The Specials | Ghost Town
This is a good article from The Guardian, reflecting on the riots and the symbolism of this song which hit the top of the charts the week of the riots across Britain thirty years ago and seemed to explain the causes better than any sociological essay or newpaper editorial.
Why the Specials’ Ghost Town is still the sound of a country in crisis
Not all protest songs offer political solutions. Some, such as the Specials’ 1981 hit, are better at capturing a mood of anxiety
On Sunday morning – after Tottenham but before London’s rioting went viral – I was reading reports of the violence when Gimme Shelter came on the radio. The combination was unexpectedly visceral. The Rolling Stones’ slow-burning jeremiad played out over images of riot police and buildings on fire. Possibly this suggests a chronic inability on my part not to relate dramatic events to music. It’s a habit intensified by working on a history of protest music in which songs and historical events become inextricably linked. But it brought to mind a phrase used by Rock Against Racism co-founder David Widgery: “crisis music.”
Widgery meant music that responded to the specific danger of the National Front in the late-70s but to me the phrase has a broader application. Crisis music is a subset of protest music that is not always perceived as such because it captures a mood of anxiety and imminent collapse, and offers no solutions.