Watching the Neville Staple band live is always an uplifting, happy experience. The energy with which they mix old ska classics, songs from his Specials time and more recent repertoire never fails to delight. That evening, half way through the set, Neville took a crumpled piece of paper from his back pocket. “This goes out to E-Liza-Bet”, he said, deliberately pronouncing and emphasising each syllable. “Get well soon.”
You could tell that Elizabeth was delighted. It became a memory, a moment that we could mention as things progressed.
Neville has a new album out, Return Of Judge Roughneck. I received details about it this week from a fine PR company and knew I had to tell this story about how his generosity gave E-Liza-Bet and those around her a boost. The album is exactly what you might expect from Neville; familiar tunes are reworked, ska classics are revisited and given a dub treatment whilst there’s also a picnic of new material.
The video to the album’s title track deserves to be featured on Sonic Breakfast. Shot in various locations around Coventry, Neville plays both judge and the accused as he toasts about the crimes committed by politicians and business leaders. It’s hardly ‘Ghost Town’ in terms of political analysis but it has enough of a ska swagger to raise a smile. The recently released track, Down My Street, is more of a melodic offering, full of cheer and positivity. You could imagine Madness being proud of this one and I’ve no doubt that Neville is too.
Elizabeth passed away in January. A wonderful woman, she’s left a mark on me. Some of the Staple ska was played at the post-funeral gathering and we talked again about that Skegness evening.
Perhaps, it’s the sort of thing that happens often for a musician of Neville’s stature? I doubt he recalls this tale with quite the same vivid fondness as those close to Elizabeth do. But, for what he did, he definitely deserves a nod of thanks.