Jerry Dammers: The Specials drove me out of my own band

The founding member of the 1970s ska legends claims his former bandmates are trying to 'rewrite history' by re-forming for their 30th anniversary shows without him

Jerry Dammers has hit out at the Specials reunion, claiming he's been driven out of the band. The founding member of the 1970s ska group, who will not be part of their 30th anniversary shows, released a statement claiming the band are trying to "rewrite history".

According to the statement issued on his behalf: "Many people are under the impression it is the original Specials [re-forming for the reunion dates]. As was common knowledge at the time of their success, Jerry Dammers was the founder, main songwriter and driving force of the Specials. He recruited every member individually, and the musical and style direction was guided by him. He designed the 2 Tone logo and formed the 2 Tone record label. Jerry has a duty to inform anybody who may be interested, of the true situation, which is that he was not invited to take part in this proposed tour, or even told about it."

The Specials formed in 1977. As well as writing the band's music, keyboardist Dammers started the 2 Tone Records label on which the band released their music.

After a string of Top 10 records, including A Message to You, Rudy, Rat Race and Ghost Town, the group split up in 1981. In November this year, the band announced their reunion but Dammers claims he wasn't properly considered. Or, in his words, "The prodigal sons came home, kicked me out, and have left the door open, great."

According to the statement, members of the Specials have said that "the door is still open to [Dammers]," but they "fail to mention that Jerry has been driven out every time he has attempted to get involved over the last year. He also wonders why this appears in the newspaper when former bandmates have his phone number".

It continues: "These seem to be part of a wider attempt to rewrite the whole history of the band, in order to try and justify what is currently going on. Jerry does not wish to go into too much detail at this point, except to say that for over 25 years he had dreamed that his former bandmates might come back one day, and was deeply shocked to find that when they did, for some of them, it was apparently to kick him out."

The statement also claims that Dammers turned up uninvited to a meeting about the reunion and received a "severe dressing down" for suggesting they should engage in lengthy rehearsals.

The statement concludes: "Jerry does not believe it represents what the real Specials stood for, politically, or in terms of creativity, imagination or forwardness of ideas, and he does not think the proposed venues would really be appropriate to a band of the status of the real Specials."

For those not put off by any of this, a Dammers-free version of the Specials will be on tour in April and May next year.


Tim Jonze

The GuardianTramp

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