1001 Songs Challenge,  1970s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #523: Gangsters (1979)

On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenge of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.

My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.

I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.

So long as I post every day (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be… legendary!


The Specials – Gangsters (1979)

We’re heading back to the UK today and find ourselves in the Midlands in Coventry for our latest guest. Fancy a change of music, dear reader? Well, you have it. Formed in 1977 The Specials spent some time working on their sound before being one of the forerunners of 2 Tone, a mixture of Jamaican ska music with punk rock and new wave. When we join The Specials in 1979 it is with their debut single – Gangsters.

Gangsters was based on a trip the group made to France alongside The Clash. After staying in a hotel they were accused ofdamaging a hotel room, which another group had done, and ended up having one of their instruments confiscated until the hotel had been fully compensated. The song seems to echo a feeling of maladjustment and victimisation that the group clearly felt after the France debacle. They describe a society where laws have been manipulated and gangsters are prevalent. The track also opens and closes with a dig at an individual named Bernie Rhodes who was a former manager of the band. 

My only familiarity with The Specials is their eerie but brilliant 1981 hit, Ghost Town. I got a feel of that song in Gangsters and the group were already forging their style at this early point. It’s somewhat ironic that a disastrous trip to Europe should result in a debut track that sent the group into the UK Top 10 and would later pave the way for them to top the charts not once but twice. The group still perform to this day but line up changes and a period of disbandment (1984-1996) have occurred.


Favourite songs so far:

The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)

Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)

The Doors – The End (1967)

The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)

Rod Stewart – Maggie May (1971)

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)

Fleetwood Mac – Go Your Own Way (1977)

Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell (1977)

Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now (1978)

The Police – Roxanne (1978)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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