Posts Tagged ‘Elvis Costello & The Roots’

Tune du Jour: “Ghost Town” – The Specials
THE CLASH of Cover Tunes: Desorden Publico vs. Elvis Costello and The Roots
Peruse, Comment and Vote (I Beseech, Implore and Urge Thee, respectively)

1981 and England could not look more bleak. Excessive inflation, spiraling unemployment, urban decay, racial tension, Margaret Thatcher, endless recession, distrust of the police, disdain for the government and a pervasive all-encompassing perception of despair, especially among the youth.

"Free markets will not prevail without unfettered competition among cover songs." - Milton Friedbyrd

“Free markets will not prevail without unfettered competition among cover songs.” – Milton Friedbyrd

It was behind this backdrop that The Specials released the single Ghost Town. England had been suffering through an economic plunge for quite some time. During their 1980 tour of the UK, The Specials witnessed cities with endless streets of boarded-up former businesses, people on street corners selling household wares for food and a growing frequency of racially motivated fights on the dance floor.

As Jo-Ann Greene of AllMusic put it, “No song better captured the mood of the day than this June, 1981 single…The image it offers is one of pure desolation and utter barrenness, the empty streets whipped by deadly breezes, while ghostly images momentarily shimmer brightly, cruel reminders of happier days before the holocaust struck.”

Ghost Town rose quickly to number one of the UK Singles Chart and remained there for three weeks.  It spent a total of ten weeks in the Top 40. Ghost Town was named “Single of the Year” in Melody Maker, NME and Sounds, the UK’s top three weekly music magazines at the time. AllMusic’s review of the original single argued that the song was the band’s “crowning achievement”.

Ghost Town also served as somewhat of a harbinger of doom. In April 1981 the Brixton district of London erupted into two days of serious rioting with reports suggesting that up to 5,000 people were involved. Beginning in July 1981, while Ghost Town was at or near the top of the charts, major riots broke out in over 35 locations around the UK.

Ghost Town was also the last recording that The Specials would produce. During their 1980 tour, tensions ran high among members of the band. Soon after releasing Ghost Town, as cities across the UK burned, The Specials likewise disintegrated.

The Original

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The Specials:

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THE CLASH of Cover Tunes

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Desorden Publico vs. Elvis Costello & The Roots with La Marisoul

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Desorden Publico:

Pueblo Fantasma (Ghost Town):

Elvis Costello & The Roots with La Marisoul:

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Oh the disharmony! Much like Harlan County there are no neutrals here. Only one cover tune will live to play another day and it is your solemn responsibility to decide which one prevails. So tell me … Which Side Are You On?!!?

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