The band picked up the prize at London‘s O2 Brixton Academy then performed their classic songs Gangsters’ and ‘Too Much Too Young’ live on stage.
Presenting the award, Damon Albarn called the band “an incredibly important part of my life.”
He added that he’d first seen The Specials in person when he was a child. “I had chance to go to the Top Of The Pops studio and be in the audience, and I remember vividly standing beneath this person [singer Terry Hall],” he explained.
Albarn then introduced the band by saying: “They’re just fucking amazing.”
Singer Terry Hall kept his speech brief, but joked: “This is the most urban award we’ve ever received, I can’t believe how gross it it! Thank you very much.”
Get the special Shockwaves NME Awards issue of NME, out now, featuring a free Domino records CD, then next week’s NME (out March 3) for the ultimate Awards review.