Friday, February 1, 2008



It was 1981. Britain was ablaze. Uprisings were afoot. The country was in the grip of a twisted Cromwellian vortex. Disaffected black youth took to the streets. Certain newspapers declared Enoch Powell a modern prophet and demanded his vindication. Thuggish police bullied communities. This of course didn't happen in East Sheen where I was reaching out from puberty to embrace the sophisticated adult world. I was itching to man the barricades, a Molotov cocktail in one hand and a copy of this single in the other. I remember the video, a car racing through dark streets, the Specials inside, cosying up to one another in a defensive paranoiac huddle. Jerry Dammers and co. zoomed into the zeitgeist and became, for a few weeks in July, the spokesmen for an eruptive generation.
I was working in a record shop in Clapham at the time and I remember this well dressed business woman walking in and asking for Ghost Town. She looked like she spent her evenings musing on the merits of Mahler whilst sipping wine and flicking through old opera programmes. She seemed a little affronted to have to purchase a record that span at a dizzying 45 rpm. Brazenly, in defiance of all her middle class reserve, she declared how remarkable Ghost Town was. I, a lowly scallywag who had recently touched a Dire Straits LP and forgot to wash my hands, nodded in agreement. I like to think that she lived in Brixton and was struck down by a flying bin.
This amazing record, this beautiful lament for a dying Britain, remained atop the chart rubble for a revolutionary three weeks. Why for those three glorious weeks was the British public suddenly struck down with such good taste? Hazardous audacity it may be but I think this is, and always will be, the greatest no.1 ever. World order was restored when MI5 installed Green Door by Shakin' Stevens at no.1 at Ghost Town's expense.

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