In 2010, the hardback version of Neville Staple’s biography was published by Aurum Press – co-written with yours truly. The publishers ran several front cover ideas past me and Nev and of course, only one could be chosen. Below was one of the ideas that didn’t make it – but I think was very evocative. I’d almost be tempted to blow it up and hang on my bedroom wall as a ska/2Tone poster.
The summer of 1981 was rocked by riots against the government with cities across Britain experiencing massive upheavals. Coventry had been something of a tinderbox for years with skinheads clashing with black and Asian youth throughout the 1970s – something I write about in my biography of Neville Staple, “Original Rude Boy”. But things escalated in 1981 when an Asian youth was murdered in broad daylight in the shopping centre – enough was definitely enough.
The National Front had swaggered round town intimidating law abiding people and now the 2Tone bands born of Coventry organised a gig to take the streets back. It was a festival of racial unity. Though that didn’t stop the NF threatening to come down to the venue and cause disruption. At the same time as the gig, riots broke out round Coventry bus station.
Here is Melody Maker’s report on the gig from my archives!
Having worked with Neville Staple on his biography – Original Rude Boy – it was time to take it out on the road. Nev did a whole series of book signings around 2009 and since, which proved to be very popular. Seem to recall that at Fopp near Soho, London – Danny Boyle showed up….which was a bit unexpected.
In 2011, the paperback of my biography of Neville Staple was published by Aurum Press. I’d spent countless hours with Neville and also many of his close friends to write Original Rude Boy.
This had involved popping up to Coventry and sitting with Nev in his living room reliving the glory days of 2Tone but also discussing his youth and friendships. I found that Neville was very passionate about his family, especially those in Jamaica he had been forced to leave behind as a child – including his own mother.
I think it’s fair to say that Neville has a Jamaican soul. Though he’s also a Coventry lad and has led a life in music that has taken him all over the world. But he has never forgotten his roots and crucially those people who were always there in the good times and the bad. In that respect, one would have to single out Trevor and Rex, childhood buddies who went on to tour with The Specials – officially as roadies but a bit more than that.
Together with Neville, Trevor and Rex brought a black British street-wise sense to The Specials. This was something Bernie Rhodes understood was essential during his short time managing the band. This trio gave The Specials a flavour that set it apart from other 2Tone offerings.
Though of course, one cannot ignore the towering genius of Jerry Dammers. He had recognised in the old ska sound from Jamaica something that could speak to young people at the end of the 70s. They were tough times. Unemployment was high, poverty was increasing and hope was giving way to frustration and despair.
Jerry’s interpretation of ska with Neville’s ability to “toast” about the realities of everyday life in the decaying auto city that was Coventry was an incredible combination. Hope I helped to capture this in the book. Speaking to Huffington Post journalist Salvatore Bono, Neville said some kind words about yours truly.
He knows how to talk to people, knew how to talk to me. And I want to do a follow up about the touring with the Specials and stuff we left out before – and he’s the man because he knows what I’m like.
You can read the full review HERE on the HuffPo.