This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #481: Ghost Town by The Specials.
A couple of months ago, while scrolling through my FB feed, I came across a post from a friend who doesn’t usually talk about music or entertainment. She simply stated that she really missed being able to go to a dancehall and wondered if anyone else felt the same way. What caught my eye about this seemingly innocent post was her choice of words. Most people around these parts don’t speak of a “dancehall”. They will talk about “partying” or going to a “bar” or a “club” but, not a dancehall. I am not sure if she meant anything by her choice of words besides, “dancing” but, in reality, what struck me is that I know that the term “dancehall” is a culturally-significant word in the Jamaican music scene.
When we think of music from Jamaica, we mostly think of Reggae and of Bob Marley. Well, like so many aspects of all cultures, Reggae is an umbrella term for many sub-genres of the music produced and enjoyed there. Ska, Rocksteady and Dancehall are all variations of Reggae that each have their own stars, styles and dances.
In England, in the early 80s, the various manifestations of Reggae sub-culture were making themselves known via bands such as Madness, The English Beat (known only as The Beat in the UK) and The Specials. The Specials were, in fact, practising a type of music called Two-Tone because of the fact that both, black and white musicians were combining their talents to produce a unique and infectious musical sound. The Specials incorporated brass, strings and percussions, along with vocals in a way that gave them a sound that was easy to like and hard not to move along with when they played. This song, “Ghost Town”, describes the impact of the austerity measures being imposed by the Conservative government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the time. “Ghost Town” laments the shutting down of clubs and dancehalls because those were places where members of the Jamaican community and other people of colour could gather. As awesome as this song sounds, it is actually a political lament about policies that keep punishing the black community.
“Ghost Town” by The Specials is an amazing sounding song and should be enjoyed loudly, on good speakers or through good headphones, if you have them. If not, crank this anyway. Economic downturn never sounded so good as it does here.
The Specials have a wonderful website that can be accessed by clicking the link, here.
Thank you, KEXP, for your support of good music and for inspiring me to write this post. The link to their website can be found here.
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