Jan 9, 1981: Members of The Specials Fined for Inciting Riotby Best Classic Bands Staff
They were fractious times in the U.K. The old school music fans didn’t like the punk and new wave. Skinheads in the racist National Front didn’t like the multiracial ska groups in the 2 Tone Records movement like The Specials. The economy was in the dumper and people were angry.
One fall night in Cambridge in 1980 at a Specials show, it all came to a head. During the set by the opening act, The Swinging Cats, an audience member jumped onstage and attacked the band. Violence between bouncers, the audience and the band flared throughout the headlining set by The Specials. Singer Terry Hall hurled a mike stand at one bouncer. Bandleader/keyboard player Jerry Dammers announced that the band would stop if the violence didn’t cease: another bouncer got onstage and threatened him. After the gig, Hall & Dammers were arrested at the behest of the promoter and charged with incitement to riot, and wound up spending the night in jail.
They were fined £400 (about $680) on this day for the incident. Although The Specials never enjoyed a U.S. chart hit, they began their U.K. career with seven straight Top 10 singles including “A Message to You, Rudy” and two #1s: “Too Much Too Young” and “Ghost Town.”
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The band’s current lineup has some 2017 concert appearances scheduled with Toots and the Maytals.