The edition of Top of the Pops on the 8th November 1979 featured The Specials (A Message To You, Rudy), Madness (One Step Beyond), and The Selecter (On My Radio). UK pop buyers officially loved the “2 Tone” label. The distinctive checkered-strip logo was an instantly recognisable label of your pop allegiance — a simple design that was easy to pick out in tippex(r) on an army-surplus school-bag, or in the blocky graphics of home computers at the time (shift-S shift-S shift-S…). I was too young to care (or know) about labels, but I knew the music, and I knew there were special moves at the school disco.
The success of 2 Tone was rapid — their first release, by founding band The Specials, had only been in the summer gone of 79 when the band ‘The Selecter’ didn’t yet exist. They were the label’s first manufactured band, put together from Coventry’s ska scene and given the name of that first release’s (ambiguously attributed) instrumental B-side.
It’s a template pop-ska song, all insistent speed-reggae hooks that get you up and dancing. Elbows and heels. Fun fun fun. Not the overly conscious genre of ska associated with this wave. But it’s not ‘nutty’ Madness either which luckily means it endures beyond adolescense, and (well done them) gets into FT’s legendary top 100 tracks of all time. So listen again. This is the ska version of Tina Charles’ “I Love To Love” — their respective babies just love to dance, and that’s just not enough for a relationship, now is it gents? And you don’t want to be dumped by (Selecter vocalist) Pauline — she’s been in The Bill and everything.