January 25, 2010 / 11:32 PM / 10 years ago

Reunited Specials to launch U.S. tour on "Fallon"

NEW YORK (Billboard) - The Specials, the British ska band that reformed in 2009 after more than two decades apart, will play their first North American shows in nearly 30 years in April, starting with an appearance on NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” on April 13.

The Specials are also one of the topped-billed bands for the first night of the Coachella Music and Arts Festival in southern California on April 16, and have announced a New York club show at Terminal 5 on April 21. Two more April shows are in the works as part of the brief North American trek; a full tour is being eyed for later in 2010.

The Specials played a sold-out 30th anniversary tour of U.K. clubs in May 2009, marking the first time that the six members of the band, including singer Terry Hall, had performed a full set together since a Boston, Mass. show in 1981.

Founding member, keyboardist Jerry Dammers, is not participating in the reunion. He continues to perform with his jazz ensemble the Spatial A.K.A. Orchestra, and has publicly criticized the current Specials reunion.

The reunited Specials also performed for more than 100,000 people at the 2009 Glastonbury Festival, played the Summer Sonic Festival in Japan, toured Australia and New Zealand for the first time, and did a second sold-out U.K. jaunt in November.

The Specials formed in 1977 in Coventry, England, and their then-unheard-of mix of punk rock, Jamaican rhythms, social and political commentary and pop sensibilities spawned an entire youth subculture that encompassed both music and fashion.

Between 1979 and 1981, the group scored seven consecutive top 10 singles in the U.K., including the No. 1s “Too Much Too Young” and “Ghost Town.”

Their 1979 self-titled debut album was produced by Elvis Costello and the band’s music was released on its own record label, 2 Tone, which also handled the first singles from groups like Madness and the Beat (called the English Beat in the United States) and albums from the Selecter and the Bodysnatchers. 2 Tone’s iconic logo and black-and-white checkered graphic style, along with the band’s 1960s mod-style clothing — like porkpie hats, tonic suits and Fred Perry shirts — remain symbols of the British musical shift from punk to new wave in the early 1980s.

In the United States, the Specials rode in on the tidal wave of their U.K. success, making their North American debut on January 25, 1980, at New York’s post-punk mecca Hurrah’s. The band toured extensively, fitting in a four-night, eight-show run at L.A.’s Whisky-a-Go-Go and several arena gigs supporting the Police.

While the band didn’t enjoy the same level of success in the United States as it did at home, its two U.S. tours are widely credited with kicking off the later “third wave ska” scene and inspiring such bands as the Go-Go’s, No Doubt and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

The Specials split acrimoniously in 1981 having released just one more album (“More Specials”) and an EP of new music. Hall, along with vocalist Neville Staple and guitarist Lynval Golding, immediately formed Fun Boy Three.

Dammers recorded a third album with several of his other Specials bandmates under the band’s earlier moniker the Special A.K.A., and his 1984 single “Free Nelson Mandela” became an international anti-Apartheid anthem.

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