the band - the ‘best of the best’ tracks taken from the band’s 2011 European tour dates.

As one of the UK’s most important and influential bands of all-time, The Specials recent reformation and subsequent live shows were a culturally defining event as the multi-racial band who brought the world the revolutionary 2-Tone movement, fusing punk and ska and much more besides, toured the UK and Europe playing to tens of thousands of people, many of whom never got to see the remarkable band in their heyday.

The Specials have always been considered one of the UK’s greatest, most incendiary live bands and this 26 song, 2CD collection (also available on double vinyl) proves what became legend was always true, then, and, once again, now. Starting off in Amsterdam and doing a kind of clockwise trek around Europe, which included Berlin, Munich, Milan, Cologne, Hamburg, Paris and Brussels, then Moved onto the UK which included Manchester, Glasgow, Nottingham, Cardiff, Coventry, London and more. The band moved from sell out show to sell out show.
It’s a live set of exceptional quality, and was recorded at different venues in Europe and the UK during the 2011 tour. The band have selected the best of all the live recordings. It’s a set in which the audience play a crucial role, cheering the band on and singing on many tracks, but always adding to the excitement rather than proving a distraction. And the songs about race, unemployment, or the importance of have a great time, still sound as rousing, thoughtful and relevant as ever.

IT`S A MARATHON NOT A RACE……
………..& a show of Olympic proportions!! The Specials are proud to announce their involvement in the Closing Ceremony Celebration Concert & an opportunity to celebrate the best that is British. It promises to be a balmy Sunday evening 12th August when The Specials take to the Hyde Park Stage for their only UK show of 2012. Since reforming in 2009 the band have played in excess of 100 sold out shows across the world cementing their reputation as one of the best live bands to grace the stage. The Best Of British is a fitting accolade.

Stone Foundation will be supporting The Specials at “Live At The Marquee” in Cork June 11th 2012

John ‘Brad’ Bradbury tells Eddy Lawrence about growing up in the Detroit of the UK and living with political déjà vu

Unlike many of the other outfits currently supplementing their non-existent pensions with reunion tours, The Specials seem to have been conjured out of the ether by current events. Britain, it seems, has gone crazy for the pearl jubilee of their depressing masterpiece ‘Ghost Town’, reviving trends like economic depression, social injustice and burning sportswear shops to mark the occasion.
This week the Two-Tone stalwarts play the last London show of their reformation. Unlike their previous dates, deliberately booked for multiple nights in smaller venues, this is being up scaled to the 10,000 capacity Alexandra Palace so
everyone has a chance to give them a good send-off. However, as member John ‘Brad’ Bradbury
informs us, there’s almost certainly more to come from the band, who are
currently kicking around ideas for new material—their first since the group split properly in 1984—which will likely facilitate future one-off gigs. Plus, as he explains, the band still has plenty to say.

Your comeback has been, sadly, very fitting for the times. How does it feel to still be so relevant?
‘I honestly think that the socio-political message that we put together in our early original days is at the same value as it was then. I don’t think much has changed. Our live intro film starts with a picture of Thatcher and ends with a picture of Cameron, and they get the same degree of boos, which is quite interesting. It’s like being “Ghost Town” on tour. If anything, it’s worse now than it was then. To put it quite simply, things haven’t improved; we’re on the cusp of a massive recession. So, here we go again. We’re out there doing it, and I don’t think its anachronistic, I think it’s doing the same as we were doing back in ‘79 to ‘81—it’s got the same power and the same meaning now as it did then.’

Were you expecting to see riots again?
‘It was obvious that something was going to happen sooner or later, and the social network situation helped it
happen as well. My wife, Emily— she was really worried —I mean, we live in North London, and we were away from it, but we were watching it on TV and it was like it was round the corner. I said, look, this’ll be like a bad nightmare after the weekend, and it was; by Friday it was just like a bad bloody dream. The actual violence, fires and looting had gone away, but the underlying problem hasn’t, that’s still very much there. So what do l think about the riots? I think they happened and l think we’ve got to learn from them, big time. They’ll go down in history, quite heavily chronicled, as a bad turn of events.’

At the same time, the coverage has tended to focus on the most extreme fringes on all sides of the debate, whereas the majority of the generation being blamed for the trouble is eminently sensible.
‘Way back in ‘76 1 used to work for an organisation in Coventry, called the Community Education Project. They would go round teaching English as a second language to the immigrant kids in Coventry. And it was some of the best- times of my life, that was—Coventry being multicultural, one of the original cosmopolitan areas. There was such an attitude towards immigration in those days, but when you work with people, you teach kids from different backgrounds, different cultures, you realise that they’re really good souls. But it’s only the fringe stuff that people are interested in and that people get to see. I think the kids are all right.’

In some respects, in those days Coventry seems to have been the Memphis of the Midlands… ‘Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. I bang on about this but the fact is, when I was seven or eight, my family’s friends from West Indian backgrounds, from the subcontinent backgrounds, they were playing diverse music and I was listening to it from an early age. So, for me, Coventry was a wonderful place to grow up. It put me on the right track musically and also taught me how l want to talk to people, what I want to, if you like, “preach” to people about multiculturalism. And when you say Memphis, you might as well include soul, an area of music that Coventry was known for as well. There’s reggae music and bhangra music. It was like the Detroit of the UK almost, with the cars. Most of my family worked on the car track there. I have tremendously good memories from then. Musically, it was a tremendous place to grow up,
no doubt about it’

At the moment the political narrative Is that multiculturalism Is breaking down…
‘I don’t get this. I don’t get this at all. My mum was a shop steward until she retired and beyond. Working for GEC in Coventry, she was very sort of Labour orientated. She spent a lot of time helping people, immigrant workers, you know, with their plight. All the people I’ve met and all the things I’ve had to deal with, including working with The Community Education Project, has made me a better fucking person. And I know that I’ve got a wider view on life from that, not a narrower one, so I’m all for it. It brought me to the conclusion that we need to come together and not split apart.’

Back from Brussels, a few days off and into rehearsals in London with the string section. Ah yes, the string section. When this was first mentioned a year or so ago I was sceptical to say the least. We had a rehearsal earlier in the year to try them out and I must admit it didn’t sound half bad. Brad`s plan was for them to play the ‘synthetic strings’ parts on Friday Night/Saturday Morning and Do Nothing also the high shrieking bits on the chorus of Ghost Town which we thought was missing on our version of it. This evolved to them playing the ‘Ahh Ahh’ bits on Stereotypes, doubling the brass parts on Man at C&A and the descending figure at the end of the verses on International Jet Set. They also ended up playing on You’re Wondering Now too.
Ellie plays violin, her sister Laura plays viola and Jess (not related) plays cello. They are all top flight professional musos and they know Tim (trombone) and talk about rallentandos, bar numbers, third crotchet on the left and stuff like that. Despite all that they seem pleased to be here and are looking forward, as we are, to seeing what it looks like and hearing what it sounds like.
Three days of London rehearsals are followed by two days of production rehearsals at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall where we start the tour with two nights of shows there on Tuesday October 11 and Wednesday October 12.
The pre-production days are hell to be honest. We play our tunes so that the lighting people can get their cues and so that the visuals we are using can be properly aligned to the music. Our planned projection onto a screen in front of the stage is scrapped in favour of it being projected onto the backdrop, the band coming on towards the end of the slide show. Judging when to come on turns into a hilarious episode where no-one in the crew seems to know what they are doing and we have to do the whole thing about four times.Terry revels in the chaos of it all. I have rarely seen him be so funny. So, here we are, Specials U.K. Tour 2011. 15 shows in 23 days.

Tuesday 11th. October

Wolverhampton Civic Hall 1

Being a Coventry based, home loving sort of man, I’ve been commuting to Wolverhampton from home. Gives me time to focus on the way and unwind on the way back. I’ve been picking up Neville and Trevor, his oppo, as well.
We have two support bands on this trip, By The Rivers, a young white reggae band from Leicester and The Stone Foundation, an authentic mod/soul outfit, also from The Midlands - big on the scooter circuit I’m given to understand.
I reckon with all the stuff, crew, support bands and so on, there are around 60 people on the road. I know our touring party is 48 people strong. There are 2 crew buses, three trucks and the Abbey Road guys in their mobile studio ex-post office van and merchandising as well. It’s the biggest Specials operation so far, so there’s a lot riding on these shows. So, showtime and to say that I was nervous would be an understatement but if you’re a regular reader you’ll know I’m always nervous.
The introduction works all right and we bang into Gangsters. It is soon obvious that we have entered into what Brad justly describes as a World of Pain. The p.a. is far too powerful for the room and bass frequencies flood the stage. It sounds like we’re playing in a room where jet engines are being tested at the same time. The performance does not have the finesse of the recent European shows but to be honest, Brad and I are playing on ‘autopilot’. The strings sound good though and I thought the new numbers were played well. To be honest I was glad to get it over with. I think my nerves got the better of me tonight.

Wednesday 12th October

Wolverhampton Civic Hall 2

Got to the venue a bit earlier so that Brad and I could work on our stage sound. Marcos and Rabbit (You must know our front-of-house sound engineer and monitor guy by now!) have taken a lot of the sub-bass out of the p.a. (We don’t need it in a ‘small’ venue like this one!) and Brad is a lot happier than last night. Me too as it goes. A different type of nervous tension tonight for some reason but as always, there’s nothing I can do about it.
The Persuaders theme song starts up and the slide-show with its’ images of the past 30 years comes up and on we go. Neville steps into his spotlight and grabs his michrophone. ‘Bernie Rhodes Knows Don’t Hargue’. You know the rest. The gig is a blinder. As good as any of the European shows. Lynval dedicates Message To You to two young lads who were sitting our side of the barrier. Terry invites them onto the stage and they stand there, as we play the song around them, 3,000 people singing along. I reckon they’ll remember that for the rest of their lives. Brad and I played like demons. We were ‘back on form’.

Friday 14th October

Manchester Apollo 1

Thursday was a day off. I went back to Coventry and how I spent my day is absolutely none of your business! Friday sees Neville, Trevor and I on the 12:31 train to Manchester. We play 2 nights here at the Apollo, a venue we first appeared at in August 1978 when we were opening for The Clash. We headlined here a year later with Madness and The Selecter and again, thirty years later in 2009. I find myself a cold bunker-like room in the attic of the vast concrete old theatre and await show time. The girls (string section) are next door and making a lot of noise. It’s all i-pod docks and curling tongs. They sound like they’re having fun.
Still nervous but it’s 9 o clock…showtime. The show seems to lose momentum about 15 minutes in. There’s a group of slower tunes (Blank Expression,Too Hot and Doesn’t Make It Alright) that slow everything down a little too early for my liking. The string section songs are politely received too.
International Jet Set is obviously not a rude boy crowd pleaser but there again, it wasn’t supposed to be. This is something I’ve noticed and we’ve talked about…The Two Specials. There’s the ‘first album’ band, all Doc Martens, tonic suits and Ben Shermans. Long Shot Kick De Bucket and 200 skinheads on stage. Then there’s the ‘2nd album/Ghost Town’ band which was a lot more studious, musically. The band that people associate with is not the second incarnation. There aren’t too many fans turning up to see The Specials wearing Zoot suits, berets and sporting goatee beards. The Manchester Skinhead Moonstompers don’t get the party they expected. It’s a difficult problem. Are we a tribute act to ourselves.. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen,The World’s greatest Specials tribute band…..The Specials!!’ Or do we become this ‘Heritage Act’ which gives us a certain room to maneuver, creatively. (I’m sure that’s not how you spell maneuver!).
All these thoughts filter through as we play through the show. Neville hams it up big time during Stupid Marriage and Terry is his terse self as he leaves the stage for Concrete Jungle ‘I’m off to see the last 5 minutes of Grand Designs - and see if Paul’s got that roof on.’) Stand-up beckons.
Ghost Town is tremendous but there is an audible groan as we start to play You’re Wondering Now, our last song. I get the impression that tomorrow the facebook conversations will be about the songs we didn’t play, rather than the ones we did. I leave the Apollo with Neville, Trevor and Brad and am back at the hotel and tucked up in bed by midnight. Honestly!

Saturday 15th October

Manchester Apollo 2

Breakfast is a noisy affair at the Malmaison. Voodoo Chile (Slight return) is not my ideal sound track to a Full English. In fact I consider it kind of sacrilegious. It’s indicative of the lowered status of music, even. Something as incendiary as Jimi Hendrix’s finest hour being relegated to elevator music is almost emasculating. It casts an interesting light on what we are doing.
The morning is spent walking around a very busy Manchester. There is an anti-banking demonstration in a nearby square and policemen (and very tough-looking security guards) outside the nearby Barclays Bank. Aston Villa play Manchester City and there are lots of police escorting football-types around the city. ‘Vibrant’ becomes ‘edgy’. I’m from Coventry, a smaller city which these days doesn’t have a football team. Lynval is visiting relatives in Leeds and Terry is at Anfield watching his revered Manchester United draw one-all against Liverpool, so our soundcheck is a somewhat depleted affair.
Showtime and for some reason, I’m not as nervous. It always amazes me how each show develops a life of its own. Tonight has a lot more energy than last night but is somehow more relaxed (if that makes sense!). We miss out Pearl’s Cafe (again) which I am not happy about. Courage mes braves!
Ghost Town is great. I am so happy that we have finally nailed it. I never thought we did the song justice in 2009 but the string section and some work in the bass and drum department have given it the majesty it deserves. I am able to meet up with guests after the show. A gentleman from Leicester, one of Drew’s (saxophone) buddies wants to make Rod and I a guitar each, for nothing. Well, a photo endorsing his work. I’m tempted…but how many bass guitars do I need? I get to meet Craig Gannon, a buddy of Terry’s and 2nd guitarist in The Smiths for a while. Nice bloke. After we get dropped off at the hotel, Andy, our runner who has been shuttling us backwards and forwards from the hotel to the gig for the past two days, says ‘Thanks, It’s been a real pleasure working for you guys. You’re real gentlemen‘. Cool. So are you Andy, so are you.

Sunday 16th October

Hull Arena

I have to wait 40 minutes for breakfast and am forced to listen to Lynryd
Skynryd (?) during the process. Come on Malmaison, you can do better than that. Especially at those prices.
Despite all the ‘About as interesting as a Sunday afternoon in Hull‘ references I’m looking forward to this one. They don’t do too many shows here, Hull not being renowned as a bastion of rock and roll and I’m hoping the crowd will be up for a good time. They usually are though, aren’t they.
The venue is an ice rink. It is freezing. The crew are all anoraks, gloves and wooly hats. The ice is covered by wooden boards, obviously, but that doesn’t make it warm by any means. Backstage facilities are spartan to say the least but it’s warm in catering and there are some friendly faces. One of our three trucks is being driven by Gareth who comes from Coventry, Allesley Park even. He was an an electrical apprentice at Jaguar, Browns Lane, where Roddy’s dad used to work. When it closed he was made redundant and ended up driving rock and roll trucks. Nice kid. Showtime and it’s a bit warmer. The show hasn’t sold out but you could have fooled me, looking out at the sea of faces, some of whom I recognize. Willo and Mike Cornwell from Specials 2 are there as is superfan Terry who is up at the front stage right, grinning. Like a lot of people tonight. The show is great. Terry (Hall) stays on stage for Concrete Jungle and sings along with Roddy, making it sound a lot more powerful. There’s even a fight over on stage right during A Message To You, a message that fell on deaf ears then… For our second encore we put Guns of Navarone in before Little Bitch, making it a 3-song encore with You’re Wondering Now. Hull gets the most ‘value for money’ show so far. Afterwards we hustle back onto our bus and head back to the disastrously-kitchened rock and roll elevator music palace that is Manchester’s Malmaison hotel.
(They were playing Steve Miller when we got back at 1:30)

Monday 17th October

Travel Day. Manchester - Glasgow

A private jet, you ask?
Helicopters even?
A fleet of limousines?
A luxury coach?
Wrong!
Network Rail a do it!
Well, a cramped but not unfriendly little train to Preston and then a Virgin express to Glasgow. The tickets cost £139 each and there are 10 of us in the party. That’s nearly £1400. Neville and I consider this to be an enormous sum but cheaper than a helicopter I suppose. A slightly changed set list is suggested and approved. We’ll bring Rat Race up the set, also Pearl’s cafe and move Do Nothing so it comes after Stereotype. It should make the set work a little better. We kind of take over the waiting room/cafe in Preston station for a while which is not without its comedic moments. On the train I finish reading Pauline Black’s autobiography which Roddy has lent me. The stuff about her finding her birth parents was interesting.
We reach a rain-swept Glasgow in the early evening and head for…The Glasgow Malmaison. I trust the kitchen is better organised than their Manchester counterpart. The taxi driver who takes us there says it’s a pity we’re playing on the same night that Rangers play Liverpool. Football one, Specials, nil. Was it ever thus?

Tuesday 18th October

Glasgow S.E.C.C.

The Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (I always wondered what S.E.C.C. stood for) is basically the N.E.C. (National exhibition Centre) but in Scotland. A collection of vast cavernous sheds that house…. exhibitions; The Clothes Show: WWF Wrestling and visiting bands like The Foo Fighters but not The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, cos they play stadiums. Like I said it is a big vacuous rectangular room with the stage along one of the larger sides and bars along the shorter sides. We could (I suppose) have done two nights at the Academy, which is where we played last time we were here, but that’s by the by. We’re here at the rather impersonal S.E.C.C. The dressing rooms are about 100 yards from the stage and everyone seems to travel by fork lift truck. Neville is beset by his perennial problem of knees that don’t work and sits out the soundcheck in front of Marcos’s sound desk in a wheelchair.
A very fetching young physiotherapist will visit him later and revtalise his lower limbs. Perform a miracle even.
There is one factor in this evenings show I have neglected to mention and that is that Glasgow audiences are totally fucking mental. Showtime and I feel like I’m 25 again. The crowd sing their hearts out, bless em. Every song, even International Jet Set, which is rapidly becoming my favourite tune of the show. Roddy seems in a bad mood for some reason, probably pissed off at having to get up at 8 a.m. tomorrow for the Coventry posse’s flight back to Birmingham. A few people comment that this was the best gig on the tour so far. Thank you Glasgow and goodnight. Could we do 2 nights at The Academy next time… Please?

Friday 21st October

Nottingham Arena

Flight from Glasgow to Birmingham for the Coventry posse. We met the singer from The Stone Foundation’s mum at Glasgow airport. Hilarity ensued, Neville on top form. Incorrigible. Picked up in Brum by ‘Uncle‘ Sam Harris and I was home just after lunch. Result. Two days off.
Friday and we’re picked up in ‘the last van in the garage’ by Faisal, Sammy’s buddy. (Sam couldn’t do the run as he was driving The Beat to Southampton).
We’re at the Nottingham Arena by 3.30 in time to hang around for half an hour before we do a soundcheck. The gig is another huge enormo-dome. A far cry from Rock City, where we played on our last visit to the city in 2009.
The gig’s capacity, according to our itinerary, is 6,500. It sounds horrendous on stage but the crew says it sounds great out front. Well, they would, wouldn’t they.
Six and a half thousand people make a lot of noise you know. Showtime and they are all up for it. The place is full of people and all of a sudden a huge cavernous concrete sports hall becomes a great dance hall. Roddy is in a bad mood again and spits and snarls through the show, dropping more than a few notes. I think he may have had too much to drink. It does not dampen the audiences enthusiasm and the response is fantastic. I had real doubts as to whether we could successfully play these larger venues but the evidence points to the fact we can. After the show, a perfect gig is made even more perfect by meeting This Is England director Shane Meadows. He is a star struck as I am. Top bloke.

Saturday 22nd October

Travel Day Nottingham - Plymouth

A restless night, punctuated by the shrieks of late night revellers is followed by a sleepy breakfast. (Scrambled eggs on toast) A posh coach arrives and takes us from Nottingham to Plymouth. We stop a couple of times. It is boring. Get into Plymouth at around 5.30 All the crew are at the hotel too.
There is a wedding going on (Sam and Christina’s). I’m really tempted to get my suit out and wander in. ‘Hi, yeah, I work with Sam’s dad. You probably don’t recognise me with the suit on. Who are you?’ Twenty or so years ago I’d have been more than up for it but I end up at Pizza Express (Chicken pancetta salad) and am back in the hotel by 7.30. It’s the start of a three-in-a-row tomorrow.
Sunday 23rd October

Plymouth Pavilion

120bpm bass drums from the Wetherspoons down the road keep me awake until the place closes at 2.30 but the rest of the night is peaceful. After breakfast I watch a still-drunk blonde woman attempt to walk up the hill outside the hotel. She keeps bumping into the railings, standing still for a few moments, flicking her hair back attempting to reassure anyone looking at her that she really is in charge of her faculties before stumbling a few more steps up the hill.
I’m met at the gig by my buddy Andy Pearson, bass player of no small renown, having worked with The Toasters for two years, a stretch with Neville’s band and currently playing in The Beat (Ranking Roger’s version)
After a cacophonous soundcheck we talk bass-related drivel for a couple of hours before it’s time to get nervous for tonight’s show.
The reason Roddy has been spitting and snarling through the past few shows is because Terry has started singing Concrete Jungle. It was always agreed that Rod would sing it and he has since the band reformed. Terry had brought up the subject a few months ago that we should re-visit it. Rod would never stand centre-stage to sing it and it looked visually awkward. I would take Terry’s mich for the choruses. The upshot of all this is that in Hull, Terry stayed on stage and, much to everyone’s surprise, sang Concrete Jungle with Rod. It sounded great, the extra voice gave the song a lot more power but it put Roddy’s nose out of joint. This hasn’t helped and has ratcheted up the tension. There now exists the band…and Roddy which is sad.
All this does not stop 3,750 fans having a ball when the band starts up at 9.00p.m. It is a great gig. A little fast in my opinion, but full of power. Lynval finds two 11-12 year-old lads to bring onto the stage for A Message To You and they both pogo(?) along to the tune. A terrific evening. Concrete Jungle never sounded as powerful.

Monday 24th October

Centaur Ballroom, Cheltenham Racecourse

11‘o’clock departure from Plymouth and a 4-hour trek to Cheltenham in our Ellisons coach. Corporate Hospitality as it says on the side of the bus. We disembark outside a small hotel in a quiet Cheltenham cul-de-sac and I have just enough time to cut myself shaving before we get back on the bus to go to the gig, a sizeable ballroom attached to Cheltenham’s famous racecourse. At the end of soundcheck, Terry asks Marcos ‘Can you get it any louder?’ I would have thought he would be used to our engine-testing-shed pre-gig routine by now. Dinner is gorgeous; lamb stew. For some inexplicable reason, I am not nervous this evening. I have no idea why - perhaps I have finally expended my body’s supply of adrenaline or finally achieved some Bhuddist -like state without realizing it.
We take to the stage at 9 to be greeted by a 3,000 - strong audience, most of whom are quite sedate. As far as I could gather, the venue does not generally host rock shows and this is something of a first for Metropolis, our promoters.
We play with no less vim and vigor than we usually do but the response, compared to Manchester or Glasgow is quite tame. Things do go a little awry on stage however. I drop a few notes on Dawning Of A New Era, Lynval messes up the intro to It’s Up To You and Nev kind of loses the talk-over bit in the middle. Terry comes over to me and says ‘This will be remembered as The Evening Of Mistakes’. He ain’t wrong there. I start playing Pearl’s Cafe when everyone else is starting Hey Little Rich Girl. I don’t think anyone noticed (unless of course you bought that evening’s live c.d.!) The audience are quite hard work this evening despite there being a sizeable Coventry contingent. I discuss all this with the Metropolis guys after the show and we reach the conclusion that the majority of the crowd do not know how to behave as an audience, if that makes sense. It’s the downside of playing somewhere that doesn’t have a regular concert venue I suppose. I’m not complaining, the show had some great moments and the audience were singing fit to burst by the time we got to Message To You, Nite Klub and Too Much Too Young. Perhaps expecting a ‘Glasgow’ every night is aiming a little too high. After the concert I meet John, who was a Cheltenham skinhead and attended the fateful Whitcombe Lodge show back in 1979 where the Coventry Skins, under the pretext of ‘following’ The Specials resoundly whupped their Cheltenham counterparts. I have a dim recollection of the show. John was reasonably philosophical about it. ‘It didn’t matter, cos a fortnight later the Cov skins got stuffed by Chelsea’ Honour restored.

Tuesday 25th October

Brighton Arena

The bus leaves at the unearthly hour of 10.17 and we wend our way south through the Gloucestershire countryside to make the M4 Eastbound. Then its round the M25 (surprisingly easily!) and down the M23 which gets us into Brighton bright and early. Well, half past two but anything for a bit of alliteration eh! I am starting to get grindingly (?) tired. This is the third show in a row for us boys, most of whom are nearer 60 than 50. My elbows have started to hurt for some reason but the rest of me is pretty good. After the soundcheck it’s back to the age-old dilemma. Do I sleep or do I eat? I eat.
(Baked Salmon with risotto rice) then rest my weary bones until showtime.
The Brighton crowd seem strangely reserved, hardly a murmur during the intro slide-show. Perhaps they were thinking. Anyhow, by the time we get to Monkey Man, it’s business as usual. Brad plays a little slower this evening… thank goodness and the show relaxes into a nice groove. A bit too nice really, we seem to lack a bit of vim this evening. A scrap breaks out at the front up by Neville towards the end of the show which dampens things down for me. That hasn’t happened for a long time….just one guy losing it. Terry is acerbic as ever, ‘Finished have we, girls? I was like that after my first pint’. Never argue with a man with a michrophone. First encore Ghost Town absolutely rocks It sounds fantastic these days. Second encore, Little Bitch is a tad slower and better for it as far as my wrists and fingers are concerned anyway.
After the show I visit with some friends and am approached by Kevin, who has come all the way from Argentina to see us. ‘Can I take a photo with you?’ he asks, after he has given me a copy of his band’s c.d. (Los Aggrotones if you are interested) A photo? - I ought to buy you a bloody camera! Argentina!
Amazing. After only about half an hour of ‘catching up’ I’m whisked away to the coach to find everyone is waiting for me to depart for London. That’s a first! A couple of hours later and we disembark outside the swanky new St. Pancras hotel. I can now count the shows we have left on the fingers of one hand.

Thursday 27th October

B.I.C.C. Bournemouth

Day off in London on the 26th. Lovely. It has come to my notice that this day off has come in the middle of two three-day runs. So that’s six gigs in seven days (with the day off in the middle) That’s quite a punishing schedule for us old-timers. Come to think of it, it’s a punishing schedule for anybody!!
Anyway, coach from swanky St. Pancras to Bournemouth, where it is belting down with rain. Nothing is more miserable than an English seaside resort, off season, in the rain. Blackpool was the same in 2009. We reach our hotel at 2.30. I get to my room and lie on the bed. A split second later it is 3.30 and time to leave for the venue. I clamber onto the bus and realise I’ve left my tour pass behind. I’m still half asleep when we get to the gig. Soundcheck is kind of perfunctory and after some beef bourginion I’m back asleep in the dressing room. It’s that stage of the tour. The tiredness is cumulative. I have to work on nervous energy and coffee. Back in the day this was when I’d start taking drugs. There are four shows left and it’s starting to feel like an uphill struggle. Luckily the vibe in the band is pretty good. Terry is traveling independently - in a rather nice Merc as it goes - I think visiting a football match is involved.
Showtime and I must admit to feeling relaxed and confident although I have no reason why. Just as well as the show gets off to a rollicking start and rollicks along a little too quickly for my liking. In my experience, when drummers get tired they play faster. Either that or I’m tired and haven’t the energy to play them at the tempo that Brad sets up. Terry said he had problems keeping up with the drums. All this is lost on the crowd who have a great time. Stewart Rennie, a Specials 2 stalwart and trumpet player with Orange Street, who are based down here says the gig was as good as the one in Glasgow. After the show I’m able to show my 12-year old nephew around back stage - load out - 3 trucks - 2 buses - dressing rooms - meet the band - blah blah blah. I think he was impressed.

Friday 28th October

Cardiff Indoor Arena

Breakfast in Bournemouth finishes at 9.30 so it’s a struggle to fall out of bed at half past 8 but the shower, (when it decided to get hot) revives me. One full English later and I have nearly two hours to wait before we depart for Cardiff.
I’m soon fast asleep again. Boy, am I tired. The coach we have is nice but you can’t lie down in it like you can on a crew bus. (Nikolaj, the horns and the strings are on one of the crew buses along with our regular crew. They’re getting tired too but I think that has a lot to do with staying up late. Bus life does that to you). So…it is a group of Zombies who disembark at the hotel in Cardiff. Luckily the gig is only 300 yards up the road so I walk up there for a 4p.m. soundcheck. The gap between soundcheck and showtime is filled with eating some ham that I thought was fish (don’t ask) and a massage from a guy called Dyfri, who usually works for the cardiff rugby team. He has tickets to see The Stone Roses next year. Best of luck. Ellie (violin) has bumped into a muso buddy in town who is playing that evening at the nearby St. Davids hall. She blags three tickets and the string section go off to see the first part of a concert of works by Mahler, Schonberg and Brahms before returning to the C.I.A. in time for Stereotypes and Man at C&A. Chalk and cheese? Frying pan to fire? Sublime to ridiculous?
My tiredness disappears as I walk on stage. Well, it would, wouldn’t it. Seven and a half thousand Welsh Specials fans leave me with little choice. Brad is superb this evening. The groove is just…there and playing with him is an utter joy. All the songs are amazing. The crowd is amazing. They sing the loudest Nite Klub 3rd verse yet on this trip. Being Welsh I suppose. What a fantastic gig. Coventry tomorrow and I’ll get to spend 2 nights in my own bed. Heaven.

Saturday 29th October

Jaguar Hall, Ricoh Arena, Coventry

Oh Radisson Blu, I love you! Breakfast on a weekend finishes at 11! I can sleep in. And I do. Lovely. I feel rested for the first time in quite a few days. Coach from Cardiff to Coventry and we pull into the Rich at around half two.
I am somewhat concerned by the fact that there’s a funfair on the car park across the road from the venue. So where are 10,000 people going to park this evening? Welcome to Coventry. Soundcheck, catering, hang around, usual stuff. First support tonight is from The Tones, a local up and coming pop outfit - who do well considering it’s a pretty hardcore 2-tone crowd. The Stone Foundation pull out all the stops tonight and play what I reckon was their best performance to date. They have really risen to the challenge of this tour, as have By The Rivers. There have been no ego clashes that can make backstage a difficult place. The same goes for the crew. We have been really blessed to have some great people working for us. It’s going to be sad when the whole thing finishes. Meanwhile, showtime draws near and Brad, Roddy and I are whisked through the foyer from our side-stage dressing room up to some executive suite where Neville, Terry and Lynval are to have our photo taken for the people who run the venue. I hate doing this. I like to focus and find my own space before a show but the whole thing goes off painlessly. There’s a collection of Coventry Usual Suspects in the foyer, all waiting to be let into the show. Their sense of entitlement pisses me off. Some of my ‘real‘ friends have approached me for guest tickets and I’ve had to turn them down. We’ve cut down on guest allocations this trip so to see faces from the past acting like they’re Paris Hilton does not cut it with me. It’s easy to see why ‘famous‘ people buy secluded mansions and employ minders. They have no choice if they want to stay sane.
All this is consigned to the dustbin as Neville grabs his spotlit mich and bellows ‘Bernie Rhodes Knows Don’t Hargue’. From where I’m standing the view is amazing. This is why I’m in this group. This is why I have the best job in the world. The security staff at the front have a busy time of it, pulling out fans who have fainted or have just had enough. The swirling mass of bodies (not exactly a mosh pit) looks pretty scary at times but the atmosphere is one of pure celebration. I know I say this every time but it was a cracking gig. Perhaps just a bit more cracking than usual because of its location and the fact that it’s the largest crowd to date. Even Terry, who is usually somewhat ambivalent to anything Coventry-related, rises to the occasion. Before Friday Night/Saturday Morning he says ‘This song is for two places that shaped me, Sidney Stringer (his old secondary school) and The Parsons Nose’ (a city centre chippy). There is a big shindig upstairs afterwards and I get to meet friends, relatives and fans. Roddy’s younger daughter had her purse stolen from out of her handbag despite Lynval’s exhortation to the audience to be mindful of pickpockets. (I never heard of any other incidents of theft during the show). The main complaint of the evening was of the totally inadequate bar. People were waiting for 45 minutes to get a drink. As I said, welcome to Coventry. I meet up with Ivan, who has come from Malta to see the show. He plays bass in a Maltese ska band (?) but had never heard of Sly & Robbie. Some education is needed here. My wife and I end up driving him back to his bed and breakfast address. He flies back to Malta on Sunday. Nice bloke.
I have met a lot of nice people on this tour. I finally get to spend the night in my own bed but my recent hotel experiences have put things into perspective. We need a new mattress.

Monday 31st October

Brixton Academy London

Train to London, Check into hotel. Van (driven by super-runner Darren) to Brixton. I know everyone goes on about what a great venue The Academy is but I’m afraid I detest it. More for the booming sound than the tiny dressing rooms. The catering area is bedlam. Sam and Lucy are trying to feed 60-plus people in a space not dissimilar to my spare bedroom. I’ll come back later. Terry is not good. His bi-polar condition gets him like that sometimes. that and some less-than-favourable comments from Roddy-related facebook pages.
The situation with Rod has deteriorated over the past few days and there is once more a lot of tension before the show. Soundcheck was a fraught affair.
The show is sold out and there are 5,000 people expecting The Specials to be on top form. Tonight, The Specials get away with it by the skin of their teeth, in my opinion. I know Lynval is of the same opinion. Terry was fine during the performance, funny even, it being Halloween, but the ‘edge’ on stage was not a positive one. It affected my performance. I made a couple of mistakes that I’ve never made before, real gaffes. (If you bought the live double c.d. you’ll have noticed them for sure) You’ll also hear Roddy and Lynval bickering in front of 5,000 people…..not good. Neville however saves the day, delivering one of his ‘even more larger than life’ performances. In fairness, the people I meet afterwards did not pick up on any of this and remarks like ‘great gig’, ‘amazing performance‘ and ‘incredible show‘ are bandied about freely. I thought it was the worst gig of the tour.

Thursday 3rd November

Alexandra Palace London

My two days off in London are spent more-or-less comatose. The cumulative effect of all the European dates, these U.K. shows and the stresses and strains that have accompanied them have knackered me. I’m hoping that lying low for a couple of days will be enough to recharge my batteries for the last hurrah.
The Ally Pally (Sorry, but that’s what everyone calls it) was not built with rock and roll in mind, but you should know about the acoustic properties of large empty indoor buildings by now. ‘It’ll sound fine when there’s people in here’.
Marcos said he’d rather we played three nights at Brixton. Thanks Marcos. Makes me feel a whole lot better. The reason we chose this venue was we wanted a North London gig as opposed to our ‘usual‘ Brixton haunt, which is really difficult to get home from if you live any where North of Colindale.
Anyway, we chose it and that’s where we’re playing whether we (and you) like it or not. It‘s the last concert of this tour and the vibe is wierd. Everyone is a little crest-fallen but too macho to say it. Drum tech Paul Parker’s band The Bleeps open the show and do half an hour of extreme noise terror to bewildered 2-tone fans. Look good on their c.v. anyway.
Showtime and The Specials take to the boards. It looks like The Ricoh but with good architecture. The show is an absolute blinder. Almost as good as Glasgow. I am so relieved. Brixton on Monday was all edgy and bickering but tonight was fantastic. Quite emotional actually. Just before the last verse on Nite Klub, Terry says ‘I’d like to thank four people who have helped make all this possible, Nikolaj, Jon, Tim and Drew’. It’s a lump in the eye, tear in the throat moment and endorsed by everyone else on stage. As a special treat, the audience get a breakneck speed version of Guns Of Navarone before our breakneck speed version of Little Bitch. You’re Wondering Now, played at a more sedate pace, closes the show. Everyone is singing and clapping along.
Absolutely brilliant.
Hugs and handshakes all round backstage and its time for the aftershow. Some more Maltese guys (Ivan’s buddies - you remember - Coventry!) are there, as is Lynval’s wife and niece who have flown in from Seattle to see the show. I make a tour of the guys from Stone Foundation and By The Rivers. Both bands have risen to the challenge of these big venues and have acquitted themselves admirably. I hope we have been able to give them the ‘leg up‘ they need. I remind them of when The Specials opened for The Clash in 1978. We get a van back to the hotel and eventually I’m asleep. The next day it’s a train back to Coventry and I’m sitting on my settee by 1.30 with a cup of tea. The silence was deafening!

WEDNESDAY 14TH. SEPTEMBER

AMSTERDAM

So. Here we are again then. Something of a shock to the system. The first time The Specials have worked as a band in a year. We did a bit of rehearsing a few months ago to try out some different songs for our U.K. tour but apart from that we’ve gone our separate ways. So it’s 11 shows in 14 days, starting off in Amsterdam and doing a kind of clockwise trek around Europe, finishing in Brussells on the 28th.
An extra date has been added to the Amsterdam show so we now play the Wednesday and Thursday. The Berlin show has been transferred to a larger venue and the Stockholm promoter wanted to add another show but the schedule did not allow it.
Luckily we’ve been able to do some warm-up gigs. We played in Custom House square in Belfast a couple of weeks ago (a ‘mental craic’ apparently) and we’ve just come back from a long weekend in Spain where we do festivals in Madrid and Santiago. I was very nervous in Madrid but not so bad in Santiago. Just getting back in the saddle.
Our crew guys are the same as last year, luckily, but there are new lighting bods, p.a. crew bods, truck drivers and caterers to get to know. There are 31 people on the road in the U.K. We also have a mobile recording studio on tour with us. It produces c.d. recordings of each show for eager punters to purchase should they wish. They travel in a red ex-post office van. The crew have a very swanky brand new white coach and all the stuff goes in a big articulated lorry. Us musos are flying and although I shouldn’t complain, the expression ‘Hurry up and wait’ comes to mind. Luckily I have this to write which will undoubtably distract me as I wait for the 13:05 flight from London City Airport to Amsterdam.
We travel straight to thr gig from the airport, where we find that our weel-oiled machine of a road crew are……not ready for us yet. Never mind, the caterers are! Something resembling a soundcheck finally takes place and we get off to the hotel. Amsterdam is busy, traffic is horrendous and being involved in a collision with a bicycle is a lot more of a possibility than it is in Coventry! None the less, Amsterdam is a very cool city and we are playing two nights at its most famous venue.
A rather frantic ten minute turn-around ensues at the hotel where we retrieve our cases from a basement storage room (despite the whole purpose of us having numbered luggage tags so our cases can get delivered to our rooms) and we hurry to get back to the gig for our 8:30 show time…only to be told that as punters are still coming in, we’ll be taking the stage at 9. There are lot of U.K. fans here and the atmosphere is great. The crowd sing their hearts out and The Specials do what they do. Brad and I had a great gig.
The combined effect of waking up at 4:00 am, the traveling and doing the first show have made me enormously tired. I can’t remember getting into bed, but this being Amsterdam, I’m sure a lot of visitors here don’t either.

THURSDAY 15TH. SEPTEMBER

PARADISO, AMSTERDAM

After a very righteous 8 hours sleep, I’m awake and have all day to kill before we do tonights show. Breakfast at the hotel is extortionate . 25 Euros for a cooked breakfast and 16 for ‘Continental’. Neville and Trevor have found a place over the road that does a ‘full English’ for 7 Euros but I’m up and gone before I got this information.
The Paradiso is near the museum district so I get a taxi down to the Stedeiljk museum and get breakfast at an outdoor cafe and watch tourists. A pleasant day is spent at the Modern Art Museum but mainly in its’ cafe and reading room. I got down to the Paradiso around 3.
Lamb tagine and cous–cous…nice. The Specials2 posse (Paul, Mike & Stewart) turn up at the sound check and Brad & I whizz through a ‘bass and drums’ routine for the mobile studio guys. Something of a ‘bonus track’ for the USB edition (whatever that is!).
We have a lot more time to do our soundcheck today. Tonights’ show was the first to be put on sale (The Wednesday was added later) so the atmosphere is even more hardcore than yesterday. Consequently the performance is blistering and all of a sudden it’s 1980 again - honestly. Nite Klub is the fiercest its been for ages, amazing. The downside of all this punk angst is that we’re playing with considerably more force than at the soundcheck and the volume on stage (especially Roddy’s guitar) has increased dramatically. Terry has great difficulty hearing himself and spends the latter half of the show standing stage left over near Lynval. After we come off he refuses to go back on despite the crowd shouting their heads off. Dilemma. We end up doing Guns of Navarone and a Terry-less You’re Wondering Now which is less than ideal. The atmosphere is somewhat stony backstage which is a shame as the gig was great.
We are expected to attend a Fred Perry ‘Aftershow’. They sponsor us, or is that we sponsor them. The amount of Fred Perry stuff people wear to our shows, they ought to buy us BMW’s!!! Anyway, we head off to a club down the street. I find the idea of these things excruciating. On stage, with guitar, jump around, play my ass off.That’s fine. That’s what I do. The rest of the time I insist on being a regular Joe, so it galls me when I am expected to jump a queue and get ushered to a ‘roped off area’, where lots of people can gawp at me like I’m a zoo animal or something. I refuse the roped off bit and find a corner, meet some Coventry lads (one who lives just round the corner from me), Willo and his wife, Ruth and have what amounts to a ‘regular chat’ albeit over a loud reggae sound system. Needless to say I am hoarse within 10 minutes, most of which time is spent asking people to repeat what they’ve just said as the music was so loud I couldn’t hear them. Less than ideal. A Dutch gentleman approaches me and tells me the first thing he ever stole in his life was the first Specials album when he was 12. I hope he was reminiscing about impetuous youth rather than thanking The Specials for inducting him into a life of crime. Ho Hum.
Eventually us Specials make a move and Lynval, Neville, Brad, Trevor & I hustle a cab and return to the hotel. Everyone agrees that the ‘Aftershow’ is less than desirable. On the itinerary I see we have them scheduled for Stockholm, Berlin and Paris.

FRIDAY 16TH. SEPTEMBER

VEGA, COPENHAGEN

We travel to airport.
We board plane.
We fly to Copenhagen, which is in Denmark.
We get bus from airport to hotel.
I mean, that’s what happened. This is what we do. It would be pretentious to say it was boring, but at least we don’t do the private jet stuff. Some consolation; still regular folks going to work then!
Copenhagen has a nice vibe to it. We’re staying at The Grand Hotel as was. It is now a Radisson. I could easily imagine Sean Connery and Ursula Andress descending the spiral staircase that dominates the lobby.The rooms have a very 60’s feel to them and the lifts are tiny. We’re in the middle of the city, diagonally opposite the Tivoli Gardens funfair. I’m on the 11th. floor and have a spectacular view of the city.
The venue, Vega, is on the 2nd floor of a very functional looking building that Nikolaj (who comes from Copenhagen) says is a municipal building for the ‘workers’. The newly-elected left-wing government had a big party here yesterday to celebrate their victory. Best of luck.
Before the show, Nikolaj’s parents show up. His father is also a very accomplished musician - father and son have just made a cd together. They present us with a bottle of Gammel Dansk, a herb liquer which I promise to sample after the show. The sound in the venue is lovely. The crew are pleased - acoustically better than Amsterdam and the performance is not as frenzied as yesterday but still powerful. Support for this evening is provide by a band called Napoleon Solo, who play old school reggae reasonably effortlessly. Terry stops Stereotype after singing the wrong verse. We start again and he comes over to me during the intro ‘What’s the first line? - I’ve forgotten the words!’ I immediately go into panic mode, I’m playing the bass at the same time! We finally get there. The crowd love it! Afterwards in the dressing room, Terry sits there, bemused. ‘First time I can hear myself sing…….and I forget the words!’ The Gammel Dansk is opened and is quickly judged an acquired taste (eg it’s not very nice) but it was the thought that counted. Lynval made a big deal out of Nikolaj’s parents from the stage tonight. Cheesy as hell but none the less appropriate. Phil Mason, who used to do the merchandise for The Beat, General Public and Specialbeat dropped by to say hello (He lives over here now) and it was nice to catch up with him after the show. A rally scary guy wants autographs (which I get) and then wants to come backstage to say hello. I think not. Time to get the hell out of Dodge. Copenhagen is still teeming with life when I get back to the hotel.

SATURDAY 17TH SEPTEMBER

TRAVEL DAY COPENHAGEN - STOCKHOLM.

Breakfast with Neville and Trevor. Nev doesn’t feel too good. Says he ate something in`amsterdam that didn’t agree with him. He looks alright to me, but there again we’re all aches and pains nowadays. Bus to the airport and hang around. Board the plane, just about to close the doors when on comes Nikolaj! We had left him behind at the hotel!
The assumption was that he was staying with his folks and would make his own way to the airport. Wrong! He went out with some buddies after the gig, got back at 6a.m. and never woke up until 1. One hour before the plane was due to take off! Fair play to him for racing across town to get the flight but an enormous gaffe on our part for leaving him behind.
Stockholm looks vey pretty from the air and lives up to expectations when we arrive at our hotel from the airport. The hotel is right across the road from the gig. Fantastic! Down the road is a funfair (again) and some cafes, on of which provides dinner. Back at the hotel a small glass of beer sets me back 55 krone, that’s £5.50 more or less. I take it back to my room and sip it slowly whilst watching the second half of The Incredibles - in Swedish.
Can’t nobody say I don’t know how to have fun!

SUNDAY 18TH. SEPTEMBER

THE CIRKUS, STOCKHOLM.

Breakfast is a fraught affair, hordes of people, most of whom have small children in tow.The day is spent watching the world go by. (e.g. I did nothing!).
The venue is spectacular. As the name suggests, it is an old 18th/19th century circular building but now has a huge U.S.- type backstage area built on to it. Someone (I can’t remember who) says it was due to be demolished in the 70’s but was bought and renovated by someone from Abba. I can find no-one to confirm or deny this theory. WE have a very sophisticated 14-piece support band called Club Killers, who play old school reggae reasonably effortlessly and one of their guitarists has a beautiful Gibson Firebird guitar.
We take the stage and it is soon clear that Neville is not firing on all cylinders. He leaves the stage towards the end of Concrete Jungle and that’s the last we see of him. He is backstage being violently ill - some kind of food poisoning. The rest of us, meanwhile soldier on. Terry signals me to come down the front to ‘plug the gap’ and I feel like Paul Simenon (almost). Big Jon (trumpet) says ‘You made the transition from defense to mid-field effortlessly’. The audience, bless ’em, are still with us and sing along with ‘You’re Wondering Now’ long after we’ve left the stage. We got away with it……just.
There’s a Fred Perry Aftershow after the show and a large Nordic-type gentleman takes Lynval, Roddy, Brad, Terry and I there in a large Nordic-type 4X4 car. The shindig is at a small club heaving with 2Tone-looking types. The sound system is deafening and any conversation is bellowed and very difficult. Lynval takes over the d.j. booth, Terry and I last about 10 minutes and get on back to the hotel when our Nordic chauffeur returns with Tim, Drew and Big Jon. I hate to be a killjoy but Night Clubs are not my thing…never were to be honest. I think we wrote a song about it once.

MONDAY 19TH SEPTEMBER

TRAVEL DAY. STOCKHOLM - BERLIN

Even though I ‘went clubbing’ last night I was back at the hotel by 11:30 so I’m up early for breakfast. It is raining. Stockholm doesn’t look so nice in the rain. Apparently Lynval and Trevor were up all night with Neville who was throwing up and delirious. He looks a right state as we head off to the airport. We remembered Nikolaj this time. There is some consternation at check-in as the airline staff seem loathe to take responsibilty for Neville on the flight but he perks up and makes the One and a half hour flight to Berlin. Trev and Lyn are knackered. The hotel is not too far from the middle of things - a ten minute walk and I’m at The Brandenburg Gate, just next to The Riechstag building. The early part of the evening is spent at an Italian restaurant, the latter part back in my room watching Star Trek…in German. Impenetrable! The hotel bar was out of bounds for us, there was a conference taking place and the conferees had exclusive use of the place that evening. There were lots of conference-types with badges milling about. The business men are having fun. Unlike this morning’s hotel, there are no facilities to make a cup of tea in my room so I’ll have to raid the mini-bar instead!! Goodnight.

TUESDAY 20TH SEPTEMBER

COLUMBIAHALLE BERLIN.

Spent the day doing cultural stuff. Bright sunshine, lots of tourists, lots of walking. The blister I got on my foot last weekend in Santiago has finally cleared up.
The gig is at The Columbiahalle which used to be a sports hall foe American servicemen who were stationed here in the 40’s/50’s. it is a very loud room. We soundcheck and run through Pearl’s Cafe and International Jet Set. They’re starting to sound good.
We take the stage at around 8:45. Neville is suitably recovered after his bout of sickness. I nearly take his head off with my bass during Rich Girl and again later in the show. A fact that I am admonished for in no uncertain terms later on. Sorry Nev. Totally unintentional.
Terry struggles through he show. It is just so loud. Not just the on-stage sound but the whole room seems to work against us. I ask Rabbit (monitors) to take the bass out of the side fills to try to lesson the volume but it does no good. Roddy’s guitar volume has crept up too. Consequently we have an ‘Amsterdam’ situation at the end. Meanwhile the audience are going absolutely mad. We encore with ‘You’re Wondering Now’ and leave the stage. The noise from the crowd continues and plastic glasses start to be thrown at the stage. Trevor sys ‘You’ve got to go back on, or there’s going to be a riot!’ He’s right.
The crew have already started to dismantle stuff, but they quickly put it back in place as we go back for what seems to me to be a phenomenally loud version of ‘Guns of Navarone’. I don’t think I’ve done a show this exciting for ages. What an amazing crowd. Tim the truck driver says it was the best show he’d seen so far. Afterwards Jaeki, our first tour manager appears (he lives in Berlin) along with an eager English contingent.
There’s a Fred Perry Aftershow after the show but you know what, I can’t be arsed. Sorry
Fred. Maybe Paris.

WEDNESDAY 21ST. SEPTEMBER

BACKSTAGE MUNICH.

Usual hotel - airport - flight - airport - hotel stuff. I mean, do you really need a detailed description of the gate 6 departure lounge? Outside our hotel we board a bus that will take us to the gig….only it’s the wrong bus. It’s taking a load of Toshiba employees to some conference somewhere. Very funny.
Tonight’s show is at The Backstage, a concrete shed in an industrial estate in Munich. It has the feel of a lot of those large American clubs that thrive on skate-punk and Heavy Metal - but a lot cleaner. I remember we played here in my Specials Mk.2 days but I have no recollection of the performance. We spend a considerable amount of time soundchecking. There are huge sub-bass units under the hollow stage which, when we play vibrate the whole stage. It is like playing on one of those moving walkways at airports. We argue the toss with Marcos (sound engineer) and turn some of them off. They produce the sort of vibrations that could loosen fillings. It shows our age, doesn’t it. Thirty years ago we would have reveled in the joy of wreaking such sonic destruction. Now, we’re all Health and Safety! There have been no support bands on these German dates which means we have to play to a ‘cold’ audience but who are generally rabid at the end. Tonight is no exception. In fact, tonight is fucking incredible! Brad has the groove just perfect and the show develops a life of its’ own. Roddy (playing his black Telecaster for a change) plays the best I’ve heard him on this trip and Neville rises to the occasion and becomes larger than life. Terry, who has struggled through the past couple of shows comes through and is his quirky, funny self. The audience sing and dance and the feeling in the room is tremendous. Lynval gets so excited he gives his guitar to Daniel (stage manager) after Too Much Too Young and prepares to leave the stage, totally forgetting that we have yet to play Enjoy Yourself, our last song. It was one of those nights. We encore with Navarone and You’re Wondering Now, where I heard an audible groan from the audience. They keep cheering after we come off and we finally go back on to play Ghost Town. The crowd wanted us to play all night. What a fantastic gig! In the dressing rooms everyone is blown away with the show and rightly so if I may be so bold. I feel we are back on form – unstoppable

THURSDAY 22ND. SEPTEMBER

ALCATRAZ MILAN.

In Munich it’s Oktoberfest, despite the fact it’s September. Breakfast at the hotel is mobbed by loud Britishers all dressed up in Lederhosen and being ‘Brits on Holiday’. yuck! There were a couple of guys (Russian I think) who were being served their second brandy of the day with their breakfast. Kinda glad we’re leaving. Munich airport. Hurry up and wait. Nikolaj says he’s coming down with something and Tim is stocking up on medicines. last night was the ‘half-way gig’. Five more to go. The normally tedious and somewhat humiliating security procedure is enlivened by Lynval who produces the ‘small metal object’ (his harmonica) from out of his rucksack and proceeds to serenade the rather pretty security official with the introduction of ‘A Message to You, Rudy’. Big Jon who is next in the queue regrets not having his trumpet with him (It’s gone on the truck) - they could have done a duet and brightened up the drab conveyor-belt security procedure that we have come to know and love. the flight gets called and off we go. The flight is half empty and The Specials are all in the blunt end. A camaraderie ensues. Trevor declares that Lufthansa flight 1858 from Munich to Milan has the prettiest air stewardesses so far on the tour and I have to concur. A coach picks us up at Milan airport and takes us to our hotel. Time is pressing on and it’s a quick turnaround to get down to the soundcheck.
I get my room number, key and get gone. The number on the key folder says 922 - but I can’t get the the door to open. I look at the folder again and and decide that it might actually read 422. I go down to the 4th. floor and am again unsuccessful in gaining entry.
This is getting stupid, so my suitcase and I go down to reception whereupon the guy on the desk looks at the at the key folder and says 722, with a kind of ‘What’s the matter with you? Can’t you read or something?‘ - tone in his voice.Meanwhile, everyone is waiting for me so we can get off to the venue for soundcheck. Not a great start to my Milan experience.
Now this is odd. Apart from a festival in Turin last year, The Specials have never played Italy. Ticket sales have been poor and we talked about the possibility of pulling the show but our agent said that the gig is known for its’ ‘walk-up’, that’s the number of people who come on the night without first buying an advance ticket. We’ll see. Also, why name a club after a high security prison? Imagine opening a club in England and calling it ‘Winson Green’. Or Dartmoor. (‘Ere, goin’ out later?… Yeah, ‘fink I’ll go dahn Dartmoor!)…..
Our first gig in Italy and I’m skeptical already. the day does not improve much as six of us have to fit into a Ford Focus - type car with two extra seats at the back. A kind of people carrier for dwarves. This and the low ticket sales does not bode well. Brad cheers us up on the journey saying that our rider (the stuff the venue provides for us in our dressing rooms) will probably consist of one banana. Alcatraz (the venue) has the air of posh shed, with bars, shiny black floor, huge sound system and accompanying drug problem. It just felt like that kind of place. A stage is set up for us, however and before you know it…..soundcheck!
Support for us this evening are provided by the extremely accomplished Casino Royale who play Old School reggae reasonably effortlessly. Their bass player, Joseph, wields a very nice 1977 Black Fender Precision. They are well received by what is by now, a sizeable crowd. Showtime is 9:45 and off we go. Brett, the merchandise guy, says that Milan is the ‘gig city’ in Italy, more so than Rome and people travel long distances to see bands. (I later learn that some people drove 500km from Slovenia to attend the show!)
There are a lot of people here tonight, all out for a good time. Well,all except one guy up at the front, stage right, who insists on giving us the finger throughout the show. Neville handles the situation well and the crowd are great. During Rich Girl, Lynval invites a woman up on stage and dances with her until she falls over. I’m sure it was an accident but it looked pretty funny from where I was standing. She goes back to the front of the crowd and spends the rest of the evening unsuccessfully imploring Lyn and Nev to bring her back on again. I’ve definitely got my ‘Tour Legs’ now; the set seems to fly by in a flash and it’s Too Much Too Young and Enjoy Yourself before I know it. The encore is Guns of Navarone and You’re Wondering Now. I’m sure we could have done Ghost Town but the house lights went on and that was that. A good show, not up to the fever pitch of Berlin and Munich, but close. Trevor, Neville, Terry, Lynval, Brad and I somehow manage to squeeze into the motorized baked bean - sized vehicle we came in. ‘It’s like a fucking Blue Peter challenge’ says Terry, as we zip through the night back to the hotel.

FRIDAY 23RD. SEPTEMBER

TRAVEL DAY. MILAN - COLOGNE

Today has been the most boring day on the tour so far. Milan airport. Aeroplane. Munich airport. Another aeroplane. Cologne. Things perk up a little bit when a bad-tempered bus driver (who turns out to be female) picks us up at Cologne/Bonn airport and drives us at breakneck speed to our hotel, another Radisson. The crew are staying here tonight as well, so expeditions are planned. Me, I wandered the streets for a bit and found a cheap and cheerful cafe where a reasonably substantial steak’n’chips is had for a reasonably substantial price. I bought a small bottle of wine and a bottle of fizzy water on my way back and spritzered my way through the second of my Lee Child tough guy thriller. The room has electrically operated floor-to-ceiling shutters - great fun. Thunderbirds are go and all that. (Little things please little minds eh!) I turn in early.

SATURDAY 24TH. SEPTEMBER

E-WERK, COLOGNE.

More cultural stuff during the day. The Ludwig museum to be precise. Best art museum of the tour so far. Nice restaurant too.
We gather in the lobby of our hotel to go off to the venue at 3pm, only to be told that Rabbit (monitor engineer) has been taken to hospital. He suffers from a severe reaction to nuts and as careful as he is, sometimes something slips through. Today it was a sausage which I must confess is one of the last things that might contain nuts…… Rabbit was given anti whatever-it-is treatment and is back at the sound board in time for the end of soundcheck (which the mobile studio guy does for us - thanks) He (Rabbit) is all right, he just looks a bit translucent.
The venue is an old electricity generating shed - 2,000 capacity and show time is 8:30. Terry’s voice is failing him and although he rallies around half way through, it is obvious he is not happy. This somehow permeates into the performance and although we all put our fingers in the right places, the show seems lacklustre compared with some of last week’s concerts. Back at the hotel, musicians do what they usually do in these situations and hit the bar. The ‘back row’, or ‘riser posse’ as we may now be called (Drew, Tim, Big Jon, Me, Brad & Nikolaj - from left to right) sip Merlot until early hours. One Thirty in my case. I
leave them to it. A good day but a stressful evening.
SUNDAY 25TH. SEPTEMBER

GROSSE FREIHEIT, HAMBURG.

The itinerary says the flight leaves Cologne at 3pm and arrives in Hamburg at 4, which as a fact or piece of information is fine, but our soundcheck at Grosse Feiheit is from 4 ‘til 5.
This fact is duly noted and soundcheck is delayed until whatever time we get there, which, thinking about it, is what usually happens anyway. terry has taken a train to Hamburg and is scheduled to see a doctor. Mike (tour manager) has travelled overnight with the crew, so Steve (not the manager) Blackwell dons his tour manager hat and shepherds us through the International Shopping Experience that is Cologne airport. At Hamburg we are met by a large black coach, driven by an equally large German woman who takes us, via the city centre to the gig. It is Sunday, early evening and lots of locals (Hamburgers?) are doing that Sunday evening thing. Boats out on the lakes, picnics in the park, a very relaxed vibe. Things change when we turn down The Reeperbahn as we pass the International House of Sex and The Pussy Parlour. The gig is in the middle of all this and is what would generally be called a shithole. I have a vague feeling I played here in the 90’s with the Mk2’s. Come showtime and the place is heaving. Very very hot and with a large and very vocal Coventry contingent who were probably swayed by the fact that the gig was on The Reeperbahn in their decision to come and support their city’s best loved cultural export.
To be honest, the show was great. Shithole or not, The Specials cut their teeth playing places like this. The big shows are all very well but the excitement and energy of a packed , sweaty club is very difficult to beat. Lynval collides with a mich stand during one tune, Neville collides with Punky Steve (guitar tech) during a mad dash across the stage. Terry stops the intro to You’re Wondering Now to give the flag-wavingCoventry contingent some glasses of beer. ‘That’ll be 27 Euros please’. Fun was had by all. Mike (tour manager) hands out per diems afterwards. ‘Blowjob money anyone?‘ Although the fleshpots of Hamburg beckon, I get a van back with Brad, Terry and Lynval back to the hotel. Been there, done that. Goodnight.

MONDAY 26TH. SEPTEMBER

TRAVEL DAY. HAMBURG - PARIS

The hotel in Hamburg is palatial but we have to go. Coach to the airport, hang around and catch the 1:00 flight to Paris - 1hour 35 minutes duration. It has been duly noted, with some relief , that this is our last flight of the tour.
We get into Paris (Charles De Gaulle) just after half past two and are met by three people
carrier van-things. Paris is, as usual, bedlam. WE are in a Holiday Inn opposite the Gare De’L’Est, one of the many railway stations. The Grand Hotel in Hamburg it ain’t. My room is tiny but I’ve got a bed, a bath and a bog, all of which work. That and a spectacular view of the North of Paris. Sacre Coeur over there on the left. I meet up with Tim, Nikolaj and Big Jon and we head of down towards the river, stopping en route for cheese on toast and a huge glass of beer. The city is really busy lots of different nationalities all milling around.
Having reached the Seine I take my leave of T, N & Big J and head back to the hotel, pausing only to be distracted by the bookshop at The Pompeidou Centre. I turn in early. The city is still rumbling away outside.

TUESDAY 27TH SEPTEMBER

OLYMPIA THEATRE, PARIS.

We have been really lucky with the weather on this trip. Apart from some rain in Stockholm it has been clear skies, warm. Hot, even. The Indian summer is set to continue for the next few weeks so I’m told. We’ve been really lucky with our hotels too but in Paris our luck runs out. Down at breakfast, I learn that Neville and Trevor’s room got robbed last night. Trevor is missing some money and his watch. Come to think of it, someone came in my room just after I got back yesterday evening but I assumed it was some maintenance guy who’d come to the wrong room. I may have been lucky. Consequently my camera and passport are locked away in the little safe up top of the wardrobe and my wallet and phone are in my pocket. This colours my Paris experience. ‘Teeming with Life’ becomes ‘Too Many People’. the day is spent in the company of an old college friend who lives over here, and his girlfriend. There is the dreaded ‘Aftershow‘ after the show so it’s best I see them where it’s relatively quiet and peaceful, which in this case is a leisurely lunch. My Parisienne sinking feeling is not helped by the runner taking us to the gig, turning up at 10 to 4, as opposed to the 3pm he was expected. Ho Hum. All these reservations are blown out of the water by the venue, which is fantastic and the gig itself, which in everyone’s opinion was the best gig on the whole European tour. The normally staid Paris crowd went totally mental from the word go. Singing along to all the songs. They picked up the ‘Nobody is - Special‘ chant in between numbers, especially before Stupid Marriage. Neville has to face them down ‘Stop Your Noise!!’. I’ve never heard him say that before. Terry is back on form. In Enjoy Yourself it’s ‘Hi, My name’s Terry and my head’s leaking’.
We encore with Navarone and You’re Wondering Now but we knew that would would not be enough. WE go back on and do Ghost Town. This slakes the audiences’ thirst, bless ’em. What a gig. The whole downstairs was dancing and most of the balcony were on their feet towards the end.
I manage to meet my friends afterwards. I’m glad they were able to see us. What a great gig. Greetings are short-lived as it’s off to Carmen, a club which was the house that Bizet wrote the aforementioned opera. Don’t know what he would have made of the Northern Soul classics that Brad was playing when I got there. Met some nice people and wasn’t too
hoarse when I left with Trevor and Steve (not the manager) Blackwell a little later. The consensus is that we’re starving so after our cab ride back to the Holiday Binn we find ourselves buying hamburgers at 1:30am. I was amazed at the number of people sleeping out on the streets, in the middle of all the mayhem. We got panhandled for money and cigarettes a few times too. Steve said he thought Paris looked disheveled.

WEDNESDAY 28TH. SEPTEMBER

L’ANCIENNE BELGIQUE, BRUSSELS.

Today’s traveling is by train. An hour and a half from Paris (Gare Du Nord) to Brussels. My suitcase now consists of three large bags of dirty washing, a pair of Blue Doc Martens and two rather smelly blue suits and just enough clean clothes for the next two days. How did I manage that? Luck, more than anything else I feel. At breakfast, Neville is in a far better mood than yesterday and the ‘prison food’ verdict is rescinded. Terry is there too, complaining about the travel arrangements. ‘You mean we have to spend an hour waiting at the train station?’ The upshot of all this is we have to spend an hour waiting around for a vehicle to come and collect our cases, only to be told that the vehicle to transport the people will be another half an hour. It takes Tim, Drew and I 9 minutes to walk from our hotel to the Gare du Nord, where we spend an hour waiting…at the train station. I can’t remember a time when I’ve been panhandled so much. Black guys after cigarettes and everybody else after money. I bought one guy’s newspaper in return for me taking his photo. I might turn it into a painting some time. There are people with things that look like sponsorship forms that are just excuses for ‘donations’. It’s dreadful. I end up with the attitude that everyone is after your money. We meet two guys from London who came to last nights’ show and enthuse about it. We’ll see them in Brighton and Alexandra Palace.
Apparently there were some people who came all the way from Venezuela to see us. (in Amsterdam, there were people who came from Brazil) I find this stunning. The trip to Brussels is uneventful apart from me leaving my Raybans on the train. Shit!
The Ancienne Belgique is not how I remember it. In fact I think I’ve got it confused with another venue totally, unless it’s been knocked down and totally rebuilt. I know I have no recollection of playing here in 1980. Support this evening is provided by the Caroloregions, who play old school reggae reasonably effortlessly - just like every other support band on the tour. Sounding like a cross between The Meters and Toots and The Maytals. Big Jon thought the were pretty boring. Where are the new Specials?
Showtime is at 9pm and it’s up to the old Specials to do the business. Brad is suffering from a cold, so is Roddy who is half the man he usually is. The audience seem kinda reserved but anything would be an anti-climax compared to last nights’ show. Terry spots some bloke who appears to be asleep right up the top of the balcony and gets the audience to wake him up. It is hilarious. the crowd, who have been reserved up until now, are with us and a good time is (finally) had by all.
It is the end of our last show on our European tour. A good dress rehearsal for next month’s UK shows.Back at the hotel the bar is hit yet again with the usual suspects. Hilariy and a couple of bottles of red and I stumble off towards the lift at around 2am. What fun. I try not to think of the morning’s headache.

The band has teamed up with Tim Noble & Sue Webster to produce a limited edition set of shirts.

The two designs, influenced by tracks Gangsters and Too Much Too Young can be purchased from the merchandise store here

Following the success of the 30th anniversary collection, we have teamed up once again with iconic British fashion label Fred Perry. Two styles have been released in anticipation of the 2011 European tour. Remaining true to the band’s ethos of ‘black and white unite’ with their monochromatic styling and subtle chequerboard detailing.

The special edition t-shirt features The Specials logo and tour set-list printed on the back, and both styles feature our iconic Laurel Wreath embroidered with black and white leaves. Celebrating the unique relationship and shared heritage between The Specials and Fred Perry.

Dear Specials Fan

The Specials have partnered with Abbey Road Live Here Now to provide fans with the ultimate souvenir of the show.
They will release Limited Edition Deluxe Double Live CD / Download or USB of your show, order your copy now.

These products are professionally recorded and mixed and not just a soundboard feed, these deluxe limited edition sets are the prefect way to re-live what is guaranteed to be an amazing night, reserve your copy now. The USB will have rare / exclusive content & a download code, so you can download the show of your choice.

There will also be an end of tour exclusive boxset which will include all the European & UK shows on CD as well as a download of each show available shortly after each date. The boxset will also include some great exclusive content, this will sell for significantly less than buying all the shows individually ….. More details to follow.

As a special fan offer we have arranged that every order made before 1st August will include free P&P & entered in a prize draw to win a limited edition boxset. One entry per purchase.

Click here to order your copy or see further details:

Belsonic pre-sale link : (live from 9am Wednesday 6th April).
password: ‘Specials