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Digital Subscriptions > Long Live Vinyl > FREE LONG LIVE VINYL ISSUE > SPECIAL FORCES


As the embers of punk faded, 2 Tone’s message of unity shone bright, offering hope to a generation lost. Forty years on, Dan Biggane talks to its prime players: Jerry Dammers, Lynval Golding and Neville Staple of The Specials, The Selecter’s Pauline Black and The Beat’s Ranking Roger, to tell the full stor y of a label that morphed into a whole genre
Assorted members of The Selecter, Madness and The Specials congregate on the beach at Brighton during the 2 Tone tour, October 1979

Sandwiched between the fury of punk and the flamboyant new romantics, 2 Tone was the DIY indie label whose roster of bands not only raised questions regarding social ills but off ered solutions. Bursting out of the deprived city streets of Coventry, The Specials and The Selecter were joined by Birmingham’s The Beat and London’s Madness to lead a ska revival that reflected a nation’s anxieties in Thatcher’s Britain.

At the heart of the musical movement was Jerry Dammers. “I grew up wiThThe Beatles, Stones, Kinks, but The Who and Small Faces were my favourites,” Jerry tells Long Live Vinyl. “But I also loved soul, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Stax and Motown. When I was about 10, inspired by all that incredible music, I started writing songs. I got into reggae around 1970 when hits like Liquidator and The Israelites were in the charts. Around 1977, I was at art college in Coventry but paying my dues in a funky soul outfit from Birmingham called The Cissy Stone Band. I couldn’t persuade them to do any of my songs, which were quite soulful. Suddenly, punk happened and it turned everything upside down. I spiked and bleached my hair, some peroxide got on my eyebrows, so I bleached them too. I looked like a Thunderbirds puppet, and it didn’t quite go wiThthe one-piece zip-up jumpsuits we had to wear in the band. I was so fed up wiThonly doing covers that I started bashing my elbows on the keyboards. Afterwards, I was asked to leave the band, so I knew the time had come to form my own band. “My friend Neol Davies had a Revox tape recorder and he let me record some songs. Reggae was always part of my plan and I recorded a reggae-ish track for the soundtrack of an animated film I made at college. Horace Panter played bass on it and that was the first thing we did together.

I also had lyrics for that tune, which eventually became Nite Klub. “Charlie Anderson, H and the other guys who later became The Selecter had a reggae band called Hard Top 22 in Coventry, and I played keyboards wiThthem for a while. The most popular punk band in the city were Squad, who Terry Hall sang with. Meanwhile, Lynval Golding and Desmond Brown were playing covers wiThsoul singer Ray King, in his band Pharaoh’s Kingdom.”

“I first met Jerry when I was playing in soul bands around Coventry,” remembers Golding when Long Live Vinyl catches up wiThhim separately. “I was born in Jamaica and exposed to all the early roots-reggae. My father was from the generation who came to England on the Windrush, and settled in Gloucester where he found a job in manufacturing. After he was laid off, he followed the work to Coventry and its thriving motor industry.

Coventry in the 70s: a black and white city
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Welcome to this free sample issue of Long Live Vinyl, THE magazine for vinyl lovers. Every month, we bring you a diverse selection of the latest vinyl news, expert columnists, artist interviews, features on the UK's independent record shops and labels, as well as the widest range of new album, reissue, turntable and accessory reviews anywhere on the newsstand. We're the only magazine solely dedicated to all things vinyl.