“BERNIE RHODES KNOWS DON’T ARGUE!”
Y’know that first line of The Specials‘ (AKA The Special A.K.A.) Gangsters was always an inaudible mystery to me. For those of us in the US, the Chrysalis Records domestic was a cheaply released piece of monkey mess that didn’t bother to include the lyric sheet, so all I heard was ‘HASHJIMOJIMO DOEARGUE!’. Funny enough on the back of the record was a small line that said ‘For lyrics sheet please send a self-addressed stamped envelope to..’. So I sent one, six years after the fact and still dying to know what like 90% of what the hell they were shouting. Even funnier was that Chrysalis eventauly replied, randomly enough like 5 YEARS LATER, on a letterhead that had been re-xeroxed so many times it resembled the Magna Carta. ‘Thank you LEOPOLD STOTCH for inquiring about THE SPECIALS LYRIC SHEETS. Sorry at this time we are currently out. In the future, should more become available we will send one to you.’ I think in some tiny part of my mind, every time I go to the mailbox now Iim still secretly holding out that it will arrive, 20 something years later.
So long story made short, Bernie Rhodes was their strong armed, strong willed manager, more infamously known as the manager and unofficial 5th wheel of The Clash.
Virtually all ska bands feel the pull of doing a cover and The Specials were no different. Today’s pick Gangsters, was itself a reworking of an earlier Prince Buster track called Al Capone, but that’s a different spoon to bend. Here we have 8 covers of The Specials’ debut. Kicking off we have a cheeky country & western version by The Hyperions and an electro/ska cut by Citizen King. No one sings it quite like original lead Terry Hall, a fact not lost on either UK big beaters The Dub Pistols or pint size perky pop sensation (and daughter of cockney royalty Keith Allen) Lily Allen who invite him to guest. And lastly like a cover trapped in an echo chamber we see original lead singers Terry Hall and Neville Staple revisiting old pastures as the Fun Boy Three as well as Neville on a solo tip.
The Hyperions – Gangsters
Citizen King – Gangsters
Dub Pistols (Feat. Terry Hall) – Gangsters
Dub Pistols (Feat. Terry Hall) – Gangsters (Live At Bestival 2005)
Lily Allen (Feat. Terry Hall) – Gangsters (Live at Glastonbury 2007)
Lily Allen – Gangsters (Live In Brazil)
Fun Boy Three – Gangsters (Live on The Old Grey Whistle Test)
Neville Staple – Gangsters
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