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Hi and welcome to the blackroom. My name is Pauline Black, lead vocalist with The Selecter.

The Story So Far… Neville Staple


Neville Staples has always been a colourful character around town in Coventry; the original ‘rude-boy’. Not content with only being the roadie for the Coventry Automatics (who later became the Specials), he thrust himself into the limelight as an unforgettable frontman, sharing the limelight with Terry Hall.

Fun Boy Three


When things started to go sour with The Specials, Neville, Terry Hall and Lynval Golding left to form FunBoyThree in the mid-eighties and scored many hits, most notably with 80’s girl-group Banarama, on the memorable ’It Aint What You Do’ single.

After FunBoyThree split, I even worked with Neville and Lynval in the early eighties as the short-lived, Sunday Best releasing ‘Pirates On The Airwaves’ as a single.

Th Specials & Desmond Dekker

Special Beat Live

Neville Staple, Lynval Golding, Roddy Radiation, John Bradbury and Horace Panter then got together with Ranking Roger of the Beat to form Special Beat in the early 90’s. They mostly toured in the States.

Two albums were released during this period; ‘King Of Kings’ with the legendary Desmond Dekker and a ‘live’ album of The Special Beat.

Today's Specials
Specials - Guilty Till Proven Innocent

In 1995, Neville and the remaining members of The Specials decided to go it alone and released ‘Today’s Specials’ on Kuff Records. They incurred quite a lot of criticism from fans, because the album contained only cover tracks dedicated to other bands.

In March ’98, The Specials released ‘Guilty Till Proven Innocent’ on Waycool Records (MCA). This album contained all original tracks, plus live versions of old songs and received better reviews than it’s predecessor.

Having just finished the long and grueling Warped Tour last year across the US and Europe, which saw them constantly on the road from March to October 1998, Neville is now living in Los Angeles and is producing a debut album for his young daughter Sheena.

I caught up with him, while he was over here doing some work on Sheena’s album at Planet Studios in Coventry.

Neville Staples 1998These days Neville is sporting a blonde crop hair-do. When I arrived at his daughter Melanie’s house to do the interview, he was sitting majestically in a comfy armchair showing off a fit, well-muscled, bare chest, his hair covered with a plastic bag, while the blonde dye which had just been freshly applied, did its work (Neville would never go out with his roots showing!!) Even under such conditions he still managed to look cool and on the case!!!


Q  So Neville, there is a rumour going round that the Specials have split up?

A  No, that’s not true. Myself, Lynval and Roddy are still doing something together as The Specials, but now I’m doing a solo project, just myself and some Californian guys. We are doing Specials material and some new material that I’ve written.

Q Did the long touring schedule last year have anything to do with this decision?

A  The Specials had been touring from March to December last year; on our own and as part of The Warped Tour. I’m used to working constantly and being on the road, but Lynval and Roddy needed a break and Horace got sick last year and left the band. I enjoy touring and working, so after a while off the road, I just decided to get this band together, because among other things, I was broke.

Q What are you calling this new band?

A  I’m calling it Neville Staple. It saves all the hassle. I use my name to get the gigs and to get good money. For this year I’m just going to call it Neville Staple, maybe after a while I’ll call the band a name.

Q What did you think of the Warp tour?

A  I enjoyed it. If I could do it again then I’d go back as Neville Staple and do it. It lasted 8 weeks. We did America first and Europe, then we were supposed to have gone to Australia this January, but the money wasn’t right to take all of us and we would have lost out, because you only get expenses on the Warped Tour not proper gig money.

I hated the European part of the Warped Tour, but I enjoyed the US part. For some reason I just can’t take to European gigs. It’s very frustrating when you play your heart out and they just stand there. You then think, is it the language barrier, but you realise it can’t be that, because you’ll see them mouthing the songs. We played in Germany, Spain, Italy and Holland. I like Holland, you see all the flowers in Holland [pb: and I don’t think he meant the tulips!!!!!]. The crowd in Spain was good, because we’d never played there since we’ve been re-formed, but the crowd were a little bit rough.

Q  How did The Special Beat come about?

A Rankin Roger of The Beat came and asked me if I wanted to do an American tour. It sounded good to me, so we both teamed up with Horace Panter and John Bradbury and became The Special Beat. We stayed together for five years.

Q When you re-formed The Specials and released ‘Today’s Specials’ album, were you disappointed with its reception in the media?

That was never really conceived as a Specials album. It was my demo material, because we needed time to write a new album and people didn’t realise this. It was a bunch of covers that I was taking round record companies to try and get a deal with. Then in 1994, some guy at Virgin heard it and wanted to put it out on Kuff records, which is UB40’s label, and we all said okay, go ahead.

Q Were you happier with your latest album ‘Guilty ‘Till Proven Innocent’ released last year?

Yes. It was all original stuff, with three live tracks. It was released on Waycool Records which is distributed through MCA. But MCA messed up the marketing and distribution. During the Warped Tour the old Specials’ albums were selling like hot cakes, because you could get two old ones for $10. MCA had the new ones in the shops selling for $18, so the kids bought the cheapest deal. Also, MCA weren’t really pushing it. That was disappointing.

Q What’s your new stuff like as Neville Staple?

It’s rocky reggae, some Specials tracks, but our songs are more rocky. On the last Specials album there is a track called ‘Leave It Out’, but the Specials recorded it differently to how I’ve done it with my team.

Q Do you enjoy living in America?

I’m based in Los Angeles. I live there, but I don’t record there. All I do in LA is get the band together and rehearse. The only recording I do is for my daughter Sheena. I do production and writing for her. So the only time I go in a studio is for her, not for myself. I record my stuff in Coventry at Planet Studios. We still keep that Planet connection, because that’s what I’ve been using for 15 years.

Q How long can you keep it going?

Fans are always asking my age and I say how old do you think I am? They usually come up with a nice figure, so I don’t care. I’m not going to say I’m in my 39’s, that just sounds stupid. I’ll keep going till I drop.

The Specials want to do something in the summer, maybe four weeks in America. When that finishes, then I’ll just do my own thing. We’ll spread it out. Basically it’s just for living now. I’ve got to think about surviving. I can’t stop. I’m constantly busy.

Sheena’s got a good record deal and that means I can keep my mind on music all the time. She’s signed to V2 and is working with all these big writers in America, who are all young white guys with locks, but that’s cool. Steve Bray is one of them and he’s written with Madonna. There are six writers working with her plus the two of us. They want to hear what’s she like writing with other people. The first release will probably be in July or August.

With that, Neville removed the plastic bag from his head and inspected his hair in the mirror. Satisfied with the result, he scuttled off to the bathroom for some post-hair dye care and we said our goodbyes. He flew back to Los Angeles the following day.

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Future tense

Next week I’ll be reviewing Endless Knot’s gig at the Malt Shovel and new ska band Spunge, who played the Golden Cross last week. Plus an interview with Roddy ‘Radiation’ Byres who is currently back in Coventry.

If you know of any bands that I should get out and see, then don’t hesitate to email on

Remember your feedback is always appreciated.


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CWN / the blackroom / 22 Mar 99

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This page modified on 10 November 2008 09:49:15AM