Ska’d for Wife

Brad’s Ska Book Review

That’s how Elmer Fudd might pronounce the title of the first of two books reviewed by our resident book reviewer, Brad Krohn. Check out Brad’s thoughts on Ska’d For Life – A Personal Journey with The Specials by Horace Panter and 2-Tone, The Specials, and a World in Flame: Wheels Out of Gear by Dave Thompson after the turn. Now how sweet is that ska patch from the Poser store in Hollywood circa 1980?

Ska’d for Life and Wheels out of Gear - Book Jackets

  • Ska’d For Life – A Personal Journey with The Specials by Horace Panter
  • Although both concern the products of Jerry Dammers’ genius vision (The Specials and the phenomenon of 2-Tone records), these two books are as different and contrasting as the black and white checks of 2-Tone’s artwork. Ska’d For Life, penned by Specials bassist Horace Panter, is an excellent tell-all brimming with tales of the band and label’s rise, and the bitter acrimony that led to the speedy demise. Sir Horace Panter was a typical wide-boy, a real player – and not just of the bass. He also had quite a penchant for middle-class college girls (that’s a good thing in England). He’s certainly an engaging writer and provides vivid details of The Specials heyday. For those that don’t know, this is a band in which the members couldn’t stand each other and their petulance in the face of commercial success was nothing short of remarkable. Who gets first selection from a flight case full of moldy loafers, or who lays ultimate claim when the band collectively discovers a killer bomber jacket in a stateside second-hand store actually add serious fuel to the fire. It quickly becomes apparent that the tension created by these chronic arguments was the very source of the band’s manic, creative energy both on stage and in the studio. Panter’s own original diary entries from various UK/US tours are included and provide the real dirt (that’s code for Go-Go’s stories). The Specials’ laconic vocalist Terry Hall is quoted saying something to the effect of “we’ll play if we have our good clothes but crap instruments, but we won’t play if we have crap clothes and good instruments.” I can dig that. The Specials’ mod-ish attention to detail in appearance, album cover art, etc. was a key ingredient in the success of the 2-Tone fad. Panter also delves into the details surrounding the creation of the label’s iconic graphic design including the ubiquitous “Walt Jabsco” mascot (slickly patterned off an old photo of Peter Tosh). This is smart writing about a massively talented band.

  • 2-Tone, The Specials, and a World in Flame: Wheels Out of Gear by Dave Thompson
  • Wheels Out of Gear is not a book about the Specials’ minutia. It is a detailed account of the late 1970’s British social and political stew that 2-Tone evolved within. More of a thesis on the strife created when a proud island nation dive-bombs into recession, a creepy conservative government literally “leaves the youth ‘pon da shelf”, and the reactionary xenophobia and viciousness that follows. It reads as a role-call of the daily social atrocities that fueled 2-Tone and Oi!: the murder (ne “misadventure”) of boxer Liddle Towers- check, S.U.S laws– check, Stop and Search- check, Operation Swamp ’81- check. Two hundred pages, and about as many molotov cocktails later, you’ll come away with a much better insight into British culture. Via their enthusiastic support of Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League- The Specials, Madness, and Sham 69 all have the tabloid’s trumped-up charges of race-baiting dropped once and for all. To the great disappointment of these enlightened bands, a fraction of their fan base would always be associated with the shameful old National Front and the like. The book brilliantly concludes with a chilling description of the national “mood” that was perfectly captured (and sold!) within the grooves of The Specials final single “Ghost Town” – a masterpiece that went straight to #1.

    Reviews by Brad Krohn 2009

    4 Responses to “Ska’d for Wife”

    • I like this bit of literary flavor in EPM. Not sure why Panter’s “penchant for middle-class college girls” is A) worthy of remark — unless he was a notorious peverted old dude — and B) a “good thing in England.” But thanks for the insight on these two books.

    • Cool…by “good thing” I was referring to being middle class in England at the time, like vs. working class…I see how it could read the other way though…

    • I really love the first singer of the band “Rankin Suggs. There is a good docu where Buster Blood Vessel said we were both ska bands but we “Bad Manners” just wanted to have fun. The specials had a message an agenda they were responsible we were just having fun.

    • BTW: Nice touch adding Puck in the background of the photo.

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