2 Tone Records was an English record label that mostly released ska and reggae-influenced music with a punk rock and pop music overtone. It was founded by Jerry Dammers of the Specials and backed by Chrysalis Records.
Jerry Dammers of the ska revival band the Specials started the record label in 1979. Chrysalis had wanted to sign the Specials, but Dammers arranged a label deal, for Chrysalis to fund 15 singles a year and release at least ten of those.
The label spawned the 2 Tone music and cultural movement, which was popular among skinheads, rudies and some mod revivalists. The label stopped operating in 1986, though "2 Tone" is still used as an imprint for back catalogue issues. 2 Tone Records signed the Selecter, Madness and The Beat, but they all left within two years. 2 Tone Records acts signed a contract that allowed them to leave the label after releasing just one single, which was unusual in the record industry.
(Read more at Wikipedia).
Links to Peel
“That was The Specials 'Gangsters'. The record of it - one of those records that really changes your life, I mean it actually does, rather like I suppose The Damned's first single, where you wake up the next day and nothing's ever really quite the same again.” (John Peel, 09 June 1980)
Peel was an early and keen supporter of 2 Tone, with record plays and sessions for all of its best-known acts as the ska revival label briefly dominated the UK national charts at the turn of the 1980s. Having been thwarted in previous attempts to see the Specials, the DJ eventually caught the band live with the Selecter and Madness when the 2 Tone package tour played at Norwich UEA on 26 Oct 1979. On 09 June 1980, his programme featured repeats of first sessions from five 2-Tone related artists. Elsewhere, the DJ found himself locked in the Tiswas cage with numerous 2 Tone musicians on Saturday morning TV.
The label also had links with other Peel-played artists, with Elvis Costello producing the first Specials LP and Dexys Midnight Runners rejecting an offer to record for the label (but later touring with the Specials). Meanwhile, vintage tracks by Prince Buster started getting played by Peel for the first time after the original ska performer's songs were covered by 2 Tone artists. Ska pioneer Laurel Aitken even recorded a Peel session, backed by the Ruts.
(2 Tone artists who recorded Peel sessions. List includes sessions when the artists were not on 2 Tone.)
- Apollinaires: (1 session, 1982)
- Beat: (3 sessions, 1979-82)
- Bodysnatchers: (2 sessions, 1980)
- Higsons: (5 sessions, 1981-84)
- Madness: (1 session, 1979)
- Selecter: (2 sessions, 1979-80)
- Specials: (4 sessions, 1979-83)
(The list below covers Festive Fifty entries on 2 Tone; it does not include entries by 2 Tone artists on other labels.)
- Specials: 1979 Festive Fifty: Gangsters #7 / Too Much Too Young #36 // 1980 Festive Fifty: Gangsters #32 // 1981 Festive Fifty: Gangsters #57 / Ghost Town #21 // 1982 Festive Fifty (all-time): Ghost Town #43 // 1983 Festive Fifty: Nelson Mandela #41
(Plays by Peel of various artist (v/a) releases on 2 Tone.)
(LP - Dance Craze)
- 14 January 1981: Beat: Big Shot
- 03 February 1981: Selecter: Missing Words
- 03 February 1981: Bad Manners: Inner London Violence
- 03 February 1981: Madness: Nighboat To Cairo
- 03 February 1981: Selecter: Too Much Pressure
- 08 February 1981 (BFBS): Specials: Concrete Jungle
- 08 February 1981 (BFBS): Beat: Mirror In The Bathroom
- Festive Fifty Session Broadcasts: Peel's best-of-year selections included Maida Vale recordings by current 2-Tone artists Specials (1979, 1980) Selecter (1979), Beat (1979), Higsons (1981).
- Reggae Compilations: At the turn of the 1980s, looking back at the music that had influenced 2-Tone artists, Peel played many tracks from various artists (v/a) compilations of original Jamaican ska recordings from the 1960s.