" Ghost Town" is the title of a 1981 song by the British ska band, The Specials. The song spent three weeks at number one and ten weeks in the top 40 of the UK Singles Chart. Addressing themes of urban decay, deindustrialisation, unemployment and violence in inner cities, the song is remembered for being a hit at the same time as riots were occurring in British cities. As such, it is remembered as a major piece of popular social commentary.
In an interview in 2011, Dammers explained how witnessing this event inspired his composition:
The song's sparse lyrics address urban decay, unemployment and violence in inner cities. Jo-Ann Greene of Allmusic notes that 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".http://www.allmusic.com/song/t1947128 The club referred to in the song was The Locarno, run by Mecca Leisure Group and later renamed Tiffanys, which was also the club setting the scene for the b-side song, "Friday Night and Saturday Morning". It is now Coventry Central Library.
In a session lasting 10 days, "Ghost Town" was recorded by building up tracks on a 8-track, rather than recording the band live together. Collins and drummer John Bradbury were influenced by "What a Feeling" by Gregory Isaacs when recording the drum track. The recording of backing vocals was unplanned and the lack of technology to sample voices meant the four singers in the band had to sing a full vocal track all the way through, causing the lyric "this town is coming like a ghost town" to become like an "hypnotic chant". After mixing the track for three weeks, Collins recreated an idea of fading in over a sound effect which he had used previously on "Lift Off", the B-side of "At The Club". To achieve the effect he wanted, Collins utilised a Transcendent 2000 synthesiser to create a "ghost" sound, which he used to fade in and out at the beginning and end of the track.
The summer of 1981 saw riots in over 35 locations around the UK. In response to the linking of song to these events, singer Terry Hall said: "When we recorded 'Ghost Town,' we were talking about 1980's riots in Bristol and Brixton. "The fact that it became popular when it did was just a weird coincidence." The song created resentment in Coventry where residents angrily rejected the characterisation of the town as a town in decline.
|UK Singles Chart http://www.chartstats.com/songinfo.php?id=9432 chartstats.com "Ghost Town" chart log||1|
|Irish Singles Chart http://www.irishcharts.ie/ Irish singles chart placings||3|
|Norwegian Singles Chart||7|
|Netherlands Singles Chart||12 Specials&titel=Ghost Town&cat=s Norwegian & Dutch Chart Positions @ finnishcharts.com. Retrieved July 2009.|