30th Jun, 2022

MUSIC MATTERS: Dr Rude Boy Neville Staple honoured as The Specials rock the cathedral

Dr Rude Boy

It was a special time in and around the cathedral last week. In the ruins, we had The Specials (more of that later) and in the new cathedral last Wednesday, former Special Neville Staple was being honoured with a Honorary Doctorate.

Yes, the Original Rude Boy Neville Staple of The Specials and Fun Boy Three fame received an Honorary Doctorate of music from Arden University for his lifelong achievement and anti-violence activism.

I was humbled to be there and to see this musical legend finally being honoured for all the great work he has done, along with his family and friends and of course, his very supportive wife Sugary Staple.

Dr Neville Staple (AKA Dr Rude Boy) has extended his help and support far beyond the musical world. The couple are involved in charity work, youth education and of course anti-knife crime after Neville lost his grandson to knife crime last year.

The packed cathedral got to hear the life and times of Neville and was treated to a short acoustic set from Neville, Christine and Neville’s bandmates Steve Armstrong and Drew Stansall. Well done Dr Rude Boy.

The Rudies have taken over the cathedral

So The Specials were back in town to play four sell-out dates in the ruins of the old cathedral. No doubt, people who know me and my love of all things 2-Tone will expect a glowing biased review of the night I got to see them (Wednesday).

Well let me shock you with some honesty, when the Specials returned in 2009 I watched show after show. I was hooked, but the buzz began to diminish as their finite body-of-work began to render their live performances “The same old show” (to use the words of another 2-Tone band). There was little wrong with their set, it was just a sense of wanting something new, some more songs I guess.

So, I never saw the band live for about three years, until they supported The Stones last year. That was a one off, and even on home soil, backing such an iconic band in bright sunshine still didn’t hit the musical spot.

So I had no idea how I would react last week as Coventry’s finest hit the stage. Yes the chart topping album “Encore” was great, but what about those new songs live?

Well I have to say, it was one of those gigs that the phrase ‘What’s not to like’ comes to mind.

The setting was magical, Coventry’s most famous musical export playing in the fractured beating heart of the city.

Huge moving head lights lit up the spire, as the sirens sounded. It was shivers down the spine time.

Coventry personified in one moment in time where Peace and Reconciliation held hands with the unity and multiculturalism of 2-Tone music.

I smiled, despite all our problems right then, right there, I was so proud to be a Cov kid.

So the night continued with the old songs rubbing shoulders with the new songs, delighting the large but never threatening crowd.

I never get involved in band politics, and yes the Specials are down to three original members, some fans took the decision not to come.

Fair enough but I have respect and love for every one of the Specials then and now, they all changed my life.

To be honest, I still thought of Jerry Dammers during Ghost Town and Roddy Byers during Rat Race, and of course Neville Staple came to mind during Stereotype, not forgetting our lost brother John Bradbury who was there for me in the shadows of every echoed drum beat.

You can take the boy out of the band, but you can’t take the band out of the boy. They will be extricably linked no matter what.

So predictably it was glorious. The setting, the PA sound, the setlist and the organisation all spot on.

I saw Horace Panter after the show and the usually reserved bass player declared that it had been emotional.

He wasn’t kidding, you all did our city proud.

So how about some sort of honour for all seven of the guys, 40 Years of 2-Tone is not over yet?Boy

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