Doing a 180: The Special AKA, In the Studio

Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Doing a 180: The Special AKA, In the Studio

It’s vinyl reissue time again, and this week’s offering is generally considered to be the third album by The Specials, although it’s technically credited to The Special AKA. Why the change in name? Well, you know how it goes with bands: memberships change over time, and sometimes enough members depart to make it seem a little dodgy to keep the band’s name the same.

In the case of In the Studio, which emerged almost half a decade after the previous Specials album (More Specials, released in 1980), there was good reason to view the group as an untested entity, given that Terry Hall, Lynval Golding, and Neville Staple had all headed off for the poppier pastures of Fun Boy Three, leaving Jerry Dammers as the predominant creative force. Not that he hadn’t already been writing songs, but there was definitely a major shift in the material with the aforementioned trio having departed the ranks, particularly in the political content.

While In the Studio may not touch the greatness of The Specials’ debut album or even their sophomore effort, but it has its highlights, including “What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend,” “Racist Friend,” “War Crimes,” and “Nite on the Tiles.” More importantly, it made a significant impact with its most successful single, “Free Nelson Mandela,” which went on to be a top-10 hit in the UK, Ireland, and the Netherlands while actually topping the charts in New Zealand. We wouldn’t dare to suggest that the song had anything directly to do with Mandela’s eventual release, but it’s fair to say that it introduced the man and his plight to a great number of individuals who wouldn’t otherwise have paid any attention to the political landscape, which is certainly an accomplishment worthy of major kudos.

We know that The Specials are often remembered more for their singles than their albums, but A) everything sounds better on 180-gram vinyl, and B) there’s certainly more than enough music of note in the grooves of In the Studio to make it a worthy addition to your record collection.