In 1979 Jerry Dammers formed "2-Tone Records". His desire was to create something new.
Black and white became a symbol and 2 Tone ska was born. The 2 Tone logo of a man in a black suit, white shirt, black tie, sunglasses, pork pie hat, white socks and black loafers became the official logo.
2-Tone black and white graphics represented racial unity
In a time of racial riots and the racist National Front organization at its peak, the black and white clothing and racially integrated bands promoted racial unity in a torn country. As with Jamaican Ska, the mood of the times was reflected in the lyrics.
Bands such as Madness, The Beat, The Selecter, The Bodysnatchers, the Specials, revitalized the classic ska sounds of Prince Buster and other first wave artists.
History of 2-Tone music in Coventry
Coventry and Warwickshire hasn't got too many entries in the history of modern music. The rather grey cultural aura of the area has however had one very checkered highlight - the Two Tone movement of the late 1970's and early 80's.
This musical innovation took its roots from Caribbean Ska, Rock Steady and Reggae. It was honed into the multi-racial sound of 2-Tone by bands such as The Specials and The Selecter - both of which came from Coventry.
It was the Coventry-based 2-Tone record label masterminded by Jerry Dammers of The Specials that gave the movement its name and gave a home to many of the groups of the time.
The Specials enjoyed their greatest success between 1979 and 1981 with two number ones - an EP entitled The Special AKA Live / Too Much Too Young, one side of which was recorded at Tiffany's in Coventry, and Ghost Town, written partly in response to the closure of Tiffany's.
The Specials, like 2-Tone itself, began to fade in the early '80's. The band split with the departure of three members to form Fun Boy Three. Dammers however kept the group going under its previous name of The Special AKA.
The revamped outfit went on to briefly find further success with the anti-apartheid rallying anthem of Free Nelson Mandela.
Pauline Black from The Selecter
Coventry's second major contribution to the 2-Tone music scene was The Selecter. Not quite achieving the same success as The Specials the group was strongly led by 2-Tone's leading female vocalist, Pauline Black.
The group's main hits included Too Much Pressure and On My Radio. The group like most of the era split up in the early 80's but has recently been reformed by Pauline Black.
Read our interviews with Pauline Black from The Selecter and Neville Staple from The Selecter by following the links on the left.