When The Specials went to Northern Ireland


It was a brave pop band that went to Northern Ireland at the start of the 1980s and loudly advocated a non-sectarian message – but that’s what The Specials and The Beat did in 1981.

On the UK mainland, 2tone bands had made racial unity central to their musical message. When it came to the violence torn province, unity of Catholic and Protestant youth was their plea. I write about this tour in my biography of Neville Staple – Original Rude Boy. And below is a press clipping from my archives.

2tone

Northern Ireland Troubles in 1980


Thank goodness this seems like an epoch ago! Even though I’m half Irish, I’m glad to say that the carnage we once witnessed year after year in Northern Ireland now seems a distant nightmare. One can’t be complacent but – fingers crossed – we don’t look set to return to those days anytime soon.

Here’s a reminder of how awful it was – the latest update from The Observer in 1980. What a sad front cover.

July, 1981 – when Britain went a bit mad


It was a month to remember…

John McEnroe lost the plot at Wimbledon……cricket fans threw cushions at the pitch because play was stopped early….Reverend Paisley shot at in Belfast…..inner city riots in Toxteth, Moss Side and Brixton…..Home Secretary authorises use of plastic bullets against rioters…..Basement 5 split….a teenager gets in to the House of Commons with a very big knife screaming that he wants to murder Thatcher….fighting breaks out between SAS operatives and mourners at an IRA funeral…Ghost Town goes to number one in the charts…..fatal stabbing at Black Uhuru gig….South African mixed race couple ask permission to leave Britain due to ‘racial hatred’…..Sounds magazine sues NME magazine….a thousand Mods do battle with the police in the Lake District…..Lady Di has one of her first on camera tearful tantrums at a polo match….a twelve year old girl is on trial at the Old Bailey for stealing a donut…Michael Heseltine suggests a big garden festival will help Liverpool forget recent riots….builder David Young was fined £50 for shouting abuse at the king of Saudi Arabia during a state visit…..’Britain in Turmoil’ thunders the Daily Express on its front page….