Posted by:on September 5th, 2000
By Paul Williams
Review Date: 9/5/00
Updated: 4/28/05 – A little back and forth with the author!
First things first. This book was published in 1995 slightly before the aborted fetus of the great new “ska” revival was abandoned in the dumpster of poular culture. It’s small, short, not too well organized, and full of either badly printed or badly exposed photos. It’s written from a fan’s perspective, so it does gush at times. Otherwise it comes off as one big newspaper article that just goes on and on and on. Picture reading an article that covers the facts but frustratingly leaves out a lot of the details. This book could have used a good editor. There are chapters… sort of. One long section covering the Specials proper, and then several shorter sections covering Fun Boy 3, individual solo careers, The Specials AKA (after the breakup), Special Beat, and lastly, the Specials as they were reforming with most of the original members. That bunch turned out “Today’s Specials” in 1996, which is pretty good. It’s not great, but it aint crap either. A little diversified and maybe overproduced, but very listenable. I haven’t heard their latest Guitly ’til proved innocent (Crap, actually, but the release Today’s Specials is OK but still sort of watered down ) This is a book review though, so I’ll get back to it. Good points; there’s a discography that even covers bootlegs. I’m not the authority, but it seems pretty thorough. Williams talks about the 2-Tone movement and the intermixing of band members from different circles. I was suprised to learn about their more famous fans like Jagger and Richards, Queen, etc. Pretty interesting details, but not enough of it. Maybe that’s the case with most bands that aren’t together for very long. They weren’t that important, were they? Williams just about credits the end of apartheid to Jerry Dammers’ tune “Free Nelson Mandela.” The early Specials albums are magical. The kind that transport you back to the place you were when you first heard them. This book, while probably a labor of love for the author, doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the Specials. The whole thing has a low budget smell that at first gives me the impression that someone agreed to finance it in hopes of making a quick buck. My revised opinion is that someone really badly wanted to put out a book about the Specials, and because of the budget, that’s also how it turned out (really bad), but that’s still too harsh. Now that watered down ska has invaded popular culture in everything from car commercials to the theme music for America’s Funniest Home Videos (I admit, I tuned in to check out Daisy Fuentes) we can hope that someone will produce a higher budget version with color photos and a table of contents. Two and a half out of five checkers.
Update: Paul Williams contacted us about the review and had some points to make. Among other things, he thought that I didn’t take into consideration the book’s target audience, and especially it’s place among the surrounding ST Publishing catalog. In Paul’s own words…
You dont have to buy the whole ST Publishing catalogue but knowing something about the whole set up and its directions helps to take things into consideration, and it has a certain audience that I was appealing to. I just feel you havent got the gist of it. Still, you old skateboarding punks are listening to a great band so things cant all be bad. I am proud of the little book, and considering its success world wide, it makes me one happy old skinhead. Even the much respected international “Q” magazine gave it a good review, which suprised me. Although you are right about one thing-the editing. It was terrible and missed vital bits out. Something we will agree on.
So there you have it. I’d just like to point out that You’re Wondering Now is currently the only resource devoted soley to the Specials. If you are a big fan of the band in any of it’s incarnations, it’s still a valueble read.
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