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Ska legend promises to make his moves of old

Roddy Byers who is Blackpool on January 20
Roddy Byers who is Blackpool on January 20
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While Jerry Dammers was the architect of The Specials and late ‘70s 2 Tone movement, bandmates Roddy ‘Radiation’ Byers and Lynval Golding played a major role in establishing the guitar sound that brought ‘60s ska into the next decade … and beyond.

And nearly four decades after their highly-influential first LP, Roddy’s still out there, and brings his Skabilly Rebels to Blackpool next weekend when Roddy Radiation & The Skabilly Rebels play Blackpool’s Waterloo Music Bar on Saturday January 20.

What’s more, the writer of Rat Race, Concrete Jungle and Hey Little Rich Girl (memorably covered by Amy Winehouse) is still attracting new fans, and not content peddling nostalgia.

Roddy, 62, fronts the Skabilly Rebels, still perfecting an audio formula he’s honed since first stepping into a studio with The Specials in ‘79, fusing the driving rhythm of ska and gritty, hard edge of rockabilly.

It’ll be 40 years this year since he joined The Automatics, soon renamed The Special AKA, then The Specials, and he’s been playing since he was 13.

The Specials have reformed twice since an initial 1981 split, with many of them still on the circuit. Does Roddy feel his age coming off stage some nights?

“Most of my heroes – The Stones, Kinks, The Who, still perform, so I guess I’ll carry on as long as I can, into my 70s and beyond.

It does hurt more, but I still do the moves I’ve always done.”

Are the Rebels good company? And what can we expect from you?

“The new line-up are great, good company, and the best musicians I’ve had back me in this band.

“We play the songs I wrote for The Specials and my favourites from the first two albums, plus songs I wrote for The Specials Mk. II in the mid-‘90s. It’s sometimes hard wondering what to leave out, so we change from show to show.”

Meanwhile, the ska spirit remains strong.

“It seems to have made a comeback again, all over the world. It’s nice that young people have discovered some of the best dance music around.

“It’s great seeing The Selecter and The Beat doing new albums. I wasn’t happy when The Specials reformed and most of the band didn’t want to record new material.

“I know people want to relive their youth, but music should progress, not become a nostalgic knees-up.

“When me and Neville left, we weren’t on good terms with the others.

“But we were always very different. Getting an agreement on what and how we should play things was always difficult.”

If you had to mention two top career moments, what would they be?

“Top of the Pops was surreal after watching the show for years as a kid. Performing Gangsters the first time felt great!

“Also, Saturday Night Live in New York in 1980 was brilliant, with Keith Richards turning up to meet and watch us.”