Wheels Out Of Gear

 2-Tone, The Specials And a World In Flame

Press Release

Wheels Out Of Gear cover image

Wheels Out Of Gear: 2-Tone, The Specials And A World In Flame

Dave Thompson

Updated and revised edition

Published as a 232 page paperback with black and white photos at £10.99

Publication date: 19th August 2011

ISBN: 9780956642028




30 years on from the 1981 riots and nothing’s changed (except the music)

Picture the scene: an unpopular government cuts public services; an economy is teetering on the edge of recession with unemployment climbing; alleged police harassment leads to a community uprising that ends in looting and flames. 2011?
No, 1981. The only thing that has changed is the music. Back then, the soundtrack to that summer of flames was the Specials’ Ghost Town, on vinyl of course.

These events are chronicled by leading rock music writer Dave Thompson in Wheels Out Of Gear: 2-Tone, The Specials And A World In Flame. The book only covers four years, 1978 to 1981, but what turbulent years they were.

Youth cults, such as Skinheads, Punks, Mod Revivalists and Oi!, proliferated in a polarized landscape where ‘The National Front was getting awful strong’ as Tom Robinson observed. The Socialist Workers Party, Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League were there to oppose them, with Blair Peach dying at the hands of the police.

In 1981, things came to a head with the Brixton riots followed by similar uprisings in Birmingham and Liverpool (sounding familiar?)

Musically, though this was an astonishingly creative time – the Specials, Madness, UB40, Selecter, the Ruts, the Beat and many more came out of this melting pot. Their stories and more are covered in Dave’s book, which was first published in 2005 by Helter Skelter to great critical acclaim (it was in Uncut magazine’s books of the year round-up).

The publication will coincide with the Specials tour the UK this autumn, which looks like being a sell-out.

An astonished Thompson said this week

Watching England burning thirty years on, while sitting on the other side of the Atlantic, was a profoundly surreal experience, a head-on collision of nightmare and nostalgia made all the more potent by the realization that many of today’s rioters might well be the children of the Eighties insurgents. So much for the authorities’ insistence that parents tuck their kids up in bed… they’re carrying on the family business, and it’s just a shame that the current climate has ensured that Burning’n’Looting R Us is about the only one that’s still making a profit.

The human tragedy is heartbreaking; but so are the conditions that, once again, have created a generation that sees disorder as their only opportunity.

For your review copy, or to interview Dave Thompson (e-mail or phone only – he lives in New York now) contact Phil Godsell, on 07880 792 259 or e-mail him: phil@soundcheckbooks.co.uk