Rudy, A Message To You
In 1967, I heard a Jamaican Ska/Rocksteady record, and liked it immediately. I discovered that it was by Dandy Livingstone, and soon had the single in my possession. Over the years, I played it now and again, and it joined the small part of my collection featuring music from that genre. I liked the catchy trombone part, which gave the song a hook, although I never did buy any other records released by Dandy.
As the 1970s came to a close in the UK, I was enjoying the modern revival of Ska music, which had been given the catch-all name ‘2-Tone’, after the record label that was releasing the songs by various bands specialising in this 60s nostalgia. A new audience was embracing the sound, and the many groups, including The Specials, The Selecter, and The Beat, all seemed determined to stay loyal to the original feel of the music, and also sported some of the fashions of the era. I had bought into this revival completely, and enjoyed many of the cover versions that appeared, as well as the energetic performances by the young groups.
In 1979, The Specials released a version of this song, slightly changing the original title to ‘A Message To You, Rudy.’ I thought that the sound was very authentic, even down to the trombone part. I later discovered that the same musician, Rico Rodriguez, played on both versions, with a twelve-year gap, and that someone else that I liked a great deal, Elvis Costello, had produced the record. The Specials had considerable success in the UK, then in 1981, three members left the band, including lead vocalist Terry Hall, and formed the trio, Fun Boy Three. By 2009, after numerous changes in the line-up, the band re-formed as The Specials once again, with Hall back on vocals. They continue to perform today.
Rico Rodriguez continued to work with his own band, as well as being part of Jools Holland’s rhythm and blues orchestra. His distinguished career was rewarded with an MBE, in 2007. He sadly died last year, aged 80. Here are The Specials, with their huge hit version. I have added the original for comparison, and I still prefer it’s simplicity.