The Specials: A Message to You, Rudy
The Selecter: On My Radio
The English Beat: Tears of a
!979- 1986. That was it. 2 Tone Records came and went that quickly. But their influence endures to this day.
By 1979, punk rock had risen in England, with a mission to shake up the established order. For some members of the punk scene, this meant challenging the assumption that black and white musicians should not work together. The Jamaican immigrants had brought their music with them, including Jamaican ska records from the 1960s. In Jamaica, ska would evolve into reggae, but in England, this music was blended with punk to create something new, two tone ska. A subscene of bands made up of white punks and Jamaican immigrants arose. These were the two-tone bands, and the scene centered around one of the first bands in the scene to gain recognition, The Specials. Jerry Dammers of The Specials created 2 Tone Records, to release music from the two-tone scene.
Dammers’ heart was in the right place, but he lacked business sense. 2 Tone artists had a clause in their contracts which allowed them to leave the label after the release of their first single. So 2 Tone would break these bands, only to see them leave for better offers. This happened with both Madness and the English Beat. Of course, The Specials stayed with 2 Tone, and The Selecter was loyal to the end. But that wasn’t enough to sustain 2 Tone as a business. By 1986, they had to close their doors.
Nowadays, it’s hard to remember that it was once necessary to explain what ska was. About ten years after the fall of 2 Tone, there was a wave of American ska bands, which showed a heavy influence of two-tone ska. And now, there is every reason to believe that there will be more ska in the future. With a little digging on line, one can find new original ska in Italian or Japanese. And for all of that, we can thank Jerry Dammers and 2 Tone Records.