Song 231: The Specials, “You’re Wondering Now” (1979)

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Man, I love a good last song. When a record ends conclusively, cleverly, and without calling too much attention to itself, there’s nothing more satisfying. R.E.M. did it with “Find the River” (which ends Automatic For the People), the Beatles with “A Day in the Life” (Sgt. Pepper), and the Specials with “You’re Wondering Now,” the song that finishes the band’s self-titled debut.

“You’re wondering now what to do, now you know this is the end.” This lyric could apply to so many things—a relationship, a career, a life—and it’s to the Specials’ credit that they keep it vague and simple. The line “I won’t return, forever you will wait” makes it a little personal, but we don’t know what happened to prompt the narrator to leave.

This song is funny because the lyrics are so serious (read by themselves, they’re like a sad poem), but the music is easygoing and charming. I like to picture the narrator of “You’re Wondering Now” singing these words as he or she saunters away from a person who has no idea how to fix their situation. Okay, so maybe that’s darkly funny. But still funny.

“You’re Wondering Now” is the last track of one hell of a record. The Specials were the leading band of the British ska scene, and their Elvis Costello-produced debut makes clear why: these songs are punchy and catchy but substantive, with political and social messages thrown in for good measure. It packs a lot of meaning and melody into its 45 minutes, alone an impressive feat.

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