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13 November 2014

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You are in: Coventry and Warwickshire > Entertainment > Music > 2 tone > Were you there for 2-Tone?

2-Tone fans pictured in 1980 by Toni Tye

Were you a fan at the time? Let us know!

Were you there for 2-Tone?

Do you remember the 2-Tone era like it was yesterday? Listen to some memories from the era and then share yours with us here.

The Specials

Did you see the Specials? We want your memories

If you were into music in the late 70s and early 80s, the chances are you were into 2-Tone, the iconic Coventry based label that was home to Ska revivalists like The Beat, The Selecter, Madness and the amazing Specials.

2009 marks 30-years since 2-Tone and this exciting new music came out of Coventry.

You can hear what people had to say about their time with 2-Tone by clicking the links below and on the right.

We asked for your memories of that era in 2006 when we celebrated 2-Tone with concerts and quizzes in the Open Centre and had a week dedicated to the music.

We would still love to hear from you though. Do you remember any gigs from the time? Did you live next door to or go to school with any of the band members? Do you have a favourite song from the time? Let us know on the messageboard at the bottom of this page.

last updated: 07/01/2009 at 10:02
created: 10/01/2006

Have Your Say

Share your memories of 2-Tone here.

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Pastor Tim (Great Falls, MT)
I was a DJ on a small Southern California college radio station from 1979-1983, and I remember the packages of ska records that used to come in when I was the station's Music Director. One of my shows was called "Radio Ethiopia," featuring roots reggae, ska, rock-steady, and African rhythms. I still have some fine copies of those old LPs, but it was hard to get anyone apart from the committed reggae crowd to give ska the time of the day. Then shows started happening at some of the small LA & Hollywood clubs, and it kind of took off for a while. For me it was always more about the beat and the politics that the fashion and style, and in some ways we're ripe for a good review of what "2nd wave ska" was all about. Thank you, England!

lloyd - Tile Hill Coventry
I remember first seeing them on Top of the Pops doing Gangsters, and their look was just brilliant. For a mixed race kid born in Tile Hill, growing up in a racist world, it was just brilliant to see The Specials, The Selector and the other 2Tone bands putting forward this message of black & white together. For a short while Coventry was the centre of the music universe. And for me it was a link to my father who grew up in Jamaica listening to ska and blue beat, and here I was borrowing his old 60s skinny black ties and playing those self same Prince Buster and blue beat records. I was lucky enough to see them play at the Butts stadium for an anti racism gig in '81 and even luckier to be pictured in the crowd in a photo the Telegraph printed - I still have the paper!!And here I am 30 years later, Harrington and pork pie hat on, my fathers old 60s skinny tie back out and skanking to The Specials all over again. The Academy and the Ricoh gigs were brilliant and I just hope the youngsters of today get back on board the train to Skaville once more!Rude Boys never die - they just skank a bit slower!!!

i went to kersley high with roddy radiation aka roderick byers brilliant group and good mates


Claudio Meunier ( From Argentina)
HelloI m claudio from Patagonia ( Argentina) . In the 80 ´s when had only 10 age playing in the bass in the band on catholic school and one day playing with guys the first notes of gangsters when the obisp entrys at church in the ceremony and of course dropped me and get out of the schoolToday had 39 age and playing ska.

I was well into 2-Tone and saw The Specials on their 'More Specials' tour in Blackburn, October 1980 (and met John Bradbury in the crowd watching the support act). It was my first gig. Can't believe that I'm going to see them again next month, after 29 years. Their music has definitely stood the test of time.

Sue from Coventry
I remember in the old reggae days, Neville Staples used to dance differently to anyone else, and a few of us girlies used to copy him, and take the mick, behing his back. - Little did we know!

patrick carroll
ska was the best era no style of music or fashion statement comes close lets hope it makes a come back

I remember giving Roddy a lift to Birmingham when the Coventry Specials supported the Clash, guitar in the boot.Seeing the Specials and The Selecter at the London Lyceum and being set upon by West Ham Skins for wearing a 'Sky Blues against the Nazi's'badge.Halycon days Coventry and Two Tone the centre of a musical universe.

Tony Skinner
I remember a concert at Tiffany's (now the library) where The Specials, Selecter and the Beat played. A great concert, so much frantic dancing I'm suprised the floor wasn't knee deep in sweat afterwards! I've got my tickets for the Cov gig and I'll drag my aged bones onto the dance floor again!

Robert Rowe
I have a vague recollection of one of the group regularly taking the number 2 Radford bus into town.

Andy, Ohio USA
In Ohio in the early '80s NOBODY seemed to have heard of the Specials, but my brother and I became their biggest fans anyway. I STILL love their prescient...No Doubt no doubt learned a few tricks from them. BTW, "Ska'd For Life" by Horace Panter is a GREAT read.

Brian Curry
It was a very exciting time for music. I was lucky enough to see most of the 2 Tone bands at least once. The Specials at Hammersmith Palais and The Beat at the Rainbow were the most memorable. The music and the message will live on.

mike mitchell

Anne Maddison
I remember it was the 11th June 1979 the venue - Peer Pavilion, Colwyn Bay, North Wales, the artists - The Specials!! I was just 15 and my first gig! Amazing night!! I remember sitting on a very strong guys shoulders jumping up and down to Money Man your name was Colin I think! Also saw the beat a year later at the same venue. Two tone was a very distracting influence for me - not very good when O'levels were looming! - wouldn't have spent my time any differently. Loved all the two tone bands and my kids enyoy the music now.

derek wilson
I remember seeing the beat at wolverhampton civic hall i must have been 13 or 14 and it was my first gig.Me and my brothers were so proud catching the bus to town wearing our suits that changed colour in the sunshine.Imagine that teenagers looking smart in suits.The gig was fantastic,coudn`t breath and pushed from pillar to post oh happy days.....

Helen, London, formally from Cov.
I saw the Specials play at the Lanch (now Coventry University. I was only 14 and it was still the best gig I've ever been to. My enduring memory, though, is Jerry Dammers climbing up onto the speakers, jumping around and swinging an enormous piece of snot from his nose. I grew up in Cov and The Specials and Two Tone made it not only bareable but made it an amazing place to come from.

euan straiton
Saw the Specials support the clash before they had any records out and they were good even then. They also played in my home town of Ayr with Madness and the Selector and were awesome

Madness, Specials and Selector at Stirling Uni im 1979 9or 1980)£ for £2.Wonderful

Mike Tooby, Cardiff
I can't be alone in remembering when when of our 'school groups' led by Jerry Dammers played in our school (KHVIII) 6th form centre in 1973 or 74 - he was in the year above me. A few others from school were in this band, as were a variety of others he knew outside school. The evening also included the Liverpool poet and artist Adrian Henri reading poems - and you could tell he couldn't believe it either. At the time I and my friends were total Van der Graaf, Yes etc etc, and found what they were playing hard to comprehend, particularly as ska was associated with white violence; at the same time it was thrilling. When I was at college in 1977 or 78 or so and saw them on tv I suddenly realised it was basically a different line up doing the same thing as that night at school, albeit on another level. When I realised that they were actually reclaiming ska from the fascists, and that they were as big and as good as they were, I felt really proud and thrilled. Many years later I was involved in an event with Adrian Henri. I was not at all surprised to find that he had a vivid memory of that evening. Someone (presumably Dammers) had had the brilliant idea of Henri doing 'slots' between numbers. He even remembered, as I did, him saying 'when I was asked to do a reading at a grammar school 6th form in Coventry I thought I'd have to answer questions about Keats' and someone in the audience yelling back ' You wouldn't know a Keat if you saw one'.

colin black Aberdeen
The first time i heard 2tone& ska was in 79 now thats the only sound i listen too theirs no other music like it

My wife Debbie worked at midland educational shop in the city arcade in the 80's.I went to pick her up from work one night and waited outside only to see her serve a customer.After she came out I ask her about that customer.She said the one with no teethand bleached hair, I replied yes,Why? she said.It's only Jerry Dammers,She didn't know him and she says she's from Coventry,Women..

remember seeing them at the old sophia gardens hall, now gone. what a night got onto stage and was swinging out on a rope with nevel, bring back them days, had a purple with blue 2tone suite pork pie hat and patent loafers

Billy McKirdy, Edinburgh.
I also have to mention meeting Pauline Black at The Liquid Rooms in Edinburgh in 2001, she blew us away with an amazing performance & very kindly signed me t-shirt at the end of the gig. that same year I seen the legendary Laurel Aitken at the same venue, sublime.

Billy McKirdy, Edinburgh.
I was a big Specials fan. In Edinburgh as in a lot of places, racism was a problem & right-wing extreme views were never far under the surface with a lot of folk, The Specials & their multiracial message came along at an important time for society, because make no mistake, the impact the 2-tone movement had on my generation was to educate us about racial dis-harmony. I first saw The Specials in September 1980 at The Playhouse in Edinburgh, & as well as meeting some members of The Selecter while trying to sneak down to the stalls, I was blown away by the sheer energy of a Specials gig. The last time I saw The Specials was as part of a Rock Against Racism event at Potternewton Park In Leeds on the 4th July 1981, My best pal Dayo (A Scots born African) & I managed to invade the stage & we were priviliged to have the last 20 minutes on stage with our heroes(if anyone has pictures of that happening I would be delighted to & would pay to receive copies) This was I believe The Specials last live performance in this country before they split & it will live with me for the rest of my life.

jim robinson
what can you say fantastic era racing home from detention to try and catch totp featuring the specials bad manners madness ect.getting into a slanging match with your folks trying to give you that old chestnut when we were kids music had meaning.the smart dress sense the pride in wearing the clothes you had to work your knuckles of to bye yourself.wanting to play in a band and be like your heroes.i had that pleasure for a short time lead singer for a local band from Newbury called the loafers.i didnt make my millions but had alot of fun playing and 2 lps to show me grand kids!as the band went on doing different styles of music from ska to acid jazz forming under different names pama international and have that pleasure to be singed by Trojan label. i still go on the scooter rallys still love the the ska scene as much now as i did in the 80s its a league of its own...!

stuart murray
i grew up with two-tone & ska and still love it today. in fact I love scene so much I've started a mens tailoring company making the original tonic material suit ( I'm lucky to have a jukebox at home and often have The Specials etc blasting out of it on a Sunday morning! I also have just purchased a couple of pork pie hats which I wear with pride, much to the amusement of my wife! It was a brilliant time!

{2 tone is my life} !-ska shale never die-!

Bob Gloucester.
Best era for music by a mile. Made you feel like you belonged to something special. Kids today all look the same, like the same tunes. We had a real sense of identity back then. The Specials, The Selecter, The Beat. What else can I say!

denis sullivan

nutty malc
i was there,i remember the specials ,madness,with there first singles,best music of all time......

paul heller
the happiest days of my life
Ska is alive in the south Bournemouth to Pompey, local bands Orange Street and Ratrace. Toch base with my website and send your pictures and comments/memories

paul heller
the specials did more to promote racial harmony than any government ever did

neville staple
my best time was when we had our first no 1 also when we played with the clash now i tour around with my own band called the neville staple band we play my favorits song from the specials look out for my band on tour this year we will be on a world tour all the best neville staple
This is ska this is ska this is skaaaaaaaaaa visit the top ska sight in England, great pic and music...keep up the great coverage BBC Cov & Warws

steve edgson
I was in a band called reluctant stereotypes and we went on a seaside tour with the specials and bodysnatchers in june 1980. It was great fun playing to packed houses and getting a good (mostly!)reception. One thing that stands out is travelling to the gigs on the coach with the bands and rico (the trombone player )muttering about the sins of alcohol as we were kept waiting for various pastey faced band members who had overdone it the previous night! I also remember singing Frank Zappa songs with Horace and Paul Sampson!Heady days of youth.... I'm still playing with Two Giraffes take alook at our site for some pictures from the past

Mike, from cardiff
I remember the specials playing at sophia garden pavilion in cardiff, I had my ticket but decided to pull a sicky from work to go to the pavilion during the day. I waited for hours and finally a coach pulled up and the lads got of the coach they the equipement turned up, I hung around the backstage door waiting to get another glimpse or maybe an autograph but to my surprise one of the roadies said to me "don't just stand there give us a hand" so the next hour or so was spent lugging gear into the pavilion and listening to the sound check, I had the pleasure of chatting with Jerry, Neville and Terry, Oh and Terry's sister who was gorgeous. Went back later with ticket in hand for the concert which was brilliant, and just in case any of the boys get to read this they still owe me 20 fags as they smoked all mine during the day !!!!

Sarah (Aka rhoda skabird)
1978 is the best year in musical history and I was there! I hoped and prayed that Tery Hall would come & knock my door and beg me to marry him...still waiting..! The best group ever is of course The Specials & one of my favourite tracks is I Just Can't Stand It with Rhoda Dakar, my heroine. (met her last yr, signed my tshirt). Like her, I'm still skankin & sporting mad haircuts.

Miguel, from Mexico
bien, soy de Monterrey Mexico y almenos para mi el ska 2 tone me abrio un nuevo concepto que almenos no se ve mucho por aqui en mi tierra. Me agrada y me hubiera gustado mucho vivir los tiempos rudos de aquel entonces. Ahorita tengo 17 años de edad

Mário, from Portugal
After reggae music, ska/2 tone arrived to Portugal. Me and me mates were punk and new wave fans (The Stranglers, mostly), but we immediatly got captured by that amazing new sound. We still are, and our kids too. Saddly, 2tone bands never came to Portugal (Madness came this year, for first time), but in the foggy winter nights, some kids in Portugal were listening and creating music inspired by 2tone,drinking beer in the late hours, dreaming about seeing the great English bands live...

Well' what can I say, I have Jamaican parents who played ska on the duke box daily since me & my brothers were (3) yrs old. I've been into ska since carnaby street was carnaby street, and am still into ska now. Wanna see my pic... visit' THE SKA SURGERY website' in London, under fotos' and you'll see me. ... THE RUDE BOY. Still Rude. 23-10-2006

Andrew, Auckland, NZ
Growing up in Coventry and having a whole movement, now that was something to brag about. The black and white clothing, porkpie hats, harrington jackets with your name on the back in red and white furry lettering...... It was the most existing time as a kid to grow up with this "local" music. Thinking back now I can see what the lyrics meant and how the music had its heart and soul in the industrial backdrop to the city. At the time, everybody was the same so you just went with it. Long live The Specials, Beat, Selector.....

I lived in the 2-Tone Skin era I had the 2-tone suit, skin-cut, crombie (silk hankie in the pocket)and I'm talking about Real Skinheads and 2-tone. Who hasn't got a tighten up Vol 2 disc and/or an independant Jamaican label? Mine were bought directly from slough's open market...Then moved to ska...but my heart belongs to that 2-tone. Although I still do/and my son does enjoy Madness, Specials and for me the most original group THE BEAT!!

i used to love listening to two tone. I would have been 13 when it started, it was really good for me because, it was putting black and whites together, which for me did help with relations between different ethnic groups. The music was just so good. I wasnt allowed to go to concerts, but hearing the music was just great. I think its by far the best era that ive ever known, and i never danced as much. The talent was just so good back then. My sister brought the first album home Dance craze, and all of us as six kids loved the music and so did our mates at school. Being black was great because we knew we had something we could identify with too, as back then it could be a bit racist. Even though madness never had any blacks in the band, it didnt matter because their music was just so good, we couldnt help but like it. We used to play the specials madness and the beat over and over again. I also think that Rhoda from the body snatches and the special aka, isnt given enough credit for her great singing voice, i love all the body snatches songs there just brill, i wish the era would come back again. yours redz.rude girl shazza

i remember ska coming through when i was 9 years old and remember how people changed their mohicans for moccasins,madness & specials were my life then when everyone had nowt they still danced like they were having the party of their lives!!

simon harris
hangin out next to cherry's wine bar in reading on a near daily basis across from the station and above bus station at 12,13 etc..went some way to deciding my taste in such great music!

good old days all the tunes meant somethig to 12 year old kid opend my eyes to the big bad wolrd and just walking round bradford town center and joining up with loads of rudie's who u didn't really know but became good mates all in crombie coats an half mast pants then the tunes what made us dance taking each over on for pride on the dancefloor real dancemusic wat made u think and still does today specials kicked ass but the rest was great the good old days

The first time i get into touch with 2-Tone was in the beginning 80ies. My brothers were listening to the Selecter and the Specials the room next door while i was thinking this could be Helen Schneider or who? No, it was the wonderful Pauline Black! And very soon the bands like The Specials, Selecter, Madness the Beat and Bad Manners became our religion. We bought each record and tape that only emphasize the word SKA on the Cover. Highly recommended were the 45 Singles from the 2-Tone Label. I still keep them like my biggest treasure. We receipe the rarest stuff from small record and tape exchange stores and not from the big e... In the mid 80ies we went to each gig that has somethimg to do with ska. The time for ska bands was very hard in 85. Only Madness still existed in these days. The Hausemartins, the Fine Young Cannibals and the Untouchables from LA became subtitutes for the real ska feeling. Than the first german bands came up like a dawning of a new era. Bands like The Busters, The Blue Beat, The Braces and so on ... The Busters (I've seen them the first time in 87 in the 'Logo' in Koblenz) and the likes of Bad Manners who were still performing in clubs like 'Dingwalls' in London were great. One more thing i've got to mention is the 'St. Moritz Club' in London, Soho owned by the faboulos Gaz Mayall, who offered Bands like The Forest Hill Billies and Potato 5. In the late 80ies the skascene was glad to get their 2nd ska revival. (knwown as the 3. wave of ska) We started our own skaband called 'Thee apemen' (we only had two gigs, sharing our Bandroom with local Punk- and Modbands) Mr Bräsig from the Busters send us the notes from the Specials Notebook (came along with the cool comicstyle illustrations) and so we could perform some Coverversions from the Specials (like the 'A message to you rudy' cover) and own stuff for the Rudies and Mods in Bonn. In 1999 i was still into ska. And Bands like the Hotknives and Hepcat and the amazing Godfather of ska Mr. Laurel Aitken (Rest in Peace and regards and respect to his family) keep the stomping feeling alive. I decided to dedicate my Grafic Design Diplom to this beautiful thing called ska that determined not only my life in so many ways. An X-Media package with 2 Books and a fanzine was the result of this. The content about the second ska wave was mostly based on The TwoTone Story from George Marshall from Glascow. There exist unfortuneately only one copy from this designwork. Now we have 2006 and ska is still in our heads and minds and the next gig in Hamburg is comming soon.

Ali Wood
Thanks for the 'where they are now' update - just what I was surfing for! So many best songs to choose from but Rat Race (Specials) and Out on the Streets (Selecter) my favourites. Such an important era for youth led increased multicultural awareness and I in 99% white Cambridge loved it - playing the LPs flipback, posters in my room, Two Tone badges on my clothes and wishing I lived in Coventry even if it was a Ghosttown. Heartfelt big thank you if any of the musicians in that great wave of hard hitting social comment music ever read this. You've never been bettered and freed me from boredom in my teens!! Best gig I was able to go to (bit young then) was Bad Manners at the old pre-improved and better Corn Exchange in Cambridge, despite skinhead aggro. Saw The Selecter at the Junction in early 90s and even managed to convert my old fart rock fan boyfriend - that good! Big 10 play great ska covers in Cambridge area and supported Bad Manners when they visit a couple of years ago - they still had such energy. And the Beat (less Dave) were really great at Pop in the Park, Cambridge 2 years ago. Saxa was still going! Respect!

Chris Turner - Blackpool
Saw the Selector, The Specials and Madness all play in a gig together at the Blackpool Mecca, circa 1979? Absolutely fantastic, it kicked off with Preston football fans, I was only 16 and the lads of 18 and 19 or so seemed so much bigger. Remember seeing Neville Staples fall of the speaker system whilst performing the notorious "Monkey Man". I've been a fan and a Scooter boy ever since. I still ride my Original 1979 Vespa p125x. Been trying to catch up and see Three Men and Black of late. Went to Livepool Jan 05 only to find it cancelled. If the original Specials got back together for a tour it would be massive, come on Roddy and Jerry lets get it on!!!

John Elis Philadelphia
I remember seeing many of the bands of the time down at the dog and trumpet and buying my clothes and records from what was called the inter shop.

jett rink
saw roddy byers smash his guitar over jerry dammer,s keyboard! excellant.. 1980 specials tour.

Keith, Toronto, Canada
As a 14 year old in 1980, a friend came back from a trip to the UK with a record of Whitesnake, and a tape of Madness. Luckily he gave me the Madness tape, and I loved it and it all led me on to learning about the specials, selecter, the beat etc. My friends and I created a band, and had a load of fun emulating the great 2-Tone bands of the day. I heard your show while in England recently, and it was great to hear those songs and relive those memories.

gary bielby
noticed you lot at the bbc are doing a lot recently about 2tone and ska, its pretty much still alive in youth today, and some of the people that lived it are still staying rude! theres a clubnite in manchester thats about to open and i heard that its going to be a big event in the way of 2tone.

Lee Johns, Melbourne,Australia
I remember leaving Australia in 1981 for Swansea,Wales and being introduced to 2-TONE being used to AC/DC it was much more a different style of music but i soon got into it and still to this day play all the tunes of the day, just a great subculture not just the music but also the fashion of the 2-TONE scene. Stay Rude

Iain Geddes
I was 11 when I was first aware of 2 tone; Nation in the grip of recession, Coventry's industrial heart being ripped out, and, in amongst all that there was this bright beacon. Not just the 2 tone label and the the focus in Coventry, the south east came up with the superb Bad Manners & Madness too. With lyrics relevent to home or the next town up the road and an infectious dance beat they brought some light into the darkness, I thank them all for that.

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