MUSIC MATTERS- Jerry’s genius disc is well worth giving another spin - The Coventry Observer

MUSIC MATTERS- Jerry’s genius disc is well worth giving another spin

Coventry Editorial 29th Jun, 2023   0

COVENTRY Music Museum curator Pete Chambers BEM writes for the Observer.

THE year 1984 may not have been as prophesied by George Orwell in his nightmare narrative of a state controlled dystopian future in his book ‘1984’.

However, there was another work of art that was released in June 1984 – this one was of the musical variety, but like the book, it had its own nightmare twists, psychological battles and powerful social statements.

The album was ‘In The Studio’ by The Special AKA, and it stands as one of the most iconic and inspiring works ever penned by the genius that is Jerry Dammers.

Back in 1984, I was a fledgling reporter on the Midlands music paper Brum Beat. I recall the day I received my review copy from Chrysalis/2Tone Records.

I didn’t get it, there was no ‘Monkey Man’, no ‘Do The Dog’, not even a ‘Stereotype’. Like any creative, Jerry had been progressing.

He had long moved on from the original basic Ska sound of the early Specials, I hadn’t.




The second Specials album ‘More Specials’ had moved on apace from the first album, but this one was just so hard for this young(ish) journalist to fathom.

I wrote in my Coventry Gazebo column this quite damming (no pun) review.


“At last, In The Studio, The new Special AKA album is in the shops, was the long wait worth it?

Well apart from tracks Girlfriend, Housebound and the brilliant Nelson Mandela.

It is for me a very disappointing effort, where has the Dammers magic gone?”

Oh, my word, how dare I dismiss what many of us now consider a work of art.

Of course, this album was never easy listening – it famously took Jerry and the band over two years to make and left its mark on all who took part.

That apart the album for me was a real slow burner, a few years ago I was glad I got the chance to tell Jerry how my thoughts had changed, and he was pleased to hear the cerebral nuances of this work had finally shone through for me.

Before I go on, it’s important to recognise that although Jerry was the main man here, the gathered musician who we knew as the Special AKA consisted of Stan Campbell, Rhoda Dakar, Gary McManus, John Shipley and John Bradbury – all superb musicians with many of them contributing to the songwriting (many others contributed including Horace Panter, Roddy Byers, Dick Cuthell and Rico and many more).

So the songs themselves took on subjects many would not go near.

‘Nelson Mandela’ has become a beyond iconic anthem sung by thousands worldwide.

‘Housebound’ was allegedly about Terry Hall’s post-Specials agoraphobia.

‘War Crimes’ outed Israel for its invasion of Lebanon.

‘Racist Friend’ was a stark anthem to genteel Racism and Racism by association. So, it went on: ‘Lonely Crowd’ (social isolation) ‘What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend’ (rejection), ‘Break Down The Door’ (escaping your personal demons), ‘Bright Lights’ (London’s streets are not paved in gold) and ‘Alcohol’ (guess).

Maybe it’s time you had another listen to this masterpiece in sound.

  • If you have local music news and would like to feature in this column, please contact Pete Chambers BEM on [email protected]

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