Punk was running out of steam by 1979, but as a seventeen-year-old who was into whatever was new, this was just as exciting as punk to me. Of course, this wasn’t really new, it was a second wave of ska. But it was certainly still pretty exciting. This is the first of a few tracks on this blog that have a Terry Hall connection.
This was initially released under the name “Special AKA”, before the band changed to “The Specials” when recording their first LP. The 7” single was a double A-side featuring, in lieu of another Special AKA song as the other A-side, but the eponymous single by The Selecter. The release was the début of the now famous 2 Tone Records, based out of Coventry. This was soon followed by more classics of the genre - The Prince by Madness, and On My Radio by The Selecter.
The Beat (known in the US, for disambiguation purposes, as The English Beat) and Elvis Costello also had releases on this label.
Gangsters is a re-working of Prince Buster’s classic from the first wave of ska, 1964’s Al Capone.
The opening line mentions Bernie Rhodes, manager of The Clash. According to wikipedia, Gangsters is about an incident that happened while on tour in France with The Clash. The Specials were held responsible for damage in a hotel that another English band had allegedly caused, and the hotel manager held one of their guitars as collateral. The situation escalated when the hotel called the local police, and ended with the Specials paying for the damage.