2 Tone

The independent 2 Tone Records label was founded by Jerry Dammers of The Specials in 1979. Dedicated to dance-floor music performed by racially mixed bands, the label released The Special's own Gangsters in 1979. Signing an innovative distribution deal with Chrysalis Records, 2 Tone enjoyed further hits in 1979 with The Prince by Madness and(...)

Beat, The (UK)

Ska revivalists The Beat were formed in Handsworth (a racially mixed area of Birmingham immortalised by reggae band Steel Pulse with their Handsworth Revolution album) in 1978 in the aftermath of punk. Early pub gigs garnered a devoted following, but also a reputation for privileging musicianship over soul. This was remedied by the recruitment of black(...)

Belle Stars, The

London's Belle Stars came together in 1981 from the ashes of 2 Tone act, The Bodysnatchers, when it was Rhoda Dakar, not Jennie McKeown fronting the band. They couldn't really play, but they had a single - a hit single - called Let's Do Rock Steady. It was ska beat, they were all girls. Rhoda left and the Snatchers turned into the Stars.(...)

Desmond Dekker

Born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, Dekker (real name Desmond Dacres) was orphaned as a child. He lived in Seaforth, St Thomas, before returning to his birthplace to work as a welder. He then turned to music. Joining The Aces, Dekker recorded his debut single, Honour your Mother and Father on the Yabba label. In Britain it(...)

Judge Dread

As a former bouncer at Brixton's Ram Jam club, Alexander Hughes met Prince Buster and Derrick Morgan. As a debt collector for Trojan Records, he got to know the harsh realities of the music business. Undeterred, as Judge Dread he forged a singular career, and his everyman approach to ska scored him more UK hits(...)

Laurel Aitken

Having relocated from Jamaica to Brixton at the start of the 1960s, it was pretty much right-time-right-place for Cuban-born ska legend, Laurel Aitken, as ska began filtering into London clubs and dancehalls. His album After Midnight brought together earlier singles that owed as much to Louis Jordan's jump jive (such as Bad Minded Woman) as it did the sounds of(...)


Madness were at the forefront of the UK ska revival at the end of the 70s. They ultimately shed the 2 Tone image and became one of the most consistent UK chart groups of the Eighties. They were a motley crew, composed of stubbly pub-rockers and baby-faced pop hopefuls, but their cheery pop and slapstick reggae made them a(...)

No Nonsense

No Nonsense began as a gang of mates hanging out together from Oak Park High School in Melbourne (Australia). At the time, Ska meant dancing and comradeship, and their first shows were all about dancing, sweating, getting drunk, throwing up . . . all the right ingredients for having a good time. But boys grow up, and(...)

Selecter, The

The Selecter are often considered 2 Tone's 'also ran's' behind The Specials. They were a top live draw in their own right, though, and their 1980 album Too Much Pressure was full of sharp, organ-heavy ska pop such as Three Minute Hero and On My Radio (sampled by Basement Jaxx on their track of the same name). Celebrate The Bullet (1981) was the ambivalent follow-up that(...)


In the early 1960s, Jamaican producers such as Leslie Kong, Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd and Duke Reid created a new sound to replace American R&B acts. The new sound drew on R&B, rock & roll, swing, jazz, calypso and even European ballroom music. When Jamaican folk or 'mento' rhythms were added with the distinctive banjo twang, ska(...)

Ska Revival

September 1979. England. The Prince by Madness had entered the British charts on 1 September. The Specials were riding high in the Top Ten with Gangsters. Those hot, hot summer holidays were over and the standard school uniform of black and white was about to take on a whole new meaning. Pocket money was spent(...)

Specials, The/Special AKA

Specials, The/Special AKA

Though short-lived, The Specials Mk I were punk's multi-racial idealism made flesh. The group came together almost by osmosis, gathering together the remnants of several Coventry punk, soul and reggae outfits. Chief instigator, songwriter, designer and founder of the 2 Tone label was keyboard player Jerry Dammers - he of the gap-toothed look (the result(...)

Strange Tenants

Tigers, The

The Tigers were a British ska band comprising singer/guitarist Tony Jacks, guitarist Ross McGeeney (Jacks' one-time partner in Starry-Eyed & Laughing), bassist Nic Potter (ex-Van Der Graaf Generator), keyboard player Nick Cola, and drummer Pete Dobson (formerly of Juicy Lucy). The band received a glowing review in NME for their single, Big Expense, Small Income b/w Kidding Stops and released the album, Savage Music on A&M(...)

Trojan Records

Known worldwide as THE reggae label, Trojan started in 1967 as an offshoot to Island Records, set up to issue the Jamaican productions of Arthur "Duke" Reid. Trojan split from Island less than a year later and by 1969 were doing good business putting out the singles which appealed to working class kids and skins disaffected by(...)

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