‘A blur of legs, arms and adrenaline’: the astonishing history of two-toneApril 30, 2021
As a new exhibition documents the UK ska-pop sound, stars including the Specials, Elvis Costello and Pauline Black recall how it opened up music, fashion and racial understanding
2 Tone Records began in a Coventry flat in 1979 and peaked two years later, when the Specials’ era-defining Ghost Town went to No 1 as riots blazed around a UK in recession. The label launched the Specials and the Selecter from the current City of Culture, plus Londoners Madness, Birmingham’s the Beat and others, all to chart success, but also ended up naming an entire movement: dance crazy, sharp-suited, political, multi-racial ska-pop that reverberates to this day.
As a major two-tone exhibition comes to the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum in Coventry, the Guardian spoke to the people who were at the centre of a multicultural revolution.