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Neville Staple - The Special One

Author: Scott Henderson
Monday, April 6, 2009

The ‘legend’ label might be overused, but in the case of Neville Staple it’s warranted. 3D’s Scott Henderson caught the Specials’ frontman experiencing some technical difficulties…

Neville Staple
is a little ruffled as our call connects. As one of the elder statesmen of the ska scene, frontman of legendary late ’70s two tones The Specials and so-called ‘original rudeboy’, it’s hard to imagine Staple as the type to get easily irritated. But the conveyor belt of press, call waiting signals and recorded messages are leaving him flustered, but only in the moment. Mostly he chats away like he’s known you for years, which is a nice change of pace from politics of musician sound bites.

“I’m sorry about that mate, I was on the phone to another interviewer,” effuses Staple before we even get started. “I’ve been getting them fast and furious right now. I was rehearsing with The Specials earlier on today and yeah I’m bit tired just now.” The phone line beeps to tell him there’s a call waiting to which he responds with a chorus of huffs and puffs. “It’s just so rush rush.”

He’s been a busy man of late, on top of rehearsing for the Ska Legends Tour in celebration of label 2tone’s 30th anniversary Staple’s got a book on the go and a film. Course, it’s hardly surprising from a man who started out life as a Jamaican kid in England’s grey concrete midlands, became obsessed with the punk scene in his home town of Coventry before making the leap from roadie to lead singer in one fateful night. Anyone with that kind of history, as well as founding one of the coolest movements in British music history, is going to have some stories to tell.

Right now though Staple is playing coy with his stories instead preferring to talk about how much fun he’s having. “I love it. I appreciate it more now, before it was just ‘oh cool, I’m in a band there you go’ and I didn’t realise the significance of it. Twenty years later to have people still talking about you and still be in demand, I should be appreciative and I am.”

Telling his story hasn’t been entirely straightforward as Staple explains: “there were certain things I didn’t remember. My sister would jog the memory and fill in the blanks. Because I was on tour with The Specials, with Trevor Evans, Rex Griffiths and the roadies all the time and we used to get up to our antics they’ve helped filled in some blanks too. It’s very interesting…” He says with genuine reflection of a man who can’t quite remember what he was doing or why but is certainly amused by what he’s told.

Making new memories is the order of the day for Staple as he joins up with fellow ska icons ‘Ranking’ Roger and Pauline Black of The Beat and The Selector respectively to front The Special Beat. In the meantime the a recorded female voice cuts Staple off mid-sentence to tell us we’ve only got five minutes left, the messages runs for nearly a minute.

“Fuck off” shouts Staple down the line. Announcing he’s gotta go make a cup of tea before the next call he adds finally, “come and check me out when I come over. Fucking hell, I’m not fucking stand offish.”

WHO: Neville Staple (The Specials)
WHAT: Plays Special Beat at The Forum
WHEN: Thursday 16 April