Wheels Out of Gear : 2 Tone, the Specials and a World in Flame

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  • Edition: Revised
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2011-10-01
  • Publisher: Scb Distributors
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Originally published to great critical acclaim in 2004 by Helter Skelter Publishing, WHEELS OUT OF GEAR is a vivid exploration of the 2-Tone movement of the late 1970s and early '80s, set against the turbulent backdrop of Thatcher's Britain. Taking its roots from Caribbean Ska, Rock Steady and Reggae, the 2-Tone sound was honed into a modern urban multi-racial groove led by The Specials, whose 2-Tone record label gave the movement its name and a home to many of the groups of the time, such as The Selecter and Madness.In a period of great political polarisation, with clashes between the National Front and the Anti-Nazi League, as well as riots in London, Liverpool and Birmingham, and the death of Blair Peach at the hands of the police, The Specials and their contemporaries spread a multi-racial message whilst gaining commercial success with hits such as Too Much Too Young and Ghost Town, which combined catchy dance music with socially aware lyrics.WHEELS OUT OF GEAR is a candid exploration of this fascinating era in British music and politics and is a must-have for all fans of the 2-Tone sound.It will also fascinate anyone with an interest in 1980s politics.The author, Dave Thompson, lives in America and is available for interviews. His soon to be published book on Patti Smith will have a halo effect for this book.


Chrysalis, whose American wing would be handling the release of The Specials, pulled out all the promotional stops. Just two days after the Hurrah gig on January 24, The Specials entered the US chart. The gig itselfshattered the venue's own attendance record, with an already wound-up audience retaining its wild enthusiasm even when the show kicked off two hours later than scheduled. "This is our first-ever gig in America,” Hall was finally able to tell the waiting hordes. "And we just can't say how pleased you must be to have us here.”At the same time, however, Dammers was adamant that the Specials would not be party to any attempt to hype them up, for either the media's benefit or their own. Disgusted to find his merry men booked into somerather plush hotels when they first reached America, Dammers took to sending the tour manager on ahead to make sure that the accommodations were not too good. No matter that such sensibilities meant absolutelynothing to the band's American following; no matter that, to his colleagues, a few nights in such establishments made a glorious respite from the cheesy English hostelries they traditionally stayed in at home. Dammers' own sense of class righteousness (and, perhaps, the knowledge that even the most benevolent record company largesse wound up being deducted from the band's accounts at some point) refused to compromise an iota.As they bounced around the major cities on the East Coast, the band found audiences to be gleefully receptive. As the bus edged into the interior,however, the Specials quickly discovered the true nature of an American tour. "Even though Punk rock had changed things a bit in the UK, America was stillhippieland,”laughs Roddy Radiation. "Everybodyseemed to be into coke, something we hadn't really come across. We were mainly weed and beerboys, with a bit of mod whiz.”The huge distances that the group was expected to travel between showstook their toll - certainly nothing that the Specials had experienced bouncingaround Britain and the continent could have prepared them for the mindnumbingvoids that stretched out before them. The tour was barely half over,and Sir Horace was already comparing the tour bus to a mobile funeral home.When the Los Angeles Times asked Dammers how he was enjoying his firstvisit to America, the organist simply snarled, "I had more fun on a school tripto Russia.”

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