Saturday, July 11, 1981

The Specials’ “Ghost Town” hit #1 in the UK

Ghost Town

The Specials

Writer(s): Jerry Dammers (see lyrics here)


Released: June 12, 1981


First Charted: June 20, 1981


Peak: 17 CL, 2 CO, 13 UK, 68 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 22.2 video, 38.33 streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The Specials formed in England in 1977. They presented a unique mix of ska and punk which clicked with British audiences. From 1979 to 1981, The Specials landed seven consecutive top-10 hits, including the #1 hits “Too Much Too Young” in 1980 and “Ghost Town” in 1981. “Ghost Town” came at a time that the ska-punk scene was starting to wane. The song, however, showed a willingness on The Specials’ part to embrace new sounds. It was “a downbeat, doom-laden, politically-fired track” XFM which demonstrated the band’s openness to “exploring genres such as new wave, lounge – even muzak.” XFM

“Jerry Dammers’ keyboards are eerily atmospheric throughout and a chanting vocal provides a damning appraisal of inner-city life.” XFM The song grew out of a difficult time in the UK marked by riots sparked by race relations, a police raid, and unemployment. Dammers told Mojo magazine “In Liverpool, all the shops were shuttered up, everything was closing down. In Glasgow there were little old ladies on the street selling their household goods – it was clear something was wrong.” KL

There was unrest amongst the band as well. This was the last single released by the original seven members. WK Right before “Ghost Town” topped the charts, Neville Staples, Lynval Golding, and Terry Hall resigned from the band. Dammers continued with Horace Panter, John Bradbury, and new lead singer Rhoda Dakur, who’d formerly been with the Bodysnatchers. Under the band’s original name of The Special A.K.A., they continued to chart, but only reached the top 10 once more with “Free Nelson Mandela” in 1984.

In the UK music press, “Ghost Town” was hailed “as a major piece of popular social commentary.” WK It was named “Single of the Year” by Melody Maker, NME, and Sounds – the three top weekly UK magazines at the time. All Music Guide’s Michael Waynick called “Ghost Town” the band’s “crowning achievement.” AMG


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for The Specials
  • AMG All Music Guide review by Michael Waynick
  • KL Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 271.
  • WK Wikipedia
  • XFM Mike Walsh (editor) (2010). The XFM Top 1000 Songs of All Time. Elliott & Thompson Limited: London, England. Page 394.


First posted 10/13/2021.

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