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Do you remember the good old days?

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: October 22, 2011

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WHEN The Specials play at Cheltenham racecourse next week it'll be something of a homecoming for founding member and guitarist Lynval Golding.

"My family moved to Gloucestershire from Jamaica and I spent most of my schooldays there," he says.

"The whole family moved to Coventry when I was 18 but I've got lots of family and friends there so I still visit."

Lynval spent his formative years in Gloucester and went to Linden Road School.

"I've got fond memories of the place and it's going to be nice to come back to the area and play," he says.

The reformed 2-Tone pioneers are playing the racecourse on Monday as part of their mammoth European tour.

"The tour has been absolutely amazing," Lynval says. "We played Milan where we have never played before and the strangest thing was to see all these young people singing all the words to the songs. They probably weren't even born when we recorded them."

Since reforming minus Jerry Dammers in 2009, The Specials have played to hundreds of thousands of fans across the world.

However, it took a lot of hard work to get the band talking again.

"I tried to get the band back together for the 25th anniversary of Gangsters, our first single, but failed miserably because I was the only one everyone was talking to," Lynval says. "Finally I met up with the guys in the West End. It was the first time we'd seen each other in 19 years.

"It's been incredible because if you can name me one band that took 26 years out of this crazy business we're in and now we're playing to the mums and their kids you know? Seeing 18 year olds singing Too Much Too Young, to me that's amazing."

This year was the 30th anniversary of their single Ghost Town hitting number one in the UK charts.

It's an eerie, angular five minutes of music with its echoing sirens, reggae bass lines, big brass, haunting organs, unnerving yelps and lyrics depicting a period of rising unemployment, racial tensions and social breakdown in inner city areas during the early years of Thatcher's government.

For many, the song is a fitting soundtrack of the times and was the backdrop to the 1981 riots that spread across the UK.

Lynval believes the lyrics are as relevant today as they were 30 years ago.

"I was watching the news when they were talking about the unemployment amongst the youth which is high and they've got no work and there is nothing for them to do," he says.

"Even those that go to university, they are coming out with debt before they start their own careers. It's a grim situation that the youth of today are facing, I just can't see a future for them."

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the charts were dominated by bands like The Specials and The Clash tackling socio-political issues in their music.

Lynval believes the rise of manufactured talent shows are to blame for pushing many of today's young bands out of the picture.

"The biggest problem is shows like The X Factor. That's the way the youths of today see them becoming rich and famous overnight. It's got no substance or longevity at all," he says.

"That along with all the commercials on TV and the smartphones that all the kids have – they want it now.

"They don't want to think about writing songs that say something. It's all very manufactured, it's like a conveyer belt, they don't get time to develop as an artist."

The Specials' music has still influenced some of the biggest artists to come out of the UK in recent years.

Lily Allen cites the band as a huge influence and Lynval said playing with the Cotswolds-based singer and vocalist Terry Hall on stage at Glastonbury in 2007 acted as a catalyst for the band getting back together.

Amy Winehouse was also a close friend of the band and presented them with their Q Inspiration Award in 2009 calling them 'the most inspirational band of all time.'

Lynval said: "Amy got up on stage with us at one of the festivals and after she presented us with a Q award and I had a really serious talk with her. I sat her down and I told her that Dusty Springfield and Aretha Franklin are the two queens of soul and I told her 'you are up with those two ladies, right?" he says.

"But take a leaf out of Dusty Springfield's book and don't ruin this'.

"Although she was a little drunk she listened to what I said. I was so shocked when I heard the news."

After the UK tour finishes in London next month, Lynval says the band have no plans to break up again.

He even hinted at making some new music "when the fans tell us they want it."

However, right now he is just enjoying playing songs that defined an era to a whole new generation of Specials fans.

"All of the songs we've written over those two albums that belong to the fans and we will play those songs for them," he says,

"The fans are our boss."

■ The Specials play Cheltenham racecourse on Monday. Visit www.seetickets.com for tickets.

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