After The Specials racked up seven consecutive UK Top 10 singles between 1979 and 1981, their main lead vocalists Terry Hall and Neville Staple, along with guitarist Lynval Golding, left to form Fun Boy Three. For their eponymous debut album, Fun Boy Three reduced the ska sound that The Specials crafted with such success and took a more minimalist approach with the focus on percussion and bass. This protest against the political conservatism of Margaraet Thatcher and Ronald Reagan was their first single.
"The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum)" was originally written with The Specials in mind, and rehearsed by that band just before their split. After Terry Hall and Lynval Golding re-formed The Specials along with bassist Horace Panter, they all agreed that the social injustices of the Margaret Thatcher era still existed in the world of Donald Trump and Theresa May. They decided to cover the song for their 2019 Encore album under the title of "The Lunatics."
Terry Hall explained to Uncut: "Nothing's changed! When we wrote it we had Reagan and Thatcher and we thought things couldn't get worse. Now we've got Trump and May! Also we never played it with the band - it's great to hear the song breathe and flourish in a band setting."
The 2019 interpretation features a Latino lilt and showcases Nikolaj Torp Larsen, who replaced Jerry Dammers as The Specials keyboard player. Terry Hall told The Sun: "I see it as Nikolai entering the asylum for his almost classical intro. At the end, he's about to leave the asylum and his hands are all over the place!"