A Message To You Rudy

Album: Specials (1979)
Charted: 10


  • This was originally recorded by Dandy Livingstone in 1967. His original recording was a portrait of social unrest amongst the youth in Kingston, Jamaica.
  • The Specials update was a comment on British disaffection in the late 1970s that led to the 1978-79 Winter of Discontent when a succession of strikes seriously disrupted everyday life and later the riots in the Summer of 1981.
  • The trombonist on this, Rico Rodriguez, also played on Dandy Livingstone's original recording.
  • "Rudy" (or Rudi, Rude boy) is a Jamaican term for criminal juveniles. Learn more about how Jamaican music came to England in our interview with Dave Wakeling of The English Beat.

Comments: 5

  • Anne from MelbourneFabulous comments, and fabulous song. Noticed what was probably just a typo. Nelson Mandela eventually walked free from prison on 11 Feb 1990, not 1997. He was the elected President of South Africa from 1994-1999.
  • Melinda from AustraliaIt’s worth noting that when The Specials morphed into the band, Special AKA.
    They released in 1984 , the song, Nelson Mandela. Or also know as the Free Nelson Mandela song.
    A song about jailed African Civil rights activist, Nelson Mandela.
    It is an African influenced protest song that was hugely popular in the 1980’s.
    It formed part of the general popular left wing movement to release Nelson Mandela. And end Apartheid (segregation) in South Africa.
    The protest movement for this was particularly strong in the UK. And as usual The Specials took part in the musical leadership of an anti-racism issue.
    Nelson Mandela was ultimately released from prison on 11 Feb 1997. After huge long international pressure
  • Melinda from AustraliaOutstanding song. But The Specials should be honoured for far more than music.
    They were a band who actively promoted early anti-racism. And along with other bands like the Clash, made it totally uncool to be racist. And it’s remained that way since.
    People of the mid 1970’s era in the UK would remember that the UK had a real problem with a far right movement called the National Front. Whose membership were known as neo nazis.
    They never managed to enter the UK Govt but they did manage to become Councillors. Which is quite enough really. Especially considering they were essentially White Supremicists. Opposed all non white migration, opposed feminism and LGBT issues. And they were particularly violent too.
    As The Specials lead singer, Terry Hall vehemently objected to members of The National Front turning up at The Specials gigs. He would often stop singing and ask for a National Front member be removed from the venue. If he noticed them.
    And wouldn’t start singing again till they were removed.
    He has stated the National Front members even used to start saluting’ Zeig heil’. At The Specials gigs.
    As the National Front adopted a lot of Nazi ideology.
    The fact that Terry Hall insisted these people be thrown out of The Specials gigs. Is a testament to his values. And good character in my view.
    The National Front turned up at The Specials gigs because The Specials were a mixed race band. Of Afro Caribbean’s and Engish people So although The National Front may have liked the music. Cause they were good.
    They were there to cause trouble... to incite racial hatred.
    The Special gigs seemed be rowdy, fun. And like a lot bands of the era celebrated concepts of anti racism. Given the popularity of the National Front in the UK at the time, it was sorely needed.
    The mid 1970’s and early 1980’s was a post World War 2 era. The Holocaust wasn’t that long ago.
    Incidentally, Terry Hall, the lead singer should also be well remembered for co-writing the popular song Our Lips Are Sealed, an early 1980’s hit for The Go Gos. He’s definitely a very underrated Englishman.
    So it annoys me that British Professional footballers, like that fashion goon, David Beckham, have received honours from the Queen Of England. For contributions to UK society.
    Yet Terry Hall and The Specials band members have received no recognition. For very effective anti-racism activism.
    They, and many other bands of the period changed people’s attitude to racism. And with the Rock Against Racism concert in London 1978. The concept of Live Aid was pretty much born.
    The bands that appeared at Rock Against Racism concerts. Reduced the popularity of The National Front significantly.
    Some of them were Sham 69, Steel Pulse, Stiff Little Fingers and X-Ray Spex. Punk bands. In fact John Lydon of the Sex Pistols was particularly outspoken in his hatred for Neo Nazis.
    It is hard for people to imagine it today. But it’s a fact that the Anti-Nazi League Of London had to sleep on the stage the night before a Rock Against Racism Concert. To stop The National Front destroying it.
    It’s a good thing historically, that a popular swing in the UK, towards Facism in the mid 1970’s and early 1980’s. Was extinguished by a music movement. Run by a generation of bands forgotten today. Not politicians.
    The Specials definitely played their part.
  • Jir from London, United KingdomSuch a good chorus for a such a carefree song
  • Lalah from Wasilla, AkI always loved the brass on this song.
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