The Specials

Ghost Town

Composed by Jerry Dammers

Song Review by

No song better captured the mood of the day than this June, 1981 single. Much of More Specials had pushed towards "Ghost Town's haunting atmospheres, but it's here they reached fruition. From the eerie wind that blows across the intro to the gothesque melody bleeding out of Jerry Dammers' keyboard, through the wordless chorus that evokes spirits crying in the ether, The Specials conjured up the darkest of milieus.

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.

The lyrics only brush on the causes for this apocalyptic vision - the closed down clubs, the numerous fights on the dancefloor, the spiraling unemployment, the anger building to explosive levels. But so embedded were these in the British psyche, that Dammers needed only a minimum of words to paint his picture, leaving Lynval Goldings' music to fill in the empty spaces.

To outsiders, "Ghost Town" would prove to be eerily prophetic, but to those who walked the streets of England's urban centers where the pressure was dropping ever more heavily,

the line "Can't go on no more," was self-evident. Two weeks after it's early June release, as the single spirited its way to the top of the charts, it was to provide a terrifying aural backdrop as the country's inner cities began going up in smoke, a deadly domino effect that swiftly engulfed most of the nation.

This was to be The Specials' greatest achievement, the grand finale of their career, for as England burned, the band disintegrated, rent asunder by the departure of the group's vocal trio for the Fun Boy Three. The Specials as were, would go on no more.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
No Image 1981 2-Tone 6:02
This Are Two Tone 1983
Various Artists
Chrysalis Records 3:40
Greatest Hits of the Eighties 1989
Various Artists
Telstar
No Image 1990
Various Artists
Rediscover 3:40
The Singles Collection 1991 2-Tone 5:59
The Two Tone Compilation: A Checkered Past 1993
Various Artists
Chrysalis Records 3:40
Start: The Best of British Rock 1994
Various Artists
Dino Entertainment 3:40
Ranking and Skanking: The Best of Punky Reggae 1995
Various Artists
Rhino 6:02
This Is the 80's [Alex] 1996
Various Artists
WEA International 3:39
Lost Property 1996
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:39
Once in a Lifetime 1997
Various Artists
Telstar
A Kick Up the Eighties 1997
Various Artists
Crimson Productions
1981: 20 Original Chart Hits 1997
Various Artists
A Time To Remember 3:40
No. 1 Ska Album 1997
Various Artists
Polygram 3:40
Best of the 80's [Crimson] 1998
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 3:42
The Oliver Stone Connection 1998
Various Artists
Hip-O 3:29
Rudies on the Run: The British Ska Anthology 1998
Various Artists
Fuel 2000 / Varese
Rage the Album 1999
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 5:57
Why? 2K: Anti-Millennium Party Collection 1999
Various Artists
Hip-O 3:39
Now: 1981 1999
Various Artists
Virgin/EMI 3:39
Ghost Town: Live at Montreaux Jazz Festival 1995 1999 Receiver 6:50
British Ska 1999
Various Artists
Hidden Water 3:40
Eighties Complete [CD2] 1999
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:44
Why?2K 2000
Various Artists
MCA 3:40
No Image 2000
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:38
Very Best of the Specials and Fun Boy Three 2000 Cleopatra 5:17
Snatch 2001
Original Soundtrack
Universal International 5:52
Reggae Vibrations 2001
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
Decades: Story of the 60's, 70's & 80's [EMI] 2001
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:40
Totally Number 1 Hits of the 80's 2001
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:42
Archive 2001 Import 6:37
One Hit Wonders: Hard Two Get Hits [Box Set] 2001
Various Artists
One Hit 3:39
Q Anthems 2002
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:39
Best of Ska [Disky] 2002
Various Artists
Disky 3:40
Ska's Greatest Stars 2002 Big Eye Music 4:55
Greatest Hits Video's 2002
Various Artists
Disky
Ultra Chilled, Vol. 2 2002
Various Artists
Ultra Records 5:24
Rude Boy Revival 2002
Various Artists
Telstar TV Records 3:39
Greatest Reggae & Ska Hit 2002
Various Artists
Disky
Eighties Complete, Vol. 2 [Box] 2002
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:44
Specials/More Specials 2002 EMI / EMI Gold / EMI Music Distribution
New Wave Greats 2002
Various Artists
Repertoire
Totally 2 Tone 2002
Various Artists
EMI 3:40
Greatest Hits of the 70s & 80s 2003
Various Artists
Disky
Eighties Number 1's [EMI] 2003
Various Artists
EMI
50 Years of the Greatest Hit Singles Platinum Collection 2003
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:38
Tarantino's Favourites 2004
Various Artists
Disky
Trojan Box Set: Ska Revival 2004
Various Artists
Sanctuary 6:33
Friends Reunited: Music of the Year 1981 2004
Various Artists
Spectrum Music 3:44
Too Much Two Tone 2004
Various Artists
EMI
Everyone's a Winner: 60 Original No. 1's 2004
Various Artists
Empire Triples 3:40
The Best Pub Jukebox... Ever! 2004
Various Artists
Phantom Import Distribution / Virgin 4:04
Blank Expression: Receiver Years 2004 Castle Music Ltd.
Everyone's A Winner: 20 Original No. 1's [CD3] 2004
Various Artists
Disky 3:40
Going Underground: Teenage Kicks, Vol. 2 2005
Various Artists
Sanctuary 3:40
Stereo-Typical: A's, B's and Rarities 2005 Chrysalis Records / Parlophone 3:39
Real 80's: Hits and Extended Mixes 2005
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 6:00
Hollywood Cool 2005
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:39
This Is Ska and Reggae Roots 2005
Various Artists
Goldenlane 5:19
No Image 2005
Various Artists
Disky
Essential 80's 2005
Various Artists
Disky Communications 3:40
Greatest Pop Icons 2005
Various Artists
Disky 3:38
Shaun of the Dead 2005 Island 5:30
I Love Music 1980-1984: It's Electric 2005
Various Artists
Disky 3:38
Haunted House Party 2005
Various Artists
Green Hill Productions 5:59
New Wave Club Hits of the 80's 2006
Various Artists
Fantastic Price Records / Big Eye Music 5:14
The Original 80s Number 1s Album 2006
Various Artists
EMI 3:41
A Tribute to Arctic Monkeys 2006
Various Artists
Big Eye Music 5:17
Greatest Hits 2006 Big Eye Music / Cleopatra 5:16
Hits of the 80s [Canadian Import] 2006
Various Artists
Ground Floor 5:15
This Is '80s New Wave 2006
Various Artists
Cleopatra
Disky Friends Reunited 1981 2007
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
101 80's Hits 2007
Various Artists
EMI/Virgin 3:39
Essential 80s [EMI Gold] 2007
Various Artists
EMI 3:41
Monster New Wave Hits 2007
Various Artists
Cleopatra 5:16
Reggae Band 2007
Various Artists
Unimar Music
The Original 80s Box Set 2007
Various Artists
EMI 3:41
Guitar Heroes: Rock of the '80s 2007
Various Artists
Cleopatra 5:18
Pure: 80s [EMI] 2007
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:40
Top of the Pops 1981 2008
Various Artists
BBC Worldwide / EMI 3:41
The Best of the Specials 2008 Chrysalis Records 6:01
Top of the Pops Collection [43 CD] 2008
Various Artists
EMI
This Is 1981 2008
Various Artists
EMD Int'l 3:40
Legendary Decades 2008
Various Artists
Disky 3:38
Smash Hits 1981 2009
Various Artists
Rhino
Top of the Pops: Eighties [2009] 2009
Various Artists
Mixed Repertoire 3:41
Original Hits: Eighties 2009
Various Artists
EMI
Beginners Guide to Ska 2009
Various Artists
Nascente 5:56
The Ultimate Eighties No.1 Hits 2010
Various Artists
EMI 3:39
101 Punk & New Wave Anthems 2010
Various Artists
EMI 3:39
100 Reggae & Ska Hits 2011
Various Artists
Goldenlane 3:20
100 Hits: 80s Classics 2011
Various Artists
Demon Music Group 3:41
British Invastion 80s Style 2011
Various Artists
ZYX 5:15
More...Or Less. The Specials Live 2012 Parlophone 6:07
100 Hits: UK No. 1s 2012
Various Artists
100 Hits 3:40
Greatest Ever! Punk & New Wave: The Definitive Collection 2013
Various Artists
Greatest Ever / Union Square Music 3:39
The 80s, Pt. 2 2014
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:40
100 Hits: 80s Classics Karaoke 2014
Various Artists
100 Hits
Now That's What I Call Halloween 2015
Various Artists
Legacy / Sony Music 3:41
101 80's Anthems
Various Artists
EMI TV 3:40
30th Anniversary Tour MVD Visual
6 X 6: Eighties
Various Artists
Parlophone 3:39
80 Hits of the '80s
Various Artists
Rhino 3:39
80s Dancefloor: The Collection
Various Artists
Rhino 3:40
Anthems Alternative 80s
Various Artists
Ministry of Sound 3:40
No Image
Various Artists
Island 3:40
BRIT Awards Decades: '80s
Various Artists
Rhino 3:39
Best of British [Universal]
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 3:38
Brits in the 80s
Various Artists
EMI / EMI Gold / EMI Music Distribution
Classic '80s [Rhino]
Various Artists
Rhino
Classic 80's [Rhino]
Various Artists
Rhino 3:39
Greatest Ever Halloween
Various Artists
Greatest Ever
Greatest Ever Number Ones
Various Artists
Greatest Ever
Greatest Ever! Dad: The Definitive Collection
Various Artists
Union Square Music 3:39
I Grew Up in the 80s
Various Artists
EMI TV 3:41
Monster Halloween Hits
Various Artists
EMI TV 3:39
No More Heroes: 60 Punk & New Wave Anthems
Various Artists
USM Media 3:40
Rock of the 80s, Vol. 1
Various Artists
Cleopatra 5:18
Ska Explosion [Rhino]
Various Artists
Rhino 3:37
Smash Hits '80s Annual
Various Artists
Rhino 3:39
Teenage Kicks 1977-1981
Various Artists
Universal Music TV 3:39
The Best of 2 Tone [Rhino]
Various Artists
Parlophone / Rhino 3:39
Top of the Pops: 80's Number Ones
Various Artists
EMI Gold 3:40
blue highlight denotes editor's pick