Q Magazine

Today in History: The Specials Release Chart-Topping Live EP 'Too Much Too Young'

The EP recorded during concerts in London and Coventry spent two weeks at the top of the U.K. singles chart.

The Specials
Source: MEGA

The Specials released their chart-topping live EP 'Too Much Too Young' on Jan. 11, 1980.

Link to FacebookShare to XShare to Email

Exactly 44 years ago, the Specials released Too Much Too Young. The live EP became the group's first No. 1 release when it spent two weeks at the top of the U.K. singles chart.

The first two tracks, "Too Much Too Young" and "Guns of Navarone," were recorded live at the Lyceum in London. The last three songs – "Long Shot Kick De Bucket," "The Liquidator" and "Skinhead Moonstomp" – were played during a show at Tiffany's in the Specials' native Coventry, an industrial city outside of Birmingham.

Article continues below advertisement
The Specials
Source: MEGA

The EP recorded during two concerts in London and Coventry spent two weeks at the top of the U.K. singles chart.

The title track, which was first released on the band's debut self-titled studio album, is about the consequences of teen pregnancies.

It's based on the 1969 song "Birth Control" by Jamaican ska artist Lloyd Charmers. His writing credit on the EP shows the connection between the original Jamaican ska scene and the two tone movement in the U.K.

During the 20th century, Coventry and other U.K. cities received a large wave of immigrants from Jamaica. Two early members of the Specials, guitarist Lynval Golding and vocalist Neville Staple, were born on the island nation.

"Too Much Too Young" was considered a controversial track at the time of its release, the Coventry Telegraph reported. Although the song wasn't banned by the BBC, the network cut off the final line "try wearing a cap" (a reference to contraception) when it aired on Top of the Pops.

Article continues below advertisement

The album's credits list two guest artists: trombonist Rico Rodriguez, who's also worked with Jools Holland and Paul Young, and flugelhorn player Dick Cuthell, who's collaborated with the Eurythmics and the Pogues. In hindsight, the pair is viewed as part of the Specials' core lineup.

The Specials went on to have even more chart-topping success with their 1981 track "Ghost Town," which also made it to No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart. Their 2019 LP Encore made it to the top of the U.K. albums chart.

Too Much Too Young and "Ghost Town" were released on the seminal, short-lived label 2 Tone Records, which made it back into the news earlier this week.

Skepta referenced the company when defending the original cover art for his upcoming single "Gas Me Up (Diligent)," which the rapper eventually removed.

Article continues below advertisement
The Specials
Source: MEGA

The title track about the consequences of teen pregnancies was considered controversial at the time of its release.

The image featured several people with shaved heads, one of whom had a tattoo with the words "Gas Me Up."

Some perceived the artwork as a reference to the Holocaust. During World War II, Jewish people and members of other minority groups were sent to German concentration camps where they often had their heads shaved and received tattoos with identification numbers before they were killed en masse in gas chambers.

"I’ve been waiting to drop Gas Me Up (Diligent) since teasing it April last year, worked hard getting the artwork right for my album rollout which is about my parents coming to the UK in the 80’s, Skinhead, Football culture," Skepta said. "It has been taken offensively by many and I can promise you that was definitely not our plan so I have removed it and I vow to be more mindful going forward."

While today skinheads are generally associated with neo-Nazis, that wasn't the case when the subculture first emerged in the 1970s. There were many Black skinheads at the time. To this day there are still people who identify as anti-racist skinheads.

Many of those early skinheads were fans of the Specials and other 2 Tones Records acts. The label's name expressed a desire to overcome the racial tensions that had arisen in the U.K. due to increased immigration.

Article continues below advertisement
The Specials
Source: MEGA

The BBC censored the track's reference to contraceptives when it aired on 'Top of the Pops.'

After the apology, Skepta released a mood board that included an image of the 2 Tone Records label.

"I can honestly see how my single artwork without context can be deemed offensive, especially in a time like this but again that was not my intention," he said.

"After some thought I don’t feel like I could continue being the artist you all know and love if my art is policed, I have to quit if I can’t express my art as I see it. So to help with context here are some pictures from our mood board for the 1980’s UK story for my album Knife & Fork."


Subscribe to our newsletter

your info will be used in accordance with our privacy policy

Read More