I can't believe it's been 40 years since "Ghost Town" hit the top of the singles charts. The Specials anthemic track is still relevant today, a song about social issues such as racial tensions and inner-city violence. No wonder it was received with such passion when the Neville Staple Band performed it at Boiler Shop, Newcastle upon Tyne.
Neville Staple is best known for his time with The Specials and later the Fun Boy Three. As the Original Rude Boy took to the mic, the words "Bernie Rhodes knows. Don't Argue!" bellowed across the venue. The crowd cheered as "Gangsters" kicked off proceedings. This was followed up by the band's cover of The Slickers' "Johnny Too Bad", which kept up the tempo and ensured the energetic dancing continued. There was no allowing the audience to catch a breath as they went straight into "Little Bitch”, another lively number.
Many of the Ska bands of the late 70s and early 80s covered a lot of classic reggae, rocksteady and ska songs. A few of these songs got well-deserved and well-executed airings throughout the night. "Pressure Drop" by Toots and the Maytals, Dandy Livingstone's "A Message to You Rudy", and "Too Hot" by Prince Buster and the All Stars all made an appearance, performed impeccably by a band that is packed with very talented musicians. A couple of Fun Boy Three tracks were also scattered about the set too.
Mr Staple's wife and Manager, Christine' Sugary' Staple, also takes on vocal duties and is a damn fine dancer and all-around talented Rude Girl. "Original Rudegirl Sound", written by Sugary Staple, was delivered with gusto by Mrs Staple and especially loved by all the rude girls in the audience.
It was great to see a mix of ages in the crowd. A decent chunk were from when the 2-Tone movement exploded in the late 70s, but there were also a few younger people. The venue was a beautiful array of Doc Martens (mainly Ox Blood), Harrington jackets, Ben Sherman and Fred Perry shirts and a smattering of pork pie hats and crombies. Now That's What I Call Fashion.
"Ghost Town" was met with the love and respect it deserves. Hearing the crowd singing, "This town is coming like a ghost town", was an amazing and slightly emotional experience. The set finished in a blaze of classic songs and all-out dancing. The "Skinhead Symphony" saw a mass outbreak of skanking. Skanking to the left of me, skanking to the right. Arms, legs and bodies cutting shapes, limbs going in all directions. It was a joy to behold! To close the set (without a pointless encore which I encourage all artists to do!), the dulcet tones of Mr Staple treated us to "You're Wondering Now" – a fitting song to end the evening. The lunatics left the asylum and danced their bits off at the Boiler Shop – with Judge Roughneck holding court.
Johnny Too Bad
The Farmyard Connection
Do The Dog
A Message To You Rudy
Original Rudegirl Sound
Skinhead Symphony (Long Shot Kick De Bucket/Liquidator/Skinhead Moonstomp)
Guns of Navarone
You're Wondering Now