Monday, May 4, 2009
2009 marks the 30th birthday of 2 Tone Records, the iconic UK ska revival label that was home to The Specials AKA, The Selecter and briefly Madness and The Beat... The success of the label was phenominal for a short period from 1979 through 1982 and cast a huge shadow not only over the music of the times but also the fashions... The Specials AKA, in particular, did much (along with The Jam) to introduce social or political commentary into pop music, whether it be the perils of teenage pregnancy (Too Much Too Young), inner-city violence (Concrete Jungle) or other important themes of the day such as unemployment and race relations.
2 Tone was started by The Specials AKA in order to release their single 'Gangsters' after rejection by a number of record companies. The single was distributed by Rough Trade and its success lead to Chrysalis not only signing The Specials, but also the 2 Tone imprint - future releases having the catalog number CHS TT3 etc. CHS TT3 was actually the only release by Madness on 2 Tone - the spritely single 'Prince'...
Another band closely associated with the ska revival scene, The Beat, also only released one single on the label - 'Tears of a clown', a cover of The Smokey Robinson classic... The Beat swiftly signed with Arista, who gave them their own label: Go-Feet!
Another important 2 Tone band was The Selecter. The group was rumoured to have been put together in 3 weeks by Lynval Golding (of The Specials) and Noel Davies. Singer Pauline Vickers used the stage name Pauline Black to stop her work becoming suspicious when she disappeared to play gigs.
Although releases on 2 Tone dwindled as the 80's went on, there were still some significant releases, such as a reunited The Special AKA's 'Nelson Mandela' in 1984. Jerry Dammers was directly involved in the Artist Against Aparthied concert in Wembley statium in 1988 which continued to raise Mandela's profile and he was eventually released from prison in 1990.