After a summer long celebration of some of the finest artists, bands and DJ’s on the planet, Ibiza Rocks caps off in style with music legends, The Specials, headlining the much anticipated Closing Party at Ibiza Rocks Hotel on 14 September.

True musical pioneers they received the ‘Inspiration Award’ at Q Awards in 2009 and then the coveted ‘Outstanding Contribution to Music’ award at NME Awards earlier this year, as well as wowing fresh audiences at Glastonbury, Bestival and Spain’s Benecassim over the past 3 summers. Now is the time to treat the hungry, youthful and cosmopolitan crowd on the White Isle to their formidable Punk attitude and energy as they bring Ibiza Rocks 2010 to an unforgettable close.

Formed in 1977, this Coventry-bred band achieved seven consecutive UK Top 10 singles including their famous smash hit ‘Ghost Town’. Their unmistakable fusion of danceable ska and rocksteady beats have since influenced a plethora of young chart-topers from Lily Allen to Jamle T, cementing them as true music legends amongst the young Ibiza Rocks generation.

After four scorching hot summer months of incredible, unrivalled and groundbreaking live shows, what better way to build on the Ibiza Rocks legacy and see out 2010 than with The Specials, live and loud under the Balearic stars, to a hungry cosmopolitan audience, in Ibiza’s No.1 gig venue – Ibiza Rocks.


O.K. Now the original plan was to fly direct from Amsterdam to New York on Saturday 21st in order to play Central Park on the 22nd. The non-appearance of a work visa for Neville has meant this hasn’t happened but we still intend to do our TV show (David Letterman) on the 23rd without Nev.
This is why Big Jon is driving Drew, Roddy and I down to Heathrow the day after we landed in Birmingham from Amsterdam. Confused?….Welcome to The Specials. After we’ve done our New York thing we’re heading up to Toronto where Neville will join us (he doesn’t need a visa for Canada). We then play the show we had to cancel earlier in the year, plus another one they put on sale ‘due to public demand’. It’s only a skeleton crew that is accompanying us to NYC: Daniel (production manager), Paul (drum tech) and Rabbit (monitor engineer). The rest of the crew will fly out independently in a few days.
Terminal 5 at Heathrow is teeming with people and we get gone on our British Airways Jumbo just after 6pm. Lynval and Roddy have been up-graded to business class which means they have their own little cubicle arrangement with the possibility of sleeping full-length if they so desire. I’m in Premium economy which just means that my seat’s a little more comfortable than Nikolaj’s. The flight is fine but the landing is vicious. The weather is grim in New York and it’s a case of ‘get the thing down, quick’. We land sideways with an almighty thump.
‘Standard operating procedure for Boeings’ says the captain. Yeah, Right!
Immigration is its usual tedious, surly self, as is the wait for our luggage/equipment. My guitars arrive unscathed. Outside it is belting down with rain. I mean a torrential downpour which goes on for at least 45 minutes as we wait for the transport that is booked to take us to our hotel in Manhattan. When it finally arrives (2 vans) we load up and get gone. We manage about 300 yards from the terminal when we get stuck in traffic. Like gridlocked.
Like for around 2 hours! The rain has caused flooding which has made part of the freeway
unnavigable. Amazing. We’ve come all this way only to be stuck on an overpass to the Manhattan Expressway. Luckily the water recedes before our patience does and we finally get to the Tribeca Grand hotel at half past midnight. That’s half past five in the morning UK time!
Monday. Wide awake and it’s 5 in the morning. I’ve managed 4 hours sleep. My feet are in New York but my head’s back in Coventry. No matter, the show must go on. The crew had to load in a 6am. Poor buggers. A heavy duty shower followed by some car-tyre coffee over at Bubby’s helps revive me. We arrive at the Ed Sullivan theatre at 11am for our rehearsal. Rabbit and Paul were on their way back from a music store buying stuff for us when they were caught in another New York downpour. They are both soaked to the skin and miserable with it. We give them what clothes we can spare.
Now, the Letterman show is the top US chat show and all the union guys working on it really need you to know it. We (the band) are just cattle to be herded in, shouted at, told to play, told not to play, ignored and treated like the novelty act they take us for. They, the union crew are the important people here, and they really don’t want some band of limey musicians to rock their boat. The attitude here makes the Jimmy Fallon show, which I was highly dismissive of earlier in the year, seem like a pleasant experience. We get to perform around 7pm - herded on before our gear is properly set up / wired up / anything (Tim’s monitor wasn’t working at all and Rod had to plug his effects unit in himself) and off we go.
All the US union crew are backstage worshipping the great Letterman on screen, laughing at all the bad jokes and being so utterly sycophantic to this……bloke…who I just don’t get. I feel like I’m from another planet. We play Nite Klub. Is this the in place to be? What am I doing here? Irony anyone? I’m sorry. Perhaps if I was American I might appreciate some kind of cultural significance. The venue that hosted the Ed Sullivan show…Elvis, The Beatles. It’s just a rather cold (‘David likes to keep the temperature regulated’) small theatre with TV cameras between the audience and the stage. Now there’s a metaphor for you!
Our performance of Nite Klub is, to be honest, perfunctory (Go on, look it up!) and I am (as you can tell) in a bad mood. Not with the group, or our crew, who I have absolute sympathy for, having to work with these ignorant, rude bullies but with the attitude that pervades all of this. ‘You need the exposure on our show more than we need you’ is the subtle message. After our performance, the man himself comes over to wind up the show and shakes Lynval’s hand, then Terry’s hand, then my hand. Hey everyone, David Letterman shook my hand! Like I give a fuck.
Upstairs in the miniscule dressing rooms the mood is upbeat. Everyone says we played well and the performance was spirited (without Nev?) and it sounded good. Me, I’m just happy it’s over. We’ve been used to traveling for 6-7 hours to play for an hour at a festival
in Europe but we left England almost two days ago and have played one song. It does seem absurd. Our ride back down to the Tribeca is one of those spectacular journeys of the world. Down Broadway through Times Square. ‘A new life awaits you in the off-world colonies’ as us Blade-Runner fans would have it. The night is still young but the jet lag has kicked in and although I’m not as raging as I was a while ago, I have no stomach for socialising. Sleep, please, and lots of it.
Tuesday. Some of us are staying for a couple of days in New York, some of us are going to Toronto. Whatever. We’ll all meet up again on Friday to play the first of our 2 shows at The Sound Academy. Me, I’m Toronto bound.

Friday 27th. Toronto.
Normally my day off on tour is spent either climbing the walls of my hotel room or indulging in some pre-apocalypse retail binge. I’m happy to say neither has occurred and I have really enjoyed 2 days of doing relatively little here in Toronto. Nice place. It rained on the Wednesday evening but apart from that, the weather has been glorious. The food too, if not a little pricey. Tonight’s gig, our first ‘real gig’ since the Albert Hall in February, is the first of 2 nights at the Sound Academy, a 2,500 capacity club in a leisure complex down near the docks. Fabulous view of the city across the water etc, etc. We get to do a soundcheck, which of course we haven’t been able to do during our festival run. I would have liked to have played a bit more. My bass wireless system was misbehaving and Brad’s syn drums weren’t working. Ho hum. Show time, which I understood to be at 10pm is now at 10:45pm. I was all psyched up for 10pm too. The show was very exciting but plagued with sound problems. The sub-bass units under the stage caused some hideous rumbles which didn’t help with the overall loudness and I completely fouled up the instrumental section in Friday Night/Saturday Morning. I was a less-than-happy bunny when we came off. The crowd were great but I couldn’t help feeling that they would have been greater if we’d gone on at 10pm. Forty-five minutes less to buy beer I suppose. Grrrr!
Let’s just say that this evening was not exactly a personal best.
Some food arrives after the show which helps calm me down and there are a load of people waiting to see us and get us to sign stuff. One guy had a flyer from our first gig in Toronto back in 1980! (There were people there with General Public albums too.)
I managed to get to see the David Letterman appearance. Lynval had it on his computer.
It looked and sounded real good. It got good reviews in the press and a good response from fans on the internet. After the show we finally get back to the hotel at around 1:30am.
I can hardly keep my eyes open.
Saturday. The morning is spent doing very little and at around 3pm everyone except Neville and Terry heads down to the venue for a soundcheck that is a lot more organised than yesterdays. After it, I head back to the hotel. I’d rather hang around there than at the gig. I did that yesterday and it wasn’t my idea of fun. 10:45pm comes around and on we go. After the second number, Terry plucks a 4-year-old girl out of the audience. What the hell she was doing up the front at a Specials gig beggars belief. Her mother joins her side-stage and they watch the show from there. I admit to being speechless! The gig is very different from last night. There are more gaps between songs and the show has a more relaxed feel unlike the frantic balls-to-the-wall performance we gave yesterday. Terry is on fine form, pontificating on Canadian daytime TV and at one point attempting some juggling. I’ve always maintained he’d make a great comedian. Brad struggles through the show however. His monitors are playing up. The bass is either deafeningly loud or not there at all. It put something of a damper on what was otherwise a good show. I didn’t make the stupid mistakes I made yesterday. We played Guns of Navarone for the first time in ages too! Thank you Toronto and goodnight. I got a lift back to the hotel with Neville and his cousins. Both he and Lynval have family over here.
Sunday is wonderful and relaxed. The pre-gig stress has gone and I feel like a load has been lifted from my shoulders. I’m not complaining you understand. I love playing these shows, it’s just how I mentally deal with them and sometimes I don’t realise just how wound up I am until I’ve finished playing. We are not all traveling back together, Lynval is heading home to Seattle and Roddy is going on a Civil War pilgrimage to Gettysburg, something he’s wanted to do for most of his life. The Lester B. Pearson airport is the usual seething mass of people and I celebrate my return home with several glasses of wine at the bar. I struck up a conversation with a guy from New Orleans. I’d recently read ‘Breach of Faith’ by Jed Horne about hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, so it was good to get some information from someone ‘on the ground’ as it were. The guy, Tommy, still hasn’t got a kitchen in his house five years after the event. Nice bloke. Somewhat wobbly, I board the plane and my i-pod runs out of batteries! Oh well. It’s nearly 7am as we touch down at Heathrow and pretty soon Neville and I are speeding back up the M40 to Coventry with Sammy at the controls. Another day, another dollar. That’s all folks!

Frequenzy Festival, Austria / Lowlands Festival, Holland.
August 18th. - 21st.

Things, as they say, are great or small but by comparison. Six weeks ago, if you’d have told me we were departing from Birmingham International Airport, I would have cocked a snook and snorted down my nostrils at you. Today, however, I am thrilled. There is no two and a half hour trek down to Heathrow, no two hour slog to Stansted or Manchester, just the usual mad dash up the A45. Relaxing almost.
Nev, Rod and I are off to Vienna via Frankfurt for the last of our weekend warrior jaunts.
Austria tomorrow (Thursday) and Holland on Friday. The three of us are stopped by a somewhat officious policewoman as we enter the departure lounge. How much money are we taking abroad? (Very little as it turns out) She never searches us to find out. Neville is less than impressed. We obviously look like trouble! We fly to Frankfurt over clouds. Air travel still satisfies - it looks real calm and peaceful out there. (It’s actually minus 35C).
All this tranquility stuff goes out of the window when we get into Frankfurt where we queue for ages to go through passport control. Nev gets severe grief. “If you want to get into my country, you will take your hat off and get your hands of the counter!” I am far too polite to inform you of Neville’s reply. After a lot of blood-claating later we find ourselves in another queue to go through another security check. “Empty your pockets” - not even ‘please’. We make our way to the gate for Vienna to find that everyone is waiting for us. We are the last three people to get on the shuttle bus to the plane and everyone is staring at us. Hey, we queued like everyone else, do we look that evil? (We don’t look like the average tourist or business-person I must admit). It’s an hour flight to Vienna followed by an hour’s drive West to St. Polsten, We pass the festival site on the way into town and here we are at the Metropole Hotel. Half an hour later the London posse arrive and soon we are down in the restaurant, Lynval and Neville being very loud and Jamaican and hilariously funny. Steve (not the manager) Blackwell picks up the tab. Thanks Steve.
Thursday. Here we are then, St. Polsten. The expression ’sleepy little town’ comes to mind. A stroll around the centre after breakfast, leisurely-like. Those pan-pipe karaoke guys get everywhere don’t they! There’s an authentic Italian market going on. Lots of big salami-type sausages and large cheeses and the Stadtmuseum which kills an hour or two.
I even saw a couple of nuns. The hills will be alive with a different type of music this evening. During the afternoon, Tim, Nikolaj, Drew and Big Jon arrive with the rest of the crew and we set off for the festival site at 8pm. Terry is not feeling too good; a cold or virus or something. Anyhow it’s 10 to 10 and on we go - the Green stage, which isn’t green at all, but the same size as the one in Oslo. Lynval’s in-ear monitor system isn’t working properly so we have to stop so he can get them working, much to our collective annoyance. Terry seems to have this Uri Geller relationship with his mich stand as it bends every which way but straight. The audience are……OK, not totally into it like some of the crowds we’ve played to, but hey….they never threw anything! Again, there are loads of people side stage dancing. I get to meet Oliver Francis Charles, who used to work with Ben Harper (I’m a big big Ben Harper fan). His current gig is with Gogol Bordello and the GB’s are up there side-stage right skanking furiously. Eugene Hutz, their head honcho was most complimentary afterwards and told me that the first Specials album is the bench mark
used by enormo U.S. producer Rick Rubin, who compared Gogol Bordello with The Specials. Mr. Hutz didn’t figure out why at the time but admitted that after seeing us, he got it. Another notch to our bed post. Gogol Bordello,… My back is well patted and it’s great to get confirmation that we’ve been such an influence on all these guys, a fact that is not lost on Brad and I as we travel back to the hotel later. The show, I suppose was a good one. (The side-stage skankers seemed to think so). Concrete Jungle was good tonight, a little slower and consequently a bit groovier. Sometimes I think it’s a bit too punk rock and not ska enough. Roddy introduces the song, “This song kills fascists!” Man at C&A hit a groove that can only be described as righteous, despite the fact that Tim(trombone) only just made it to the stage for the intro, perhaps spending a little too much time networking off-stage right.(In
his defence, Tim said his trombone case and jacket had been moved during Stereotypes and he had one of those heart-stopping moments where he imagined his wallet and passport being spirited away by some eager stage hand, so I’m not surprised he was a little flustered). Nikolaj’s keyboard riser had a life of its own for the first couple of songs until the crew wrapped towels around the wheels to stop it moving. His keyboard and attendant speakers were utter rubbish too - he was not a happy camper but held it together like the consumate professional he is. Hey, it’s a Specials gig, chaos as usual. Just before Little Bitch, Terry turned round to Brad and I and said ‘I really want to go home’. His plea is more-or-less answered as Daniel (stage manager) comes on to tell us we have to cut a song as we’re running out of time. Terry is sufficiently thankful and we end with a ferocious version of Too Much Too Young. Thank you Austria and goodnight.
Friday. 10:15am lobby call and we’re off to Vienna airport to catch the 1:45pm flight to Amsterdam. 4pm sees us collect our luggage at the enormous shopping mall that is Schiphol airport. From there it’s another hour’s drive to our hotel. Actually it’s more like two hours because (a) there’s road construction all over the place, (b) it’s Friday afternoon - the weekend starts here and (c) it’s the rush hour as we leave Amsterdam. The hotel is a kind of country club affair near the festival. I am knackered. I have done nothing all day but sit in airports, sit on aeroplanes, sit in vans and I’m exhausted. The choice is either food or sleep. I chose the food, followed by a strong cup of coffee. The correct choice as it turned out. We get to the festival site around 8pm and it’s festival-site-as-usual … loads of lorries and busses and huge tents. Catering, apparently is over the other side of the site, so I’m glad I ate earlier. Brad and I do a TV interview which wiles away 10 minutes which would otherwise have been spent getting nervous. Before I know it, it’s 9:10pm, showtime and all of a sudden it’s 1979! Brad plays like a man possessed, does some stuff I’ve never heard him do before and with an intensity that is scary. That’s the fastest we’ve ever played Concrete Jungle. Definitely punk rock tonight! The crowd are fantastic and the response to ‘Message to You‘ is like the reception we got in Belgium. Nikolaj is happy, the brass are happy, the bass and drums are rocking and the Specials ‘do the business’. Our 14th and last Euro-Festival. We get to encore with ‘You’re Wondering Now‘ and leave the crowd singing. Lynval never fell over, it didn’t rain and everybody loves The Specials.
The down side is that the Midland posse have 6:30am alarm calls as we have to be away by 7am. Breakfast starts at 7:30am.
Saturday. Bleary is an apt description as the quieter-than-usual Midlanders head off to Amsterdam. The hotel very kindly makes up a little breakfast bag for everyone - a couple of sandwiches, an apple and a can of fruit juice. Nice touch. They didn’t have to do that. We gradually come round in the D6 gate area and finally take off half an hour late.
Ho hum and it’s back to Brum, Sammy, his van, Coventry and home.

What’s on your I-Pod: An Occasional Series.
Big Jon(trumpet): Chant Down Babylon, It’s a Bob Marley tribute album done by a lot of different artists and Jollification by The Lightning Seeds.

Drew(Saxophone): I haven’t got an I-Pod. On my MP-3 player I’m listening to Alton Ellis,
The Slackers and Amy Winehouse.

August 17th, 2010


The Specials will be making an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, 26th August 2010

O.K. Usual stuff. If you’ve been following these postings you’ll know the drill by now.
Sammy picks us up in Coventry (that’s me (Horace), Neville and Roddy) and takes us to an airport (in this case, Heathrow) where we get on an aeroplane. We are seasoned travelers. Terminal 5 is like Primark, only with a branch of Harrods and a Gordon Ramsey restaurant. People read newspapers, books, stare at lap-top computers. There’s a woman over there filing her nails. A lot of people just stare into the middle distance. Hurry up and wait. On your marks, get set, …..hang around. The usual stuff.
Once again us oldies are heading out a day earlier than the crew. I think the availability of flights is the reason. Tomorrow (Thursday) we’re doing the Sziget festival in Budapest then on Friday we fly right across Europe to Norway to play the Oya festival in Oslo. So know you know. So, the flight has been called and Nev and I amble over to the gate and there’s Roddy with all these guys. He’s obviously ‘been recognised’ - but hang on a moment, that looks like Chrissy Boy and there’s Tommo and…..fuck me, Madness are on the flight. They play the same festival as us, but are on tonight. How cool is that. I haven’t seen Suggs or Woody to talk to for nearly 30 years! An extremely short 30 minutes is spent chatting until our flight boards and we all disperse to our separate seats. A girl sat down next to me and asks “Are you a Madness fan?” I looked over my glasses at her and said “Are you a Specials fan?” ha ha. Made her day apparently. Well whaddaya know ……
Madness. On arrival at Budapest we are met at the airport and immediately assailed by a squad from a local music mag and are requested, nay, commanded to pose for photographs. Please guys, can we just get the fuck out of here and get to the hotel?
This we eventually do, thanks to Tamas, our local tour guide. The drive into Budapest is educational. The outskirts is all grim crumbling Communist concrete apartments whereas the city itself is Austro-Hungarian splendour and opulence, complete with the rather high River Danube and its 8 bridges. I think I like Budapest. The London posse will get here later this evening. Lynval will be bummed that he wasn’t on the flight with The Nutty Boys, or The Nutty Men as I suppose they now are.
Thursday morning is spent being a tourist. The castle is just ‘over the road’ and after a steep climb the view over the river, old buildings etc., etc……… Tour manager Jaeki phones my hotel room at 5:45pm and tells me we are leaving now. I am the last on the bus - a first for me! No-one told me we were supposed to be away at 5:30pm. The festival site is on a large island on the river in the northern part of the city. Showtime is at a quarter to eight (early for us) after Public Image Ltd. How about that! 30 years later too! Anyway, showtime and it’s business as usual for The Specials. We are six completely different people who under normal circumstances wouldn’t have anything in common, but put us on a stage together and we become this fearsome musical force. We seem perfect, despite our imperfections, or possibly because of them but I’m sure you’re not interested in this metaphysical nonsense. It is a cracking gig. Lynval doesn’t fall over but Nev is hobbling through most of the show. He has some sort of trapped nerve going on in his left side which makes jumping around difficult to say the least. This doesn’t detract from a grade A performance. Paul (drum tech) said he thought Nite Klub and Little Bitch were the stand out tunes of the evening and I must concur. Little Bitch was played with a ferocity it hasn’t had for a while. It is a pretty evil song though, a fact that was remarked on by Terry after we finished playing it. We’re off and catering beckons. By 10pm we’re changed, fed and ready to get gone. Faithless are headlining tonight. They seem to me to be a kind of ‘Prodigy-lite‘, pummeling the audience with that rave/trance thump thump thump thing that young people listen to. We, meanwhile, hurry up and wait for our transport back to the hotel. And wait. And wait and at around 11pm our transport turns up but not before Roddy kicks up a drink-laden table to, presumably, vent his frustration. Brad said he saw Rod earlier in the evening carrying two glasses and asked if he felt improperly dressed without a glass in each hand. Roddy replied that he wished he had 3 hands. Lynval is far too noisy
on the bus back to the hotel. Alcohol I think.
Friday. After an appalling 8am start we all lug off to the airport where we sit on an aeroplane bound for Oslo for at least an hour until we finally take off. Screaming children and everything. The flight is just over 2 hours long and we land in a downpour. Has the Specials festival fortune run out? At the baggage carousel, there is no sign of my suitcase which is odd as I saw it being put on. I am the last one remaining of our party in the luggage area and there’s no suitcase. I decide to go out and look for Jaeki to report my loss only to be told that Lynval had taken it. (His case bears a significant resemblance to mine - despite the fact that mine has a luggage tag and his doesn’t. Steve (not the manager) Blackwell had come back to get Lynval’s real suitcase but hadn’t seen me looking forlorn and still hopeful. Grrrrr! It is, however, impossible to get angry with Lynval.
We pass the gig on the way into Oslo and the hotel is literally minutes away. Perhaps we can get back at a reasonable time tonight.
7:30pm and we’re in the hotel lobby and off we go. The gig is within walking distance and it is by now, a sunny summer evening but rather humid after the earlier downpour. Backstage is the usual fenced off enclave of tent-like structures. Ours is a bit bigger than most of the others but we’re the headliners this evening so………………
The gig is very similar to the one we did in Gothenburg e.g. everyone goes to watch a band, then moves over to another stage for the next act. La Roux is on our stage before us, a somewhat petrified-looking young lady with rockabilly hair with a repertoire of what sounded like early Depeche Mode demos. Personally I thought it was as dull as dishwater but the audience knew all her songs and sang them with her with great gusto. Like Faithless are this years’ Prodigy, so La Roux is attempting to be next year’s Lady GaGa?
Best of luck.
In the smaller tent/venue next door however were 1349 (the year the Black Death came to Norway) a 5-piece ‘technical Black Metal‘ band (as it is explained to me later).
La Roux they are not. Unlistenable they are. Fascinating. Innocuous synth pop, Black Metal and The Specials, all within 50 feet and one hour of one another. Musical multiculturalism in action here in Oslo. And you can see the hotel from the stage. Amazing.
Anyway, It’s 9:50pm and 54-46 blasts through the p.a. and those that know what that means get excited and those that don’t quickly get wise to what’s going on and before you know it, Brad is bashing the hired drums and on we go and look everybody, it’s The Specials!
To be honest I made some dumb mistakes, especially in Blank Expression. I never make mistakes in Blank Expression. The stage is smaller than we’re used to, so the show seems a little more intimate. Terry is his dry, cynical self, Neville chats up girls in the front row and Roddy takes his shirt off. On one hand, it’s a totally different show from last night, The Big Rock Show and although it’s still a festival and there’s probably as many people here as there was last night the whole vibe of the performance seemed different. There are bucket-loads of people side-stage digging it big time. And I should think so too. Is this the best gig we’ve done on our ‘tour’? An awful lot of people seem to think so. The crowd are just lovely and we just ‘get into a stride’. It’s very difficult writing about this. As far as I’m concerned, I’m just doing what I love with as much passion as I can pour into it. What makes it special is hearing Ivar (who is doing the catering backstage) saying to me that the first Specials album changed his life, and listening to the guys from Trashtalk, a US punk band. “Hey, man, we’ve been looking forward to this all summer. We’re going to see the Specials in Oslo!” We mean so much to so many people. It is slowly starting to sink in.
This is why it is great that Lynval, Big Jon and I walk back to the hotel from the gig, through all the punters, some of whom recognise us (well, Lynval, basically) and some don’t care. We are just ordinary people who can do something extraordinary. It has been a wonderful evening and I’m going home tomorrow. How perfect is that!
Saturday is not so perfect however. I sleep in an miss breakfast. I have a headache too, but I think the proper term is ‘hangover’. Oh well. The bus pulls away from the hotel at 9:07am sharp without Jaeki and Daniel (Production manager) who have individual commitments elsewhere. So it’s up to Steve (not the manager) Blackwell to do all that communal brain cell stuff that tour managers do and musicians rarely appreciate. Mercifully our flight is a direct one and before you know it we’re back at Heathrow.
It still never rained!

What’s on your I-Pod: An Occasional series.
Nikolaj. On the flight today I listened to Mutations by Beck as a change to all the production stuff I usually have to listen to.
Tim (Trombone). Charms of the Night Sky by Dave Douglas, about 14 different master mixes of the King Salsa project I seem to have spent most of the past five years doing,
Smoke and Mirrors by The Tom Richards Big Band……and some Guns’N’Roses.

Porto (Portugal) July 30/31.

Now this is different. It’s the busiest weekend of the year and The Specials are attempting to get to Portugal for the Parades de Coura festival, north of Porto. Now, Portugal is a very popular holiday destination, so attempting to procure flights for us non-holiday-making musicians has proved difficult. Which is why I find myself at Stansted airport on Friday afternoon, the day before everyone else flies out. Jaeki informs me that as I am one of the more responsible members of the group I can fly out the day before by myself! What fun.
So here I am, amid a sea of holiday-making humanity on The Ryanair flight to Porto.
(No seat reservations, just just sit down anywhere - and quickly!) The Ryanair jet has the ambience of a Burger King. The poor cabin crew marching up and down the aisles trying their hardest to sell you something. Appalling. However, the view out the window is amazing, clouds and all that. Apparently that’s Luton down there. The world looked wonderful from 20,000 feet.
Two and a half hours later and it’s Porto airport - and I’m met by an eager young Portugese gentleman with a Transit van (very rock’n’roll - I’m impressed) who gives me a ride into town to the Sheraton hotel.
Saturday. Breakfast - and there’s Big Jon. He (and his son) arrived yesterday too but early enough to get to have a look around. Rabbit appears - he did monitors for a band called The Courteeners at the festival yesterday. As I leave the restaurant, Marcos (out front sound engineer) arrives. We are slowly assembling. The ‘main party’ gets here this afternoon.
The biggest surprise however is that Jaeki, our tour manager, has turned into Mike, our old English tour manager. No-one told me about that one. It’s only for the Portugal show but it’s nice to see him and catch up. He did our last UK tour and took us to America earlier this year. He spends his summer months putting on shows in Ibiza and Majorca so this is a bit of ‘weekend work’ for him too. He tells me the festival site is an hour and a half’s drive away and we are on at 10 past 11. That means we’ll be off stage by half past midnight and back here at the hotel by 2:30am at the earliest. This is not good. I am scheduled to fly back to Stansted on the 6:30am Ryanair Burger King Sell Sell Sell flight and will need to get to the airport by 4:30. Sleep? I don’t think so. I think it’s a coffee/Red Bull night ahead.
The rest of my first day is unsuccessfully spent trying to get some sleep.
8pm, everyone is here and we head off to the festival site in two vans. The first hour is spent on a motorway but the last part of the journey is on narrow winding roads up and down mountains, at more or less the same speed as on the motorway! ‘Astronaut training‘ as Brad would have it. We get to the gig and Neville seems very out of sorts. He’s fed up with all the traveling (The Midlanders had to go to Gatwick to get their flight, despite the fact there are three airports nearer to Coventry) and mopes round the dressing room like there’s a black cloud over his head. He was saying that Gatwick airport was a total zoo but there again it was the busiest weekend of the year. Our travel arrangements have left a lot to be desired recently. We’ve had these gigs booked for ages so why have we only just got the flights? Anyway, enough of this……it’s showtime!
I am always nervous before a show. Sometimes less nervous, sometimes more nervous but always nervous. The adrenaline is something I both loathe and love. I have never wanted to ‘overcome my nervousness’. In truth I look forward to it. It’s probably the most alive I’ve ever felt. Combined with a lack of food however, it tends to make me quite lightheaded and a couple of times on these summer shows I’ve felt quite faint, especially at the front end of the show where a combination of lack of food, adrenaline and the heat all kick in. It would be interesting to see how the other guys in the band cope. Before I know it, it’s Gangsters, third song in and I’m ‘coming up for air‘ so to speak. Neville has transformed from Mister Miserable into…..Neville Staple, the wild man of The Specials.
He puts on a great show. Adrenaline… every time! Man at C&A is fantastic. Sometimes the groove is just…….there. I can’t explain it, but C&A was amazing this evening. We get to do an encore too. You’re Wondering Now and gone. the crowd aren’t totally rabid but I suspect they’re saving themselves for The Prodigy who are on next.
Quite a few of the band and crew were side stage checking us while we were playing so it seems a bit unfair for me to say I’m not a huge fan. They conquer by force and volume, like a heavy metal band. Sorry guys. Different generation I suppose. After our show, food is served. Excellent. We leave the venue at around 1:30am to the sound of The Prodigy battering Parades de Coura into submission. I reckon you could have heard it 10 miles away.
The switchback ride down the mountain is taken at hair-raising speed (“More astronaut training” - Brad) our journey broken only by a police road block. (No, we are not drunk officer, we always drive like this.) Our driver is fearless. Or stupid. Checking for text messages on his mobile phone while driving on dimly-lit motorways at speeds of up to 140 kilometers per hour was not one of my greatest post-gig experiences. (I was sitting in the front of the van so I saw it. I have an idea the others missed it. Probably just as well.)
We arrive back in Porto around 3am and I have just enough time to get a shower, change of clothes and check out of the hotel before Marcos and I head out to the airport from where we get our 6:30am flight back to Stansted. From there, it’s a 2 hour drive back to Coventry and some well-earned sleep.
p.s. Roddy remembered all his solos, Lynval never fell over and it didn’t rain.
See you in Hungary.

What’s On Your I-Pod: An Occasional series.
Me (Horace): Here’s The Tender Coming - The Unthanks. Mali Koura - Issa Bagayogo.
The current Songlines cd (No.70) Been listening to a lot of ‘world music‘ recently.

August Central Park Summerstage Cancelled
Look for US Tour Dates in 2011

The Specials will not be appearing at a free show on Sunday, August 22 at Central Park Summerstage due to visa issues. The legendary ska pioneers will, however, play their scheduled Toronto dates on August 27 and 28 at Sound Academy and plan to return to the US in early 2011 for additional dates.

After a 30-year hiatus, UK ska pioneers The Specials returned to the States for a week of sold-out Los Angeles and New York dates as well as a rousing, triumphant appearance at the Coachella Festival in Indio, CA, proving that their songs, with lyrics about poverty, violence, racism, and domestic discontent, are just as relevant and timely today. With rave reviews for all their US appearances, fans and critics agreed that the influential band’s blend of punk, ska and reggae is as punchy and potent as ever.

Despite a brief career, the Coventry band lit up the late 70’s like a comet, scoring eight top ten singles, including two number ones for the “Too Much Too Young” live EP and the era defining “Ghost Town.” They had two Top 5 albums and spawned a retrospective list of compilation and live albums from official releases to much sought-after bootlegs. Their melding of punk and ska creating the 2-Tone sound that still today is held up as an influence by bands across the world, having inspired the massively popular ska scene of southern California in the 90s.

The Specials are currently playing festival dates in Europe and Scandinavia; for more information check out the band’s official site at

Avast: The Specials’ Central Park SummerStage Show Is Cancelled
Been a lousy summer for visa-issue concert cancellations, from Joao Gilberto to Buena Vista Social Club to any dancehall star you’d care to name. Your latest casualties: ska titans the Specials, who’ve scotched their August 22 SummerStage gig far in advance, at least.